One more Four Down Territory on Friday, so shoot in your questions now. We're going to suspend the Q&A next week (we'll try to get one done) while we're covering Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa. Don't worry, we'll resume in a big way after the season officially comes to an end.
Q: What is your opinion on the running back situation? Do the Bears bring back Kevin Jones or try to turn Garrett Wolfe into their own version of Darren Sproles? Jones was basically on the shelf all year and should be healthier than he was when he joined the roster. Do they draft a running back and cut Jones? Also, what's Roberto Garza's contract situation? I still think that while the line stayed together all year and played better than ANYONE expected, the Bears still need more interior push in the run game. I'm still sold on Olin Kreutz but I'm starting to wonder about Garza.
A: If the Bears want to bring back Jones, he'll have to want to come back. Jones is an unrestricted free agent after signing a one-year deal for the minimum-salary benefit. The vibe I get is that general manager Jerry Angelo would very much like to see Wolfe worked into the mix more. We don't know if he can handle a role as a complementary back at this point because he simply has not had the chance. As Angelo explained, so much of the focus was on getting Matt Forte ready to carry the load as a rookie, that the rest of the players at the position were forced into lesser roles. You can't rule out drafting a back but with more pressing needs I would expect Wolfe to get an opportunity with Adrian Peterson in place, yet again, as a fallback option.
As far as Garza, he is signed for three more years through 2011. I've heard more grumblings about Josh Beekman from this past season than Garza, who is a steady lineman. It's expected the Bears will address guard in the draft. See more on that below.
Q: With all the talk about drafting or bringing in a defensive end via free agency, what about Ervin Baldwin? I know he didn't play in 2008, and he doesn't quite have the size to be an every down player, but with Rod Marinelli working his magic couldn't he potentially step up as a significant force in 2009? Will the coaching staff give him a shot to be "the guy?"
Ari, Parts Unknown
A: That's a good question. Baldwin, or G-Ball as his friends call him, was promoted from the practice squad to the active roster on Nov. 11. The Bears didn't elevate him because they had plans for him--he didn't dress for any of the remaining seven games--they were about to lose him to the Kansas City Chiefs. Perhaps Angelo didn't want to see another former draft pick depart and find some success with the Chiefs as Mark Bradley had.
No one is crossing Baldwin out of the team's plans at this point but he's got to be a longshot to do much in 2009, let alone be "the guy.'' I'm expecting Adewale Ogunleye to have a big year in a push toward free agency and Alex Brown is always steady. The Bears are hopeful Mark Anderson can rediscover his magic and that's the player I expect Marinelli will be charged with developing.
Q: The Bears' defensive line has a multitude of rather thin players and only two absurdly large players, Israel Idonije and Anthony Adams. What is the likelihood of the Bears signing a large-bodied tackle or making some of the present players gain the weight that could help?
Ish, Parts Unknown
A: I wouldn't call Adams or Idonije absurdly large. Seen the Falcons' Grady Jackson lately? Idonije was asked to put on weight for a move to defensive tackle that seemed short-lived and was listed at 297 pounds. He's 6-foot-6. Adams is 6-0, 307, and has more range inside than Dusty Dvoracek, who is 6-3, 303. Marcus Harrison has the frame at 6-3, 310 to put on some more size if the club wanted him to go that way. The defense thrives on quickness up front. Unless there's going to be an adjustment in philosophy with Marinelli, I don't see this happening. Remember, Marinelli ran off big-bodied tackle Shaun Rogers from Detroit. He promptly made the Pro Bowl for the Cleveland Browns.
Q: With all this talk about bolstering the offensive line and the mocks I've seen, why aren't the Bears considering Duke Robinson from Oklahoma? They're supposed to be a running team and the guard play seems to get tossed aside week after week. Why not start getting some studs inside to handle the Williams Duo in Minnesota? Everybody talks about tackles, sign John St. Clair to back up either John Tait or Chris Williams. The guy has always been a tweener, adequate starter, above average backup. If Robinson isn't there, what about that mammoth from LSU, Herman Johnson? The dude looks like a man among boys, and should be around in round two.
A: Those are some good points and you have picked the top two guards off the most recent Mel Kiper list of the top five players at every position. I don't know if the Bears will make a move that early for a guard, but consider that Angelo has not selected a guard in the first three rounds since grabbing Terrence Metcalf from Ole Miss in round three of the 2002 draft. Metcalf could be on his way out and nudging him out the door could be a young player the Bears groom to have ready in 2010. Based on Tait being 34 and entering the final year of his contract, and given that Williams remains an unknown because he did virtually nothing as a rookie, tackle has to remain a higher priority. It's harder to locate tackles and that will always be a greater need. However, I would not be surprised if the Bears grabbed a tackle and a guard in the first four rounds of the draft. Angelo knows the Bears have to make a move here and the club was talking with one player who might be around in the middle rounds, Oregon State's Andy Levitre at the Senior Bowl.
Thanks for all of the comments and thanks for reading. More on Friday!