The scouting combine begins a week from today in Indianapolis, and two weeks from now teams and agents will be sitting next to their phones waiting for free agency to begin. Let's get right into Four Down Territory.
Q: I've heard that the quarterback crop coming out next year far exceeds that of this year. Could it be that Jerry Angelo has decided to wait until next year to draft that franchise quarterback the Bears so desperately need? Seems to me this would give Kyle Orton one more chance to prove himself. Plus, why waste a draft pick this year on a quarterback that isn't NFL ready when you can see a bumper crop of quarterbacks available next year. Of course, I thought that Atlanta's QB Matt Ryan wasn't that great of a draft pick, and look how that turned out.
Joe, Metropolis, Ill.
A: I think you're trying to play connect-the-dots with the Bears and the quarterback position and as we know that's a dangerous game. Committing to Orton as the quarterback for 2009 doesn't have anything to do with the talent available at quarterback in this draft or next.
Orton, like Rex Grossman before him, is a draft pick of the franchise who the Bears believe has the skills to develop. Based on the first half of 2008, he does. Based on the second half of 2008, he's got to get a lot better. Some talent evaluators really like Georgia's Matthew Stafford and USC's Mark Sanchez and there seems to be a little buzz growing for Kansas State's Josh Freeman. I'm not sure the 2010 class that could include Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, Florida's Tim Tebow, Ole Miss' Jevan Snead and Texas' Colt McCoy, among others. Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour could be in the mix too.
Remember, the quarterback draft of 1999 was supposed to be on the greatest of all-time, potentially one that could rival the dynamite 1983 class.
It produced five passers in the first 12 picks:
1. Tim Couch
2. Donovan McNabb
3. Akili Smith
11. Daunte Culpepper
12. Cade McNown, Bears
The 2004 class still looks strong:
1. Eli Manning
4. Philip Rivers
11. Ben Roethlisberger
22. J.P. Losman
Like you wrote, it's hard to tell going into a draft what a quarterback is going to do once he comes out of it. If Orton doesn't pan out--and the Bears really believe he's going to take the next step--they'll be in the market for a quarterback in the 2010 draft. They might have to trade places with the Detroit Lions for a shot at Bradford though.
Q: Maybe you covered this topic already, but I'm looking for some context in the decision to move up the veteran minicamp to next month. Will there be any supplemental team activities during the usual minicamp time this summer? What real advantage do the Bears see from moving it up? If it is such a good idea, why is it not then the standard practice around the league to hold minicamps earlier in the offseason?
Mike L., Phoenix
A: Excluding the teams with new head coaches, teams are permitted to hold one mandatory three-day minicamp in the offseason. I'm not sure it really matters that much where it's positioned, whether it's early in spring or within a month or so of training camp. Lovie Smith has not addressed the decision, to my knowledge, but my take on the move is that he wants to set a tone for the entire offseason and he wants to do it first thing. Makes sense to me. The Bears will not get additional dates to conduct workouts because it's been moved up. The voluntary offseason program starts in April and runs into June with OTA's held in late May and June. Per the CBA, all of that work is voluntary.
Q: I just read that the Jaguars released Jerry Porter. Do you see the Bears taking a chance on Porter? I like his skills, and if the Bears could get him at a reasonable price I think it would be worth the chance.
Bjarke H., Aalborg, Denmark
A: You've touched on one of the real dangers of free agency--outrageous spending on non-impact players. Well, that's maybe not fair. Sounds like Porter made quite an impact as a destructive force in the locker room. He signed a $30 million, six-year contract with $10 million guaranteed and produced 11 catches for 181 yards and one touchdown. Jacksonville also released cornerback Drayton Florence after one season. Between him and Porter, the Jags wasted $23 million, an astounding figure. But they did the right thing and admitted a mistake and are moving forward.
The Bears showed no interest in Porter last offseason. I highly doubt they'll be moved to pick up the phone this time even if Porter is willing to pay his own way here.
Q: There are rumblings that Matt Leinart might try to push for a trade if Kurt Warner gets re-signed. He has talent, is relatively inexpensive and could probably use the old "change of scenery." Ideally, Arizona would keep him given his talent and contract, but the Cardinals probably don't want a malcontent quarterback in the fold. Wouldn't he be the ideal person to compete with Kyle Orton? He's young, has upside, is inexpensive and could probably be had for less than a first-round pick. Thoughts?
Tom N., Parts Unknown
A: Now that would be something. We could put together dueling portfolios of online photos for both quarterbacks. What do you think? I don't think the Cardinals are going to give up on Leinart before they give him another complete opportunity to be their starter. I'm not sure Leinart has shown anything when he has been on the field to make the Bears or anyone else still believe he's a top talent. He struggled picking up the offense, there were concerns about his commitment and he's been injured. That's a trifecta of warning signs right there. Now, the former USC star could still blossom into a winning quarterback. He's reportedly made good strides in terms of preparation and work off the field. I don't think the Cardinals will concern themselves if Leinart isn't happy. Remember, they had an unhappy wide receiver all last season and that worked out pretty well for them on the field. Quite frankly, Arizona couldn't trade Leinart and risk the chance he becomes a winner elsewhere. That would be the ultimate embarrassment. He will get an opportunity with the Cardinals, it's just a matter of when Kurt Warner is no longer in the picture.
Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We'll hit one more Four Down Territory for the week on Friday. Get your questions in now.