Looks like things have quieted down a little bit around the league in what is usually a slow period leading up to free agency, which opens in 10 days. It's going to be very interesting to see how the shopping season opens up and we wrote about that last week. Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com has an interesting take on it here, and he's not alone in thinking this could be a down year for free agency. Perhaps we'll get a feel for the action later this week at the combine. For now, let's jump into another Four Down Territory.
Q: Jeff Garcia has been a winner nearly everywhere he has played. Tampa Bay has decided to go with less than eight quarterbacks this offseason and he's one who will not be back. What are the chances the Bears attempt to sign him?
Eric G., Palatine
A: We're going to say the odds of the Bears pursuing Garcia are only slightly higher than the chances of them going after Kurt Warner, if indeed the two-time MVP makes it to free agency. Because like Warner, Garcia tried to land himself with the Bears before. His agent Steve Baker attempted to place his client at Halas Hall and didn't have success. Same thing goes for Warner, who expressed interest in coming to the Bears on two occasions.
Garcia has been with five teams in the last six seasons, and that's usually not a good sign. He hasn't played a full season since 2002. An ideal landing spot for him would be in Minnesota where the Vikings are a quarterback away from being a serious challenger. Whether or not Garcia, at 39, is the guy to get them to that level can be debated. He's probably got a better chance than Tarvaris Jackson or Gus Frerotte though, and he's actually played well the last three seasons when you look at the numbers. Garcia has serious experience in the West Coast offense that Brad Childress runs and he wouldn't have to be the star in a system that features running back Adrian Peterson.
Kevin Seifert at ESPN.com broke down the Garcia situation in the NFC North on Monday and did a thorough job. He says it's unlikely Garcia would return to Detroit for a second tour of duty. He rates the Bears' chances "possible" and calls the Minnesota situation "possible going on intriguing." Of course, Green Bay is not in the picture with Aaron Rodgers. Another team we've heard floated is Dallas where the Cowboys need a backup to Tony Romo. Garcia would probably seek a starting job with a competitive team like the Vikings before he would accept a position where he would be a clear No. 2. That's just our take though.
Q: I am slowly getting over the unceremonious dumping of Mike Brown by the Bears and can't understand why they wouldn't make a position available for him. That aside where do you see him playing in 2009?
Stanley L., West Palm Beach, Fla.
A: That's a good question. The best I can tell you right now is Brown's agent Ethan Lock indicated that his client wanted to continue his playing career. When you talk to coaches around the league, they've got all the respect in the world for him. But they haven't had to have the patience and resources in place to replace Brown over the last several seasons when he's been injured. Certainly, he'd bring value to a team if he can stay healthy and contribute. No question. At this point, I would be surprised if Brown was at the top of anyone's shopping list, however. He would be a complementary player that a team would maybe pursue in the second wave of free agency. We haven't spoken with Brown, and we're not going to pretend to know what he's thinking, but one would imagine he's looking for the right fit, too, and isn't just going to sign anywhere to continue his career.
The idea of Brown landing elsewhere has already popped up in some other cities. Here is what our friend Mike Reiss had to say in his blog for the Boston Globe when asked about Brown becoming the next Rodney Harrison in New England:
"My thought is that a player like Brown would impede a younger player that would be the preference at that spot. I could see him as a third or fourth option at safety, but given his recent injury history (missing 44 games in the last five years) I think it would be a concern to rely on him as a starter at this point. Brown is considered a smart player, a good locker room guy, and a leader, so he has that going for him, and those are all qualities the Patriots put a premium on."
And here is how Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune weighed in:
"I think Mike Brown in his prime would have been the perfect fit for this Saints defense. His skill set is exactly what they've been missing at free safety. He's a smart, instinctive leader who can run the defense from the back end. He's shown a knack for making plays, and he's a sure tackler. But he has battled injuries for the better part of the last five years, and he just turned 31. So it remains to be seen if the Saints want to target him or a younger player with more upside.
"One way or another, the free safety position will be a top priority in free agency. It's the Saints' most pressing need, it's a position that new coordinator Gregg Williams values, and they can't count on finding a starter in the draft. I don't think the Saints will go after Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins, who will likely stay with the Eagles. If he left, Dawkins wouldn't be a good value, because he'll get paid like an All Pro even though his best years aren't ahead of him. ... And I don't think the Rams are going to let free agent stud Oshiomogho Atogwe get away. They've made it clear they want to re-sign him.
"Among the possible Saints' targets at both free and strong safety are veterans like Brown and Minnesota's Darren Sharper, if they choose to go that route, or younger guys like Cleveland's Sean Jones, New England's James Sanders and Jacksonville's Gerald Sensabaugh. Sensabaugh makes some sense because he had his best season to date under Williams' tutelage last year."
Stay tuned on this one.
Q: Aside from one game, with no real preparation, why wouldn't the coaching staff look at moving Danieal Manning to corner? Seeing how he excelled at nickel back, and with the fact that he has size, speed and is "the best athlete on the team" ... with an entire offseason to learn the position, he could be a stud at corner.
Andrew B., New York
A: The Bears have been down that road before. Manning made two starts at right cornerback in Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2007 season. The more the team has moved the second-round pick from 2006 around, the more it has had to endure growing pains. Manning went from free safety to cornerback to free safety to nickel back and then he closed out last season in a spot start at free safety at Houston. The best thing for him is going to be to get one position and stick with it. Expectations are that spot will be nickel back in 2009. That's where he excelled this past season and playing nickel wouldn't preclude him from any duties on special teams, kickoff returns included.
Q: You mentioned that the Bears 2009 salary cap will not be mean a whole lot whether it's at $20 million or $30 million. That being said, how much to the Bears average in annual spending acquiring free agent players? How does it rank with the rest of the league, and do you expect the Bears to spend more than usual this off-season than usual?
Geoff, Maui, Hawaii
A: That's a good question and the answer probably isn't a very good one. It depends on the year. The Bears were near the middle of the pack in terms of actual money spent on players this past season, all players not just through free agency. When you look at the money the team spent on the free-agent market last season, it was minimal. They re-signed Lance Briggs and did some bargain shopping with some waived free agents. But when you consider what general manager Jerry Angelo did in terms of re-signing his own players, there was plenty of activity. That's where the club chose to spend its money last year, investing $185.39 million in new contracts for 10 players. Of that total, roughly $59.2 million was guaranteed. Now, not all of that money was paid out at one time. The cash is spread out over the life of a deal, but that gives you an idea on some numbers from a year ago. No one expects the totals this year to come that high. Team president Ted Phillips has pledged that Angelo has no restrictions on his spending because of the economy and his football budget has not been reduced. Make sure you say hello over in Maui to the offseason mayor, Tom Thayer.
Thanks for all of the participation and for reading. We'll get into one more Four Down Territory for the week on Wednesday.