We've got the vehicle gassed up, an empty notepad and plenty of questions so we're ready to depart for Indianapolis on Thursday. This is our final installment of Four Down Territory for the week. Check back often for updates from the combine. We'll get back to the mailbag starting Monday.
Q: I cannot claim this as my own possibility but I found it intriguing enough to share with you. One of the mock draft sites (Draft Tek) has engineered a hypothetical trade between the Rams and the Bears. The Bears send No. 18 (1st round) and Nate Vasher to the Rams in exchange for Torry Holt and, No. 35 (2nd round) and No. 66 (3rd round). I like Vasher even though he had a down year last year. But this trade possibility is intriguing. Yes, Holt is aging but he has a bit left in the tank and would give the Bears some much-needed help. It opens up a spot for Corey Graham opposite Charles Tillman. And, it goes along with Jerry Angelo's modus operandi of trading down for additional picks. Thoughts?
Bill S., Oneida, Ill.
A: I don't think there is any question Holt still has some game left in him. He'll turn 33 before the season begins but we're talking about a player who has missed only two games over the course of his distinguished career that could one day land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's not the vertical threat he once was, but he's adapted and can still be productive even if he was pushed aside somewhat by a coaching staff hellbent on developing rookie Donnie Avery.
That being said, I think it's a questionable idea, at best. First, I'm not sure what kind of trade market the Rams are going to find for Holt, who has a base salary of $6.65 million in 2009. He's carrying a salary-cap figure of $10.2 million and St. Louis wants to shed that. You certainly wouldn't have to put together this kind of package to get Holt, I wouldn't think. Most expect Holt to eventually be released if the Rams cannot find a buyer.
Let's look at some of the other points:
*** Trading the No. 18 pick and moving that far down is a bad idea. One of the problems with the Bears is they lack blue-chip players. The further down you go in the draft, the harder it is to find those players.
*** Using the draft trade chart, where a point value is assigned to every pick, the Bears would lose ground in the draft in this deal. The 18th pick is worth 900 points. The Rams would be sending 810 points in return (550 for No. 35 and 260 for No. 66).
*** The Rams already took on one reclamation project from the Bears' secondary in Ricky Manning Jr., who is a free agent. If they're trying to dump some salary, I'm not sure they would have interest in Vasher, who will make base salaries of $2.9 million, $2.95 million, $3.45 million and $3.9 million over the next four seasons. That's not bad if he's playing well, but who says the Rams see Vasher as a top performer after two injury-wrecked seasons? It's not easy to trade your players with warts.
*** Who says a spot for Graham isn't already opened up across from Tillman? I would think it's Graham's job to lose at this point considering how Vasher has fallen out of favor.
Q: How many teams have started a season with two rookie offensive tackles and how did they finish? Chris Williams may be in Year 2 but he is still a rookie.
Tom K., Parts Unknown
A: Let's address your second point first. No, Williams is not still a rookie. To consider him a rookie is to buy into the theory the Bears have put out there on occasion over the last few years that they have a "redshirt class" of players, guys that didn't get on the field because of injuries in their rookie seasons. This isn't college football. Redshirt seasons don't exist. Teams may carry injured players on their roster or injured reserve, but they still count vs. the salary cap.
The Bears and general manager Jerry Angelo took a chance drafting a player with a medical red flag in Williams, a guy some teams had removed from their draft boards. Angelo rolled the dice. He lost in Williams' rookie season as training camp and the first half of the season were shot by surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, the same disc that had a stable herniation, as the Bears later described it, during his college career. That stable herniation was discovered in all of the pre-draft medical tests on Williams.
So, let's not call him a rookie because he isn't a rookie. He will be a second-year player who has taken advantage of all aspects of the pro game in terms of preparation, meetings, learning the offense, etc. What he hasn't been able to do is gain meaningful playing experience. He's a player the Bears have high hopes on, hopes just as high as when they drafted him.
Getting back to your question, I can tell you this: The last time a team had rookie tackles make at least eight starts was 2000 when the Green Bay Packers formed what was one of the better pairs in the league for some time with Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. Clifton played in 13 games, making 10 starts. Tauscher appeared in all 16 games and made 14 starts. The Packers won their final four games that season to finish 9-7.
Q: What are the odds on the Bears looking at Fred Taylor? I figure the guy knows he isn't a No. 1 back any more so I bet he can be had for a low salary. Am I wrong? Seems like he would be a good complement to Matt Forte.
James T., Charleston, Ill.
A: While they're at it maybe the Bears can kick the tires of Stephen Davis, Ahman Green, Priest Holmes and any other older back that might still have interest in playing.
Taylor has had a marvelous career with the Jaguars and has said he would like to play long enough to get about another 1,000 yards to pass Jim Brown on the all-time list. Taylor was part of a dynamic 1-2 punch for the Jaguars with Maurice Jones-Drew but the rush by a lot of people is to assume any marquee name would be a great fit. This is a popular question I got and others also inquired about Deuce McAllister, who was let go by the New Orleans Saints.
You've got to be real careful with running backs as they approach 30 and over and have high mileage. Look at Shaun Alexander, who is younger than Taylor. Alexander was named MVP in 2005 when he rushed for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. In three seasons since, he's chugged for 1,636 yards. Barely. Running backs don't fade away as much as they fall of a cliff when they've reached their expiration date.
Taylor, 33, would have been a fabulous pick over Curtis Enis in the 1998 draft. The Bears goofed there. Could he still have something left? Sure. But Taylor averaged only 11 carries per game last season and had just 3.9 yards per carry, 1.5 yards less than he averaged in 2007. The Bears might be best off trying Garrett Wolfe and then looking elsewhere. If the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers have proven anything over the last few seasons, it's that you can find running backs to fill needs.
Just forget McAllister. By all accounts he's an incredible guy but his body has been put through a lot. After he picked up the Saints' all-time record for rushing touchdowns on Nov. 24, he had just 21 carries the rest of the season.
Q: It's been reported that Albert Haynesworth will not sign with Tennessee, at least not before going out into free agency. What are the chances the Bears become involved in the bidding? He'd make a huge difference not just for the line but for the entire defense. He'd make Tommie Harris better and the Bears would have the best pair of tackles in the league. They would dominate on defense. You can tell I think this is a good idea.
Richard A., Corpus Christi, Texas
A: This is a little game being played in about 31 cities right now. How would Haynesworth look in my team's uniform? Of course, Haynesworth would upgrade any defense. He'd make the Pittsburgh Steelers better. I seriously doubt the Bears are going to get involved in contract discussions that could hover around $10 million per season and include $30 million or more in guaranteed money. Harris is currently being paid the kind of money where he is supposed to make the players around him better. He does. Now you need to pay someone to make Harris better? You're talking about investing an incredible amount of money at defensive tackle as Harris' cap figure for 2009 is north of $9 million. Never say never but this one doesn't add up. The best guess here is Haynesworth is going to the open market in order to secure a price that Tennessee will ultimately pay.
Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. Stay with us during the trip to the combine.