Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, Feb. 25: Could Bears rescue displaced Bucs Brooks, Dunn?

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On the eve of free agency, we're awful excited so we're going to expand Four Down Territory again. If you didn't see, it's worth noting that the NFL has raised the salary cap for 2009 to $127 million. That doesn't do any favors to the teams with a lot of money to spend as it only gives more flexibility to the few clubs who were right up against the number. Let's get into it:

Q: Does the release today of Derrick Brooks or Warrick Dunn interest you even a little bit? Seems like they may still have a little steam left.

J.T., Charleston, Ill.

A: Talk about some swashbuckling moves in Tampa today. The Bucs didn't just release two of the franchise's greatest players ever in Brooks and Dunn, they also made receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and linebacker Cato June walk the plank. It was stunning news down there. But it doesn't matter if Brooks or Dunn interest me, it's whether or not they interest Jerry Angelo & Co.

My hunch is the Bears will not have interest. They don't have a place for Brooks, who turns 36 in April. The Bears have a better, younger weak-side linebacker right now in Lance Briggs. The Bucs are ditching their Tampa Two scheme with Jim Bates taking over the defense, and Brooks simply didn't fit the defense. Dunn, 34, rushed for 786 yards last season and added another 330 in receiving yards. He's clearly got some ability left to help someone as a complementary back. Right now, the Bears are pointing to Garrett Wolfe and wanting to see him fill that position in his third season. Signing Dunn would block his development.

June had some solid years as a weak-side linebacker in Indianapolis and the Bucs played him on the strong side where he was out of place. We got a separate question about him, and he doesn't look to project on the strong side but we could be wrong on that one.

Q: Love your updates, especially being in Calgary it's sometimes hard to keep up with the Bears. I have free agent questions. Do you think the Bears will look at Marvel Smith or Stacy Andrews? I know they both have injury concerns and with Chris Williams already having a back injury it could muddle the waters for Mr. Angelo. However, both are talented guys whom the Bears could really use. Lastly, do you think the Bears will look at Gibril Wilson at all?

Bart C., Calgary, Alberta, Canada

A: Andrews might be the most appealing offensive tackle on the open market but he had surgery to repair an ACL in December. Of course, word is he's ahead of schedule (do you ever hear of anyone being behind schedule with the exception of Tom Brady?) and is hopeful to be back on the field in June. Andrews would be a nice fit for a lot of teams and I don't know how much of a concern an ACL is for a lineman. Smith is another interesting possibility, one that might come with a cheaper price tag. He's had back issues that have kept him off the field for much of the last two seasons. If the Bears do not get something done with John St. Clair--there has been no movement on that front--maybe they look at one of these guys.

As far as Wilson, my hunch is no. He's a strong safety who struggles the further away from the line of scrimmage you play him. The Bears have already proven they can collect strong safeties.

Q: You mentioned in Tuesday's "Four Down Territory" about Kellen Davis showing flashes in training camp/preseason, then fading as the season went on. Isn't that a Bears' epidemic? Every year we hear the praises of Mike Hass in training camp. Brandon Rideau led the league in preseason touchdowns. Neither made the team. (I think Rideau ended up playing one game late, and Hass is now signed with Seattle). Earl Bennett was the next coming of, well, the last great Bears' receiver. Gosh, it's been a long time. Josh Beekman never played his rookie year even when the playoffs were well out of sight and the line was falling apart. What is it with Halas Hall pimping all of these products, then refusing to use them, or watching them deteriorate as time goes on? Matt Forte being the exception, and Cedric Benson kind of forced their hand there, it seems like the Bears love young players early but don't trust them a bit once the season starts. Is that simply a coaching decision, to bring them along slowly, or is this epidemic of poor coaching (i.e. player development)?

Patrick E., Marion, Ind.

A: Well, we're biting off a big piece here. As far as Davis, the rookie tight end from Michigan State, he was a fifth-round draft pick at a position the Bears seemingly didn't need much help with Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen. I'm not going to sit here and tell you the Bears have done a marvelous job of identifying and then developing young talent, but Davis didn't really have a spot to slide into, did he? What was impressive about him in training camp was the way he made plays downfield in the seam. He's a big man at 6-7, 262 pounds, and I think it's fair to say he ran and caught the ball better than most expected. Good enough to push Clark or Olsen aside? Well, we know the answer to that. What the Bears needed to see Davis develop was more ability as a blocker to try and pick up some of the slack created by the departure of John Gilmore to Tampa Bay in free agency. We'll see how he comes along in that role this next season.

Hass? Maybe he should have gotten a chance but the Bears viewed him as a zero on special teams and it's tough to carry a backup receiver on Sunday if he can't help you on teams. Rideau? It would be nice to see what he can do. They need a big target. Bennett? I don't think anyone talked about his skills in training camp. Frankly, he struggled in camp and preseason. Beekman was a fourth-round pick in 2007 and the Bears played into the very end of the season with the idea that they had not been eliminated from the playoffs. I don't think you make a bad point, but in choosing Davis you're probably picking the wrong guy to try to make it.

Q: After watching much of the combine two players stood out, in my opinion, in the receiver/running back category. One was Brian Robiskie, what are the chances the Bears would go with a player of his caliber (great hands, precise route runner, good speed) with the 18th pick? Does his combine propel him into the top 15? Also, Donald Brown strikes me as a carbon copy of Matt Forte. Any chance the Bears look in his direction in the first round?

Frank, Hamden, Conn.

A: Frank, what's your favorite apizza joint? I went to Modern Apizza on an adventure you New Haven last summer and enjoyed it. Robiskie really helped himself by running a 4.49-second, 40-yard dash. Speed was the one real question about his game and he seemingly answered that with a big day Sunday in Indianapolis. Some are talking about him being a first-round pick now. Previously, I think he was viewed as a second-round choice. It might be a little high for him to go 18, though. Brown also turned in a solid performance with a 4.51-second 40. His college career mirrors Forte's somewhat in that he was extremely productive. He doesn't have one trait that really jumps out at you, he's just a good, all-around back. Again, kind of like Forte. Brown probably projects as a second-round pick. I doubt the Bears spend a pick on a back at all, at least not in the first four rounds. They've got many other needs.

Q: Is there is any good reason for the Bears not to pursue the recently released Damon Huard immediately? Huard, somehow, managed to be a competitive quarterback in Kansas City, has starting experience, will likely not be looking for a starting position and will come reasonably priced. It does the Bears very little good to select a developmental quarterback in the weak draft class before us, especially because both Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez represent projects and are already on the roster. Hanie may have the ability to be a backup but he needs a lot more polish before that happens. While Kyle Orton has mostly proved durable, throwing Hanie into emergency game action before he is ready could damage both he and the team. A one- or two-year deal with Huard would allow him to fill the dual role of a quarterback that could be both a short-term fill in for Orton and the guy to keep Hanie learning on the sidelines for the next season or two.

Nick L., Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

A: The flip side of all of this is bringing Huard in would block the Bears from getting an idea whether or not Hanie or Basanez can add anything. Huard had a nice little stretch in 2006 when he started eight games and threw 11 touchdowns vs. just one interception. Otherwise, his career doesn't do a whole lot for me. He'll be 36 in July and we've seen what aging veterans can do for the Bears at this position, haven't we? One of the real problems the Bears have run into is they take a long time, too long, trying to determine if their quarterback can be THE GUY. Rex Grossman is departing after six seasons. Orton is going into his fifth season. In this man's opinion, they need to find a way to speed up that process. Giving Hanie and Basanez a reasonable shot at the No. 2 job would be a step in that direction.

Q: Which is more likely, the Bears signing wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh or free safety Gibril Wilson, or some scrub no other team will bid against them for? Who would you sign given their options?

Adam W., Oak Park

A: I'm going to bet against Houshmandzadeh or Wilson. We've covered the Houshmandzadeh topic thoroughly here and I doubt he would have interest in joining the Bears. Wilson is not a free safety, he's a strong safety. I couldn't afford to sign any of the players, but it would be my question whether or not wide receiver Bryant Johnson could help. He's a big target and could provide some depth without necessarily blocking the development of Earl Bennett. An offensive tackle with the ability to start is a must-sign. I'd expect an addition or two in the secondary also.

Q: I would like the Bears to kick the tires on safety Jim Leonhard from the Ravens, what do you think? Here is what Scouts Inc. had to say:

``He isn't an overwhelming physical specimen, but Leonard can contribute in many ways and will make his new team happy because he has terrific instincts and is a tough, hard-nosed competitor. There is little bust potential in signing him. Leonard also could benefit playing more of a center-field role, which obviously was a responsibility that usually was handled by Ed Reed in Baltimore.''

Rob C., Parts Unknown

A: Leonhard is a hard-nosed football player who enhanced his value with some big plays in the postseason for the Ravens. Most expect his former defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, to make an immediate push for him in free agency with the New York Jets. In fact, I've read it so much you would think it's a done deal but we know that doesn't happen, right? Not everyone is convinced he will be an impact player. Here is what RealScouts with Sporting News had to say about Leonhard:

"Leonhard lacks ideal size and power but is smart and tough. He is a good fill-in starter, as he has shown the past two years in Buffalo and Baltimore. However, he fits best as a special teamer who adds depth to the secondary."

Thanks for the great questions and thanks as always for reading. We'll get to Four Down Territory once more this week on Thursday. Check back often as we approach free agency. We're going to do our best to have constant updates when there is Bears news, or semi-Bears news.

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Brad recently the Bears and long time Safety Mike Brown have decided to part ways. In 2001 Mike then a Free Safety was matched with Tony Parrish at strong Safety. This would be the last time I would wittness 2 true starting calibur Safety's on the Bears. For the next couple of years it would be Green and Grey at SS and Brown at FS. In 2004 Mike Brown was moved to SS to fill a void and got hurt. Then we had Todd Johnson and Mike Green for most of the season. In 2005 we tried to put Chris Harris at FS only to find that Harris was a SS who could not cover very well. In 2006 we were given a mix of Manning Harris and Brown. In 07 it was McGowan, Archuleta, and Manning. In 08 we got Brown and Payne.

In the last three drafts the Bears have selected 7 DB's and even tried out poor Devin Hester at corner. For the last 2 years the Bears have been rated close too the bottom of the league in Pass defense, this year finishing 30th. Now a lot of people say part of that is due to a lack of pass rush. While the Bears tied for 22nd in sacks there were several teams below the Bears such as Redskins who were 28th in sacks, The Bengals and Browns who tied for 30th, the Bills 26th, and the Texans 27th all had fewer sacks then the Bears. But there Pass defense was ranked much higher WAS 7th best, CLE 14th, CIN, 15TH, BUF 13th, and HOU 17th. To me it looks like the Bears secondary is a mess.

For several years the Bears have been looking for a FS or SS, and a third Corner. With over 10 draft picks and FA's sense 2005 even brining in Manning Jr, and Adam Archuleta, yet nothing has worked. This year the Bears are looking at a Payne, Manning Steltz combo at Safety and have an open competition for 2 corner positions, This idea does not thrill me. With a weak safety class in the draft and not a real solid group of corners will Angelo be throwing yet more picks at the Bears secondary, and searching FA for more unwanted talent. Why can he not get the secondry fixed? How many years does it take to find a free safety? If you can't draft one go and sign the best one you can get.

You stated above that the Bears often spend to much time trying to figure out if there players are any good. Pointing out Grossman being here 6 years and Orton 5 years. I am wonder how long it will take them to figure out they have the wrong GM?

The Bears may have been 22'nd in scacks (which is not good) they also led the league in blitzing....

As we all know, blitzing opens up a a whole new set of problems, holes in the coverage, players caught out of position ect..ect...

Mix in Babbich's preference of having Urlacher and Briggs line up on the LOS, his constant need to roll a safety up in the box to help stop the run and having the DB's playing 10+ yards off the WR's most of the time and your just asking opposing Offenses to take advantage of you with the passing game.

The Bears did make it a priority to stop the run last season and did so by virtue of being ranked 5'th in the league last season. The problem is they used (8) man fronts way too often to do it and having only (1) safety deep most if the time and the forcing the LB's to scramble with their backs turned to the QB didn't help in zone coverages either....

Lovies philosiphy/scheme is to generate a consistant pass rush with the front four. The last few years it didn't happen and the secondary paid the price for it.

Babbich being out is a plus. Vasher and Tillman coming in and hopefully staying healthy will be a plus. Urlacher having a full season under his belt from neck and back surgery will be a plus. New coaching for the secondary, LB's and D-line should be a plus.

Hopefull it all comes together and we can get back into the top-15 next season defensively...

Go Bears !!

We will see come September !!

Lots of WRs cut in the last couple of days. Do you see any of them (Coles, Hacket, Galloway are the latest) being a fit for the Bears? I personally wouldn't mind seeing Lavernious in Orange.

Brad, I would like to see the Bears sign free agent wide receiver Bryant Johnson of the 49ers. Johnson has nice size at 6-3, and could be the big possession receiver the Bears lack. While Johnson's numbers won't jump out at you, either would his quarterback situation in San Fran. The lack of a consistency at QB for the 49ers is probably the biggest reason Johnson didn't put up big numbers. When the 49ers finally settled on Shaun Hill at QB toward the end of the season, Johnson's numbers came up and he became more effective. I think wide receiver Bryant Johnson along with tackle Tyson Clabo would be great free agent signings, and fill a couple need areas for the Bears to allow the Bears to concentrate on other areas in the draft GO BEARS!!

Interesting and astute analysis on those two, Brad. Briggs and Wolfe are better bets , and I suspect you are right on in that the Bears will focus on them. I still would like to see a push for the offensive line and a super pass rusher. I understand the desire for a better quarterback and receivers but I think a better O-line would at least partially alleviate those problems.How about trading Orton, keeping Rex, and having Hanie as back-up? I know that won't happen, but desperate times require desperate measures, and hiring a new coach who set a new loss record as a losing head coach is pretty desperate already.

Bensonsucks, I know they were blitzing a lot and I know they used that 4-3-4 stack all the time, but in third an long they were at the bottom of the league, they were playing Nickle and not blitzing all that much. Also there prevent was one of the worst I have seen.

When they were not blitzing the secondary suffered from blown coverage after blown coverage. Atlanta was a blown coverage in the secondary, Tillman in MIN, Manning in Houston, these were the right coverages with bad execution. Players biting on fakes, and so forth. Fact is when we didn't blitz we got picked apart, when we did blitz we got picked apart. 4-3-4 stack is vulnerable to slants, counters, and counter trey,s. When we Stacked the line we got ripped in the secondary and when we didn't we got ripped in the secondary and teams could run on us. The front 4 was brutal but that does not excuse the secondaries poor play and speed at safety was a big problem. Even with Manning in there who does have speed, Steltz, Payne and Brown are all slow, Tillman is no burner either, considering the defense is based on speed this a big problem. The Bears secondary, LB's and front four have all gotten slower. We have no recovery ability in the secondary or at LB anymore and we lack the speed and explosivness on the line to get to the QB.

The Atlanta blown coverage shoulders on the coaching staff in my opinion.

They tossed a freshly signed cast-off from Tampa out there in crunch time and didn't even bother to instruct the kid on the coverage !! Urlacher, Tillman, Brown all should shoulder a bit of the blame too for not making sure the new guy was confident he knew what his job was but ultimately, the DB coach and Babbich are at fault for that coverage call.

The Minnesota blown coverage was all on Tillman... You wouldn't expect a seasoned veteran to blow it that badly but he did.

The D. Manning blown coverage vs the Texans I would fault Lovie as much as Manning.... The poor kid has bounced around from SS to FS to CB to SS to FS to NB the past three seasons. Lovie screwed this guy up and by now, he should have known that Manning isn't the sharpest tool in the shed and may have trouble grasping the techniques of (1) position let alone (4) !!!

To his credit, Lovie did personaly tutor Manning after practice this season at the NB position and it paid off with his solid play, unfortunately, they moved him back to safety in the season finale and he resorted back to his old form.

Lovie needs to leave Manning alone at NB, leave Payne alone at SS, let Graham and Vasher duke it out at CB and try to find a FS either already on the roster, in the draft or free agency to stengthen the secondary. Vasher to FS would be an intersting idea but I'm not sold on his tackling ability, he does posses the speed and coverage skills required at FS though.

I do beleive that if the Bears can improve the D-line either by a fresh/new coaching approach of Marrenili, adding a player via free agency or draft the secondary won't be nearly as bad as they have been the past few seasons. It' no coincidence that the secondary became a liabilty when Tommie Harris's play started to fade with those injuries to his knee and groin coupled with Mike Brown's yearly injury bug.

Just look at the second half of 2006. The Bears were #1 in total defense until the Arizona game, they also were tops in the league in points allowed by surrendering a hair over (7) points per game. Brown goes down and we start to drop in the rankins. Weeks (8) throgh (13) we give up an average of (15.1) points and (293) yards per game. Tommie Harris goes down and we plumit down to #5 in total defene surrendering an average of (372) yards and (26) points per game !!!

Just a thought.

Go Bears !!

Angelo needs to do something really bold. But, of course, he won't. Anyway, that would be to sign Ray Lewis, and move Urlacher to the outside. Can you imagine?!! Urlacher, Lewis, and Briggs!! For all Urlacher has done, Lewis is your more proto-typical Middle LB. And, especially at this point in his career, Urlacher's speed would be better suited on the outside. He can still cover TE's and RB's coming out of the backfield. And could rush the passer more effectively. But, after his neck and back problems, he just can't consistently take on the big linemen anymore going up the middle. That was never really his strong-suit anyway.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on February 25, 2009 9:07 PM.

Angelo just found another $4 million to spend, if he wants was the previous entry in this blog.

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