Busy day of football activity, and we're going to tidy up action from the day in another post here shortly with a few interesting things, so be sure to check back. Right now, let's jump into the mailbag and Four Down Territory.
Q: What did you think of the signing of Josh Bullocks? Is he more likely to start at free safety than Craig Steltz or a rookie? Is he not that highly regarded to sign an inexpensive one-year deal at age 26 or was he just caught on a bad Saints defense? If he was a quality player, would he have been a priority for New Orleans? Does this signing make it more likely the top picks will be at offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive end, especially because (as you pointed out) the team has had success drafting defensive backs on the second day?
Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
A: We've got a lot to chew on here. My best guess right now is that Bullocks eventually finds himself in a three-man competition for the starting job with Steltz and a yet to be drafted rookie. What round the rookie comes in and how Steltz fares will obviously dictate to a degree Bullocks' chances, but right now he's got the best skill set to play the position. The Bears didn't have a free safety until he was brought on board. And, who knows, perhaps Steltz winds up in a situation where he competes with Kevin Payne for the starting gig at strong safety. Don't discount that possibility either.
Bullocks lost his starting job last summer with the Saints and never really got back into the picture although he made six starts when injuries mixed things up in what was one of the worst secondaries in football. Keep in mind, however, the Saints generated almost no pass rush and had some real issues at linebacker. So other factors led to the secondary posting very poor statistics. Bullocks might be better suited to play the cover two the Bears like to employ and we'll see. They're certainly not expecting him to be an all-pro based on he $1.2 million, one-year deal he received, but there wasn't a lot out there. The free-agent market offered a handful of options at strong safety but the only true free safety with proven skills was Brian Dawkins and general manager Jerry Angelo pretty much made it clear he wasn't in the market for 35-year-old defensive backs. This is a good signing for the Bears and Bullocks. They get someone with range at a good price. He gets a chance to bounce back--the guy had a very strong rookie season with the Saints--and then get back to the bargaining table in a hurry if he plays well.
I don't think the addition of Bullocks will necessarily alter the draft strategy. The Bears had to bring in someone with experience at the position. If they see a free safety they really like, they could grab one in the first three rounds of the draft. Problem is, it's not a real deep class. One who might be worth looking at is Texas Tech's Darcel McBath.
Q: With all the concern regarding the offensive line wouldn't it make perfect sense to grab perennial Pro Bowler Orlando Pace? Pace still has some tread left on the tires and at worst would be one of the best right tackles in the game. This would allow the Bears to put Frank Omiyale at guard and groom him to take over at right tackle when Pace retires. In the meantime that would give the Bears a large, strong, athletic and versatile line. Not to mention the mentoring Chris Williams would get from Pace, one of the best to ever play left tackle. I think this would also give the Bears a little wiggle room in the draft, freeing up picks to be used on more of the explosive skill position players. What do you think?
Elvin K., Columbus, Ohio
A: Pace will unquestionably go down as one of the top few tackles of his era along with Walter Jones and Jonathan Ogden, and the No. 1 overall pick in 1997 will one day be honored in Canton, Ohio. No question. I go against the thinking that signing Pace makes perfect sense, however. The Bears have had good luck with aging veterans on the line before, particularly with guard Ruben Brown, but what they need to do is get younger on the line. That means using a high pick on another tackle. If they can get some building blocks on the line that pan out, that takes a tremendous burden off the front office for a number of years. I'm not sure you want to go through the snow with Pace, either, meaning I don't know if he has much tread left on those tires. We're talking about a guy who has missed 25 games over the last three seasons. A knee injury kept him out of two games last season. He missed 15 in 2007 and was out of eight games in 2006.
St. Louis has a first-year coach in Steve Spagnuolo and has invested heavily in quarterback Marc Bulger and more recently running back Steven Jackson. If the Rams believed Pace was still a top talent--at left or right tackle--they wouldn't be cutting him loose. The landscape for coaches has changed in the NFL. They're no longer getting five-year plans to turn things around. Coaches are expected to win and win quick, and if Spagnuolo believed Pace was a means to that end, he'd still be a Ram because his salary-cap situation wasn't all that serious. This wasn't a money decision as much as it was a football decision. Now, Pace could have a few years left in him at 33, but in the Bears' case, they need to find another young tackle to hopefully pair with Williams. If they both work out, that's a tremendous stroke of good fortune and allows the team to do just what you said--pursue explosive skill position players. Pace is no sure thing and it's hard to say he still is at an elite level. He hasn't been to the Pro Bowl since after the 2005 season. I believe Omiyale will be starting at guard no matter who comes in, taking the place of Josh Beekman on the left side with Roberto Garza remaining the right guard.
The ex-Ram to keep an eye on could be wide receiver Torry Holt, when he's cut loose before the team has to pay him a $1.25 million roster bonus on Tuesday. What the chances are of the Bears pursuing him, I have no idea. I don't know if they'd even be interested, but he would make more sense in this writer's opinion than Pace.
Q: I know you've been bombarded with free-agent wide receiver questions. Here is one more: If the Bears are trying so hard to improve their run game, then why not kill two birds with one stone? Reggie Williams is still available from Jacksonville. I'm not going to kid anyone into thinking that he's a No. 1 receiver, but he is 6-4, 214 pounds, he'll only be 26 at the start of next season and he's a great blocker. Devin Hester is already slated as the No. 1 receiver and deep threat. Why not add a big target for Orton, and a great run/screen blocker for the running backs?
Jason P., Las Vegas
A: Williams certainly is a big receiver with some skill to him and he caught 10 touchdown passes in 2007 for the Jaguars when their offense wasn't broken down as it was much of last year. But the former first-round pick from Washington didn't help himself when he was busted on the eve of free agency for drunk driving and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. We're not sure where that ranks in the poor-timing-to-get-busted-partying list, but that's pretty much right up there with the night before the draft, right?
Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports put together a list of free agent bargains and players to beware. Where did Williams land? You guessed it, on the buyer beware list.
5. Reggie Williams, WR: His size and athletic ability make him tempting. He still shows flashes that make you think he can be a big-time player. But even before his recent arrest, he had the reputation of being an unfocused knucklehead. He's destined to break some team's heart.
General manager Jerry Angelo has hinted the real help for the Bears at the position will come via the draft. I wouldn't rule out an addition in free agency, a small deal similar to what Bullocks got earlier today. Williams would be more intriguing minus the weed-and-booze incident. Cleveland cut loose Joe Jurevicius on Wednesday. He's another big, veteran guy and has high character. But he didn't play at all in 2008 while he recovered from a staph infection and it's not certain how much he has less. Jurevicius, who grew up a Browns fan, was due to make $2.4 million. If healthy, he'd be worth investigating.
Q: I've been posting for a few weeks now how Lance Moore is worth a second-round pick. The guy had over 70 receptions and almost 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns last year. Not to mention the fact that he's only 25 years old. Am I mistaken or are those facts worthy of trading away a second-round pick? The guy is getting paid a petty $1.545 million and I doubt New Orleans will match a good Bears' offer. The Bears haven't seen a receiver with these numbers in a while and let's not try to disguise Devin Hester as a No. 1 option.
Fred G., Parts Unknown
A: Moore was wildly productive in the high-powered New Orleans passing attack last season, catching 79 passes for 928 yards with 10 touchdowns. Putting those numbers into my converter that translates statistics from other offenses to the one used here, well, it's not so shiny--43 catches, 481 yards, 2 touchdowns. OK. We're just kidding. We don't have a converter, but I hope you get my point. It's impossible to look at his number with Drew Brees, a 5,000-yard passer, and project what he could do for the Bears. What the Bears need is a No. 1 receiver. I don't think anyone views Moore as the next Steve Smith. He's a terrific player for the Saints, but at 5-9, 190 pounds, he's just not a true No. 1 target. You're right, Hester might not be either. But collecting No. 2's doesn't create a No. 1. Plus, I'm not so convinced the Saints wouldn't strongly consider matching an offer. This from Mike Triplett at the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
TEAMS CONSIDER MOORE: Saints restricted free-agent receiver Lance Moore has not gone on any free-agent recruiting visits this year, but he has received some legitimate interest around the league, according to a league source. A report in the Tennesseean on Sunday suggested that the Titans are "intrigued" by Moore.
Teams would have to pay a stiff price to snatch Moore away from the Saints. New Orleans tendered him a contract offer at the second-round compensation level last month. That means the Saints would first have the option to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. If they elect not to match the offer, the team would owe New Orleans a second-round pick.
Two of the Saints' other restricted free agents are even less likely to go anywhere. The team tendered guard Jahri Evans at a first- and third-round compensation level, and they tendered backup offensive tackle Zach Strief at a second-round level.
Moore is a good, young talent. The Bears need a big receiver who can make plays downfield.
Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Shoot in your questions and we'll get back to the mailbag and Four Down Questions again on Thursday.