Full day of football with the trip up to Evanston this morning for the Northwestern pro day. There were 32 players from other state schools at the workout too. More on the pro day action later. Right now, let's get into the mailbag. We'll have one more Four Down Territory on Friday--get your questions in now--and then we're going to move to an abbreviated schedule next week with minicamp. Here we go.
Q: I was just listening to the Score and they were saying Tampa was in trade talks for Jay Cutler. If Tampa can be in trade talks for Cutler, why can't the Bears be? Tampa doesn't have a quarterback and the Bears have a higher first-round pick than them. Shouldn't Jerry Angelo at least try to get in there for a quarterback of his caliber? Did he not say fixing the quarterback position was a priority? With all of Angelo's first-round busts would this not be a safe move? Cutler is not Matt Cassel, he has all the good and has shown it, he is a fan of the Bears and has the type of arm and feet you need in Chicago.
Creighton, Parts Unknown
A: I haven't found one report that the Broncos and Bucs have engaged in any recent contract talks involving Cutler. Tampa Bay, of course, was in the three-way deal that was proposed prior to free agency and included the New England Patriots. But nothing indicates Cutler trade talks have happened again. The Broncos finally got Cutler on the horn earlier this week and that didn't go over so well. It will be interesting to see if he shows up next week for the beginning of the voluntary offseason program, a pretty big step under new coach Josh McDaniels.
That being said, Cutler has come off looking rather petulant in this whole thing. There are questions out there whether or not he indeed is a franchise quarterback. He led a team that lost four of its final six to not make the playoffs. Worth a first-round pick? Probably. The Bears pick 18th, one slot ahead of Tampa Bay. Ultimately, I believe the Broncos will work to smooth this thing out but you have to believe they're chuckling about it in Kansas City, where a division rival landed Cassel, the player McDaniels coveted.
Certainly, if Cutler was on the market the Bears would have to investigate. What Angelo said is he needs to stabilize the position. You cite his draft track record and I'll cite his unwillingness to part with draft picks--I don't think it would happen. That Cutler may have been a Bears fan at some point is immaterial. I think signing Byron Leftwich would be a good move and it's a surprise he's still available. Someone will eventually get a pretty good player in Leftwich.
Q: With more teams moving away from the cover two, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who started the Tampa Two or at least put a name to it, is the defense going the way of the dinosaurs? Are the Bears running a soon-to-be extinct defensive system under Lovie Smith?
Allan W., Streator, Ill.
A: There's no question the Bears didn't make their version of the cover two look real proud last season, not when they ranked 21st in the league on defense. It's a total misnomer to say that is the defense they are always in, or even in half the time, but it is their base defense and it's predicated on getting a pass rush from the four down linemen. Because the Bears absolutely couldn't do that, they blitzed more than any team in the league. The results were mixed and it opened the defense up to other problems at times.
We're not going to pretend we can predict trends in the league or anything like that, so we inquired with a defensive coordinator in the league about his thoughts. Has the cover two run its course?
"More and more people are moving away from it because when you have to move that eighth defender in the box to stop the run it gets a little hairier if you don't have the cover corners to play the pass,'' he said. "More people are moving to the 3-4 to get pressure on the quarterback and get that eighth guy in the box. Listen, every defense has a known weakness. I don't care what scheme you are talking about. Every single one of them has a weakness. Against the cover two, it's the inside. As soon as someone sees two deep safeties, they're going to pass the ball inside. That's what happens. Now with three wides and the back getting out in space, there's just a lot of stuff out there. I don't know if the cover two has run its course. Everything is cyclical in our business."
The Bears were torched on the inside by slants and quick passes and you need no better example than tape of the awful home loss to Tampa Bay. It will be interesting to see what kind of new wrinkles are in place starting with minicamp next week.
Q: You've referenced major turnover in the secondary at safety, the kind of change the Bears make at quarterback usually. Can you run down the starters and changes made?
Brian F., Gurnee
2004--Mike Brown, Todd Johnson, R.W. McQuarters, Johnson
2005--Mike Green, Chris Harris, Green, Brandon McGowan, Harris
2006--Harris, Danieal Manning
2007--Brown, Manning, McGowan, Manning
2008--Brown, Kevin Payne, Manning
2005--Brown, Johnson, Green, McGowan
2006--Brown, Johnson, Harris
2007--Adam Archuleta, McGowan, Archuleta, McGowan
2008--Payne, Brown, Payne
Q: Are you going to steer us wrong, Brad? You wrote a couple times that John St. Clair would be done by the end of this week. Did I miss something or are you teetering on being wrong? What is the holdup? The Bears need him and he needs a job.
Carl, Parts Unknown
A: If I'm wrong, you can just add it to the collection of mistakes. There's no drop-dead deadline here that says St. Clair has to be in place by the end of this week, or even by Tuesday when the Bears have their first minicamp practice. It's not like they have another option, not with the stated goal of using Frank Omiyale at guard, at least to start with. It's pretty evident what the holdup is--money. St. Clair, no doubt, wants to be paid like a starter. He's started the last 19 games for the Bears and if he returns, he's probably the starting right tackle this season, at least to start the year. Whatever that amount is, the Bears aren't close to it. At this point, it's unlikely anyone is close to it or he would have probably signed for starting money and a starting job elsewhere. So, what you have left is a delicate negotiation. The club doesn't want to insult the player, but everyone knows the team wants him back. This happy medium is proving elusive to this point. Stay tuned.
Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Send in your questions and we'll get back to the mailbag again on Friday.