Plenty of football news today so we're just sitting down to sift through our mail now. Before we know it, we'll be off to minicamp on Tuesday. Let's get right to it.
Q: If you were general manager of the Bears, what would you give to the Denver Broncos to get Jay Cutler? What would it take to get him? Who else has the best shot of trading for him?
Duane, Parts Unknown
A: When you step back and survey the entire situation and how it unfolded in Denver, it's fascinating. There are a couple things that struck me from the beginning. First, had Josh McDaniels done something to royally hack off Bill Belichick? Did he do something to earn the Mangini treatment? Signing wide receiver Jabar Gaffney away from New England probably didn't go over real well in Foxboro, Mass. That was my immediate reaction, though, how in the world was this thing blowing up and did anything precipitate it. Did anything? I don't know but I can tell you it stinks from here.
My second reaction was what kind of evaluation did the Broncos make of Cutler? Sure, McDaniels feels like he raised Matt Cassel in this league. He probably did. But there are other people involved in the decision-making process there--including one of the more respected owners in the league in Pat Bowlen--and a club doesn't start talking trade for a quarterback it KNOWS is a franchise quarterback. That's just it. Is Cutler a franchise passer? An upgrade over anything the Bears have had since a healthy Jim McMahon? You bet your Ditka sweater. But a slam dunk, bona fide star for the next decade? I don't know. Probably not with the Bears' current offensive core. Cutler went to a Pro Bowl after his second full season as a starter but there's a lot of room for improvement in his game. Before this meltdown there were those in certain league circles who questioned Cutler. So, besides a reunion with Cassel, what was McDaniels' thinking in plotting a trade? You've got to consider some of these questions.
That brings us back to what the Bears could or would or should offer up for Cutler if Denver does dangle him on the open market again. Keep in mind, the Broncos were looking to trade him in the first place for Cassel. Unfortunately, the Bears can't deal Cassel and it's unlikely big interest could be generated in Kyle Orton. Matching up with something the Broncos would agree to is the difficult thing because surely more teams will be involved and certainly more teams will start with better ammunition than the No. 18 pick in the draft. Brian Urlacher? The Broncos are looking to get younger on a bad defense. Lance Briggs? Sure you want to trade your most reliable defensive player? Greg Olsen? That's one position the Broncos don't have a need on offense. Nathan Vasher? There might be a better chance he departs the way Ricky Manning Jr. did than the Bears find a home for him via a trade. You've got to consider the man's contract.
So, start putting together a package of draft picks. I don't know what gets the Bears in the ballpark and I don't know what they would be willing to pay. What is Angelo's evaluation of Cutler? Who gets in the bidding? The Denver Post has put together a list of possible teams--Detroit, Minnesota, Cleveland, Tennessee, Tampa and more. The New York Jets need a quarterback. It's impossible to say who could catch the Broncos' eye.
For a insightful look at one price for Cutler--and it's an expensive one--check out this item by ESPN.com's John Clayton. Try two first-round picks and a third.
Q: Do you get the sense this will be an offense heavy draft in the first three rounds for the Bears given all the talk about coaching and attitude which seems aimed at the defensive side of the ball? In addition to that, isn't defensive end less likely to be an early position pick given all the rhetoric about Rod Marinelli and also the possible move of Israel Idonije back to end? Even safety may have to wait until the second day with the lack of quality in the draft, Zack Bowman's move to free safety and Jerry Angelo's success finding defensive backs in later rounds. My concern is that the first-round pick may not have the value to match the positions of need at OT and WR with possibly three gone at each respective position before the Bears' pick at No. 18. Could this make the Bears more willing to trade their first rounder if a Jay Cutler or Anquan Boldin were truly available?
Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
A: That's a lot to bite off right there. Let's see if we can do it point-by-point.
1. The Bears have done that in the past where they have dedicated the first half of a draft to one side of the ball. Look no further than last year as an example when they selected tackle Chris Williams, running back Matt Forte and receiver Earl Bennett with their first three picks. It used to be they pretty much traded off from one year to the next. Given the vast difference in investments on each side of the ball and considering the belief that Lovie Smith's new role as play caller and Marinelli's arrival will help solve issues on defense, it does look like the club will seek to fill some offensive holes early if not first.
2. Idonije's move to end would likely have little impact on draft plans. He's a role player not a starter.
3. As far as safety, remember the second day of the draft now starts with Round 3. It looks like that will be a need for Day 2 and that's too bad because eyeing the roster it sure looks like a Day 1 need.
4. Bowman will have less impact on draft strategy than Idonije. The guy isn't guaranteed a roster spot.
5. I think you will be able to find a pretty good tackle and a pretty good receiver at No. 18. At that point, I don't think you're talking reach. Now, if you're trying to draft a tackle at No. 6 and you're the Cincinnati Bengals and Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe are off the board and you don't want to role the dice on Andre Smith then, yeah, you've got a problem.
6. If the Bears don't see anything great at No. 18, are the Broncos going to view that pick any differently in any proposed Cutler talks? I don't think the Cardinals could get a pick that high in return for Boldin. Remember, you're talking about a trade-and-sign and I don't see any team forking over a pick that high and then giving Boldin the kind of money he's seeking. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I read it.
Q: As a frustrated Bears fan explain to me why they continually nickel and dime their own free agents such as John St. Clair and are not willing to address a struggling offense via free agency, making us believe Earl Bennett and Devin Hester as wide receivers will bring home a Super Bowl. Then signing a guy that a video title ``How not to play safety'' was made from doesn't exactly boost confidence.
Jay, Parts Unknown
A: I'm not going to launch into a defense of the Bears, but no one accused the Bears of nickel and diming their own free agents last year, did they? Well, maybe no one but Lance Briggs, who came back at the team's price from the open market. The Bears made a contract offer to St. Clair on Feb. 13. Before he flew from Florida to Cleveland earlier today for a visit with the Browns, he had no known interest from another team. It's unknown if the Browns have made him a contract offer. If you're not bidding against someone else, why bid against yourself? The $4.5 million, three-year offer the Bears made seems low. The guy started the last 19 games and would probably be penciled in as the right tackle for the 2009 season. But if no one else is buying, why pay more? I don't believe anyone honestly believes Bennett and Hester will be front-and-center on a Super Bowl Shuffle remix. Let me know if you've heard anyone call Bennett the ticket back to the Big Game. The signing of free safety Josh Bullocks doesn't inspire a lot of confidence, but again I don't believe he's being billed as anything terrific. Quite frankly, it was a lousy open market for free safeties. What the Bears really need to do is have an impact draft, the kind they haven't see since 2006. Whatever shortcomings the team has had in free agency have been matched by ineffective drafts. The problem is the further they have gotten away from '06, the weaker that class has looked with Mark Anderson and Danieal Manning taking secondary roles since.
Q: Could you help me with a little more detail as to how good Cody Balogh is at right tackle? What are his strengths and weaknesses and could he eventually be a starter?
Dahlillama, Parts Unknown
A: I don't know if anyone has seen enough of Balogh in the role to make a judgment. The Bears don't let media watch practice during the season, so I can't tell you what he did or didn't do on the scout team last season. He's got good size at 6-6, 303 pounds, and he's a bright guy. He has long arms and if his college track record at Montana is worth much, he's durable as he played 40 consecutive games for the Griz. The guy everyone wants to emulate there is Scott Gragg, and Balogh isn't as big or powerful as the former NFL veteran. The Bears have a history of keeping around offensive linemen for a few years on the practice squad. They find some good, hardworking younger guys that learn their system and play their role well. We haven't seen one of them pan out yet. He's a longshot even if he's running with the first team on Tuesday.
Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. We're going to do a minicamp only Q&A on Wednesday.