Full day of football news coming out of the owners meetings. The Bears got what they were looking for in a third-round compensatory pick for losing Bernard Berrian. Now, if they can make sure that third-round pick isn't Mike Okwo or Roosevelt Williams, maybe they will be OK. Off to the questions.
Q: It's been reported that the New York Jets are one of the 10 or so teams that have inquired about Jay Cutler's services. Wouldn't general manager Jerry Angelo earn some goodwill with a fan base that has become rather weary of his leadership by leaking the same news, that the Bears are going to be in the hunt for the quarterback if Denver decides to cut its unbelievable losses and trade the Pro Bowl quarterback?
Rafael S., Chicago
A: Sure, Angelo might make the fans happy for a day. Maybe a week. But would it matter if the Bears didn't land Cutler? I bet the Bears might have wanted to draft Ryan Clady last season too. He wasn't available when they picked at No. 14. Would knowing that make you feel better?
It was a sourced report in the Denver Post that 10 teams had made inquiries with the Broncos about Cutler and his availability. It's been reported that if Cutler reaches the open market, the Jets want in on the action. I don't think it would do the Bears any good to have their intentions known, whether they want in on Cutler or not. What's the point? You would tip off competition if you wanted in on the action. You would put a lot of extra pressure and scrutiny on yourself. Worse yet, miss on a deal and then you have Kyle Orton feeling just like Cutler, right? I can't say the Bears want in or don't have an interest in what is playing out in Denver right now. I know that in Angelo's tenure he's never come close to the kind of bold move it would take to pull off a deal like this. Not by a longshot. Playing your hand now wouldn't help the Bears, whatever path they choose. And remember, Josh McDaniels got a nifty platform provided for him by the league itself when he went on NFL Network Monday proclaiming Cutler was his quarterback.
Q: I read today that USC's Mark Sanchez will meet with or has met with the Jaguars, Colts, Jets and Redskins and I'm sure that's not a complete list. Are the Bears really not even going to meet with Sanchez? Are they that afraid that this might hurt Kyle Orton's feelings? Are they that content at quarterback that they wouldn't even consider Sanchez if he slipped to No. 18 or at least slipped to the the point where it would make sense to trade up and grab him? Orton could still play out his contract year in 2009 and if he plays great--awesome--you've got a good problem on your hands. If Orton doesn't live up to his 2008 first-half numbers, then you've got Sanchez with a year under his belt to step in instead of having to draft a quarterback in the first round of 2010 in what amounts to a full-blown rebuilding mode (and maybe with a new coach and GM). That being said, why wouldn't the Bears at least meet with Sanchez to kick the tires?
Dan M., Wheaton
A: You said it yourself, it may not be a complete list of teams Sanchez will meet with in a pre-draft visit. Not all visits are announced or discovered. Not every team has a visit with a player it drafts, even a high pick. I might be wrong, but I don't believe the Bears brought in Rex Grossman for a visit in 2003. I don't think they had a private workout with him either, but I could be wrong. The point is, just because there is no known visit doesn't mean there is no interest. I can tell you for a fact that often times teams will show interest in a player just to throw off their true intentions, help an agent or both. There's more smoke being released this time of year than truth, I can promise you that. The challenge is trying to find the truth here and there. We discovered the Bears were interested in running back Matt Forte last year. They had multiple pre-draft meetings with him. We reported Lovie Smith was at Arkansas at the pro day, they wound up drafting Marcus Harrison and Marcus Monk. There's no way of saying right now what visits will turn into picks, what workouts amount to serious interest.
Q: Before Josh Bullocks and Glenn Earl were signed, I felt free safety needed to be addressed after offensive tackle and wide receiver. With these two signings has anything changed?
Vic F., Springfield, Va.
A: Probably not. Both veterans signed one-year contracts with Earl coming on board for the minimum. That doesn't strike you as being much in the way of a longterm plan, does it? Earl is more of a strong safety and I suspect he could get a look at nickel back as a backup to Danieal Manning. Bullocks will man free safety and he made a few plays in minicamp. I think it's a decent bet the Bears look for a free safety in the first three rounds. One agent I spoke with last week suggested they would go offensive tackle, free safety and wide receiver, in that order, with their first three selections. If it's a receiver in the third round, can he catch a pass as a rookie?
Q: Last season saw a number of third-and-short and fourth-and-goal failures by the offense. I suspect that is one of the main reasons for the signing of Frank Omiyale in an attempt to get bigger and more powerful up front. It's the guards that make the running game go. The Bears need "road graders" playing guard in order to effectively "get off the bus running." With an early round offensive tackle in the works do you think the O-line rebuild will be done or do you see more activity in this area? Any chance the Bears get a tackle in round one and guard Duke Robinson in round two?
Patrick K., Parts Unknown
A: You're right, Patrick, the Bears were not nearly as effective in third- and fourth-and-short as they should have been. In fact, they converted just 64 percent of the time on third-and-one (16-for-25 and were 43 percent on fourth down overall (6-for-14). Taking an even closer look at it, running back Matt Forte gained 36 yards on 18 carries on third-and-two or less. That's not finding many holes. One fourth-and-two or less, Forte carries seven times for 12 yards. Take away a long carry of eight yards, and he had four yards on six carries. That starts with a push up front, and I suspect your hunch is a primary reason why the Bears are seeking to get bigger up front with Omiyale, who we all know was first worked at left guard when minicamp opened last week. If the Bears can find a right tackle in free agency or draft one, then they can go back to the plan of working Omiyale on the inside.
I would agree with you also that they need more young talent on the line than just one tackle. Considering the serious needs elsewhere--receiver and free safety--I don't know if the Bears will be able to go back to the line right away. Doing so might shore up some issues for years to come but guard could wind up being more of what general manager Jerry Angelo classifies as a "want" than a "need."
Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Our next Q&A will be Tuesday. Get your questions in soon.