Let's get right to the mailbag.
Q: Lovie Smith is clearly a big proponent of a strong rotation on the defensive line. With Dusty Dvoracek winding up on injured reserve again last season (he's the Mike Brown of defensive tackles) and the Bears thin on rotation depth at tackle (Tommie Harris and Marcus Harrison are both three techniques and Anthony Adams is undersized at nose tackle), could Jerry Angelo surprise everyone and and take a tackle early in the draft? Both Peria Jerry and Ziggy Hood fit the scheme. Hard to justify with so many other needs but I wouldn't be surprised.
Kirk W., Chicago
A: I think the problem here is that Jerry and Hood could both be first-round picks. Jerry could be long gone before the Bears select at No. 18. There is a difference between looking for a tackle early in the draft and going for one with your first pick in the draft. I happen to think the line got better when Adams was used more last season, and certainly some line depth was compromised with Israel Idonije moving back outside to end. He's versatile enough to remain a swing player.
If the Bears count on anything from Dvoracek, that's a mistake. Anything they get from him is a bonus. His track record makes it impossible to believe he will deliver 16 games. I'd suspect a bargain signing at some point--remember Adams was a late addition in free agency--or a draft pick to help fill out the depth. But it's not going to be about the No. 4 tackle this year. It's going to be about Harris stepping up and proving he can be a dominating force. Keep the focus where it should be.
Q: I think filling the starting free safety position is more important than the nickel back. If that's so, explain to me why Danieal Manning, a second-round pick, a guy with great quickness and burst, can't work there. Isn't that the position he was drafted for? I've never heard a good reason. I suspect he doesn't have the smarts, but if that's true then that's pretty sad. I just don't get it. Maybe you do?
Bob K., Chicago
A: I would agree with you that finding a starting free safety is more important than getting a nickel back. I don't know if you would find anyone to argue with you on that one. Manning has the best athletic traits to fill the role, no question. Not only is he the best athlete in the secondary, he might just be the most athletic player on the roster. But let's recall that Manning has been in that role before, the coaching staff has had plenty of time to evaluate him as a safety, and it didn't work out. Now, moving him around in the first place is the best reason I can point to for some of his struggles. He went to cornerback, back to safety, to nickel back. He was a man without a home. When Manning finally came to terms with his role as the nickel back midway through last season, he really started to flourish. Yes, you would like to think you could get more from the top pick of your 2006 draft class, from a guy who is entering the final year of his contract, but at this point if he's playing well in the nickel it's probably best to leave well enough alone. I thought Manning was a liability vs. the run at times as a safety. I didn't think he was very skilled as an open-field tackler. Certainly, had he been left at safety he probably would have improved. He didn't have the best instincts either. But he's proven to be an adept nickel corner. Part of coaching is putting your players in the best place to succeed. Maybe this is it for him. Plus, if he was a starting safety I don't believe you would see him returning kickoffs. So, it's not what the Bears should have gotten out of their top pick from a draft but he should be productive as a role player this season.
Q: It is not a typical Jerry Angelo move and Denver has to ultimately be willing to move Jay Cutler, and the Bears may have gotten themselves too desperate at wide receiver and offensive tackle to give up premium draft choices. All that being said, does the compensatory third round pick (while untradeable) make the Bears more willing to give up their own third rounder in a potential Cutler deal? It seems you are not sure Cutler qualifies as a franchise quarterback, but I would argue he is in the top 10 at the position already with a chance in the coming years to be in the top five. Maybe he gets something going with his old college teammate at wide receiver in Earl Bennett and makes Chicago a more desirable destination for veteran receivers.
Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
A: If the Bears view Cutler as a fix to their quarterback situation for the next decade, Joe, then a third-round pick will not get in the way of their pursuit of him. If, and that's the big word here because we've got no idea how general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith view Cutler, the Bears believe Cutler is the real deal, I can't imagine Angelo having any trepidation dealing any draft picks, even a precious third rounder. When you consider his stumbling inability to address the position, he'd have to be willing to mortgage the future for Cutler. What's that mean? Well, Jeff George went from Indianapolis to Atlanta for two first-round picks and a third-round pick.
Got a call out of the blue late this morning from a coach in the league, who when he wasn't marveling in the insanity of the Cutler-Denver situation, sized up the quarterback.
"First of all, he's got a hell of an arm,'' the coach said. "He's athletic and he can move around, he's young and he'll take chances. For the most part, they're pretty calculated chances though, and he's competitive as heck. I just think he is a heck of a player. Everything Denver is doing right now seems to me that they're trying to set up a trade.
"The coach comes out Monday and says, `He's our guy, he's our guy, he's our guy.' You know what that tells me? You have to give us a little more or we won't let him go. And if they can't get a deal done, they can say, `See, we told you he was our guy from the beginning.' Maybe that's just me being pessimistic, but I think they're setting up a trade.''
If the Bears want in on that trade--if it happens--the price will not be cheap. A third rounder won't be a deal breaker when this one goes down. Who wouldn't throw in Mike Okwo to close a deal for a quarterback? Heck, who wouldn't add in Bennett to that deal?
Q: What are the odds of the Bears acquiring Mark Tauscher?
Ish, Parts Unknown
A: Tauscher had reconstructive ACL surgery on Jan. 15 and reports out of Green Bay last month were that he is ahead of schedule. While I'm not one to doubt Tauscher, I've said it before and I will say it again, when is the last time you heard a player announce they are behind schedule? Even on schedule for a return? I don't think you can rule out a return to the Packers, but by this point wouldn't they have signed him if they wanted him back? He's one of a myriad of veteran players with injury histories that are on the street at the position. Tauscher just happens to have a more recent injury than most. I'm not sure he's on the radar, at least at this point.
Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Our next Q&A will be Wednesday. Get your questions in.