Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, March 3: The rush to rule out another player not in Bears' plans

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Another exciting day of free agency is ahead of us. Let's get right into the action.

Q: Jason Taylor just got released from Washington. What are the chances the Bears would consider him as a one- or two-year stop-gap measure as a left end? Adewale Ogunleye is the Bears' most productive end right now as far as rushing the passer, but given the choice between the two, I would take Taylor, who has gotten it done for several years prior to being moved to outside linebacker in the 3-4. As a 4-3 end, there are few that can match his initial quickness off the ball, and his overall athleticism. His decline in production I think is more related to taking him away from the quarterback, not from any loss of talent or work.

Joe F., Parts Unknown:

A: That seems to be the popular thing to do this offseason, find a name player on the market and discuss whether or not he will wear a blue helmet with a C on the side of it this coming season. You don't have to think twice about this one, Joe. Taylor and the Redskins were in negotiations where the team said it was willing to maintain his salary for this season of $8.5 million provided he found the time to go to work in Ashburn, Va., for 75 percent of the offseason program, or roughly eight of the 13 weeks it's in operation. Mind you, this is a player who skipped workouts last offseason to participate in a television dancing show.

Now, let's think about that for a minute. Taylor isn't going to show up for eight weeks and then play during the season for $8.5 million? Does that sound for a second like a player the Bears would consider? They're embarking on what, to date, appears to be the most significant offseason program since the first once Lovie Smith ran in 2004. He's moved up the starting date to March 16--the very first day teams are allowed to begin this activity. He's setting the tone for not just the offseason program but the season itself and the first minicamp practice at Halas Hall is two weeks from today.

Typically, when the Bears tie contract money to offseason workout participation, they demand the player attend 85 percent of workouts. Yes, that's the number Lance Briggs had in his deal last year when he chose to pass on $250,000 and not meet the minimum. So, if Taylor is unwilling to show for 75 percent of workouts with Washington (he reportedly wants to spend time with his family), it's pretty safe to assume he's not going to be interested in 85 percent of workouts in Lake Forest.

Taylor turns 35 before the season begins, and it's out belief the Bears are not targeting and will not target any players on the other side of 30 this offseason, not for the defense. The Bears are getting older on that side of the ball and what they need is an infusion of younger players. Where they can use some experience is on offense where most of the key spots are manned by less experienced players.

Smith has already called new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli the top free-agent get. Expectations have been placed on him for the work he will do with the players the Bears already have under contract. The belief is he can re-ignite Mark Anderson as a pass-rushing specialist, a role he handled well until he was put into a role he didn't fit as a starter by the coaching staff.

We're not saying Taylor doesn't have a little left in the tank. He just might even though he's coming off an injury-ruined season. But you've got to consider the context of how players reached the open market before rushing to figure out if they're a match for the Bears or not. Again, I don't expect the team to seek out any players over 30 right now, not on that side of the ball.


Q: It seems to me that Matt Cassel's trade to the Chiefs removes a team in the top 17 of the draft from the list of suitors for Mark Sanchez and Matthew Stafford. There is a history of quarterbacks dropping in the first round. The Lions may take Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry or a left tackle. There don't seem to be two teams that would definitely take a quarterback in the top 17. If Sanchez or Stafford is there at 18, can the Bears pass them up given their history at the position and Jerry Angelo's recent statements? Conversely, can the Bears really afford to take a quarterback that probably won't play this year given the number of other holes that need to be filled on the offensive line and at receiver?

Jeff, Wheaton

A: This is a very good question and one we were going to get to today one way or the other. Certainly with the Chiefs, who hold the third pick in the draft, acquiring Cassel it takes them out of play for a quarterback in the first round. I'm not convinced, however, that there are not more than two teams picking before the Bears with quarterback needs. Let's look at a few possibilities:

1. Detroit. You're right, the Lions might not want to take a quarterback here and could look to address the position with their other pick in first round at No. 20. Ideally, the Lions would move out of the first pick and add some depth to their draft but the chances of finding someone to take that pick and the massive contract that comes with it, well, recent history has proven that will be difficult.

2. St. Louis. The new Rams coaching staff has endorsed Marc Bulger, who turns 32 in April, but for how long? Probably not a leading candidate to select a quarterback but you can't rule it out.

4. Seattle. Injuries limited Matt Hasselbeck, 33, to seven games in 2008. With a new coaching staff in place you can't rule out the Seahawks looking for someone to groom under the veteran.

10. San Francisco. The Niners are in need.

11. Buffalo. If Trent Edwards is the answer, what is the question?

12. Denver. The Broncos are not going to trade Jay Cutler. But pretend for a second they do. Then what?

13. Washington. Just because you can't rule anything out with this team.

17. New York Jets. They need a quarterback.

Then, you have to consider the possibility that other teams could look to trade into the first half of the first round to snag a quarterback. As we mentioned, Detroit could be in the market for one of these guys. Maybe Minnesota at No, 22 and Miami at No. 25? You're right, though, removing the Chiefs from the scenario has opened things up a little bit. Good point.

I think if the Bears felt one of these two quarterbacks was a star-in-waiting, they would pull the trigger on them at No. 18. That's another unknown right now--how do the Bears rank Sanchez and Stafford? A lot of people I've talked to from a lot of teams have concerns about Sanchez because he simply has not played a lot. Then, there are concerns that Stafford didn't perform well in many big SEC games. It'll be interesting to talk to Angelo and his staff moving forward about these guys. Certainly drafting a quarterback at No. 18 would make it more challenging to fill needs on the line, at receiver and at safety, not to mention on the defensive line.


Q: Obviously the initial frenzy of free agency has come and gone, but what can we expect now? Is it pretty much over? Are teams going to wait until after the draft to make their next move? Or do free-agent signings continue to trickle in between now and the draft?

MsBearsFan, Parts Unknown

A: I think what we're seeing is a slow transition into the second wave of free agency. The bulk of the money is spent on the opening weekend and there are a few big name players out there but mostly what is left is guys who could perhaps come in and compete for jobs. You're not looking at a lot of difference makers that remain on the street. There are some role players out there and that's what the Bears are looking at with offers outstanding to offensive lineman John St. Clair and running back Kevin Jones. Certainly all teams are out there kicking the tires of some players but it's to the point where clubs are looking for bargain buys and the guys left looking for deals were probably hoping to do a little better. What happens from there is often a delicate negotiation. The player has to identify the spot that is best for him. You make a good point about some clubs waiting until after the draft now to do more spending. A lot of times that happens as clubs will wait to get a better assessment of their roster and see where they need competition. At that point, it's not so much about filling holes as it is finding guys to come in and compete for a roster spot.


Q: What was the tender offer to both Nick Roach and Marcus Hamilton? I thought there was a few different salary levels and draft picks you get back if you do not match an offer given to them?

John G., Parts Unknown

A: I think you might be confusing exclusive rights free agents, players with no more than two accrued seasons in the league, and restricted free agents. Roach and Hamilton were both ERFA's. The Bears extended the minimum qualifying offer to both players and they may only re-sign with the Bears. So, really it's no trip to free agency for either one of them. Roach will earn the minimum of $460,000. Hamilton was tendered an offer at the minimum of $385,000.

Thanks for the participation and thanks as always for reading. We'll dive back into the mailbag again Wednesday.

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19 Comments

Based on history, if Sanchez and Stafford are both sitting there at 18 begging to be drafted by the Bears, Chicago would trade their spot to another team for extra picks, get burned on LB and DE prospects and then end up with nothing.
It won't matter either way, both QB's will be gone long before we draft (even if we sit still at 18).

Jason Taylor has said through some close friends that he would not play for the Bears.

I hope the Bears trade out of the 18th pick. That's no man's land in regards to landing productive players. Trade down, to late first or second round and pick up another second or third round pick. This team needs solid bodies to plug in at a number of spots. With, assuming a trade down, 2 second round picks and a third round pick, they could go WR then OT then S and fill three crucial spots.

Walsh and Belicheck are two names that are/were big believers in trading down. Their philosophy was and is that the difference between a 2nd and 1st round pick is not that big that would justify the huge salary difference between the two rounds.

I often wonder if the Bears organization is just lazy or cheap. And while I understand the reasoning behind not taking a flier on an aging Taylor, but when Bears Chalk talk dismisses going after a player like safety Jim Leonard who is young, has good intstincts and rarely is out of position (unlike Daniel Manning) and has lots of good football ahead of him, that bothers me. It also makes me question the information that the mothership website puts out there. Does chalktalk really speak for the Chicago Bears or is all the information just a guess? I know for sure that the writer of Chalk talk has made up fake names for questions I had asked at a fan convention. Hopefully you do not do the same.

If Orton is the guy then this is a moot point. Both of these QB's are decent, but not the studs and do not compare to the likes of Ryan and Flacco coming out of college. Again, if Orton is the guy then waiting until next season is a great idea with Tebow, Bradford, McCoy and many others coming out.

In the 1st we need to go OT or WR. In the 2nd if Pat White is sitting there then address the QB spot. If not then wait till next year.

GO BEARS.

Well I guess I would like your take on the pursuit of a replacement free safety for the Bears. I heard rumors that they were pursuing D Sharper which does not make any sense to me since he is like a 13 year veteran. Wouldn't it make more sense to pursue Sean Jones or Jim Leonhard -even though they both play strong safety- to get a younger veteran that can have an impact for a few years? What is the point of drafting a safety in the fourth round that no one feels is good enough to play? Are there any potential FS free agents next year that they may be looking at? Thanx

That's it ! I quit with the Bears they are so cheap. Chicago is a big city and we spend money like we are a small town. Jerry Angelo needs to be fired. I'm giving up my season tickets. I'm not spending money on a mediocre team.

Jason Taylor, nope.
Cutler, nope
Sanchez and Stafford, double nopes.
Bears don't need no freeking franchise QB.

It looks like 2.5 yards and a cloud of dust average for the offense this year unless a miracle occurs in Chicago and soon. Lets face it next to the Cubs and Black Hawks the Bears have been pretty pathetic since the 80's except for that one run at the title in 2006.

What is so frustrating is that the Bears have had a great D and outstanding special teams since 2004, with a poor to average at best offense. But Baltimore won the Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer and the same combination of D and special teams... Well now the D sucks too so our dreams have been dashed against the rocks because we all know that the Bears don't need no freekin franchise QB to make up for the lackluster D that we saw this last year.

But if the D were to return to greatness once again and special teams truly turned special once again, then Orton could help carry the offense and the Bears could make the run at the Supe Bowl, even if he Orton can't pass deep more than 30 yards.

Sorry, I have been hallucinating again, going in and out of my other
multiple personalities.

Jason Taylor? Do we really need another aging player who likes to take a lot of time off? Don't we already facilitate the defense's vacation time during the opposition's many drives up and down the field?

As long as Angelo is in the driver's seat, he will pull his hat over his eyes and once again sleep through free agency. I wasn't exactly expecting some Dan Snyder moves out of this team, but COME ON! DO SOMETHING! Watching Minnesota try to lock this division up for the next few years has to rattle someone down at Halas Hall.

As for the draft, expect at least one name from a college you've never heard of, because Jerry still hasn't found his proverbial diamond in the rough. Maybe if he would look in a diamond mine (bigger schools with established track records of producing pro players) instead of at the bottom of the ocean (Abilene Christian), he'd find one. I bet he's salivating at the chance to grab Johnny Knox with the 18th pick, but will temper his feelings and grab him with our 2nd rounder. Don't look too desperate there, Jerry.

Thanks for taking my question Brad.

Gus I don't agree with the predetermined outcome, but a trade is not a crazy notion. The Bucs and Lions sit right behind the Bears and both could really want a QB at that point.

You have a point about both being gone, but Jeff is right. Quarterbacks are very unpredictable in the draft. Stafford and Sanchez could go 1-3, or they could both be there at 18. Realistically Stafford will probably be gone, but the Bears better have a plan in the case of Sanchez being there. History says it's possible.

For one thing if you are a brand new GM for the Lions, do you risk taking a QB at #1? That's gonna be a juicy story all by itself.

I usually agree with Brad Biggs, but I strongly disagree on the issue of Jason Taylor. Sorry, but this guy is almost certainly Hall of Fame and is so superior to any defensive lineman the Bears have that it's nothing short of completely idiotic to fail to consider him. Taylor is not only miles better than Ogunleye, he's the reason Oguleye had such a good year his last year in Miami. While I highly dislike Taylor's refusal to come to pre-season practices and camps, what counts is how he performs during games. It's probably much better for older players like Taylor to sit these things out anyway; older players need to save their energy for the season and post-season, not waste it on pre-season, and an injury in practice is a huge waste of a player.

That said, leadership is extremely important, too, and failing to be at camps and practices does not show a good attitude to one's teammates. But the Bears are in such severe need of much better pass rushers that they cannot afford to dismiss the idea of signing someone of Taylor's quality just because he doesn't want to participate in pre-season stuff.

Some people, including those making the decisions, are saying that the Bears cannot improve themselves much in free agency and should just concentrate on the draft. The problems with this are 1) the Bears pretty much suck at drafting, especially offensive players and 2) the Bears have some really big needs and can't fix them with the draft alone in a short period of time. New England, by far the best team of the current era, gets expensive free agents every year. The foundation of good teams is certainly built by draft picks, but the good teams do not hesitate to sign high priced free agents when they can help the team. Consider how the Bears compare to this.

Cory, the answer is both. Really, it is greedy. Chalk talk is propanganda, mindless drivel doled out by PR specialists to keep whatever fan base remains.

Football P: Bravo you to for having the courage to move on.

Saw in a mock this morning, Britton going to the Bears, Maclin falling to the Queens at 22. As much as we need a Tackle, can't see passing up a caliber playmacker like Mac,when we could address tackle in the 2nd round.
Just gotta love all the speculation

Wrigley Field Bear wrote:
"I usually agree with Brad Biggs, but I strongly disagree on the issue of Jason Taylor. Sorry, but this guy is almost certainly Hall of Fame and is so superior to any defensive lineman the Bears have that it's nothing short of completely idiotic to fail to consider him. Taylor is not only miles better than Ogunleye, he's the reason Oguleye had such a good year his last year in Miami."


I have been asking this question of all the folks that want to bring Taylor to the Bears: Did you see him last year? I did -- since I live in the Redskins coverage area and he is not worth it. Now if you have seen play this year, then tell us what you like about him. He is the Adam Archuleta of DEs.

Speaking as an USC fan since the mid-80's, I do not want Sanchez. No way, no shape, no how. He sat behind John David Booty and was terrible in relief. This last season he was inconsistent at best while being surrounded by NFL-level talent. He actually grades out below JDB, Leinart, and Palmer (and Cassel if you can count this last NFL season) by anyone who follows USC football. Pete Carroll was panned by media (and some fans on this board) for saying Sanchez needs another year ... he does. He's a 1st round pick based on his Rose Bowl performance alone. Does the name Vince Young mean anything?

The Bears need a big time player on offense just like it has on defense if you have a good quarterback and some steller receivers you can go places. The only true team in Chicago right now is the Cubs they like spending money to get talent.

brad,

Have they ever released the contract terms for frank omiyale? and what kind of incentievs did he have?

Actually I am inclined to give Taylor the benefit of one season off, more so than Og, as I thought Og had a bad season last year, and I feel that Taylor will turn it on this year, unless of course he places dancing above the NFL

Brad,
I'm asking you to change hats for a moment. Rather than as the beat reporter, but as a Bears fan (presumably), is there anybody left in free agency who you'd like to see the team sign?
Also, who would you like the Bears to target in the draft?
Thanks for making this blog one of my daily surfing spots.

I have to say, while the Bears didn't really make a splash at all in free-agency, they did do something i've begged and pleaded for them to do for some time now. That is trying to upgrade the offensive line. I think Chris Williams will be a playmaker. He's a BIG guy, with most, except for John St. Clair, being mediocre sized for an offensive line. I think Beekman can take over for Kreutz at some point and I think if St. Clair comes back and moves in at right tackle with Omiyale at right guard, they may be a lot stronger on the offensive line. I mean, they can always pick another offensive lineman in the draft. I think bringing in a young, big core for the offensive line to protect Orton is THE key to making this a better offensive team. If he has better protection, he has more time to make better decisions. Secondly, if you have a young, quick, strong force on the line, you open the gaps for Forte to finally break out. Something he struggled with with the slow and aging o-lineman such as John Tait last year. The only way Forte gained yards was totally by-passing the inside and trying to run outside or by catching passes. I think if he has more gaps on the inside, the other teams backfield will focus in on him a lot more and will open up the field for more passing plays. That's where you get one or two more talents at WR and I think the core of the offense really finally takes off this year. Orton will have all offseason to focus on learning all the wr styles. I think every wr has a different game and now that he isn't splitting reps with Grossman he will key in on those traits and make better passes. Earl and Hester will be better this year, now just one more attention grabber at wr and they will be hard pressed to cover them all and cover Forte and Olsen at the same time. You guys see flaws, I see a lot of opportunities and if the Bears make the first two rounds count, they may actually be decent this year. The defense WILL improve this year, I think Marinelli will give these guys the boost they need and Lovie will make smart play-calling decisions for the defense. Something he excelled at in Tampa Bay and in St. Louis. GO BEARS! I will say this though, I would NOT in a million years ever pick a byproduct of USC. I know everyone will use Matt Cassel, but do you see the talent he had on the Patriots, that team never has a bad player. They are all talented, they spend lots of money to be that way. Matt Cassel will be ok at best this year playing for the Chiefs. Carson Palmer? Please, I am from the Cincy area and everyone hails him as some great achievement, but I personally have never seen the talent. He's injured more than he plays and when he does play they still can't make it past the first round of the playoffs. If they make it there at all.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on March 3, 2009 10:48 AM.

Bears on hand to watch safety run blazing time was the previous entry in this blog.

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