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?
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.