Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, March 4: What do the Bears do if Maualuga falls?

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There was some more movement today in free agency with Laveranues Coles landing in Cincinnati and Matt Birk, the Pro Bowl center from Minnesota, heading to Baltimore, which was able to re-sign Ray Lewis. Let's get to the mailbag:

Q: It's never good to start a statement like this, but call me crazy. If USC's Rey Maualuga drops to Chicago at 18, would the Bears let that thought cross their minds? Would they consider him? Mock drafts have him going anywhere from fifth overall to the end of the first round. Does it make sense to draft the top-rated inside linebacker in the draft even though the Bears have Brian Urlacher? Would the Bears allow themselves to look into the future at that all-important-in-Chicago position, or do they just have too many needs to address? I keep hearing Jerry Angelo say that he's trying to put Chicago in position to draft the best player available, regardless of position. Does he mean any position except middle linebacker?

Sean Q., Eureka, Calif.

A: That's a good question and it's good for a couple of reasons. First, the position is pretty well stacked this season and general manager Jerry Angelo addressed just that at the combine saying as many as five linebackers could be selected in the first round.

"[You] won't see as good a group as this linebacker cast, as many as five and really quality,'' he said. "The linebackers should be real strong due to the fact that I thought potentially four could have come out last year and were thinking about it and they all four stayed in.''

The four Angelo refers to includes Maualuga, Ohio State's James Laurinaitis, and we'll assume Wake Forest's Aaron Curry and Maualuga's USC teammate Brian Cushing are the other two. Well, USC's Clay Matthews has been looking good and it's just a group that many think will produce some impact players. That raises the question of what do the Bears do if one of the linebackers drops to No. 18 and the Bears have a high grade on them? Say they have a higher grade on the linebacker than any other position on the board, and say the difference is substantial. What do you do? Certainly at some point the club will have to begin to lay the groundwork for replacing Urlacher. With the list of needs in place, that's certainly not near the top. Curry figures to definitely be off the board. As far as the others, I don't know if there is a consensus.

Maualuga could make it into the middle of the first round. Laurinaitis didn't fare well at the scouting combine and his stock is going the wrong way. Realistically, both probably would have been better served to have come out as juniors last year. I don't think either one can say they improved their position by staying in school and the lost income is certainly money they'll never recoup. There's no question there will be a few linebackers with pretty good resumes on the board when the Bears choose. They would have to have an excellent grade on one of them to make the move and justify not addressing needs at other positions, that's for sure. The linebacker would then need to have a nice start to his career or pressure would mount. No question.

Q: I've heard that 2010 is an uncapped year if the collective bargaining agreement is not re-negotiated by the end of this football year. But I've also heard that the NFL owners would be unlikely to actually lockout the players until 2011. Why is this? Is the uncapped year still part of the current agreement?

Tom S., Chicago

A: The agreement calls for the final year to be uncapped after the owners voted to opt out early. That is what will make 2010 an uncapped year provided a resolution isn't reached. Yes, owners are making noise there will be a work stoppage in 2011 in the form of a lockout. Players have threatened that if they go to an uncapped year they'll never go back to a salary cap system. Here's hoping it doesn't get to a work stoppage, something that fouled up the sport in the 1980's.

Q: Now that Cedric Benson has ensured the Cincinnati Bengals are going nowhere fast, and he's in a position to show them what he proved to the Bears for so long, that he didn't care, how much money did he run off with?

Charles E., Madison, Wis.

A: The simple answer is Benson collected just under $13.8 million from the Bears from the rookie contract he received as the fourth pick of the 2005 draft. While that seems like a staggering amount for his production--1,593 yards and 10 touchdowns--it's far from the money he could have collected had he maxed out the deal. The total value of the contract was $29.96 million, although to have hit that number he would have had to have been a perennial Pro Bowl back. Benson received a $4 million signing bonus, a $7.1 million option bonus, a $1.44 million roster bonus and then from there is was just base salaries for the seasons 2005 through 2007. When Benson broke his left leg late in 2007 against Denver, it cost him a pretty penny. He finished the season with 674 rushing yards, 27 short of triggering a conditional roster bonus worth $1.73 million. So while the deal contained $16 million in guaranteed money, it wasn't all, well, guaranteed. Benson never reached some easy provisions to trigger some payments and thus left with just less than $13.8 million. He signed in Cincinnati on Tuesday for $7 million over two seasons.

Q: What could possibly be holding up the Bears from re-signing John St. Clair? If they're not going to go out and get another player like Khalif Barnes, why wait around on this?

Jeremy A., Lincoln, Neb.

A: That's a good question and the answer lies somewhere between St. Clair and the organization. The Bears made him a contract offer on Feb. 13. After that, St. Clair's side came back with a counter offer. That's where the process left off, at least as far as I know, so I am not sure you can say any "negotiating" has actually taken place yet. The sides have essentially just exchanged proposals, probably ones that weren't very well received by the other party in each case. I don't have any first-hand knowledge, but a fair guess is St. Clair wants to wait and see what happens in the market. Barnes has been linked to Oakland as a possibility. Here's an interesting list compiled here by the Sporting News list of 10 intriguing free agents under 30, one spot where you will find Barnes. Marvel Smith also remains on the market and he's been linked to Baltimore and Oakland, as well. Perhaps, and this is just an idea, St. Clair gets a better idea of his place in the marketplace after these players sign. Otherwise, maybe he's in a good ol' fashioned stare down with the Bears right now. He knows they don't want to go to mandatory minicamp in less than two weeks with Cody Balogh, an undrafted free agent from Montana last year, lining up at right tackle with the starters. That's not a knock on Balogh, it's just the truth. If the Bears want to look at Frank Omiyale at guard first, they need to get a tackle on board before minicamp.

Thanks for the participation and thanks as always for reading. Fire in your questions right here or by e-mail. We'll dive back into the mailbag again Thursday.

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I'm not going to pretend that I'm a professional at analyzing players and positions, but I'll throw this out there anyway: Our defense (for the most part) has proved themselves before and Lovie believes can do it again. The bears should address the O-line first and hope to pick up a WR(Nicks or Britt) in the second pending on what's there along with what happens in the rest of Free agency. Bears have an average quarterback in Orton who showed glimpses of being good before injury (especially with the last drive of the Falcons game) and lackluster when immobile. Getting O-line would make the run game better giving Orton a chance to improve the passing game with possibly a drafted big possession receiver to get open. Right now we're betting on Hester to turn to a solid #1 and who, earl bennet to emerge as a #2/#3 option with how many catches last year? I love Olsen but let's keep him going against LB's if we can and not rely on him against DB's.

Lovie has put his name on the line this year on defense for which he should be known for, possibly putting himself on the hot seat. Let him take the risk being that he thinks Marinelli (spel?) and him can revamp the entire defense because if he can't, these conversations will be going a little differently this time next year.

Brad, excellent job as always. I really enjoy these blogs. The quality is just the fix my Bears jones needs.

Now that I have sufficiently smooched fanny, allow me to make two points.

One, if Ray Maualuga is available, I give serious consideration to taking him. As a Buckeye fan I get shivers thinking about how he terrorized OSU and so many other teams. If I'm the Bears and I take him, I give serious thought to moving Urlacher to the outside and move him and Briggs around to confuse the crap out of O coordinators and QBs. Turn 54 loose. We all want to see what he can do if he's not dropping back 20 yards. Give him a runway to the QB. But I'm pretty sure Lovie would retort with "Brian's our MLB, blah, blah." I'd love to be surprised.

Re Cedric Benson I sincerely hope he does well for the Bengals, just not against us. This is tough because while it's true he was a spoiled first rounder handed a position, a position a better RB had, it takes two to do the spoiled tango. The Bears never should have drafted him. Jones was better. They compounded the issue by handing him the job and driving Jones out. But Benson never demanded that. It's another case of woeful player selection and development by the Bears.

Hey, this kid never got caught DUI with dead bodies and guns and drugs in his trunk. He was a good kid, spoiled yes, but a good kid. And that crap in TX was ridiculous. But I think if you're African American in TX it comes as no surprise.

So ease up on Ced. Let's hope he's learned there are no free lunches. The time off should be great for his legs. I'd take him on my fantasy team.

Last time I am gonna say this, Ray Maualuga is a 3-4 ILB, he is not a Tampa 2 LB or even close to it, he would fall on his face in this system. Nobody in there right mind would draft him for this system, he can't cover he is a run stuffer. Tampa 2 LB's have to cover more than any other LB in football, and the MIC has to cover more than the OLB's do. He does not have the speed or the hips to be on this team. Stop looking at the top 100 boards and start looking at what kind of player they are. Kiper had a damn 5 tech end comming to the Bears 3 weaks ago and everybody was like oh man that would be great then all these mocks put Tyson Jackson as there pick for the Bears and people were like yeah a pass rusher. Which is a huge mistake, cause he is not a pass rusher, now everyone is putting Larry English or Maybin, or Jenkins there. But guess what that will change in the next couple of weeks too. Soon it will be a reciver on the mocks, then it will be a DE again or a corner, and then it will be draft day and Angelo will trade out of round one.

It's really a shame...JA lets the action dictate what he is going to do, instead of taking charge. He signs a LT who can play guard, hoping to hell that his RT is available in the draft(or chokes as he overpays pastry-puff St.E-Clair!). But as free agency dictates, teams needs can change. Crabtree was almost a given to be taken by Seattle @4, but now they have Hous-gonna -sign -my inflated-check. Washington is freakin' scary at this point,knowing damn well Smith may fall to them . Screwed up in the head or not, This beast can play ball!! Wish we had the chance to get him,"jawbreaker" Kruetz would be a great mentor for him. Hell, I'll even pay for the afternoon at the shooting range and beers that follow.
It's kinda surprising lunatic Davis hasn't thrown around his bling yet. The dude got rid of all his "big" signings from last year, so maybe he's gonna inflate the second tier market...great news for doughboy E-Clair.bad news for JA..the only dude that bitches about $1 toothpaste at the Dollar Store! The Raiders can still swing how the draft falls into place w/ any signings they do.
If a Maualuga falls..and a Maclin,Oher,Britton are taken....I'll be more than happy to tank the season to get a freak like that!but at least get a Johnson (LSU) or Robinson(OK) in the second to justify it!

bob k: "So ease up on Ced. Let's hope he's learned there are no free lunches. The time off should be great for his legs. I'd take him on my fantasy team."

If Ced hadn't been drafted in MLB and pulled the same crap some might agree with you, but you are woefully uneducated on Ced's history and the crap he's pulled. Two DUI arrests in 3 months and it's because Texas is filled with racists?

Instead of coming up with even more excuses - Ced has given us plenty - maybe you should look into his character ... or lack thereof.

What do the Bears do if Mauluga falls to them? They pass on the most overrated player to come out of USC in the history of their program.

Cushing (and I don't like him much) is going to make a better pro than Mauluga. Cushing takes the game and his workout regimen seriously almost personal. Mauluga doesn't take a damn thing seriously and has gotten by on his solid college level talent.

Click on my blog for a report on a free-agency QB the Bears are looking at:

It just doesn't matter as long as Orton is our starting QB.....I can't wait until Orton starts screwing up and all you fans that are bashing me start booing Ornot as much as you booed Rex...Hahahaha I'll be there booing along with you thinking "I told you so!!" We are doomed...But look on the bright side...we are one play away from Hanie starting..I hope it comes in preseason!!!!...........ORTON $@#%$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't see the Bears going linebacker in the first.

They probably have some confidence that they can get decent 4-3 linebacker prospects in the middle to late rounds. Linebacker has been one of the few positions where the Angelo/Smith combo has shown a little drafting talent. That was Lovie's area when he was a position coach.

The Bears will probably trade out of that pick but if Ray Maualuga is there, I would consider him and put him at the strong side for a year. I think he is a poor man's Ray Lewis. With that said, what the f--- have the Bears been doing in FA? Hibernating? They haven't been able to draft worth a s--- lately and won't spend money in FA? They can't fix everything in the draft and they've been screwing that up also!!! I am very confused with the philosophy of this team. They want to stabilize the QB position but haven't brought anyone here and they haven't given Orton any more weapons!!! So far, your top 3 receivers for '09 are Hester( #2 or #3 at best), R. Davis ( can't catch worth a s---!) and E. Bennett(didn't see the field in '08)??? And you don't bring anyone in??? What you are going to draft one again and not play him too??? If they don't make the playoffs in '09, Angelo and Lovie gotta go!!! Outside of the Super Bowl year, they are a .500 team. That doesn't cut it!!!

Lets do the next great middle linebacker at #18, I have included some ideas about this same thought from three previous posts.

Post from feb 24th

Looks to me that Angelo is impressed with the linebacker group of five that are special athletes, could be a MLB pick or OLB pick at #18 if the Bears sign St Claire and go with a second round tackle or guard pick. Is there any D talent on the Bears that could convert to right offensive tackle like the Bears did in the recent past, that worked out pretty well?

By dahlillama on February 26, 2009 10:40 PM
Kevin and Crieghton:

Pick up a free agent ROT and the Bears go linebacker in the draft at #18 because of best value or available talent. Time to think that Urlacher can be traded and the Bears would receive value and this is the best Linebacking group of rookies in years.

It is time to make the move for the next middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears.

By dahlillama on February 22, 2009 5:19 PM

Still need to go OT at number #18 in the draft unless the Bears pick up Loadholt or another Tackle with the round two pick #49, maybe a Loadholt may be available. Sign St.Clare for ROT as insurance. Round Three and beyond would allow for developmental DT or DE, WR, FB, Safety and Corner. That leaves #18 for the next Chicago BEARS middle linebacker of the future; at #18 the BEARS pick either Rey Maualuga or James Laurinaitis. Can you imagine the various ways that Urlacher could be utilized (blitz and coverage packages coming in from the end position etc to rush the QB) as he helped to develop the next great middle linebacker for the BEARS. WOW!! The BEARS D would be back to confusing teams like the 83-85 Bears D. Or as another possibility, just maybe that would free up Urlacher for the trade to Arizona for Boldin? Stranger things have happened?

Then Bears go DLine(again) O line (again) and QB early in next years draft.

You know i am amazed at some of the comments made on these post. I have been a Bear fan as long as i have been a fan of anything in my life but it pains me to see where this franchise is going. I follow the drafts very closely at least since about 2000 and i know that JA is handcuffed by a owner who has a tight grip on the check book, but if you really want the bears to get better the first two picks of the draft need to be OT first round OG second round, Michael Oher if the other 3 are off the board then the big guy Herman from LSU in the 2nd, the only way that changes is if all 4 OT are off the board and Hayward-Bey is available, then you go with that pick in the 1st and pick up with OT and OG in the 2nd and 3rd. now my wish is that we draft OT and OG 1st and 2nd and even pick up a 3rd OG on the 2nd day and trade out 1st 2nd and 4th of the 2010 draft for Boldin. This way we would have bookend tackles a Mt mover, at guard and maybe even 2 and olin in the middle, we would be able to Run and throw effectively leaving Bolding and Bennet as the 1 2 receiver and let Hester be the slot and return to his special teams role as a superstar, not this non sense he was last year. As for the Defense we need the DL talent we have to develop, also BU never got off blocks well so when we had ted washington and keith traylor he was able to run free, dovarak and harris not so much, let adams or harrison play that nose take up the double team, harris rushes along with the ends, move manning back to safety, vasher tillman at CB, c graham at the nickel and mcbride at the dime, payne at SS and the parts are in place to make a run. just my thoughts tell me what you think

Maualuga pulled up while running the 40 in Indy. I didn't see him do any of the linebacker drills (Curry was incredible!), which is unfortunate because Laurinaitis displayed poor footwork while dropping and flipping.

Maualuga was a scary hitter in college, but I can't say that he has the movement skills or speed to cover the deep middle like Urlacher.

There is NO DOUBT that the offensive line is the first, second and third priority. We can talk about grooming a replacement for Urlacher, but who will replace Kreutz, Garza AND Tait? Even with the free agent signing, JA needs to add a minimum of 3 GOOD players to the line.

It looks like Oher has a great kick-slide and balance in pass protection. I think that his height (roughly 6'4"-6'5")will give him some versatility to play inside or outside, which could open up options for the next OL draft picks.

I don't think Maualuga will be there when the BEARS pick, it would be interesting to see if they would intiate a trade with someone if he is to get more picks. The BEARS do not need a Middle backer which is what he played at SC, they need a strongside and I don't think Maualuga is cut out for that spot at this time. It looks more and more like we will go o-line with the number 18 pick and then look to the best free safety on the board in round 2 possibly trading up to get the guy we want and NEED in that round. Until we spend some cash in Free agency though no one could say with any certainty what the BEARS will do with the pick, but whoever it is they have to be on the field and productive if we are indeed as Lovie says in the hunt for a plyoff spot next year.

I predict Benson will eventually amount to more than Curtis Enis or Rashan Salaam did.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on March 4, 2009 4:36 PM.

Bears keeping an eye on Eastern Michigan lineman was the previous entry in this blog.

Radio host says Angelo, Bears have faced budget restraints is the next entry in this blog.

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