We're already into the second week of free agency and the action has pretty much slowed to a trickle. The Bears are gearing up for their mandatory veteran minicamp, which begins on the soonest date possible, Monday, March 16. The players will take physicals that day and then three days of practices begin the following day. There's no drama this time around. Remember, Brian Urlacher made threats that he wouldn't show last year, upset at stalled talks for what eventually became an $18 million, one-year extension. Let's jump into the mailbag and see what we have.
Q: If we all agree that the Bears need a wide receiver and will more than likely target one in the draft, why have they not as of yet re-signed Brandon Lloyd to, at the minimum, a one-year deal to take the Marty Booker spot? They will still have a roster spot available for a rookie in the draft. Lloyd, despite being hurt, was productive when in the lineup and much more reliable than Rashied Davis for Kyle Orton.
Eric, Orlando, Fla.
A: I'm not sure reliable is an adjective I'd use to describe Lloyd. In fact, I'm not sure that word has ever described him in his NFL career. You have to climb into the Way Back Machine and go back to Weeks 12-14 of the 2005 season to find the last time Lloyd caught three or more passes in three consecutive games. I'd say that's a fairly simple measurement for reliability of veteran wide receiver. Lloyd suffered a minor knee injury in Week 4 last season against the Philadelphia Eagles. He was told he would be sidelined two to four weeks. He took five, six if you count the bye week, and made it known to everyone he wasn't going to be back on the field until he was 100 percent. Upon returning, Lloyd made seven catches in six games before breaking out with four receptions for 34 yards in the season finale at Houston. At least Davis was on the field.
Lloyd had a major backer with the Bears in offensive coordinator Ron Turner, his college coach at Illinois. But Lloyd simply didn't produce enough to be asked back. I would be surprised if the Bears pursue him. Remember, general manager Jerry Angelo has said the Bears are looking for starters at the position when he announced on the team's Web site last week, ``We're not looking for backup wide receivers. What we want are potentially starting wide receivers.'' To think Lloyd is anything but a backup right now is to make a mistake. I doubt seriously he will be invited back and the Bears would be better served to see if someone like Brandon Rideau can contribute than bring back a retread who did little.
Q: My question is about the recent re-signing of Kevin Jones. What we have seen of Garrett Wolfe, most of it in 2007, has been OK and I think he is similar to Darren Sproles. But with Jones it's obvious that Wolfe will have little if any time of play. So I am wondering if you think Wolfe or Adrian Peterson will be cut before September? I would cut Peterson because Wolfe has been great on special teams. Do you think the Bears can work a deal and trade Wolfe, maybe for another player or for a fourth- or fifth-round draft pick?
Álvaro G., Madrid, Spain
A: Certainly the return of Jones, who signed a $3.5 million, two-year contract, is going to make it more challenging for Wolfe, the third-round pick from 2007, to find more playing time. In paying Jones $2 million this season, they're not going to want him to stand around as he was forced to do much of last season when he was inactive for four games at midseason. After Week 5, he got just four carries. I can't imagine Jones would agree to return unless he felt there would be a much greater opportunity for him to get on the field.
At the same time, the Bears must find out what they have in Wolfe in Year 3. It would be nice if he could become an elusive threat like Sproles in San Diego. It wasn't until Sproles' third year that he really got an opportunity to do anything, and that year he was still trying to get time with LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner on the roster. Talk about an embarrassment of riches for the Chargers. Wolfe performed well on special teams but with some creativity Turner should be able to find a regular use for him on offense. Otherwise, there was a major disconnect between the scouting department and the coaching staff when the Bears used a third-round pick on Wolfe.
You raise an interesting point in regards to Peterson and Wolfe as reserves. Typically, teams do not carry four running backs on the roster. The Bears did last season and it virtually ensures the team can have only one fullback. Peterson is what one source once called a ``security blanket'' for the coaching staff. He can do a little bit of everything. But he had only 20 carries last season and has had more than 22 just twice in his career. Peterson has been a valuable player on special teams but he turns 30 in July and will make $745,000 this season. The squeeze might not be on him but it's hard to say he has a guaranteed spot. Time will tell.
Q: Everybody has spent a lot of blog time discussing free-agent receivers and then why the Bears won't sign them. I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the roster to check my knowledge of what they already have. I'm a bit ashamed to admit that it was more interesting than expected. Just who are Devin Aromashodu, Rudy Burgess and John Broussard? Do you think they will offer anything for the Bears this year? If you get on a roll, what about Brandon Rideau? Could he escape special teams and do anything?
Gary H., Mississippi
A: The first three receivers you rattled off are all players that joined the Bears during the 2008 season. Aromashodu was the only one to spend time on the active roster. He was snatched off the practice squad of the Washington Redskins in early December when defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek was placed on injured reserve for the third consecutive season. But Aromashodu was inactive for the final three games.
Burgess joined the practice squad on Nov. 19. I'm not positive he will be a receiver. That's what they announced him as when he arrived but shortly after that he was working with the cornerbacks. Currently, the team's Web site lists him as a receiver. We'll find out at minicamp next week.
Broussard joined the practice squad Oct. 15. He missed some time during the season with a sprained ankle. He's a speed guy who can stretch the field vertically. I'm not sure any of these three have a shot to get much past training camp, but who knows?
As far as Rideau, I don't know if he can escape special teams because he'd have to get their first. One of the knocks against him is that he has been unable to contribute on special teams. He hasn't done a whole lot of it and he didn't grab his opportunity and run with it in preseason. He did, however, lead the NFL with three touchdown catches in preseason. It's going to be tough for any backup receiver to latch on if he cannot help on special teams. If Rideau can advance his game that way, he'd certainly be interesting to see on the field at 6-3, 198 pounds. I don't know if he can get open against starting cornerbacks. He did fine playing late in preseason games.
Q: Do you think the Bears are at all likely to pursue any veterans such as Marvin Harrison or Derrick Brooks, for short-term help after next week's minicamp? And do they have any offensive linemen other than John St. Clair anywhere on their radar?
Micah M., Parts Unknown
A: Unfortunately, Jerry Angelo has not gotten back to me yet with his plan for the second wave of free agency. I'm anxiously awaiting his phone call. I don't believe Harrison is a fit for the Bears and after 11 seasons with Peyton Manning, I highly doubt he would have any interest in joining the Bears. It will be interesting to see if the future Hall of Famer continues his career. Some have suggested a possible reunion with his college quarterback Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia, which is also Harrison's hometown. We'll see. What would the Bears do with Brooks if they signed him? They have a better Brooks right now in Lance Briggs.
I don't know of any other offensive linemen on the team's radar other than St. Clair. I would expect a resolution on his situation by the end of the week. As I wrote last week, it makes too much sense for this re-signing not to happen. The Bears need St. Clair and this would likely provide him with the best opportunity to start in 2009. He'd be penciled in right away as the starting right tackle.
Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. Get your questions in and we'll return to the mailbox on Tuesday.