Chicago Sun-Times

Four Down Territory, April 16: A case for the Bears pursuing Anquan Boldin?

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The mailbox filled up with a slew of Anquan Boldin inquiries after word came out of Arizona on Wednesday night that the Cardinals are entertaining offers for the Pro Bowl wide receiver. It's been all wide receiver, all the time so here we go. We'll do one more Q&A on Friday so get your questions in for the final one of the week.

Q: I know, I know. The Bears already made their blockbuster move for this decade. But let's just look into this thing for one second. What could the Bears possibly package up to get Anquan Boldin? Any package has to include the second-round pick but what after that? How about a player? Say, the Bears' second-round pick and Nathan Vasher? Or how about Brian Urlacher?

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: It certainly looks like Boldin can pack his bags and prepare for an exit from the Valley of the Sun. The Cardinals are reportedly seeking a first- and third-round picks in exchange for Boldin. The important thing to note, right off the bat, is the Cardinals want picks in exchange for him. One source, with knowledge of the situation, says that he believes Arizona will ultimately accept a first-round pick and something significantly less than a third rounder.

``I think they want to get rid of the headache,'' the source said.

The headache is Boldin and agent Drew Rosenhaus crusading for a new contract while Boldin has two years remaining on his current deal. Boldin is going to need a big, new deal from his new team. The thing that needs to be investigated is how good Boldin is right now and how long he will remain at his current level. His yards per catch has dropped the last two seasons. Arizona was 3-1 in regular-season games Boldin missed. They rolled in the playoffs after he missed most of the Atlanta game (after scoring a touchdown) and the entire Carolina game. The Cardinals probably believe they can be just as successful without him.

Boldin doesn't run a lot of traditional routes on the route tree. He runs a lot of drag routes, gets the ball in open space and then does his thing. Opposite Larry Fitzgerald, it's made the Arizona offense a machine. Ask Boldin to do something else, he might become a pretty ordinary possession receiver. Hey, even that would make him the best receiver on the Bears' roster.

KC Joyner had an interesting analysis of Boldin vs. Fitzgerald in the New York Times' blog--The Fifth Down.

What I found is that while their overall yards per attempt totals (YPA) were equal and their vertical YPA quite similar, there was one area in which Fitzgerald was miles ahead of Boldin - YPA when facing tough cornerbacks. When Fitz faced an average or good corner in 2007 (good being defined as allowing a YPA equal to or less than 7.0 yards, average being between 7-9 yards), he posted a YPA of 8.7. Boldin, on the other hand, gained only 6.3 YPA. To put those in perspective, if a receiver posts an overall YPA of 8.7, he will typically rank in the top third of the league, while a YPA of 6.3 would typically rank in the bottom 10.

The analysis also showed that Boldin put up more yards when facing non-cornerbacks (i.e. linebackers, safeties, when uncovered under a zone defense, etc.) than he did when facing cornerbacks, and Fitzgerald was the exact opposite. Add the two findings together and it shows that Fitzgerald is a matchup-buster and Boldin isn't.

I don't say that to knock Boldin. He is a dominant possession receiver, and the Cardinals are lucky to have him, but rather to help explain why Arizona may not be ponying up the big dollars for him.

Interesting. Now, let's get back to what you proposed, and most people have been suggesting the Bears deal Vasher straight out of the doghouse and to another team's roster. Vasher has not performed well for two seasons, he's earned $15 million while playing in 12 games over the last two years. Don't you imagine other teams are aware of this? Let's look at the Cardinals' roster. Arizona has more depth at cornerback than anywhere else but, well, wide receiver.

The Cardinals signed Bryant McFadden in free agency to be a starter opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who they feel showed enough as a rookie starter for half of 2008 to be sure he has Pro Bowls in his future. That moves 2008 starter Rod Hood to the nickel role most likely. That's where veteran Ralph Brown starred in the postseason, making interceptions vs. Atlanta and Carolina. Simply put, the Cardinals have no need for a cornerback.

Could Arizona use Urlacher? No question. He could probably do well in their 4-3/3-4 hybrid. Right now, Gerald Hayes is the starting middle linebacker in the 4-3 and he and Karlos Dansby both man the inside in the 3-4. Dansby, tagged for the second straight year, is angling for big bucks. The Cardinals need to figure out a way to pay him. Urlacher is already making big bucks. And, when you boil it all down, do the Bears deal Urlacher for a wide receiver who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds? We think not.

Q: I think it's time to reevaluate that 2006 draft, in particular the second-round picks, Devin Hester and Danieal Manning. I think Jerry Angelo has gotten a pass with everyone pointing to Hester's success in returns and emerging wide receiver status. And Manning is supposed to be this great athlete. But I disagree. I think Hester's days as a great returner are over and the Bears will be lucky if he can learn how to run a route correctly. Manning's best position is nickel and that's a waste of all that raw athletic ability. But he just doesn't seem to have the football smarts to do anything but kill the Bears when lined up at free safety. And his return contributions will diminish as teams game plan him and he accumulates the hits. It happens to all return guys. Personally, I am tired of using high picks on "projects." What do you think?

Bob K., Chicago

A: Well, we can close the book on the 2005 draft, that's for sure. After the trade of Kyle Orton to the Denver Broncos, the Bears do not have a single player remaining from the '05 draft. The '06 draft certainly does not look quite as glamorous as it did in say, January 2007, when the Bears were on the way to the Super Bowl and they could point to their rookie class as one of the reasons why. Five players remain on the roster from that draft. I'm not going to write off Hester at this point. You make some interesting points about his ability as a return man and everyone is waiting to see what he does on punt returns this season. The draft as a whole, however, hasn't done a whole lot. Manning is destined to be the nickel back this season and clubs are always going to aim higher with their second-round pick than filling the nickel role. Hester remains a project, although from where he was selected in the second half of the second round, I think that was a good pick then and it looks even better now. There are no sure things at that point in the draft so I think everything is going to have an element of "project" to it at that point. More bothersome, to me, is the number of drafts the Bears have had consecutively without getting real impact players. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek, a third-round pick that season, has landed on injured reserve for three consecutive seasons. Linebacker Jamar Williams remains blocked. The hope is new line coach Rod Marinelli can get the flux capacitor in his De Lorean working to travel back in time and locate Anderson. After Hester, the best pick in this draft was the seventh rounder the Bears shipped the Miami Dolphins for Brendon Ayanbadejo.

We've heard almost nothing about negotiations between the players and the owners since DeMaurice Smith was elected Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. Are they even negotiating yet? If not, why not? Where's the sense of urgency? Surely Smith has his feet underneath him enough by now to at least sit down and begin.

Tom S., Chicago

A: Smith and commissioner Roger Goodell have had a one-hour meeting but no negotiations have started. Let's give him a little time to get prepped for what is going to be a huge task. He has not officially been on the job for three weeks yet. Peter King recently had a long sitdown with Smith and shares some of it right here. I'd expect preliminary talks to take place at some point this spring. Both sides are best served by reaching a resolution but it's not one that will be easy to get done.

Q: My question involves Connor Barwin, the high motor DE/OLB from Cincinnati. He really wowed everyone at the combine, leading all defensive ends in almost every category, including an amazing 4.56 40 which he somehow improved on at his campus workout. Barwin is listed at 6-4, 256 pounds which makes him very similar to the Bears' Alex Brown who is listed at 6-3, 260. The Bears need an upgrade at defensive end, and considering Barwin is the same size but decidedly more athletic than Brown wouldn't he be a good fit if he's still available in the second round? Lovie Smith seems to value speed in his defensive scheme and Barwin seems about as fast as one can find at this position.

Chris F., Homer Glen, IL

A: Barwin is an interesting guy and there is a decent chance he will be available when the Bears choose at No. 49. He may be more athletic than Brown but keep in mind Brown is one of the better two-way right ends in the league. Barwin is very raw. He was moved from tight end to defensive end at this time last year at Cincinnati. I think most teams looking at him right now are probably projecting him as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The Bears will need to do something at end but that might have to wait until next year. The aforementioned Anderson and Adewale Ogunleye are both entering the final year of their contracts. Ditto for Israel Idonije, who is moving back outside to end this season.

Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading.

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Hey Brad after reading that piece by Joyner that you posted I was wondering how the Bears secondary stacks up? Are they any good or are they worse then I think? "Good being defined as allowing a YPA equal to or less than 7.0 yards, average being between 7-9 yards."

Just curious as to how well: Vasher, Tillman, Graham, Payne, and Mike Brown have done over the last couple of years. I know it's not the a perfect way to grade them, cause you cannot account for what a teams Dline is like and it does not take into consideration how good the other teams Oline or QB are. But I was just curious for a look because it may help to identify a deeper need in the secondary rather and help end the WR/FS debate.

It may also end the debate of Tillman being under rated or over rated as a CB.

That tantrum Boldin threw during and after the NFC Championship game should raise red flags for every team that he's T.O. jr. with less talent. Hopefully he goes to Detroit or Oakland, a fitting punishment for a me-first, crybaby headcase.

And some here still believe Rod Marinelli will fix the d-line. You're all mad! Mad I say!

Here's why:

1.) He's a coach, not a surgeon. Tommie Harris' problems are mostly physical. He's not going to benefit from some guy yelling at him to work harder, he needs a brand new set of knees. I mean, does anyone remember how he was dominating in the years before? Harris knows what to do, unfortunately his body is wrecked.

2.) Anderson's problem is that he's simply not a complete defensive end. He had a great rookie season, thanks to the fact that he came in on obvious passing downs and was also relatively unknown. Then teams studied him and figured him out. He's got good speed, but that's it.

3.) The rest of the ends suffer immensely from Harris' lack of productivity and from the lack of true defined NT. It's a trickle down effect.

So look for the Bears to draft/trade for d-line help. Because a position coach ain't gonna solve nada.

You guys did SUCH a good job pressuring Angelo to go after Cutler, How about "talking it up" about Tory Holt? It seems so far he's the best kept secret out there as to where he's going, who he's talking to! I think you guys should start turning up the heat, and get Holt on the Bears' radar screens before someone else signs him! The Bears DO have cap room, and we NEED a good veteran wide receiver for Cutler to throw to. Yes you can draft a receiver, but as we all know, that's no sure thing. How about it? You need to tune up the "sign Holt bandwagon"!!

It is odd - no noise on Holt, he would be the best pick, for the short term, but maybe WR in the draft as Cutler is not that old. (yes better than Plax ;)

Nice article on Cutler and how he changes the Bears:

Mike you already know were I stand on the Dline issue, Harris and Marinelli. But consider if you will the fact that Angelo and Lovie may both believe he will fix the problem. These are the same two guys that thought Babich would be a good defensive Coordinator. The same guys that fired every defensive coach except Babich because he is Lovie's friend. Now infuse your perfectly sane logic into that mess and ask yourself how your argument holds up. Your excpecting Order from Chaos. If I may also point out they have not really looked at any Dline talent they would go in the second round or close to it.

Reed I am a little in middle on Holt, yes he was a great reciever in a great offense, but he was Turf reciever and he has some injury issues. To be honest I don't think he wants to play for a cold weather team.

While I agree with the comments about Manning and the 05 draft,I'll never agree that Hester was a bad pick.Though my boyhood memories of Gale Sayers may be fuzzy and I did enjoy Deion,I rank Devin as The Most Exciting player-EVER.Not most complete,best all around or best athlete but hey,the guy could score Anytime he fielded a kick and usually made it look easy.Even after the league game-planned against him he Still breezed past,leaving them in such fear an out-of-bounds kick was preferable to giving Hester a chance.Watching him return the missed field goal alone was worth the pick, a classic.

Randy, good link,rate our city is losing columnists finding well written articles is a joy. Here's one to Bernie Lincicombe a guy I enjoyed reading when he was here.

I agree, Connor Barwin might be a bit of a project, especially at #49. But his athleticism is intriguing, and Chicago would have a season to work with him. Adewale Ogunleye isn't a free agent till after the 09 season, that would give the Bears a year to work with Barwin. But theres gonna be another defensive end that could be available for Chicago at #49 thats not as raw.

Paul Kruger of Utah is the player I'm referring to, and he might not be a bad opition for the Bears at #49 in the second. Im all for the Bears adding youth to their front seven on defense, I would also love a player like Missouri's Ziggy Hood to slip to the Bears in the second. But Kruger is more likely to be available. The 6-5 265lb Kruger could come in and be the Bears future left end, and at the same time give the Bears some much needed youth and athleticism at the position. Kruger is a high motor type who is relentless in pursuit to attack the passer. Also, Kruger has the ability to drop back in coverage. I think Kruger might be a player the Bears might want to consider in the second GO BEARS!!

Boldin is way too expensive for us, as we don't have the 1sts left to trade and I feel he thinks he's worth more money than he's really worth. Hey anyone can be a star next to Fitz. and with a Warner tossing the ball. But we don't have the ammo to go there, so what do we do? As Creighton said - Holt is old and I would pick him up for a year or 2, but we need long term, Bennet may be the answer but we don't know, Plax has mental issues but we might fix him, (might)
We depend on Jerry to draft a top notch WR at 2nd? If Bennet is good we don't need that, and if Bennet is not good - we can't count on Jerry to draft another flop so what? We go with Holt I guess, or Plax.... I like some of the lesser known FA WR available to go with Hester, Cutler can improve them as well as Hester. But what gets me is IF Cutler said that he wants Plax then he must be worried about our WR as well? The players know each other for the most part and if Cutler wants him thats good enough for me. Any way you look at it, WR will be a question going into the draft for sure

D end is a position of need and Kruger may be a good pick at #49. Kruger does have a motor he is always moving and was quite dominant for the Utes all year. What is more important to the Bears success this year and next DT or DE? It appears we truly do not know what the team is going to get from Tommie Harris, will he be dominant or will he appear and then no show for half of the games?
If Tommie can return to dominance than a DE pick would be needed the most this year.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 16, 2009 4:54 PM.

Ogletree a fit for Bears if they pass on receiver in second round was the previous entry in this blog.

Bears draft preview: Need No. 10 Guard is the next entry in this blog.

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