We've been tied down with some other football stuff recently so we'll get to five questions in today's Four Down Territory. We'll get to another one on Wednesday so get your questions in and thanks for your patience. Let's get right to it.
Q: I have to disagree with the idea of a wide receiver in Round 2. Earl Bennett was a bust last season but given the typical trajectory of NFL receivers and the fact that they usually take two to three years to click, isn't it worth the risk to see if he develops this season? Especially given the unusual circumstance of having a playmaking and familiar quarterback now on the team? Bennett is in his best possible position to succeed and I think the Bears should realize he's got a better chance of making an impact than a rookie second rounder, a spot where the busts far outweigh the impact players. Busts can come from any position, but I think the Bears may find a safer gamble should they look for a safety (as you noted) or even a guard or defensive tackle at that spot. Seeking a veteran wide receiver to add now and a rookie in the later rounds would be just as wise, I think, and concentrate on defense in this draft.
Chris M., Pasadena, Calif.
A: I don't think you can call a player a bust after evaluating just one season, and I've certainly not said Bennett will be a bust. But his 2008 rookie season only created more questions about his future. Your concerns are valid, that there are no sure things in drafting a wide receiver in the second round. That being said, the same concerns have to be in place for a receiver selected in the third round like Bennett. I don't think there is a risk involved to selecting a receiver in the second round this season, I think the Bears would give themselves a better chance of succeeding. If they don't go after a receiver at the beginning of the draft and if Bennett does not pan out, then where is the offense? As you suggested, it takes a few years for a receiver to develop. That only ensures the offense is set back further. We'll see what happens.
Q: I know the fever right now is for fans looking for Jay Cutler jerseys. I am all about the lineman. What number will future Hall of Fame Orlando Pace be wearing? Thanks.
Rich R., Chicago
A: The Bears say that no number has been assigned to Pace, the seven-time Pro Bowl performer, yet. He signed his contract on Monday and participated in the first day of voluntary offseason workouts. Players can do that in shorts and a T-shirt, so he doesn't need a number just yet. But I am told by a source close to the situation that Pace hopes to wear No. 76, which is the number he had with the St. Louis Rams. The only issue at play right now is that John Tait's old digits were already assigned to Frank Omiyale. Given Omiyale has one NFL start on his resume--and he seems like a good guy--I doubt this will be a big issue for equipment manager Tony Medlin to negotiate. I don't expect a Henry Burris ransom note. Well, it wasn't exactly a ransom note but the story goes that when Kordell Stewart arrived in 2003 he was seeking to wear No. 10, the number he had in Pittsburgh. Burris had worn it the year before and he thought he was entitled to something for relinquishing the number. Stewart got No. 10 without a negotiation and that was that. For what it is worth, new offensive lineman Kevin Shaffer has been assigned No. 78.
Q: I would be more inclined to say the Bears could wait until Rounds 3 or 4 at wide receiver if they signed a veteran. Is it a mutual lack of interest between the team and Torry Holt? Is Plaxico Burress out of the question because of character concerns? Other than those options, maybe they could sign someone who is cut after the draft. I would like to see them upgrade at safety to add an immediate contributor but unless they add a veteran wideout it is too risky to pass up a second-round option for Jay Cutler.
Joe B., Oxford, Conn.
A: I can't speak for the club or Holt himself, but his agent Kennard McGuire told me last week this is not a likely destination for the player dubbed "Big Game.''
I've never known an agent to rule a team out as a negotiating ploy. While there has been considerable speculation about the possibility Holt will join the Bears, if the agent says he doesn't see it happening, well, I'm inclined to believe him. As far as Burress, the possibility has to be investigated. One of the real issues in play is if Burress will be available for the 2009 season. He's facing potential jail time for his shooting incident last November in Manhattan, and that doesn't begin to address possible league discipline. Stay tuned.
Q: With the recent free-agent additions and acquisition of Jay Cutler, what is the status of payroll compared to the salary cap? Do the Bears have flexibility to pick up any additional free agents or cap casualties from other teams? Also, any word on a re-negotiated contract for Cutler or will he play out the terms of his rookie contract?
Steve, Oak Park
A: The straight swap of Cutler for Kyle Orton actually lowered the Bears' cap number for this coming season by a small margin. The addition of Orlando Pace and Kevin Shaffer are not big-ticket purchases that are going to leave the Bears cash- or cap-strapped this year or in coming seasons. They still have the flexibility needed to make any moves. Of course, they don't share their budget for the season with media. At this point, I don't know if there is a big-ticket item out there other than perhaps Plaxico Burress, but he might come at a discount given the baggage he's carrying. Our friend Kevin Seifert over at ESPN.com addressed the issue of a contract for Cutler on Monday. It's been suggested that Cutler could push for a contract before a $12 million roster bonus is due in 2011, the final year of the deal. Suffice to say the team didn't trade for him to have Cutler for just three seasons. I think it's reasonable to expect the issue could be visited after this season but let's sit back and watch for a while.
Q: If Torry Holt is off the market for the Bears, why not go after 6-foot-6 Matt Jones? He's a big red-zone target and that's exactly what the Bears are looking for. Sure, he's got thorns and a suspension probably waiting for him when he gets back for violating his plea agreement by drinking beer on a golf course, but beggars can't be choosers at this point. Just do your homework to make sure he's on the right path now and make sure he says all the right things at the press conference. Do you foresee any interest on the Bears' part?
Dan M., Wheaton
A: Prior to the acquisition of Cutler, I said no. With Cutler at the controls, I think general manager Jerry Angelo will do everything he can to ensure Cutler succeeds. There is no question the club has likely done some homework, as you put it, on Jones. What they've found, I couldn't tell you. He's worth taking a look at but the team could wait to make a move on a veteran until after the draft plays out.
Thanks for participating and thanks as always for reading. We'll check back with another Q&A on Wednesday.