Let's get right into the mailbag today.
Q: I agree with you that Jerry Angelo needs to build around Jay Cutler and that needs to start with some competent wide receivers. As much as I want to believe Earl Bennett will look like the career leader in receptions in the SEC and not Mark Bradley, how do we know that will happen. So, to improve Angelo's chances of hitting with a wide receiver in this draft, what are the chances he trades up into the top of the second round to get say Hakeem Nicks or Kenny Britt if they fall out of the first round which could happen.
Victor S., Chicago
A: Like I said on Tuesday in response to an inquiry about free-agent wide receiver Matt Jones, prior to the Cutler deal I would say there was little chance. After the Cutler deal, anything can happen. The Bears made a bold move to acquire the quarterback, then immediately signed a seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Orlando Pace. It seems to have ushered in a new way of doing business at Halas Hall. In the past, I would have said no based on Angelo's history. In studying his draft deals with the Bears, he's traded up just once. That was to select wide receiver Justin Gage in the fifth round in 2003. Bet you wish they still had him on the roster. The point is, Angelo's history has been to make conservative moves and when he trades, he trades down to add more depth or put more bullets in his gun. Your idea for moving up to the top of the second round, or near where the Bears selected cornerback Charles Tillman at No. 35 overall in 2003 is a good one. Here's the problem--what does Angelo offer to move from No. 49 to the mid-30's? The Bears traded their third-round pick to Denver in the Cutler deal. Their compensatory third-round pick--No. 99 overall--cannot be traded. That leaves a fourth-round pick and two fifths. Those picks might not be enough to get the Bears up the 12 to 15 picks you're talking about. It would also put a real squeeze on a draft right now that has the Bears with eight picks. For those reasons, I think it is unlikely the Bears will be in position to move up.
Q: As the debate continues regarding Jay Cutler and whether the Bears gave up too much, I submit for your comment that there are only four quarterbacks in the NFL I would want before Cutler as my starting QB: Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees. In the next grouping, I would put Cutler, Ben Roethlisburger, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo. Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb are pretty good but on the downside of their careers. Eli Manning is up and down although he does have a Super Bowl. Chad Pennington had a good year last year but is limited. Matt Schaub looks to be injury prone. Matt Cassel may have been a product of the Patriots system and needs to show he can do it elsewhere. If Rodgers has another year like he did last year for the Pack, I may rate him ahead of Cutler. But Cutler could have a strong year this year as well (although he doesn't currently have the weapons that Rodgers does). Who would you rank ahead of Cutler if you were building a new franchise, as your starting quarterback?
Scott, Sleepy Hollow
A: Now there is a loaded question. But let's take a look at something interesting here because you're right, much has been made about the price the Bears paid to get Cutler out of Denver. Let's recall the trade back in 2004 in which the New York Giants and San Diego Chargers swapped Philip Rivers for Eli Manning. Neither one of them had an established track record in the NFL, but it's worth looking at because of the picks involved.
Here was the deal:
New York gets the rights to Eli Manning, the No. 1 pick in the 2004 draft
San Diego gets the rights to Philip Rivers, the No. 4 pick in the 2004 draft, and
*** 2004 third-round pick that turned into kicker Nate Kaeding
*** 2005 first-round pick that turned into linebacker Shawne Merriman
*** 2005 first-round pick that was traded to Tampa Bay for offensive tackle Roman Oben
It doesn't look like the Bears will pay that big of a price for Cutler, not unless Kyle Orton turns into a top-flight quarterback for the Broncos. I think looking at this deal helps put in perspective somewhat the price the Bears paid.
Now, if I was building a franchise, how would I rank the quarterbacks? It's tough to put Cutler ahead of Roethlisberger when you consider what an excellent performer he's been in postseason play. Say what you want about his surrounding cast, but Roethlisberger has been fantastic at times in clutch postseason games. That's something everyone is looking for and we've got no idea how Cutler will perform under the ultimate pressure. Brady, both Mannings, Rivers, Brees, Roethlisberger and Cutler probably make up the top seven in the league. Cutler is closer to 7 than he is to 1, at least in my book. I agree that Rodgers and Ryan could be in that company soon. Very soon.
Q: So the Bears have had one formal minicamp, unfortunately without Jay Cutler. Can you remind us of the NFL rules for formal and ``voluntary'' offseason practices? I am curious as to the plan to acclimate Cutler to the playbook and his teammates. Presumably Cutler can review the playbook and study film on a voluntary basis. Does he do this on his own or with Ron Turner's coaching? Also, if he throws to his new receivers can coaches be present, or is it a player-only ``voluntary workout?'' Finally, will there be more minicamps before training camp in July?
Steve, Oak Park
A: We touched on the offseason schedule at the end of the veteran minicamp last month. The collective bargaining agreement allows teams to hold one full-squad minicamp during the course of the offseason. Lovie Smith wanted to get right to it and thus the Bears will not have one with Cutler. The voluntary, and I'm glad you put that in quotations, offseason program began Monday. There will be a rookie minicamp the weekend after the draft but that will be for draft picks and undrafted free agents only. In the past, the Bears would schedule their full-squad minicamp about a week after the rookie minicamp so they would be acclimated to the system.
The voluntary offseason program consists of weight room work and minor drills on the field. Cutler has already thrown to some of his receivers. More regimented work can be done in the OTA's, which are also voluntary. There are OTA's May 20-21. Players are then off until June 1 when OTA's run for three weeks with four per week for a total of 14 sessions. That is when Cutler will get in the most structured on-field work with his new teammates. As far as working with Turner, they can drill in the office at Halas Hall as much as they want. I'd expect him to be pretty familiar with the playbook by the time OTA's get going if not sooner.
Q: So much attention is rightfully being paid to getting Jay Cutler weapons on offense, but I'm sure coaching was a large part of his success in Denver. Is there any way for the Bears to get any of Cutler's offensive coaches from Denver, namely Rick Dennison (offensive coordinator) or Jeremy Bates (quarterbacks coach)? It looks like Bates is at Southern Cal and Dennison is still in Denver. If it is possible, would either side be interested? If it's a matter of money, it seems to me this is as important as wide receiver and I assume the Bears would pay well for a wide receiver that had great success with Cutler. Why not do the same for a coach? Is there a concern about disrupting the current Bears coaching staff?
Jerry K., Winston-Salem, N.C.
A: If Cutler is going to get new coaching with the Bears beyond coordinator Ron Turner and quarterbacks coach Pep Hamilton, I believe it would come after a shakeup of the offensive staff. The Bears run a different offense than Denver and they are going to want to coach Cutler in their system. Bates is credited for a lot of work with Cutler but, you are correct, he is at Southern Cal. Dennison was more of a running game coordinator with a background as an offensive line coach. That's the position he has returned to under new Broncos coach Josh McDaniels. I don't expect the Bears to bring in any new coaches to work with Cutler. Not in 2009.
Thanks for participating and thanks as always for reading. We'll check back with another Q&A on Thursday.