Welcome to Four Down Territory where we tackle issues surrounding the Bears as best we can. We'll do one more Q&A for this week on Friday. Get your questions in soon. We'll resume the Q&A on Monday and have a schedule for next week then.
Q: Will new quarterback Jay Cutler be able to earn the $100,000 workout bonus from the Bears that he reportedly had already missed with Denver?
Alex O., Toronto
A: We've received a few inquiries on this one and waited to have a firm answer to respond. Yes, Cutler is eligible to earn the $100,000 workout bonus that is a part of the contract the Bears inherited when they traded for Cutler. The contract applies to the Bears and because Cutler was acquired before the start of the club's voluntary offseason workout program, he's eligible to cash in. It doesn't matter what happened with the Broncos, where he had missed out on the mark after missing six days. The interesting thing to note is Cutler's contract calls for him to be present for 90 percent of the workouts to trigger the payment. Typically, the Bears ask their players to appear at 85 percent of workouts to collect bonuses in their contracts. Cutler will have to do better to be paid, but it's money he is eligible to earn.
Our mailbox filled up fast on Wednesday with more inquiries about Torry Holt and whether or not he could be coming to the Bears. We wrote last week and repeated it earlier this week that Holt's agent Kennard McGuire told the Sun-Times he didn't see the Bears working out. We'll share just a sampling of the inquiries and address this issue for the final time or until something changes on this front.
Q: I just heard on ESPN AM-1000 during an interview with Orlando Pace on Waddle & Silvy that Holt told him a few days ago to have Lovie Smith call him. Looks like maybe he is interested in Bears afterall.
Nick, Parts Unknown
Q: Orlando Pace said himself today that he is trying to recruit Big Game Torry Holt to the Bears. That says it all for me. Why hasn't Jerry Angelo made this happen yet? It seems apparent to me that it may just be a matter of time no matter how many times you write Holt isn't going to be a Bear.
Rick P., Parts Unknown
Q: I'm confused why Torry Holt refuses to consider signing with the Bears, according to his agent. I think he would be a great mentor for our young receivers. I think he would be a perfect fit for the Bears. I think that Plaxico Burress and Matt Jones would be nothing but trouble. Do you think he is waiting to see how the Anquan Boldin situation pans out? Also, Do you think Lovie Smith and Orlando Pace can play the St. Louis card and persuade him to sign with the Bears?
Tim M., Binghamton, N.Y.
A: For starters, let's go back to last Friday when we caught McGuire on the phone and asked him if the Bears could be in the mix for Holt following a visit he made to Tennessee, the second club Holt has met.
"I don't see that,'' McGuire told me.
McGuire is a veteran agent who is a straight shooter. A lot of agents representing free agents would have interested the question different and said "a lot of teams are interested in him.'' McGuire didn't say that Holt wasn't interested in the Bears. He didn't say the Bears were not interested in Holt. He said he didn't see it happening. Let's put Holt in perspective here for a minute. He has been a free agent now for a month. If there were teams out there that believed he was still close to being what he was in his prime, I'm pretty certain he would have been signed. Three weeks ago.
Lovie Smith didn't jump up and down when asked about Smith earlier this week at an appearance in Des Plaines.
"I do have a relationship with Torry Holt," Smith said. "He's a great player, great guy. He's available right now. Torry's in the (free agency) pool like a lot of other receivers. We evaluate everybody that's available, and Torry's one of them."
Keep in mind that Angelo said he was most likely to address wide receiver in the draft. Even after the addition of Jay Cutler, that would appear to be the plan. Holt, who has also visited Jacksonville, has knee issues. The Bears went the re-tread route last year and Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd didn't do much for them. That's not to say Holt cannot have a productive season this year or in the new few years, but Angelo talks about being a draft-driven team and I doubt the trade for Cutler is now going to lead him to say ``we're a free-agent driven team.'' Perhaps the Bears want to wait until after the draft--now just 16 days away--and then assess where they are at with their roster. At this point, Holt doesn't do himself any good by shutting out potential suitors. That is not a successful move by any player or agent. It's probably fair to say that if the Bears wanted to kick the tires on Holt, they probably would bring him in for a look. I think what McGuire did was offer an honest assessment of the situation. That is our final take on the Holt situation for now.
Q: I know that there aren't very many viable options in free agency right now. Will there be any ``big name'' cap casualties in the near future? What are the rumors you are hearing about who might be released?
Dave, Parts Unknown
A: I doubt you will see any real shockers moving forward here. There really are not many cap casualties any more. Few teams run into the kind of cap crunches that they did five or more years ago because the cap has risen such and teams have gotten smarter when it comes to constructing contracts and finding other ways to ensure they have ample operating space. Even the release of Orlando Pace and Torry Holt in St. Louis wasn't as much of a cap issue as it was the Rams wanted to go in a new, younger direction under a new head coach. Sure, the Rams created some cap space by making the moves but it wasn't their sole motivation. Typically, the cap casualties come in February and early March, too, when roster bonuses are due. Don't hold your breath waiting for any star players to reach the open market.
Q: I'm very concerned with the safety position. Last season it looked like Kevin Payne was laying big hits on his own teammates as much as the other teams' players. When he was put in coverage he looked average at best. To be honest though, I am more worried about free safety. Craig Steltz is not a free safety. Although I feel he has the head for it, I don't think he has the coverage skills. I think he and Payne will fight for strong safety. I was high on Josh Bullocks when he was drafted but he seems to have really struggled since. One guy I'm really intrigued by is Zack Bowman. This kid had a first-round grade coming out of Nebraska it just seems that injuries did him in during his college career. He has the ballhawking skills to play free safety but does he have the brains and physical presence? Is he at Halas Hall this offseason working? I think that if the Bears do not address this with their second-round pick (Rashad Johnson or Louis Delmas), Bowman could be a real darkhorse to take over the free safety position. What do you think?
Christopher B., Portage, Ind.
A: I thought Payne played pretty well last season when he was at strong safety to start the year. He was on pace to lead the team in tackles, although that is really what an unblocked eighth defender in the box should do. There is no question that is his best spot and when he and Mike Brown were flip-flopped near the midpoint of the season it was because of Brown, not Payne. I wouldn't complain about Payne's physical play although I have had a coach tell me he has to be careful or he is going to knock himself out on the field. Payne figures to be the starter this season, and I agree with your assessment of Steltz. Bullocks looked solid in minicamp but that doesn't tell you a whole lot. When safeties and quarterbacks look bad in 7-on-7 drills, you know you have a real problem. As far as Bowman, I'd have concern about his ability to remain healthy. I wouldn't say he came out of school with a first-round grade either. There is a reason he lasted to the fifth round. Bowman looked like a high pick at Nebraska before he suffered multiple injuries. He was knocked out last season after one game with an injury. Asking him to remain healthy at a demanding position like safety could be rolling the dice, and the Bears have been down that road at safety before. Bowman figures to be in the mix but I would anticipate this job comes down to Bullocks or a rookie.
Thanks for participating and thanks as always for reading. We'll check back with another Q&A on Friday.