Let's get right to it.
Q: I am glad to learn that the Bears are considering Corey Graham to be the free safety this coming season because I have long felt Charles Tillman or Graham would be the best option on the roster. Why has it taken the team so long to reach this possible conclusion? Sometimes these things seem so obvious.
Phil S., Concord, N.H.
A: This isn't a revelation the coaching staff just arrived at, the possibility that Graham could fill a role at free safety. Steve Wilks, the defensive backs coach, said during training camp summer that the idea of trying Graham at safety and nickel back had been kicked around in meetings. Graham was actually introduced to safety during December 2007 when injuries were once again making a mess of the safety position. Well, injuries and the ill-conceived effort to revive Adam Archuleta's career. The Bears were short on bodies at the position at the end of the season. But how was the team going to get Graham up and running at safety last season? Remember, Tillman missed the bulk of training camp to be with his family as his daughter went through serious health issues. The Bears had to operate with what they had and that meant using Graham at left cornerback. He showed real strides from his rookie season. It was Trumaine McBride, who was drafted two rounds after Graham in 2007, who started as a rookie that season. But Graham moved ahead of him on the depth chart in training camp and made the kind of strides necessary for him to replace Nathan Vasher when injuries struck early in the season. We've given an awful lot of attention to the safety position--and for good reason--but issues at cornerback can be far more troubling. That's why the move of Graham to free safety will not be a possibility unless the team feels comfortable in Vasher or rookie D.J. Moore manning the job at right cornerback. There is going to be plenty of time to sort this out. OTA's begin two weeks from today on May 20, and this could easily carry into training camp and preseason but the hope would be the coaching staff would have an idea what the starting lineup will look like by then. It just seemed awkward going into the third preseason last summer when Brandon McGowan was benched and they started shifting parts around in the secondary.
Q: You wrote this week that Mike Brown is hoping to continue his career elsewhere and then Brandon McGowan signed with New England. What about Rex Grossman? I know he's been a popular punching bag and punchline, but are you surprised he has not found a team to this point?
Cole T., Parts Unknown
A: I think to a degree a lot of people are surprised that Grossman remains a free agent without a job, but it's proof positive that the agent wasn't the problem. Grossman made the move to Drew Rosenhaus shortly before the draft and Rosenhaus said he was confident Grossman would have a new team soon. That didn't materialize even with Grossman being shopped for the veteran minimum and now it's getting to the point that the former first-round pick of the Bears may have to wait for an injury in training camp to get a call. He has been working out in Tampa, Fla., with ex-NFL quarterback Steve DeBerg but those that thought Grossman would be a reasonably sought after veteran in free agency focused too much on his run to the Super Bowl in 2006 and not enough on what transpired afterward. We talked spoke with one coach in the league who said in the past he liked Grossman. Asked if he was surprised Grossman remained out of work, he said he was not. The coach said Grossman's mechanics in the last two seasons had fallen apart and he felt the quarterback was playing scared. When you consider some of the guys who found work quickly--J.T. O'Sullivan, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Dan Orlovsky--it makes you realize how far Grossman has fallen. Heck, it shows you how wildly different the Bears' evaluation of Grossman was at this point a year ago as compared to the rest of the league. We thought Grossman would have been better served striking out in search of a fresh start a year ago. Maybe the Bears were his only option at that time.
Q: Jerry Angelo said that he sees six of the nine draft picks making the 53-man roster. The Bears are notoriously slow to cut loose their draft picks and treat them like favored children. But I look at the roster and don't see a lot of holes to be filled. What's a reasonable expectation here?
A: For starters, it's impossible to tell how ready the nine draft picks will be based on the rookie minicamp this past weekend. As far as we can tell, there are not any players with medical issues hanging over them and that will no doubt help. Just based on Angelo's recent track record, I don't see why six picks won't make this team. The Bears wound up with nine of their 12 selections from 2008 on the roster by season's end although cornerback Zack Bowman was on injured reserve. In 2007, the only player that was cast off before the season started was seventh-round pick Aaron Brant. Five of seven stuck it out through 2006. The Bears have been consistent. Their draft picks stick around. Don't be surprised if the number isn't seven.
Q: I'm confused why the Bears did not sign some of the tryout players who were at rookie minicamp. Surely out of two dozen players they should have seen someone that showed a glimpse, right?
Ed T., Urbana, Ill.
A: There might be some gems out there on the street right now, but with 256 players drafted and then another 160 (low ball guesstimate giving each team five) signed as undrafted free agents, we're well into the 400's. Were there that many can't-miss players in college football last fall that were draft eligible? Consider the numbers we're looking at here. The Bears are very close to the maximum for training camp. A little roster movement in the next two weeks would not surprise me. The team cut loose running back Tyrell Fenroy on Tuesday. The college players cannot return until after May 16 at the earliest, so if they're signed right now or not doesn't really matter. You can't put them to work immediately. What we're talking about here are camp bodies.
Thanks for all of the participation and thanks as always for reading. We're going to give our mail delivery specialist a few days off. We'll get back to Four Down Territory on Monday. Send in your questions before then.