I tried to answer as many questions as possible, especially since several questions were related.
Commenter name: ICE CUBE
Q: Why do most of the secondary guys who perform at arguably an above-average level get dooked on the next year by the coaching staff? (Zackary) Bowman better watch out this year. He is next on the list.
A: I think it's very clear that the Bears want to win now and snap their playoff drought. I can't get past Smith mentioning at the Combine that the safeties only managed one interception last season.
That obviously isn't enough.
Al Afalava is athletic, but he didn't make enough impact plays last season.
Ditto for Josh Bullocks.
Craig Steltz has played well, when he's been in games.
In fact, as crazy as it sounds, he could be the man to beat at free safety.
At strong safety, I think it's widely presumed that Chris Harris walks into the starting job. But, Bears coach Lovie Smith may keep Manning at the top of the depth chart there and make Harris earn the job.
That may well happen but, out of respect, Manning could get the first crack.
Commenter: Tom K.
Q: Will the Bears try and get some value and trade Manning to a team in need of a kickoff return guy? He has tried both safety positions and nickel to little success. Rather than release him, why not try and get a late round pick for him than nothing at all.
A: I definitely think Manning has some value, given his versatility and return ability. But, no team stepped up and attempted to sign him to an offer sheet, which would have cost them a third-round pick. If the Bears lower the price, there would probably be interest. But, Manning may be too valuable to the Bears because of his versatility.
He's got good cover skills, which is why he was effective as a nickel cornerback, but he didn't assert himself as a free safety. My guess is, coach Lovie Smith wanted to move him to strong safety because it's a more instinctive position. The knock on him, according to one NFC scout, is that he isn't very good at reading and reacting.
In an ideal situation, the Bears would probably want to start Chris Harris and Major Wright.
Given what Manning brings, I'm not sure the Bears would be interested in giving him up for a fifth- or sixth-round pick.
Q: Why does everyone just think its a (given) that the Bears are going to end up in third place again this season? They added lots of talent and are clearly going to be better. Minnesota hasn't done anything to improve much and (Brett) Favre is another year older. Packers haven't made any key additions I can think of. I think they'll be every bit as good as those two if not better.
A: I'm not sure who "everyone" is, but I don't think there's any question that the Bears are better now than when the season ended in Detroit. Julius Peppers is a game-changer, and the Bears have upgraded at every position of need, except on the offensive line.
But, the Bears do have some serious ground to make up. The Vikings should have at least reached the Super Bowl, while the Packers swept the Bears in 2009. Meanwhile, there's also no question that the Detroit Lions have gotten markedly better this off-season.
Commenter: Dave M.
Q: Is there a more dysfunctional front office that garners more disrespect from the national sports writers and local sports writers than the Bears?
A: Yes. The Bay area teams. The Oakland Raiders are the model of dysfunction in the NFL, and the San Francisco 49ers endured a strange sequence of events in which their general manager, Scot McClouhan, leaving the team about a month before the NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, two other candidates have seemingly been fixed: the Washington Redskins and the Cleveland Browns.
I don't know how to term the Bears, but Smith and Jerry Angelo certainly have made a lot of changes to a staff they put together.
I would offer two other teams, though, that could be interesting to watch: the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. It appeared there was a power struggle on what to do with Donovan McNabb, and Jags coach Jack Del Rio has been involved in a lot of rumors, from him potentially leaving for USC to his job being in danger.
Q: Are the Bears going to find a veteran guard or are the satisfied with (Lance) Louis, (Josh) Beekman and (Johan) Asiata? And (J'Marcus) Webb was a tackle in college (but) does his talent line up as a tackle or a guard in the NFL?
A: I would not rule out the possibility of the Bears signing a veteran, if one comes along at the right price. My colleague Neil Hayes brought up a good candidate in Justin Smiley, who could be released by the Miami Dolphins at some point.
But, I also believe that the Bears are confident offensive line coach Mike Tice can work with the current group of players and field a good unit. The lone available spot seems to be left guard, and you are right that Louis, Beekman and Asiata are candidates. But, I also wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Bears giving veteran offensive tackle Kevin Shaffer a chance to compete for the job. Shaffer certainly is tough enough to play inside, and he's certainly a good enough athlete.
Louis certainly has upside, but he's more raw and unproven than Beekman, who is the sort of player Tice likes: scrappy and smart.
I also wouldn't sleep on Asiata, a player with potential.
When they line up during mini-camp in a few weeks, I would guess Beekman would be there. And if not him, then Asiata.
Q: Why pick Dan LeFevour in the draft after investing all that money in Jay Cutler, especially with problems at guard and Olin Kreutz getting another year older? Is Cutler not who that thought he was?
A: Quarterback obviously is a premium position. And while the Bears didn't intend to draft a quarterback, they simply thought LeFevour was too good to pass up when he was available in the sixth round. His selection doesn't reflect on Cutler or even backup Caleb Hanie; in fact, I hear new offensive coordinator Mike Martz has been impressed with Hanie.
But, LeFevour is a very good athlete with tremendous intangibles. The Bears will probably work on his mechanics and consistency then, eventually, figure out a way to get him on the field in certain packages.
There's nothing wrong with adding new wrinkles to an offense.
Q: With (Jason) McKie gone, who is projected to be the starting fullback between Eddie Williams and Will Ta'ufo'ou? I don't know much about either. Is it an open competition? Is there something one is better at than the other?
A: First of all, kudos on spelling Will's name right!
As for your question, I would assume the Bears would keep just one of the fullbacks, especially after signing Brandon Manumaleuna, who can line up in several spots. I hear that Ta'ufo'ou and Williams are similar type players, although neither is overly aggressive. It may come down to which one can bring more on special teams.
Q: Why is Sean Jensen still working for the Sun-Times, if he has absolutely no journalistic skills?
A: Well, I guess my honeymoon at the paper is over.
All I can say is, I blame the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University for my "journalistic skills," or lack therof, and I've managed to fool three major newspapers for the last dozen years!
Also, why didn't you include your email address like everyone else?
Q: With (Jamar) Williams traded, will Tim Shaw - the Beast - get a chance to prove he deserves regular playing time in LB rotation?
A: Tim Shaw has a role on this team, but I don't think it's lining up on defense. I believe the Bears see him as a seventh linebacker, reserved only for emergency situations.
Word is, he's aggressive but late to the ball.
Q: Looks like good ole Halas Hall is losing it with all of the infighting going on. Is it possible for (Roger) Goodell to fine the Bears for being such a dysfunctional group that could have turned Jerry Rice, Joe Montana and many other superstars into average football players?
A: No, Goodell has enough on his plate.
Commenter: Paul M.
Q: I rather liked (Kevin) Payne and think he was worth more than the Bears got for him. Is (seventh) round carved in granite?
A: Yes, that is carved in stone. If he makes the Rams' 53-man roster, the Bears get a seventh-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. That's not great value, since Payne was a fifth-round pick. But, the Bears are prescribing to the thinking that a seventh is better than nothing.
Commenter: Will R.
Q: With the Bears still needing line help, have they expressed interest in getting Flozell Adams or any other big lineman in to help protect (Jay) Cutler?
A: No, as far as I know, they have not expressed interest in Flozell. Yes, as you point out, it is eerily similar to Orlando Pace.
I think the Bears are quite content and confident with their starting tackles, Chris Williams and Frank Omiyale.
Commenter: Joe F.
Q: Any thoughts about Lance Louis as a blocking tight end? He is basically the same size as Manumaleuna, and was a tight end in college, so he has the foundation in route running, albeit limited. Seems like a very Martz thing to do, as tight ends have never been featured players in his offense.
Along that line, what is going to happen with (Desmond) Clark, (Greg) Olsen, and (Kellen) Davis? None of the three are especially adept at blocking, even though they were our best receiving options over the last two years.
A: No, I don't think they will move Louis back to tight end. They have enough of those. But, you make an interesting point: maybe in goal line situations, they could bring Louis in as an extra lineman. Hmmmm....
Anyway, I don't think all those tight ends are going to survive.
It depends on how they count, but the Bears may consider Manumaleuna a swing player.
They may not be convicted on which player to get rid of yet, and they also may be holding out hope that another team may get desperate and trade for one of them.
And, no, Olsen isn't on the block.
It'll be interesting to see what they do with Davis. He's got plenty of upside, given his size, and he did catch three touchdowns last season. Interestingly, one scout told me Davis is a younger version of Clark: good, but not great athlete, who isn't a very good blocker but, overall, he's effective and productive. And since he's just 24, I'm not sure they'd want to just give him away.
I also wouldn't discount Richard Angulo, who Tice has given a chance in both Minnesota and Jacksonville.
Obviously, Tice isn't the tight ends coach with the Bears, but he apparently sees something in the 6 foot 8 tight end.
I think Clark is fighting an uphill battle, either way, but the Bears did pay him a bonus, which means they still haven't made a final decision.