Chicago Sun-Times

Should the Bears take a look at Carl Nicks?

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The New Orleans Saints, still reeling from the expose of the bounty program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, were forced to use the franchise tag on quarterback Drew Brees when they could not reach agreement with Brees on a long-term contract. That means that both wide receiver Marques Colston and two-time Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks will be available in free agency.

The Bears passed on Pro Bowl guard Brian Waters last season after Waters was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs at the start of training camp. Waters signed with the Patriots and made the Pro Bowl for the sixth time last season -- in part because of former general manager Jerry Angelo's desire to let his younger players develop. (An ironic tack considering the Bears' inability to develop any offensive linemen during Angelo's tenure -- or to even keep the best prospects healthy -- was a major factor that led to Angelo's firing after last season).

It'll be interesting if new general manager Phil Emery has a different philosophy -- like acquiring the best guy to do the job. The Bears figure to stick with Gabe Carimi and J'Marcus Webb as their starting tackles -- both have shown enough to warrant giving them time to develop. Lance Louis also has earned a full-season's look at right guard after holding his own at guard and tackle last season. Veteran Roberto Garza received Pro Bowl consideration in his first year at center and figures to be locked in there for 2012.

That leaves left guard as the biggest room for an upgrade, which is exactly where Carl Nicks has played since he entered the NFL in 2008 as a fifth-round draft pick. Chris Williams, whom the Bears drafted 150 picks ahead of Nicks in 2008 as an offensive tackle, started the first nine games of last season at left guard before suffering a season-ending dislocated wrist. Edwin Williams, an undrafted free agent the Bears picked up in 2010 after he was cut by the Redskins, started the final seven games.

It's hard to judge offensive linemen from the cheap seats. But while both Williamses were at least good enough for the Bears to win with, neither is close to the level of Nicks. Adding a 27-year-old two-time Pro Bowler who has played in 70 consecutive games (67 starts) since entering the NFL is usually considered an upgrade.

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No doubt, Nicks would be an upgrade. Problem is, the Bears likely believe that with Tice as OC, the line won't be as exposed as it was under Martz, and will therefore perform better without a significant upgrade in talent. They won't spend the kind of money it'll take to sign Nicks with so many other holes to fill.

Shouldn't waste their time..they have higher priorities...wr, ot, de, cb...

What are you smoking?" both have shown enough to warrant giving them time to develop. Lance Louis also has earned a full-season's look at right guard after holding his own at guard and tackle last season."

Louis held his own at what point? Webb has shown what exactly that he needs 2 other guys to help him block. Other than get beat constantly what exactly did they do? Let me guess outside of the Sacks, hits, pressures and penalties they played well, Isn't that what Tice basically said about Webb.

The only thing that ever kept Cutler on his feet was Cutler. Let me guess if they run a limited offense that sticks with mostly qucik drops and 3 steps the line will be better? Right? Except if your line can only run a limited offense, then it's a bad line. Turner did htat for years trying to cover up the line, 3 step after three step.

Other than being rated the worst line in the nfl again what exactly did they do that impressed you?

No way will they spend the money on Nicks. Sure they will look at him. Look at him from a afar.

You know Cutler made plays, Forte made plays, you know who didn;t make plays? Webb and Louis. Oh that's right people were excited because Louis ran down a guy on the field. Maybe they can make him a gunner on special teams.

Creighton that was my thought while I was reading this, " What are you smoking" Potash there wasn't 1 person on the o-line who performed good.

On the button Creighton! Cutler is doomed if they leave Webb at left tackle.

The Bears have one long-term (5-10 years) asset on their team, and every priority should be given to keeping that asset upright and healthy and with enough time to work through his progressions. I believe Phil Emery should not care about Lovie Smith's defense or drafting/acquiring players to fit the scheme he runs, which has resulted in almost a decade of mixed success. This draft has good linemen and is at least two rounds deep at all three positions. The FA market is lean on great offensive linemen, but Nicks is on the market: go after him guns blazing. Free agency happens to be fairly deep this year with younger, serviceable talent. Early Doucet? Eddie Royal? Pierre Garcon? Two of these three give the team two immediate starters, with the average but reliable and way overpaid Bennett a workable slot guy, and the team has its best catching corps in fifteen years. The history of free agency tells a close observer that offensive line is a good place for a GM to bet his money. Wideout? Not so much. In just this article alone is named one OL who went from one team as a Pro Bowler to perform at a high level on another team. The name of a premier wideout who has recently done the same does not immediately leap to mind.

The Bears would be absolutely wrong for not looking at NIcks, but I also agree that they will choose not to look at him or try to sign him.

Any team that thinks Webb is capable of being a starting left tackle in the NFL should not be in the NFL. He makes Stan Thomas look like a Pro Bowler.

Lance Louis was so awful that he should be charged with criminal possession of the money we paid him last season.

If we aren't going to go get a new LT, I would rather see Chris Williams out there again than another season with Webb protecting Cutler's blind side. If we leave Webb there, Cutler is going to end up with blind spots in his vision for life from all the hits he is going to take. We can't afford to help out LT out on every play with a tight end and a back. We need to be able to make the defense guess at our alignment, and Webb does not allow us to do that.

For the love of God, please try and sign Nicks!!! He makes the entire line better just by showing up.

Couldn't agree more with Creighton, Joe, etc. Webb does not belong in the NFL, and I too would rather see Chris Williams back at LT before I'd like to see Webb there. C. Williams isn't a Guard, and even Edwin Williams outperformed him there. As for the rest of the OL, I'm still not sure how Garza made it as an alternate. That guy was one of the worst rated centers in the league by PFF, and gets no push up the middle. He's a good guy, and did a decent job stepping in and leading the line, but I'd rather see younger, stronger talent there. Spencer would get better push there. I'd rather see a line looking something like this:

LT - C. Williams or FA
LG - C. Nicks or E. Williams if we can't/don't get Nicks
C - C. Spencer
RG - L. Louis, Garza or draft pick
RT - G. Carimi

I would put Carimi @ LT. (he played 4 years at Wisconsin there. (until you can find a true NFL LT.) Sign Nicks to play LG. Garza at C. Spencer at RG and move Williams to RT. when he played RT he helped forte avg over 5 ypc that season. His problem is that he has the size & footwork, just short arms and health problems. Let Web, Louis, Edwin develop as backups. (greatest move was dropping OMINAYE)

FA wish list:
FInnegan or Carols Rogers (CBS)
VJAX, BOWE, WAYNE (#1s) - Colston a waste
2ndary WR- Doucet, Douglass, Garcon,
MAthis or Mario (DE)
Farrior would also be a great p/u but he's more a 3-4 LB than a 4-3/DE guy.

If we dont land a CB in FA than go after Kirkpatrick from Bama!!!
IF we do than go after a DT with the 1st pick.
The draft is loaded with WR's After blackmon- Wright is the obvious best choice. Floyd will be an NFL bust!

Also- Give Forte a 5yr 37mill deal with 20mill garunteed. structure it just like Fosters

J'Marcus Webb had the worst stats of any LT in the NFL last year. What are you talking about?. 10 sacks, 38 QB pressures, 15 penalties and he gave up 10.5 sacks at RT in 2010. He's the biggest space case on the line... I don't think he deserves to be given a chance at swing tackle.

I also think that Chris Williams played decent at LG and the line was never the same after he was injured. Especially on pulling plays where he excelled. I agree a guard would be a good pickup because they need help across the line, but LT and WR are the biggest needs in the offseason. If they can somehow get Mario Williams... I might take that chance too. But not if it meant losing a #1 WR or a REAL starting LT.

Cutler is running for his life out there because no one is blocking his backside and no WR can get open besides Bennett.

in response to jmilz's comments:
I agree we should get Carl Nicks. He's not just the best offensive lineman available, he's the best guard in the league (along with his teammate Jahri Evans). He made first team all pro last year by the Associated Press, and has made the pro bowl twice in his 4 years. He's young, so he'll be with them for many years. Nicks and a healthy Carimi and Williams would help upgrade the line.
Farrior isn't an outside linebacker. He played there with the Jets, but has spent the last 10 years at ILB with the Steelers. He certainly was never an effective pass rusher at outside linebacker, never reaching more than 2 sacks in a year, and at 242 pounds he's light for a DE. He has been effective at times as a pass rusher from the inside in a 3-4. Either way, I don't see him fitting with the Bears, who usually pull the SAM for a nickelback on passing downs anyway.
I'ld like to believe Chris Williams could play right tackle, but let's not let wishful thinking replace reality. Forte has never averaged 5 yards a carry in any year. In 2009, the year Chris Williams played some right tackle, Forte averaged 3.6 yards a carry, not 5. Wouldn't it be great if the Bears could somehow trade up to get Matt Kahlil? That's unrealistic thinking as well, I know. Kahlil, Carimi, and Nicks would anchor the line for years, and with so many FA wide receivers, Kahlil would be worth 3 number ones. Franchise tackles like Joe Thomas, Jake Long, and Kahlil come along once every 6 or 7 years, and make the QB, RBs, and WRs all stay healthy and look better . We haven't had one since Jim Covert, though John Tait was excellent and helped us get to the Superbowl. Then we had two good tackles a great center, RB, and WR (Muhsin Mohammad) without a good QB; now we have an excellent QB without the line or receiver.
I'd love to see the Bears sign Mike Tolbert. Before he had that great year at halfback, he was one of the best & most versatile fullbacks in the league, blocking superbly, catching passes, and picking up short yardage. Now he would help Forte tremendously, and pick up some tough inside yardage, which is one of Forte's lesser strengths. Plus if Forte gets hurt again, Tolbert is a solid and consistent running back as well. He's also a special teams stud. He'ld be the starting fullback, backup halfback, and special teams star without commanding a marquis price.
Anyway, give me Carl Nicks, Mike Tolbert or Peyton Hillis (another great FB before becoming a HB), and a receiver in FA, and I think we're a talented AND deep championship team this year with a solid draft.

I am flabbergasted at the remarks regarding Webb. Didn't he give up 4 (or was it 5) sacks in the 2nd Vikings game, some of them even with a tight end/back to help him? He wasn't good at right tackle, but the excuse was he was a rookie then. He played well for a rookie 8th round pick thrust into the starting job. He looked much worse this year. His ceiling appears to be as a swing tackle to provide depth to the eventual starters. And my gosh Lance Louis was a sieve after Martz called him "an elite pass blocker at guard." This is also a sad commentary for Chris Williams, that Webb is starting ahead of the position he was drafted relatively high to play. But I honestly don't think he was as bad as Webb when he was playing.
With all the fuss over receivers and quarterbacks, people forget that offensive lines are the foundation of the offense. The 90s redskins won 3 superbowls with 3 different quarterbacks and running backs (Theisman, Williams, Rypien/ Riggins, Timmy Smith/ Earnest Byner). The 80s Giants won two with two different QBs and RBs (Simms, Hostetler, Morris, OJ Anderson). The Raiders won 3 with two diffferent QBs and running backs (Stabler, Plunkett/ Mark Van Eeghan & Clarence Davis, then Marcus Allen). The Constant in all these was great lines anchored by the likes of Joe Jacoby/ Jim Lachey, Russ Grimm, Bostic (for the Redskins), Art Shell, Gene Upshaw for the Raiders. The Giants didn't have any great WRs in those 80s superbowls, though they did have a great TE in Bavaro, as did the Raiders with Casper and Christianson. The last time we won a Superbowl, we had 3 pro bowlers in Jim Covert, Mark Bortz, and Jay Hilgenberg, and a #1 draft pick at RT in Keith Van Horne, who kept Reggie White off our QBs in the playoffs in later years.
So let's sign 2X PB/ 1X AP first team all pro (in his 4 year career) young guard Carl Nicks, make a serious effort to trade for Matt Kahlil ( I think a franchise left tackle like that is so rare and hard to get that he's worth 3 #1 draft picks more than a QB is), and develop Carimi to form a young line that will be the foundation of our offense and keep Cutler healthy and throwing well and keep Forte healthy and running well for many years to come. With better run blocking providing a good running game, and with more time to throw, even solid receivers will look very good on play action passes, and a receiver like Vincent Jackson, just entering his prime, will have time to run his routes and burn playoff defenses..
Why did the Jets make two championship games in a row? With D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Alan Faneca, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, and Damien Woody (at the time), they had the best offensive line in their conference (4 PBers inc. 2 AP). Sanchez had more time during key 2 minute scoring drives, and Shonn Greene ran wild. Then Faneca & Woody leave, and they can't even make the playoffs.
Let's focus on the line. Forte will still be running wild in the playoffs, Cutler will be upright and on the field, with time to use than cannon of his, and the aging defense will be well rested in between drives.

Whoa Creighton. I agree about Webb -- I think everyone does -- but Carimi looked awfully good for a rookie, I think Louis would be a decent guard -- he's not a tackle, so forget about his play there -- and Garza outplayed everyone's expectations at center. Even Chis Williams played pretty well at left guard til he got hurt.

I think the Bears should prioritize getting Nicks, then try to trade Williams and draft picks for a good left tackle. One more good receiver and they'd have a pretty good offense on paper.

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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on March 4, 2012 11:40 AM.

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