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Saving the biggest puzzle for last, we conclude our position-by-position training camp previews with, what else, the wide receivers.

Projected starters: Devin Hester, 5-11, 190, 4th season, Miami; Earl Bennett, 6-0, 204, 2nd season, Vanderbilt

Others

Devin Aromashodu, 6-2, 201, 3rd season, Auburn
John Broussard, 6-1, 181, 2nd season, San Jose State
Rashied Davis, 5-9, 187, 5th season, San Jose State
Juaquin Iglesias, 6-1, 205, Rookie, Oklahoma
Derek Kinder, 6-1, 202, Rookie, Pittsburgh
Johnny Knox, 6-0, 185, Rookie, Abilene Christian
Eric Peterman, 6-1, 202, Rookie Northwestern
Brandon Rideau, 6-3, 198, 3rd season, Kansas

Projected depth chart

WR: Hester, Davis, Knox
WR: Bennett, Iglesias, Rideau

2009 salary cap numbers

Devin Aromashodu $465,200
Earl Bennett $595,409
John Broussard $390,200
Rashied Davis $1,581,666
Devin Hester $6,885,833
Juaquin Iglesias $554,900
Derek Kinder $319,416
Johnny Knox $361,060
Eric Peterman $310,666
Brandon Rideau $465,200

Number of wide receivers on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 6

Projected number of wide receivers on 2009 roster at start of the season: 6

The skinny: From general manager Jerry Angelo on down the Bears know they don't have this position where it needs to be. Angelo acknowledged the Bears would have used their first-round draft pick on a wide receiver had they not traded the pick to acquire Jay Cutler. Then, he tried to trade for Anquan Boldin when the draft began. Finally, the Bears did enough snooping around on Plaxico Burress to earn their Jr. Inspector Clouseau badge. Think right about now Burress wishes now he'd done his couple months in the pokey? It looks highly unlikely that Burress will help Cutler and the Bears this season and that puts the onus on Cutler to make some of these players better. Ideally, the Bears would be in a situation where they would only keep five receivers on the roster, but if Iglesias (third round) and Knox (fifth round) earn roster spots, as expected, they'll probably need to try to cover for the inexperience with numbers. Say what you want, and we're not demeaning any of the players at this position, but it's a quantity over quality matter here. Quite frankly, that could help Rideau in his bid to win a job.



So how much better can Cutler make the Bears' receivers? There is certainly something to a quarterback making a wide receiver better but he's not the difference between Eddie Royal's 91 catches as a rookie last season in Denver and Bennett's 0 catches as a rookie last season. Cutler isn't going to clone Brandon Marshall in the Olivet Nazarene dorm rooms, either. He can make the receivers better and that starts with them developing a trust and a rapport. Cutler has to know what the receiver is going to do before he does it. That comes with reps, lots of them.

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Final results are in because, well, we decided it was time to close the polls on our question that started our countdown to training camp last Wednesday.

The question was posed -- We're in July! It's football season! What is the Bears' biggest issue heading into camp in Bourbonnais, Ill.?

More than 1,400 votes later (I'm pretty sure there are more than 1,400 of you out there to vote), the No. 1 concern (among the five responses we created) was how the defensive line will turn around under new coach Rod Marinelli.

Here is how voting broke down:

1. It starts in the trenches and this team will not get any better defensively unless Rod Marinelli does indeed possess the magic touch with that line. 35% (493 votes)

2. Jay Cutler is a great addition, but it's about the defense. Can Lovie Smith the Play Caller turn around this unit that has struggled at times for two seasons? 32% (444 votes)

3. Umm, exactly who is going to line up at free safety? I'm not sure the team addressed this position during an eventful offseason. 19% (267 votes)

4. Umm, Jay Cutler is going to throw the ball to who? I'm not sure the team can count on its wide receivers. 10% (144 votes)

5. It starts in the trenches and from the looks of things the offensive line will have three new starters. Don't overlook the obvious. 4% (59 votes)

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The Bears didn't make any attempts to deny their interest in upgrading the wide receiver corps going into the draft and in the days following it.

General manager Jerry Angelo said the club likely would have used its first-round pick on a receiver had it not packaged it to get quarterback Jay Cutler. Angelo said the team thought there would be someone potentially special available where they were selecting. With Cutler on board, Angelo then offered his second-round pick to Arizona for Anquan Boldin. Maybe the Cardinals were not that serious about trading the disgruntled star. They reportedly didn't even engage the Bears in talks after the offer.

So as comfortable as Angelo, Ron Turner, Lovie Smith and Cutler himself have said they are with the current cast of Bears' receivers, the team hasn't been shy when it comes to seeking an upgrade. If the Bears are still looking around for help, two free agents remain available and on the surface one is more interesting than the other. Agent Drew Rosenhaus announced earlier today via his Twitter account that a third team has inquired about the services of Plaxico Burress.


"Good news for Plaxico as a 3rd team has just expressed serious interest in signing him. I won't identify any of the teams at their request."

Could the Bears be one of those three teams?



Burress has legal issues in New York but reportedly could make some progress on that thorny matter next month. The New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers have already been linked to Burress, but he's not going to do any team any good from jail. Burress potentially faces 3 1/2 years in the joint for carrying an unregistered firearm in Manhattan last year, the gun that blew a hole in his leg. There seems to be some thinking that Burress will be able to avoid jail time, or perhaps avoid serving jail time during the season. Of course, that does not address any punishment that will be handed down by the NFL for violation of the league's personal conduct policy, but Burress could very well be in play for 2009. Multiple reports have shot down a report in Wednesday's Miami Herald that he could wind up with the Miami Dolphins.

Then there is the case of ex-Jacksonville wide receiver Matt Jones, who ESPN's Chris Mortenson reported will avoid further suspension from the league for his off-field misdeeds. Jones made 65 catches for 761 yards last season but the Jaguars, badly in need of receiver help, cut him loose. He was busted last summer for possession of cocaine.

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Our friend Kevin Siefert over at ESPN. com had a couple of interesting items on Wednesday that we do not want to overlook. First, as part of a series that included one selection from each division, he named Bears' defensive tackle Tommie Harris as the veteran player on the hot seat in the NFC North.

We think it's an interesting selection and probably a pretty good one. We can't think of a veteran in a critical spot in Detroit other than maybe left tackle Jeff Backus. Seifert points out that Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton is another potential choice considering the rebuilding taking place on that line. Sticking with that theme, it's probably fair to say the Vikings need a bounce back season from left tackle Bryant McKinnie, but is he on the hot seat?

Harris makes sense for all of the reasons that are outlined. The Bears expected great things from him when they signed him to a $40 million, four-year extension last summer, one that looks more like a $34 million, four-year extension now given the requirements for the de-escalating roster bonus in 2012. Still, there are big things expected of Harris and he didn't exactly deliver in 2008 when he said offseason distractions were an issue at times. The Bears have to generate a pass rush with the front four to effectively run Lovie Smith's scheme and that starts with Harris.

The Bears need a focused Harris and just as important a healthy Harris. The fear is they might not ever get the latter even if the team says he's checked out medically. Harris was held out of the end of the team's minicamp in March. He's never going to be full go on the practice field any longer. It makes us wonder seriously about a key thing general manager Jerry Angelo said about the draft. Let's go back to April 22 and review:

"Last year we made a conscious decision and we talked about it as an organization and [college scouting director] Greg [Gabriel] and I spent a lot of time on this too, but yes, we are looking at that and we are going to be more disciplined in our approach to taking players with medical concerns, and I want to emphasize that. ... We have to do a good job of being more disciplined because we've had some issues.''

Knowing what the Bears do now about Harris and his balky left knee, we wonder if the Bears would do the contract they over again. Perhaps the approach Angelo discussed when referring to the draft carries over to contracts for current players and free agents.

We're not suggesting Harris' knee is to a point where he will not be an effective player. Everyone expects he is capable of returning to dominant Pro Bowl form. But he'll have to be monitored and he's simply not going to be on the field all of the time.

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Things have slowed down a little with the conclusion of rookie minicamp but the mail is still being delivered. We'll make it Five Down Territory for today after a long weekend. Let's get right to it.

Q: So I'm starting to come down from draft overload and I looked up a few things on this fullback Will Ta'ufo'ou the Bears signed. People seem to be pretty high on him. Does this kid have a shot to unseat Jason McKie?

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: You might be aiming a little high to begin with. Let's focus on Ta'ufo'ou's chances to make the 53-man roster, first. He's an interesting guy who got a decent amount of publicity before the draft as the blocking back at Cal the last two seasons for Jahvid Best and Justin Forsett. Only two fullbacks ended up being drafted according to NFL.com and that left Ta'ufo'ou looking for an opportunity. A league source said he turned down more lucrative free-agent offers elsewhere because of the possible opportunity the Bears offered. The Bears remain happy with the veteran McKie, who started eight games last season but missed the final five with a bad quad pull. He's been banged up a little bit the past two seasons but there are not plans in the works to replace him as far as we know. Don't forget Jason Davis is on the roster also. He started three games while McKie was sidelined and played for offensive coordinator Ron Turner at Illinois, so he's familiar with the offense. To make the roster, Ta'ufo'ou is at least going to have to leap frog Davis. We say "at least'' because there is no guarantee the Bears will keep two fullbacks on the roster. They've gone with one at times, and they have done so recently because they lean heavily on double tight-end formations, which provide them with some able blockers. One thing Ta'ufo'ou has working against him is his size. He was listed at 5-11, 253 pounds in school, and after watching him in minicamp over the weekend, he might not be that big. Not according to this eye test, any way. So that is going to be an issue. Ta'ufo'ou was productive in college, he's considered a good leader and strong worker, so we'll see what happens. It's a position with a lot of injuries and anything can happen. At this point, we don't see McKie being beat out but there is a long way to go.


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Once again, our mailbox has blown up with Anquan Boldin inquiries. On the eve of the draft, we'll pick one out of the hat and cover the bases.

Q: Considering the latest update on the Cardinals trade demands and that Jerry Angelo is now a baller, do you think the Bears have the ammo or desire to land Anquan Boldin for their second-round pick plus Jamar Williams, Garrett Wolfe and/or Dez Clark?

Micah, Minnesota

A: We've thoroughly covered the Boldin situation in the last few months, and did so right here last week when we pointed out an interesting study on his effectiveness vs. that of teammate Larry Fitzgerald. Check that out if you missed it, and keep in mind the Bears don't have a Fitzgerald to run opposite Boldin. It's not a surprise to some personnel people we polled that the price has come down. That should give you an indication what kind of value people around the league place on Boldin. Keep that in mind.

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The mailbox filled up with a slew of Anquan Boldin inquiries after word came out of Arizona on Wednesday night that the Cardinals are entertaining offers for the Pro Bowl wide receiver. It's been all wide receiver, all the time so here we go. We'll do one more Q&A on Friday so get your questions in for the final one of the week.

Q: I know, I know. The Bears already made their blockbuster move for this decade. But let's just look into this thing for one second. What could the Bears possibly package up to get Anquan Boldin? Any package has to include the second-round pick but what after that? How about a player? Say, the Bears' second-round pick and Nathan Vasher? Or how about Brian Urlacher?

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: It certainly looks like Boldin can pack his bags and prepare for an exit from the Valley of the Sun. The Cardinals are reportedly seeking a first- and third-round picks in exchange for Boldin. The important thing to note, right off the bat, is the Cardinals want picks in exchange for him. One source, with knowledge of the situation, says that he believes Arizona will ultimately accept a first-round pick and something significantly less than a third rounder.

``I think they want to get rid of the headache,'' the source said.

The headache is Boldin and agent Drew Rosenhaus crusading for a new contract while Boldin has two years remaining on his current deal. Boldin is going to need a big, new deal from his new team. The thing that needs to be investigated is how good Boldin is right now and how long he will remain at his current level. His yards per catch has dropped the last two seasons. Arizona was 3-1 in regular-season games Boldin missed. They rolled in the playoffs after he missed most of the Atlanta game (after scoring a touchdown) and the entire Carolina game. The Cardinals probably believe they can be just as successful without him.

Plenty of football news today so we're just sitting down to sift through our mail now. Before we know it, we'll be off to minicamp on Tuesday. Let's get right to it.

Q: If you were general manager of the Bears, what would you give to the Denver Broncos to get Jay Cutler? What would it take to get him? Who else has the best shot of trading for him?

Duane, Parts Unknown

A: When you step back and survey the entire situation and how it unfolded in Denver, it's fascinating. There are a couple things that struck me from the beginning. First, had Josh McDaniels done something to royally hack off Bill Belichick? Did he do something to earn the Mangini treatment? Signing wide receiver Jabar Gaffney away from New England probably didn't go over real well in Foxboro, Mass. That was my immediate reaction, though, how in the world was this thing blowing up and did anything precipitate it. Did anything? I don't know but I can tell you it stinks from here.

My second reaction was what kind of evaluation did the Broncos make of Cutler? Sure, McDaniels feels like he raised Matt Cassel in this league. He probably did. But there are other people involved in the decision-making process there--including one of the more respected owners in the league in Pat Bowlen--and a club doesn't start talking trade for a quarterback it KNOWS is a franchise quarterback. That's just it. Is Cutler a franchise passer? An upgrade over anything the Bears have had since a healthy Jim McMahon? You bet your Ditka sweater. But a slam dunk, bona fide star for the next decade? I don't know. Probably not with the Bears' current offensive core. Cutler went to a Pro Bowl after his second full season as a starter but there's a lot of room for improvement in his game. Before this meltdown there were those in certain league circles who questioned Cutler. So, besides a reunion with Cassel, what was McDaniels' thinking in plotting a trade? You've got to consider some of these questions.

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If it rains like this next week, the Bears will have no chance of practicing outside at Halas Hall for the minicamp. Before we get washed away here, or buried under a pile of safety and receiver questions, let's dive into the mailbag.

Q: Now that the first wave of free agency has passed and the Bears still haven't addressed their need for a starting free safety, do you think there's a chance they might still bring back Mike Brown? Brown seems to be the best option remaining given his knowledge of the defense, and I doubt Jerry Angelo will find someone in the draft that can contribute more, at least in the immediate future.

C. Washington, Kokomo, Ind.

A: This is just one of a handful of inquiries we've had about Brown recently. You're the lucky one to have yours selected.

No, I don't see any way the Bears have a change of heart and reach out to Brown. When they made the decision to move forward and not offer him a contract, that was a clean break. It's one Angelo nearly made a year ago. Yes, Brown had value when he was on the field last season but he's a strong safety and strictly a strong safety. Remember, the coaching staff made that switch to get him closer to the line of scrimmage midway through the season. Brown isn't the answer to their strong safety needs. The second half of the season was also when Brown had trouble finishing out games. You'll recall he couldn't finish three games and then was placed on inured reserve before the season finale at Houston. The Bears were in the playoff hunt. If they felt Brown could help them in the playoffs, he would have remained active. That tells you a little something about what was at least a four-week injury, right?

INDIANAPOLIS--Two of the biggest names that could have reached the free market have been crossed off the list.

As expected, Carolina reached terms on a contract with left tackle Jordan Gross. He'll get $30.5 million over the first three years of a six-year contract.

Let's interrupt for a second to ask the question: What recession? Nnamdi Asomugha will receive $45.3 million in a three-year contract. Oakland made the move preventing the All-Pro cornerback from having to be paid. Speaking of pay, Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden landed a $43 million, five-year contract with $22 million guaranteed.

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Free agency just lost a little bit of its luster.

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome let it be known Tuesday that the Ravens will place the franchise tag on pass rusher Terrell Suggs if they cannot work out a contract extension with him before Thursday's deadline to tag players.

Cross Suggs off your shopping list.

That's OK, you say. Julius Peppers will be available.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Anquan Boldin category.

Andre Smith is the previous category.

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