Bears receiver Brandon Marshall gets it and he doesn't. While he understands why media and analysts have piled on quarterback Jay Cutler for just about everything, he continues to disagree with what they're saying.
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The cyber mailbag has been getting stuffed in e-mail and on my Twitter account.
Are the Bears in play for Terrell Owens?
My initial take on T.O. to the Bears is NO, but keep in mind that the N in NFL stands for never rule anything out.
Before we go any further, let's get to the genesis of these e-mails and the rampant speculation that is all over the Internet. ESPN's Adam Schefter speculated that the Buffalo Bills could look to trade Owens before the NFL's trading deadline, which is next Tuesday. Schefter's short item starts out: "About a week before the Oct. 20 NFL trade deadline, the Buffalo Bills are not shopping wide receiver Terrell Owens." Then, he goes on to explain why it would be a good idea for the Bills, who could lay off roughly $4 million of the $6.5 million contract Owens signed with Buffalo this season.
The Bills are going nowhere in 2009, only to an offseason rebuilding with a coach not named Dick Jauron, but they built energy in their club and fan base by surprisingly signing Owens after he was cast off in Dallas. Do they want to admit failure and deal away the one player who spurred ticket sales? You've got to keep in mind the issues Owens caused in Dallas and before that in Philadelphia when you consider the idea of adding him to a locker room that Lovie Smith likes right now, one that is calm, veteran and clear of pretty much anything in the way of controversy. A ripple in the Bears locker room occurs when tight end Desmond Clark announces on his Internet radio show that he has a fractured rib. That's controversy for the Bears.
Owens has 12 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown for a miserable Bills' offense. He turns 36 in December, and he simply doesn't get off press coverage at the line of scrimmage like he did before. Scouts will tell you he doesn't have to be defended the way he did three or four years ago. If the production of the Bears' wide receivers has not been a surprise to the team, then it has been a surprise to everyone not residing at Halas Hall. Devin Hester, Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett are all on pace to have more than 750 yards receiving, something no trio in franchise history has accomplished. Is any receiver going to the Pro Bowl? Probably not. But the Bears are far ahead of where many upset they didn't swing a trade for Anquan Boldin figured they would be.
Owens is a big target at 6-3, 224 pounds, and he could probably excel with Jay Cutler throwing him the ball. Cutler likes big targets, and he's not the least bit surprised that Kyle Orton has found success with Brandon Marshall in Denver. Throw it up for a big receiver and watch him go get it. Cutler likes big receivers and it's one reason he took to Devin Aromashodu in training camp and preseason. Owens would offer that dimension to the offense, one it really has not been getting from tight end Greg Olsen, who was supposed to have a breakout season.
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
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.
Jay Cutler is ready to roll with the wide receivers he has on the roster right now.
Really, what else could the Bears' new quarterback say Wednesday afternoon when the team completed its offseason program. Players will show up Thursday, but the final day is usually reserved for a bowling outing. There will not be any more work on the field.
"I'm 100 percent comfortable [with the wide receivers],'' Cutler said. "I think we added some depth with some younger guys and then some of the older veterans are stepping up and playing well. So I think we've got more than enough to compete.''
It's easy to link Cutler with his former teammate Brandon Marshall, who has made it public he would like to be traded out of Denver. The Bears would seem more likely to pursue a guy like Plaxico Burress. With the Broncos already holding the Bears' first-round pick in 2010, the Bears don't have a lot of ammunition to trade. Then, they would have to hand Marshall the contract he's seeking that has him upset in the first place. Marshall has had more off-field trouble than Burress, who faces gun charges in New York.
"I haven't talked to Brandon Marshall,'' Cutler said. "He's a great player, Brandon is, and I played with him for three years, put up a lot big numbers with him, and wherever he ends up, obviously he's going to be successful. Whether or not it's here, that's up to the guys upstairs, but as of right now, I'm 100 percent happy with what we've got."
Lovie Smith said the Bears have not ruled out pursuing free-agent wide receiver Plaxico Burress, but he believes the team can win with what it has right now.
The team ended its 10-week offseason program on Wednesday afternoon at Halas Hall. The session concluded with the two-minute drill for the second team. Caleb Hanie hit third-round pick Juaquin Iglesias for a deep touchdown pass. Perhaps Smith and management feel good enough about the inexperienced crew of wide receivers on the roster to go forward without making a play for Burress, who his handlers say will not face a trial on gun charges in New York until after the season.
"Plaxico Burress is a good football player,'' Smith said. "Of course, we all know that. We keep all of our options open. We're constantly evaluating all players that are out there. I feel good about our team that we have right now. I feel good about the receivers we have right now.
"The door is never closed on anyone that is available. We've said that every time any player that has been available has been out there. We're saying the same thing right now. It's not like we're aggressively going after him. We evaluate everyone that we think can make our team better. We think we're a strong football team without adding anyone. We would like to improve on every position but right now we feel like we can win with this group.''
Smith said the Bears have had no discussions about Brandon Marshall, who announced earlier this week that he would like to be traded out of Denver like former teammate Jay Cutler was.
Burress faces up to 3 1/2 years in prison for carrying an unlicensed handgun into a Manhattan night club last November. He accidentally shot a hole in his leg. The Bears are one of three teams known to have contacted agent Drew Rosenhaus about the player. The New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the others. Rosenhaus said earlier this week that a fourth team has reached out to him.
With Kyle Orton's perceived top target looking more like he wants to play elsewhere, the Denver Broncos brought in a guy who looked like he was on his way to being Orton's top target last season.
Denver reeled in Brandon Lloyd, signing him to a contract Monday afternoon. He's no replacement for Pro Bowl performer Brandon Marshall, but he gives the Broncos someone Orton is familiar with heading toward training camp. Lloyd jumped out last summer in the preseason game at Seattle when Orton went to him repeatedly in the two-minute offense. They continued to work well together through the first four games of the regular season when Lloyd was easily the club's leading receiver. But a minor knee injury in Week 4 put him on the shelf and whatever chemistry they had together fizzled before Lloyd returned six weeks later. It came as a surprise to no one when Lloyd exited at the end of the season after his one-year deal expired.
What also didn't come as a surprise was the report out of Denver earlier today that Marshall told Broncos owner Pat Bowlen "I think I'd like to be traded."
Sound familiar? Star player wants out of the Mile High City? Unlike Jay Cutler, Marshall's beef is over money. He boycotted the team's mandatory minicamp over the weekend, and has been a no-show for voluntary OTA's. It's not that Marshall would have been on the field. He is still recovering from April 1 surgery to his hip.
When there is news of a disgruntled star wide receiver, the idea that he could come to the Bears isn't far behind. It will be that way from now until the Bears land a No. 1 wide receiver. In fact, the idea of Marshall has been floating around since, oh, about a half-hour after the Bears dealt for Cutler on April 2. If you think Cutler has a rapport with Earl Bennett, that's nothing compared to how he worked with Marshall. The Broncos would be hard-pressed to justify dealing Marshall, but no one thought they were actually going to cut ties with Cutler. You don't have to read between the lines with coach Josh McDaniels. He wants Marshall.
"All we can say about this is we're going to do everything we can to reconcile the situation so that Brandon returns to the field," McDaniels said. "Until then, we're going to concentrate on the players that are here."
Marshall is set to enter his fourth year in the league and the final year of his contract. That doesn't mean he's destined to become an unrestricted free agent after the season. First, if there is no CBA extension, Marshall will be a restricted free agent in 2010. Second, the Broncos would be foolish not to place the franchise tag on him if he is headed toward the open market. Julius Peppers wanted out of Carolina. That doesn't mean the Panthers wanted to see him go. They tagged him. Denver isn't going to let Marshall walk away for nothing.