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The Bears are going to hold their annual pre-draft media session on Tuesday at Halas Hall.

General manager Jerry Angelo and college scouting director Greg Gabriel are going to do their best to convince everyone listening--and then everyone reading and listening to the reports after the press conference--that the Bears will have a world of opportunities when they go on the clock Saturday night with the 49th overall pick in the draft.

Best available player.

The Bears have preached it forever but it's hard to find a time when they have come out and practiced it, at least with their first pick. Look no further than last year's draft when they selected offensive tackle Chris Williams with the 14th pick. It wasn't a need selection, it was a dire need selection.

Angelo and Gabriel want everyone, including the teams picking in the vicinity of their selection, to believe they can go with anything other than a wide receiver at No. 49. Sure, there could be an intriguing safety on the board. Maybe even an offensive lineman or defensive lineman that is interesting. Then all you have to do is take a gander at the depth chart at wide receiver and see what real need looks like. You can't clamor for a safety or some other position in the second round now and then cry about the receiver situation come September. Remember, Angelo has had success finding safeties later in the draft.

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Welcome to Four Down Territory where we tackle issues surrounding the Bears as best we can. We'll do one more Q&A for this week on Friday. Get your questions in soon. We'll resume the Q&A on Monday and have a schedule for next week then.

Q: Will new quarterback Jay Cutler be able to earn the $100,000 workout bonus from the Bears that he reportedly had already missed with Denver?

Alex O., Toronto

A: We've received a few inquiries on this one and waited to have a firm answer to respond. Yes, Cutler is eligible to earn the $100,000 workout bonus that is a part of the contract the Bears inherited when they traded for Cutler. The contract applies to the Bears and because Cutler was acquired before the start of the club's voluntary offseason workout program, he's eligible to cash in. It doesn't matter what happened with the Broncos, where he had missed out on the mark after missing six days. The interesting thing to note is Cutler's contract calls for him to be present for 90 percent of the workouts to trigger the payment. Typically, the Bears ask their players to appear at 85 percent of workouts to collect bonuses in their contracts. Cutler will have to do better to be paid, but it's money he is eligible to earn.

The Bears' first minicamp practice begins in less than 30 minutes and the team could have an answer soon for the gaping hole they will have at right tackle.

Negotiations for veteran offensive tackle John St. Clair are believed to be taking place. St. Clair remains in Cleveland where he arrived Monday for a free-agent visit with the Browns. A source close to the situation said that Cleveland has offered St. Clair a contract. We have no idea what kind of money he is looking at in Cleveland. Whether or not he is leaning one way or another is also unknown, but at this point a resolution is expected in the near future.

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.

With John St. Clair visiting the Cleveland Browns today it forces us to pose the question, what's next?

If St. Clair signs with the Browns or another team, the already changing Bears' offensive line has another major question to answer--who plays right tackle?

General manager Jerry Angelo could draft a tackle in the first round with the 18th pick and plan on plugging him in there from Day 1. He tried that last season and that didn't work so well with Chris Williams, although by all accounts he will be ready to go as the starting left tackle when minicamp opens Tuesday.

The Bears could venture into free agency and take a look at what is around.

They could do both.

What they'll find in the third week of free agency is a long list of players long in the tooth, players with injury baggage or both.

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Busy day of football activity, and we're going to tidy up action from the day in another post here shortly with a few interesting things, so be sure to check back. Right now, let's jump into the mailbag and Four Down Territory.

Q: What did you think of the signing of Josh Bullocks? Is he more likely to start at free safety than Craig Steltz or a rookie? Is he not that highly regarded to sign an inexpensive one-year deal at age 26 or was he just caught on a bad Saints defense? If he was a quality player, would he have been a priority for New Orleans? Does this signing make it more likely the top picks will be at offensive tackle, wide receiver and defensive end, especially because (as you pointed out) the team has had success drafting defensive backs on the second day?

Joe B., Oxford, Conn.

A: We've got a lot to chew on here. My best guess right now is that Bullocks eventually finds himself in a three-man competition for the starting job with Steltz and a yet to be drafted rookie. What round the rookie comes in and how Steltz fares will obviously dictate to a degree Bullocks' chances, but right now he's got the best skill set to play the position. The Bears didn't have a free safety until he was brought on board. And, who knows, perhaps Steltz winds up in a situation where he competes with Kevin Payne for the starting gig at strong safety. Don't discount that possibility either.

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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?

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What's left in free agency? The answer is not much. Here is a list of remaining players in free agency with four years of experience.

Offensive tackle Khlaif Barnes (above) has broken off talks with Oakland and San Francisco. The assumption is that could point Marvel Smith toward Oakland. Smith, who has been hampered by back injuries the last two seasons in Pittsburgh, has reportedly drawn interest from Baltimore and Oakland. Barnes is believed to be close to signing with an unnamed team and a source ensured us late Friday night that the Bears are not in play for the ex-Jacksonville Jaguar.

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In a quiet free agency period for the Bears, longtime NFL coach and front office man Pat Kirwan raised the volume around Halas Hall with his comments Tuesday on Sirius NFL radio.

The sounds you heard were fans screaming in protest.

Kirwan and co-host Tim Ryan had a caller on the line who wanted to discuss the Bears. The caller said he was mostly supportive of general manager Jerry Angelo but was frustrated by the lack of moves this offseason, specifically pointing to wide receiver and safety as issues that were not being addressed. Kirwan, who has known Angelo for more than two decades, came to the defense of Angelo quickly. What it turned into, however, was something completely different. Instead of trying to interpret this for you, and paraphrase what was said or try to tell you what was meant, we're just going to lay out the transcript from the ``Movin' The Chains'' show in Sirius:

"Jerry came to Chicago as a proven entity, all right,'' Kirwan said. "He ran the drafts in Tampa, all the drafts that had all those great players. So he came with credentials. The next thing is he brings the team to a Super Bowl. That's on his resume now in Chicago, with Rex Grossman under center that team got to a Super Bowl. The other thing is, if you're a real Bear fan, you know that this is not exactly the most generous spending team in the history of football. So he's got restrictions and restraints and he's not going to [say], `Hey, I'm trying to sign this guy but my owners won't let me,' You think he's going to say that? No.

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Another exciting day of free agency is ahead of us. Let's get right into the action.

Q: Jason Taylor just got released from Washington. What are the chances the Bears would consider him as a one- or two-year stop-gap measure as a left end? Adewale Ogunleye is the Bears' most productive end right now as far as rushing the passer, but given the choice between the two, I would take Taylor, who has gotten it done for several years prior to being moved to outside linebacker in the 3-4. As a 4-3 end, there are few that can match his initial quickness off the ball, and his overall athleticism. His decline in production I think is more related to taking him away from the quarterback, not from any loss of talent or work.

Joe F., Parts Unknown:

A: That seems to be the popular thing to do this offseason, find a name player on the market and discuss whether or not he will wear a blue helmet with a C on the side of it this coming season. You don't have to think twice about this one, Joe. Taylor and the Redskins were in negotiations where the team said it was willing to maintain his salary for this season of $8.5 million provided he found the time to go to work in Ashburn, Va., for 75 percent of the offseason program, or roughly eight of the 13 weeks it's in operation. Mind you, this is a player who skipped workouts last offseason to participate in a television dancing show.

Now, let's think about that for a minute. Taylor isn't going to show up for eight weeks and then play during the season for $8.5 million? Does that sound for a second like a player the Bears would consider? They're embarking on what, to date, appears to be the most significant offseason program since the first once Lovie Smith ran in 2004. He's moved up the starting date to March 16--the very first day teams are allowed to begin this activity. He's setting the tone for not just the offseason program but the season itself and the first minicamp practice at Halas Hall is two weeks from today.

If not having to face T.J. Houshmandzadeh twice a year is a good thing for the Bears, then they dodged a bullet this afternoon when the veteran wide receiver chose to sign with the Seattle Seahawks.

The Minnesota Vikings put a full-court press on the former Cincinnati Bengal and tried to strike a deal over the weekend, a move that would have made the formidable Vikings' offense even more challenging. But when Houshmandzadeh left town late Sunday night without a deal, chances were he was headed elsewhere.


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The opening weekend of free agency has come and gone and the Bears added one player in offensive lineman Frank Omiyale, with offers currently out to two others in Kevin Jones and John St. Clair. There are a couple big names still floating out there--wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh is reportedly going to pick his new team some time today--but the fireworks appear to be just about over. Let's get back into the action:

Q: I have a question regarding Matt Cassel. Jerry Angelo has mentioned several times that sitting at the No. 18 pick there won't be an "elite" player available because if that player was "elite" than he would be taken already before the pick. My question is this then--Cassel, regardless if some people think he was just a "system" player with good weapons (Randy Moss and Wes Welker good, that running game...not so much), was an ELITE player in the NFL last year. For the past 20 years the Bears haven't had anything close to an elite quarterback. Why then wouldn't Angelo offer up his first-round pick when he conceded there will be no "elite" players left at pick 18 and grab a guy who was a top five quarterback last year? 

Steve K., New York

A: Fair question. I spoke to a handful of people around the league at a variety of different positions and the consensus was they believe Cassel was a product of the Patriots' system which not only had top talent, as you pointed out, but top coaching as well. The lack of a running game may have contributed to his success, at least his numbers, as Cassel ranked ninth in the league with 516 pass attempts. When you break down the numbers, I'm not sure Cassel was a top five quarterback from last year either. If you're just going by the numbers, I'll take Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, Donovan McNabb, Jay Cutler, Chad Pennington, Aaron Rodgers (yes, Aaron Rodgers) and maybe even Matt Ryan ahead of him. So, maybe he was a top 10 passer last season.

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