The trade for defensive end Gaines Adams on Friday turned into a loss for tight end Michael Gaines today.
The veteran tight end is the player the Bears released in order to create a roster spot for their new pass rusher. It's not a shocking move, although the Bears could have also picked from some rookies who do not figure to see action this season. Gaines was one of the final players to make the 53-man roster as a fourth tight end. He didn't have a role on special teams like Kellen Davis, the third tight end, and opportunities for him to play as an H-back type didn't really materialize. Gaines, who was signed on May 12 was inactive for two games and appeared as a sub only in the Seattle game.
This leaves the Bears with three tight ends, which is what most teams typically carry. Gaines' base salary was $650,000, so the remaining amount on it will cover about half of what Adams is earning this season, the pro-rated amount of $900,000. Gaines received a $250,000 signing bonus and a $100,000 roster bonus. His base salary was $650,000 and as a vested veteran he is eligible to put in for termination pay and receive the entire amount, which would be 11 remaining weeks of pay.
Now that the dust has settled, sort of, on the Gaines Adams trade, let's examine the roster move the Bears will have to make Saturday to add him to the 53-man roster.
Adams will come aboard after he passes his physical Saturday morning after arriving from Tampa. The Bears will have to release a player to make room, and with no significant injuries it is unlikely anyone will be placed on injured reserve. The club has not announced its intentions.
You don't have to look too far to find some candidates. We'll list some possibilities with a reason why they could be cut, and a reason for them to stick around. This list is in alphabetical order, not the order in which I see it playing out. Go ahead and make your own choice known.
Josh Bullocks. Why: The Bears have an excess with five safeties on the roster. Why not: Bullocks is starting to figure into the special teams mix, especially this week with running back Adrian Peterson out with a knee injury.
Michael Gaines. Why: The fourth tight end was a luxury to make the 53-man roster and he's barely been used. Why not: The broken rib suffered by Desmond Clark is a clear sign of how tough it is to keep players healthy at this position.
Juaquin Iglesias. Why: The third-round pick has yet to be active this season and did not perform well in training camp and preseason. Why not: He's a third-round pick and Jerry Angelo is unlikely to give up on a third rounder when he just traded a second-round pick.
Lance Louis. Why: He's a project who was one of the final players to make the roster and could probably be waived and re-signed to the practice squad. The misdemeanor assault charge against him in San Diego doesn't help. Why not: Louis is a young lineman who was used at guard and tackle in preseason, and the Bears need to develop youth on the line.
Darrell McClover. Why: The Bears are starting to get healthy at linebacker and he plays a role on special teams only. He was added just three weeks ago and would seem to be expendable as a seventh linebacker. Why not: The Bears added him because they needed a boost on special teams. Adams might add to the defense, but he's not going to help special teams.
D.J. Moore. Why: Moore has yet to be active and if the rookie fourth-round pick cannot carve out a role for himself on special teams, he's not going to contribute this season. Generously listed at 5-9, he's not big enough to be an every-down cornerback any way. Why not: Like Iglesias, Angelo doesn't want to get rid of a draft pick when he just traded one away to weaken his 2010 draft. Moore sticks because he's a developmental project.
Matt Toeaina. Why: Adding Adams gives the Bears 10 defensive linemen and Toeaina is the least used of the bunch. Why not: Tackles are impossible to find this time of year and just like you can't have too many pass rushers, you can't have too many tackles. He's needed for depth.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Marcus Harrison continues to make progress on the side while on the non-football injury list and the defensive tackle is hopeful he'll be cleared for a return by Saturday when the Bears will practice at Soldier Field during Family Day.
Harrison has missed four practices and one mini-practice thus far with Anthony Adams and Dusty Dvoracek dividing the reps at nose tackle in his absence. Harrison reported to camp at 322, 10 pounds above the weight he said he played at last season. It's a combination of weight and body fat percentage that the team wants him to drop, especially after he had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in May.
Some notes from the afternoon session:
The Bears are entering the most difficult days of training camp where their bodies are starting to feel fatigued after five weeks off. The session Monday afternoon probably reflected that somewhat, and quarterback Jay Cutler certainly was not as accurate as he has been, although he did lead the first offense into position for a 53-yard Robbie Gould field goal in the two-minute drills. Some quick notes from the workout:
Lance Briggs, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Matt Toeania all returned to work.
Jamar Williams did a nice job taking on fullback Jason Davis in inside run drills.
I've spent four weeks here analyzing some of the things I'll be looking when when the whistle blows at 3 p.m. Friday and the Bears get rolling with their first practice of the season. Now it's time to turn over some space to the trained eye of Tom Thayer, who lists his occupation on his IRS paperwork every April as a "football describer.''
Thayer, the color analyst for WBBM-780 AM, will be at training camp and will offer daily updates for the Bears' flagship station. Here is what Thayer offered:
"There are three things I will be looking at and one of them is the free agents, the newcomers, [Jay] Cutler, Pisa [Tinoisamoa], [Orlando] Pace, big Frank [Omiyale], [Kevin] Shaffer, [Josh] Bullocks, these guys that came in. I want to start looking at those guys and see if they really are what they are, if they're going to fit in, what they're going to do to the team and how they're changing it. Then, I have a key selection of veterans who have been here already who are on the roster who I really want to pay attention to to see if they re-emerge, if they're playing like they did last year, if they're not involved in the betterment of the football team the way they should be due to their position on the roster and with the team and all that. My guys here are [Nathan] Vasher, [Brian] Urlacher, Tommie [Harris], Kevin Jones, Wale [Ogunleye], Nick Roach.
"And then [Johnny] Knox, [Juaquin] Iglesias and D.J. Moore are some rookies I want to watch. I think Moore may have a place. He is one of the three guys of the rooks I am looking at who may need to come in and just provide interest. Just to see if they can help in any way. There is a specific group and positioning of players that I am interested in looking at first. Then I think if you are looking at a position specifically, I still have concerns about the safety position. I like Kevin Payne but there is a battle for all other interior defensive back positions. Payne is only going to be pushed by himself. He is a guy who has to stay healthy. You can go out there and Kevin Payne can show flashes of brilliance and then he can pop his head in there and come out, get dinged, and you're back to square one. My only issue with Kevin Payne is durability.''
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.
Who says you need a Pro Bowl wide receiver to win the Super Bowl?
Not Rick Gosselin, that is for sure.
The veteran Dallas Morning News' scribe did an interesting breakdown of Super Bowl winners from 1991 to present and how the makeup of offenses has changed. History proves you don't need an elite receiver to win the Big Game, not anymore any way. It's good news for the Bears, right? They have nine wideouts on their roster right now and two of them have more than seven career catches--Devin Hester and Rashied Davis. The other seven--Devin Aromashodu (7), John Broussard (4), Earl Bennett (0), Juaquin Iglesias (0), Johnny Knox (0), Derek Kinder (0) and Eric Peterman (0)--have 11 combined receptions. Yes, more than half of the receivers on the roster have not caught a pass in the NFL making position coach Darryl Drake's job about as important as anyone's entering this season.
"Neither of the last two Super Bowl champions - Pittsburgh in 2008 or the New York Giants in 2007 - had a Pro Bowl wide receiver that season. Neither had a Pro Bowl quarterback, for that matter. The Steelers finished 17th in the NFL in passing and the Giants were 21st.
"When the New England Patriots won back-to-back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, their top wideouts failed to crack the NFL's top 30 in receiving those seasons. Deion Branch finished 42nd in 2003 and David Givens 40th in 2004. Baltimore's top wideout in its 2000 championship season was Qadry Ismail, who finished 68th in the NFL.
"Only two NFL champions in the 2000 decade lined up a Pro Bowl wide receiver in their Super Bowl seasons - Troy Brown for the Patriots in 2001 and Marvin Harrison for the Indianapolis Colts in 2006. The rest preferred quantity over quality on the flank."
Gosselin provides a chart comparing the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 2000 through 2008 to the top wideout for the Super Bowl champs from 1991 through 1999. Five wideouts from the 1991 to 1999 group made Pro Bowls. Two in the more recent group were selected, including Harrison for Indianapolis in 2006, the year the Colts defeated the Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
There are some key points made in this story but the question right now is not if the Bears have an elite wide receiver for new quarterback Jay Cutler. The burning question is whether or not the Bears have enough wide receivers worthy of regular playing time in the NFL? I doesn't matter if you have Cutler or Kyle Orton at quarterback, you're not going to make a living pushing the ball downfield to tight ends and running backs.
What can a dominant receiver mean in the postseason? Consider Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald, whose four-game postseason run included 30 receptions for 546 yards and seven touchdowns. To put that in perspective, Hester was the only Bears wide receiver with more yards in 2008, and the Bears haven't had a wideout score that many times since Marty Booker had eight touchdowns in 2001.
Pittsburgh's Santonio Holmes was the third wide receiver to claim Super Bowl MVP honors in the last five years. You might not need a Pro Bowl wide receiver, but you have to have one who can perform big on the sport's grandest stage. It's been 12 years since a running back was named Super Bowl MVP.
*** Over at the National Football Post, Matt Bowen likes the addition of strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa to the Bears' defense, but the thing that jumps out from this read is his assessment of new defensive line coach Rod Marinelli.
"I doubt they'll disappoint with new D-line coach Rod Marinelli, who's gotten rave reviews from former players I've talked to as well as Bears GM Jerry Angelo. "The best teaching coach in the league," I've heard more than once.''
The Bears injected a little youth into the line with third-round pick Jarron Gilbert and fourth-round selection Henry Melton, but otherwise they're hoping to rediscover their swagger of 2005 and 2006 with virtually the same personnel. Some have questioned the ability of Marinelli to come in, wave a magic wand and make it happen. Bowen and other league insiders believe Marinelli can make it happen, and everyone knows the hard work Marinelli has ahead for the linemen. We've written it before, we'll write it again, pay attention to the individual D-line drills in training camp.
*** It seems that the last month or so has been one projection followed by one list followed by another projection. Well, here's another list ... this time ESPN's John Clayton puts together the top five general manager-coach combinations in the NFL. He ranks Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith fourth.
"Lovie Smith-Jerry Angelo, Chicago Bears: This one might surprise some because Angelo isn't a vocal general manager and the Bears, as a team, usually slip under the radar. They stay in contention most years in the NFC North, and made it to the Super Bowl in 2006. Angelo made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler, who could take the Bears to 11 wins. In the meantime, Smith has taken over the play-calling duties on defense and expects an improved, more aggressive unit this fall."
Going over the Bears' 80-man roster right now, one position of need really jumps out at you. We're not covering any new ground when we write that they are banking on considerable production from multiple unproven players at wide receiver in 2009. Donald Driver beat us to the punch on that already.
Earl Bennett is a projected starter with zero NFL catches. Rookies Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox are being counted on and the Bears are hoping they don't require a "redshirt year'' that some in the organization say Bennett had. Then you have starter Devin Hester and veteran slot receiver Rashied Davis. Brandon Rideau could also figure in the mix and he has virtually no NFL experience.
But if Lovie Smith could make one personnel move right now, import one player to his roster, would it be a receiver? Maybe. But think back to five years ago when Smith was first on the scene. The Bears went to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University and before they got out of there Smith made up his mind, he needed a pass rusher to make his defense go. We've heard Smith say it every year as the draft approaches, he can never have enough players who can get to the quarterback.
Well, the price for an elite pass rusher just went up. A lot. All of a sudden you've got multiple pass rushers (Dwight Freeney's $72 million contract is standing up just fine) making more money than some top passers, a trend that is sure to change and maybe before the Bears get around to doing a deal for Jay Cutler. Consider the joy among edge rushers this week:
*** Terrell Suggs beat the deadline that comes with the franchise tag to sign a longterm contract in Baltimore. He bagged $63 million over six seasons, the same money Matt Cassel got in Kansas City this week. According to reports, Suggs will receive $38 million guaranteed and his total bonus money in the first two years of the deal is $33.1 million, just shy of the $34 million in bonus money Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning had in his contract.
We have gotten a look at how the Bears constructed the contracts for third-round picks Jarron Gilbert and Juaquin Iglesias and interestingly the deals are put together in similar fashion to how teams usually write contracts for second-round picks.
Both Gilbert and Iglesias, who signed their four-year contracts last week, received signing bonuses and not-likely-to-be-earned incentives (NLTBE) that are guaranteed against the last year of the deal, 2012. What happened was the Bears were under allocated when it came to the rookie pool. When the league last raised the minimum salaries it did not adjust the rookie pool accordingly, making it difficult (impossible in some cases) to squeeze in all the picks while giving the annual bump in pay.
The Bears' rookie pool, essentially a salary cap within the salary cap, was $3,497,111. After signing seven of their nine draft picks there simply wasn't enough rookie pool left for Gilbert and Iglesias to both get proper signing bonuses. So instead of putting the squeeze on one player, the Bears found a way to make it as fair as possible. The NLTBE, in this instance, is earned by playing time and the higher the draft pick, the better chance he has of being on the field to trigger the one-time payment. In theory, any way.
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.
It's wide receiver fever today. Catch it! Let's get right to the mailbag.
Q: Huge Bears fan from New Zealand. Probably the only one in New Zealand so your columns are much appreciated. My question is of course about the wide receiver position. I think the Bears will do fine with what they have but why not improve? What about Matt Jones? The Bears don't have great height at the position and it is known that the coaches love speed. Matt Jones is a monster and ran a 4.37 at his combine in 2005 (even though he might not play as quick in pads). Getting named the beast at the combine shows he has talent. No problem with his hands and he had 65 receptions last year while missing four games. He has experience and is a No. 1 receiver. He would give Devin Hester and the other young receivers time to develop. Also he is 26 and has to be the best option apart from Anquan Boldin. However, I know the Bears probably say they equally value a clean record which is maybe why they haven't touched him. But he has been cleared of any game suspensions and only a fine by the NFL. Will this lead to more interest? I think improving is more important than getting someone with some bad history. A 26-year-old, 6-6 receiver with experience. Why not?
Michael S., New Zealand
A: While Jones has recently been in Arkansas working through a court-mandated program, he's spent much of the offseason working out at the IMG facility in Florida. Jones is said to be in terrific shape and the hope is that he will have multiple offers to choose between. Obviously, the Bears would be a team he'd probably be interested in joining when you consider the depth chart, Jay Cutler and, well, the depth chart. But the later it gets, the less chance there is the Bears get involved with Jones, who learned recently that the NFL will not be imposing any more sanctions against him. You make a good point that he might not play as fast as he timed several years ago. While he was very productive last season in Jacksonville, which has a run-oriented attack, Jones was a possession receiver. We pointed out the work done recently by our friend Eric Edholm over at Pro Football Weekly. He noted that of Jones' 166 career receptions, three have gone for more than 39 yards. However, few consider Jones to be a true No. 1 receiver. While we think Jones would provide an upgrade instantly for the Bears, the Bears believe rookie Juaquin Iglesias can be a productive possession receiver. Perhaps that is a role they have in mind for Earl Bennett as well. If they go outside for a receiver at this point, chances are greater it will be Burress. Unlike Jones, Burress has a whole tangle of issues to sort through, including court issues and then a likely suspension imposed by the league. Stay tuned.
The Bears passed up the rest of the league last Friday when they reached terms with seven of their nine draft picks. Contract negotiator Cliff Stein let it be known that his goal was to have all of the players under contract by mid-June and the Bears have about 10 days to make that happen.
Stein was the subject of a recent piece on ESPN.com by Len Pasquarelliright here. It outlined part of the philosophy in what the Bears do in keeping their rookie contracts uniform. Starting in 2003 with safety Todd Johnson, the Bears began signing all draft picks from the third round on down to four-year deals. At the time, they were permitted to sign second-round picks to five-year deals. Now, it's four-year deals for second-round picks on down. It's a good read and covers some of the ground we've hit on here.
After agent Frank Bauer's visit to Halas Hall earlier this week, defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert, the club's first third-round pick, is believed to be close to a deal. Bauer represents Gilbert as well as the power brokers on the coaching staff--Lovie Smith, Ron Turner, Bob Babich and Rod Marinelli. The Bears also have to sign wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, the second pick from the third round.
All nine draft picks will receive four-year contracts with the following base salaries:
The Bears are adamant their corps of wide receivers is going to turn out to be far more productive than anyone expects even if they don't venture out into free agency and make a move for someone with proven credentials like Plaxico Burress.
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner quickly turned the conversation to what his team does have, not what it doesn't have when asked about the prospect of pursuing Burress.
"I don't even want to get into that,'' Turner said. "I'm excited about the guys we have right now. I think our group of receivers can be a lot better than what people think. I'm excited about where we are going offensively. We just need to come out and try to get better every day."
The reservation being held for this group is that there is so little experience that it's impossible to count on anything. Just ask general manager Jerry Angelo how rookie wide receivers pan out in their first season. Four of the Bears' 10 wide receivers are rookies, and three of them are draft picks. Seven of the wideouts have never started. Here is a look at the roster, career starts and career receptions:
Rashied Davis 15 career starts, 74 receptions
Devin Hester 8 career starts, 71 receptions
Devin Aromashodu 1 career start, 7 receptions
John Broussard 0 career starts, 4 receptions
Earl Bennett 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Brandon Rideau 0 career starts, 0 receptions
Juaquin Iglesias, rookie
Johnny Knox, rookie
Derek Kinder, rookie
Eric Peterman, rookie
With just 24 career starts at the position, it looks like the Bears are in need of help, at least from the outside looking in. On the inside, Brandon Rideau is doing everything he can to prove he's a big target who can be a productive player in his third season with the organization. Rideau, who spent much of the last two seasons on the practice squad, stands out at 6-3, 198 pounds. He's the biggest target at the position.
He was upset to not make the 53-man roster at the end of the summer last season. After all, Rideau felt he had shown everything he needed to, leading the NFL in touchdowns in preseason with three. Of course, nearly all of his production came in the final minutes against third-stringers who weren't long for their teams' rosters.
"He couldn't control [when he was playing],'' Turner said. "But he's taking care of what he controls and that's his opportunities. He's getting opportunities and so far he's making the most of them."
Rideau was promoted to the active roster in the second half of the season and dressed for two games but saw little action. Quietly, he is getting time with the first team during the voluntary offseason program. The more work he gets with the starters, the better his chances are of seeing time there in training camp. The Bears will keep five wide receivers, six if someone states a strong case to make the final roster. With Devin Hester, Earl Bennett, Rashied Davis and rookie draft picks Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox, they have five likely candidates. Right now, two months from camp, Rideau figures to be the guy who will have to force Angelo to consider keeping a sixth.