Ex-Bears tight end Michael Gaines, who was let go on Saturday to make room for defensive end Gaines Adams following the trade, has found new work. Gaines signed with the Cleveland Browns this morning.
Gaines takes the roster spot that was created when linebacker D'Qwell Jackson was moved to injured reserve.
Gaines can file for termination pay from the Bears in February. As a vested veteran who was on the roster for Week 1, his pay for the season is guaranteed. Gaines had a base salary of $650,000, and was paid for six weeks. That means the Bears could owe him $420,580 after the season if he files for the termination pay. Players can file for termination pay only once in their career. Because the Bears are on the hook for well more than half a season, it's expected Gaines will probably make that move.
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.
Tight end Desmond Clark will have to heal from a cracked rib before he can get back on the field for the Bears.
Clark was injured at the end of a 23-yard catch in the third quarter Sunday night at Lambeau Field when he was hit from behind by reserve safety Aaron Rouse. Clark was taken to a hospital in Green Bay before returning to the stadium. He said on Monday that he was fine, but this is the kind of injury that could keep him on the sideline for a while. The Bears are fortunate because they were one of six teams to open the season with four tight ends, and Michael Gaines, who was inactive at Green Bay, will be able to fill in. Kellen Davis, the second-year player from Michigan State, will have to step up also.
"I'm sore right now,'' Clark said on his radio show on Voice America Sports. "It hurts. I'm grimacing when I move.''
There is throwing darts against the wall, taking a stab at something, giving it the ol' college try and taking a shot in the dark.
Somewhere amongst those exercises falls my effort to select the Bears' 53-man roster before it is selected by the men who make the decisions--Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and their staffs. The best guess after evaluating training camp, preseason, past history and everything else that goes into trying to enter another man's mind will appear in Thursday's edition of the Sun-Times. We'll lay it out here on Thursday for continued discussion, a much worthier topic than what you're actually looking forward to seeing in the preseason finale vs. the Cleveland Browns. Final cuts, by the way, are due to the league office by 5 p.m. Saturday.
But I'll list some bubble players here, some that made my 53 and others who didn't:
Adrian Peterson: A coach once called the veteran running back a security blanket for his ability to stick around. He doesn't do anything particularly well where he jumps out at you, but he does everything the right way and is about as reliable a player as you will find on the roster. In my estimation, a roster spot comes down to him and tight end Michael Gaines (more on that in a little bit). Peterson ran hard and ran well last Sunday in Denver, prompting one scout from another organization to inquire about what kind of guy he is. If the Bears let Peterson go, he's likely to find work elsewhere. The obvious plus to keeping a player like Peterson is his ability on special teams, but he wasn't quite as strong in that phase last season as he was in previous years.
Devin Aromashodu: From the looks of things there are three wide receiver battling for two roster spots. Yes, it strikes me as odd that the team that gets off the bus running is going to keep six wide receivers, but that's what happens when they draft three and plan to keep two--Juaquin Iglesias and Johnny Knox. Aromashodu has the least special teams value of the wide receivers on the bubble, at least based on his use in preseason. But he's a big target who Jay Cutler started referencing early in training camp before anyone knew who he was. When Aromashodu is on the field, Cutler looks his way. if the quarterbacks gets a vote, and boy we know he'd like one, he sticks.
Rashied Davis: Of the wideouts who circulate through with the first team, none got less action than Davis. He's trying to regain some momentum after a 2008 season in which he was used completely out of position by the coaching staff. Davis simply hasn't done much on offense and Cutler has not thrown a pass to him in preseason. But if you were starting to cross him off your list, he made tackles on the first two special teams plays of the game at Denver. Davis also has experience in the slot, even if Earl Bennett is getting most of the work there right now, especially in some of the packages where tight end Greg Olsen is flexed out wide.
Brandon Rideau: He opened the preseason as the No. 3 wide receiver on the depth chart and he's remained in that spot as he was the first one off the sideline when the Bears went to three at Denver. But Cutler has not looked his way like he has Aromashodu. Rideau, however, scores points because he's been more active on special teams than Aromashodu. They are both about the same size and offer something different for the quarterback in the system.
Michael Gaines: Signed to be a blocking tight end and an H-back who could also line up in the backfield, Gaines just hasn't gotten a lot of action in preseason. It's hard to justify keeping four tight ends on the roster unless there is going to be a specific duty for each one on Sundays. Typically, the Bears keep a fourth tight end for practice purposes on the practice squad, and the expectation is they will do that again this year. Gaines could help, though, because Jason McKie is the only fullback expected to make the roster. Having Gaines would give the team some flexibility if they needed help at the position during a game.
BOURBONNAIS, Ill.--Before you know it, the Bears' quarterbacks might start staying away from Zack Bowman.
The cornerback made another big interception in Saturday's night practice, picking off Jay Cutler on a deep route for Devin Hester. Coach Lovie Smith has wound up talking about Bowman after two practices now, and that's always a good sign.
"My big thing is just going out there and being more consistent,'' Bowman said. ``I was backpedaling [on the interception] and I opened up, I saw Devin take off and I saw the ball in the air. I just tried to make the play.''
Bowman was asked about marking Hester that closely that far downfield.
"I'm fast, too, you know,'' Bowman said. ``He's just a little bit faster. I'm always going to be on the top of my game. He said I was lucky. I wasn't lucky. I was on top and I was ready to go.''
*** New tight end Michael Gaines lined up in the backfield some during inside rushing drills. That is something the Bears are considering doing with him and it would provide the team with roster flexibility in the event they only keep one fullback.
We're going to reach into the mailbag for some Four Down Territory before camp gets going. There aren't any major issues hanging in the balance. A year ago, you had Brian Urlacher's contract getting done just before camp and Devin Hester seeking a new contract. In the past, there was a Thomas Jones stakeout to see if he was going to show up. First-round picks have been far from signed at this point in previous years. All is quiet now. The Bears are just getting ready for football. Here we go.
Q: I read your preview for the wide receivers and you don't seem to be giving them much of a chance. Why? I see a talented group of young wide receivers and there's no reason to believe they can't flourish. Eddie Royal was a second-round pick. Brandon Marshall was a fourth-round pick. Shouldn't these guys get a chance with Jay Cutler?
Michael, Parts Unknown
A: The Bears found a talented and productive wide receiver in the third round of the 2004 draft when they selected Bernard Berrian out of Fresno State. Otherwise, the club's track record at the position under general manager Jerry Angelo is a series of misses, some bigger than others. It happens to be one of the more difficult positions to evaluate for the draft, and as Angelo has pointed out previously, the majority of the true No. 1 wideouts in the league are, guess what, first-round picks. The Bears haven't tried a wide receiver in the first round since David Terrell in 2001, and that was two months before Angelo came aboard. We're not suggesting the Bears will be unable to find help from their rookies and unproven players at the position, we're simply pointing out that after Devin Hester and Rashied Davis, that is the only thing the Bears have to lean on. If they try enough players, one of them might work. Bringing in a veteran with marginal and eroding talent would prevent a possible talent from blossoming. All of these players have a different tool box and it will be interesting to see which one(s) step forward in the three weeks of camp.
Q: Is there a veteran on the roster that will be in jeopardy of being cut? Maybe a surprise cut that could be coming?
A: I don't know if there are any major surprises coming. Sure, there will be some healthy competition for spots at the back end of the roster, but this team is pretty well set. There is not going to be a lot of turnover in the starting lineups and that's usually where you get your surprise cuts. There aren't any players carrying bad contracts that the team will want to unload. Linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer will be in a tough spot, particularly if he's still hampered in his recovery from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia. If healthy, he deserves an opportunity to be on the roster. Running back Adrian Peterson could be pushed for a spot as it's expected the Bears will at least consider going with three running backs. Even though Rashied Davis is the only wide receiver other than Devin Hester with real NFL experience, he'll probably need to perform well. Defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek has become Mike Brown without the long history of production the former safety had. He'll be pushed and he has to stay healthy. No one is guaranteeing jobs for tight end Michael Gaines or safety Josh Bullocks. None of these strike as potential surprise cuts. All could have a role on the 2009 team.
Continuing with our position-by-position breakdowns as we close in on being a week away from the first practice of the summer at Olivet Nazarene University, we focus on the tight ends.
Projected starter: Desmond Clark, 6-3, 249, 11th season, Wake Forest OR Greg Olsen, 6-5, 255, 3rd season, Miami
Kellen Davis 6-7, 262, 2nd season, Michigan State
Michael Gaines 6-2, 267, 6th season, Central Florida
Fontel Mines 6-4, 244, 1st season, Virginia
Projected depth chart
Clark or Olsen, Gaines, Davis
2009 salary cap numbers
Desmond Clark $2,173,946
Kellen Davis $432,188
Michael Gaines $1,162,600
Fontel Mines $315,200
Greg Olsen $1,501,450
Number of tight ends on the roster at the start of the 2008 season: 3
Projected number of tight ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3 or 4
The skinny: Olsen has been Jay Cutler's unofficial sightseeing partner in his introduction to Chicago and he might just become his best friend on the field. The former first-round draft pick was second behind only running back Matt Forte on the team in receptions and led the club with five touchdown catches, scoring three of them in the final four weeks of the year when he had 20 of his 54 catches. That kind of production down the stretch--five grabs a game--is closer to what the Bears have in mind for this season. His 54 catches in 2008 ranked 10th among tight ends in the league and to join the elite at the position he'll need to add 20. He's also going to have to improve on his yards per catch. Of the 10 tight ends with more grabs than Olsen, eight had a greater YPC than his of 10.6. The only players below Olsen were Washington's Chris Cooley (83 catches, 10.2 YPC) and Tennessee's Bo Scaife (58 catches, 9.7 YPC). If you recall, Scaife caught 10 passes vs. the Bears on Nov. 9.
But Olsen is hardly the only part of the show. Clark made 16 starts last season while Olsen had seven, all coming when the offense opened in a double tight end formation. Clark is a superior run blocker and that fact alone may keep him in the starting lineup. He remains a productive outlet receiver but isn't going to stretch the defense and create the kind of matchup problems that Olsen presents vs. linebackers and defensive backs. That is what becomes interesting, how do teams choose to cover Olsen? We broke down playing time at the position earlier in the offseason and even though Clark was the full-time starter it didn't make anything more than a marginal difference. He was on the field 78.16 percent of the time compared to 76.68 for Olsen.
It's been a while since we went through the mailbag so we'll knock out more than four questions this morning in Four Down Territory as we take a little break from the position-by-position previews that have been running in our 30-day countdown to Bourbonnais. Here we go.
Q: What about a contract extension for Danieal Manning? He's slated to have an uncanny season at kick returner which means, of course, that the Bears will need the extra money to give him an extension and convert him to wide receiver.
Mike, Parts Unknown
A: Looks like we have a jokester here. Is that Manning switch right after Brian Urlacher is moved to free safety and Chris Zorich is re-signed to play middle linebacker? It's a good question when it comes to Manning. Not sure what he is going to have to do to have an "uncanny" season. Manning would have made the Pro Bowl last season if he had replaced Devin Hester as the kickoff returner about a month prior to the move that was made in Week 11. He averaged 29.7 yards per return, the club's highest total in nearly 35 years, and became only the fifth player in franchise history to top 1,000 yards for a season. Now, consider first that Manning didn't see all of the gimmicks (bloops, squibs, sky kicks, you name it) that Hester did when he was the primary kickoff returner. Opponents will likely pay more attention to Manning this coming season but special teams coordinator Dave Toub is quick to adjust and his schemes have proven the test of time. Defensively, Manning was on the field one-third of the time in 2008, getting 370 snaps out of the 1,111 total. He seemed to make progress as a nickel back, particularly in the second half of the season. Manning was in that role during the spring until a hamstring injury, one of many suffered on the roster, sidelined him and Corey Graham took his place for the last two weeks of OTA's. It looks like Manning will remain in that role entering training camp but if Nathan Vasher nails down the right cornerback job and Craig Steltz winds up being the free safety, the coaching staff might give Graham more of a look at nickel, where he played one game last season. Is there a possibility the club re-signs Manning, who is entering the final year of his contract? Sure. He probably should have been on the list of players we made. But a kickoff returner who does or does not double as a nickel corner isn't going to get a huge contract.
Q: You didn't mention Lance Louis in your preview of the fullbacks. Is there a reason why? Didn't the Bears say he could play tight end as well as fullback when they selected him?
Oscar T., Chicago
A: There is a somewhat popular notion that Lance Louis will reprise the role of William Perry and do some heavy duty work in the backfield. We don't see it happening. We don't see Louis playing any tight end, either. The Bears don't have a spot at tight end for him with Desmond Clark, Greg Olsen, Kellen Davis and Michael Gaines. They don't need a project at the position because they already have one in Davis. Louis, who was issued No. 60, which is an ineligible number, is going to have a hard time making the roster as a seventh-round pick. He'd have an even more difficult time making the 45-man gameday roster, and it's unlikely he'd be active for a possible gimmick play involving him lining up at an eligible position.
We'll get in one more positional breakdown before we switch gears from this analysis for a few days and get into some other material we hope you find interesting, including Four Down Territory on Friday. Up this morning are the fullbacks.
Projected starter: Jason McKie, 5-11, 247, 8th year, Temple
Jason Davis, 5-10, 242, 2nd year, Illinois
Will Ta'ufo'ou, 5-11, 247, Rookie, Cal
Projected depth chart
2009 salary cap numbers
Jason Davis $390,200
Jason McKie $995,000
Will Ta'ufo'ou $311,666
Number of fullbacks on 2008 roster at start of the season: 1
Projected number of fullbacks on 2009 roster at start of the season: 1
The skinny: The Bears got a pretty good look at another player in Davis when a quad muscle injury knocked McKie out after 11 games. McKie has been a pretty durable performer appearing in 15 or more games in three of the last five seasons. A torn pectoral muscle kept him out for half of the year in 2005. He's a dependable player who has become a bit of a threat in the red zone, rushing for two touchdowns last season and catching another pass for a score to give him seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. Davis proved to be a nice find when he joined the practice squad at the start of the season and the Bears were lucky to get him back after the brief mid-season stint he had in Oakland. He's got the talent to play in the league but is in a numbers crunch after tight end Michael Gaines was signed. The Bears talked with Gaines about using him as an H-back on occasion and lining him up in the backfield and that kind of versatility could put the squeeze on Davis and lead the Bears to keep just one fullback on the 53-man roster as they did at the start of last season. Gaines could get them through a game in an emergency if something happened to McKie. Of course, second year tight end Kellen Davis also figures into the equation. If the Bears only keep three tight ends, it increases the chance that an extra running back or fullback make the roster. Kellen Davis has draft status, though, and Jason Davis does not. Given the addition of Jay Cutler at quarterback and the trend last season with offensive coordinator Ron Turner and the fullback position, we're also inclined to believe that only one fullback will make the roster. The Bears relied less on the fullback in 2008, with playing time dropping to 34.88 percent of the plays down from 41.15 percent in 2007. The drop was due in large part to the expansion of double tight end formations. Ta'ufo'ou was an interesting guy going into the draft but his stock dipped and he would up being signed as an undrafted free agent. He might not be the listed height of 5-11 and faces a real uphill battle to crack the roster.
Back to offense as we make our way through the positions on our way to training camp. Let's look at what the Bears have at running back. Fullback will follow later in the week.
Projected starter: Matt Forte, 6-2, 218 pounds, 2nd year, Tulane
Kevin Jones, 6-0, 225, 6th year, Virginia Tech
Adrian Peterson, 5-10, 212, 7th year, Georgia Southern
Garrett Wolfe, 5-7, 185, 3rd year, Northern Illinois
Projected depth chart
Forte, Jones, Wolfe, Peterson
2009 salary cap numbers
Matt Forte $773,533
Kevin Jones $1,750,000
Adrian Peterson $770,000
Garrett Wolfe $620,825
Number of running backs on 2008 roster at start of the season: 4
Projected number of defensive ends on 2009 roster at start of the season: 3 or 4
The skinny: The Bears return the same bunch from 2008 with the hope that it will be even more productive. Forte had the most impressive rookie season in franchise history and now that Jones is 1 1/2 years removed from his ACL reconstruction, the belief is he will become a substantial contributor on offense. Jones also knows the offense now and the Bears outbid Buffalo for his services, the first of two players the Bears beat the Bills to this offseason. They later plucked linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa off the street despite overtures from Buffalo. Forte led all NFL running backs in receptions last season and while that's impressive, it's not exactly the sign of a healthy offense. Our bet is the Bears hope Forte doesn't lead the team in receptions again this season. He needs to improve his yards per carry of 3.9, and with a re-tooled offensive line and a new quarterback in Jay Cutler, there's ample reason to believe that can and will happen. He was fourth in the league with 316 carries last season and he simply dominated the playing time at the position. Forte was on the field for nearly 84 percent of the offensive snaps last season, a remarkable figure. The Bears have said they want to spread the action out more this season, and there's no doubt Jones is hoping they do just that. Forte needs to improve in short-yardage situations. He's an upright runner and that makes him an easier target. That takes care of the top two. There will be an interesting competition for the No. 3 job and it will not be settled by their play in the backfield alone. Wolfe and Peterson are both mainstays on special teams and Wolfe led the team with 21 tackles last season despite playing in only 13 games. Durability is going to be a concern with him at his size and Peterson wasn't as good as he has been in the past. Making this a numbers crunch is the presence of tight end Michael Gaines. If Gaines and second-year tight end Kellen Davis both make the roster, the squeeze figures to happen right here. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner has yet to find a role for Wolfe on offense even though the team has stated it would like to do just that. Peterson is what he is, a guy who can come off the bench and pick up what is blocked for him. Keep an eye on how they're being used in training camp and preseason. Four tight ends would likely spell only three running backs and then the Bears would likely find a back for the practice squad.
The upside: The upside would be Forte repeats with another 1,200-yard season and Jones tops 500 yards as a guy who gets close to one-third of the playing time.
Kevin Payne and Craig Steltz spent Wednesday running with the first team at safety. That could be one of the more compelling positions to watch come training camp, but coach Lovie Smith said the voluntary offseason program has helped answer some questions. Steltz, no question, has been one of the bigger climbers this offseason. The belief is his instincts and smarts will help make up for a lack of range at free safety.
"It's clearer,'' Smith said, of the position. "There are lot of positions that will go down to training camp. We're excited about where we right now, but we have to get there and then we'll really know. The next part of the evaluation process is to see the guys in pads, then in the preseason games.
"I like our preseason schedule, the teams that we have to play to get ready. A team like Buffalo that can run and pass, a similar offense. The next week a physical team like the Giants coming in. The third game of course is normally the game that everyone looks at, and to go on the road playing of course in a prime-time game, all of that is getting us ready for of course the Packers.''
*** Corey Graham was not in the mix at safety. He's been playing nickel cornerback since Danieal Manning was "nicked'' last week. Graham has gotten work at nickel, safety and cornerback this offseason. Graham played nickel for two games last season.
"You're just trying to find a way to play no matter where it is--safety, corner or nickel,'' Graham said. "It doesn't really matter to me. I just want to get out on the field and try to help out.''
*** Staying in the secondary, Charles Tillman was out as he continues to work his way back from shoulder surgery. Zack Bowman got work at left corner with the starters, and Smith singled him out for his work the past few months. Proving he can stay healthy moving forward will be the key.
The player who stood out Wednesday was Trumaine McBride, who was with the second team at right corner. McBride picked off a pass that went off the hands of Devin Hester and then broke up passes to Michael Gaines and Adrian Peterson on the next two snaps. Three snaps and three plays on the ball.
*** Caleb Hanie has clearly taken control of whatever competition there is to be the backup quarterback. He's edged ahead of Brett Basanez. Hanie throws a good deep ball and that was evident on his pass to Juaquin Iglesias on the final play of the workout.