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We've come down from our draft weekend buzz. Time to take a look in the mailbag and see what we have. With rookie minicamp starting Friday at Halas Hall, we will get to our next mailbag on Monday. Get your questions in between now and the end of the weekend. Here we go.

Q: Would the Bears have drafted Ohio safety Michael Mitchell at No. 49 if the Raiders hadn't nabbed him at No. 47 and taken all kinds of heat for doing so? I am perplexed by the Bears' inability to address the free safety position in the draft, despite it being their No. 2 need. I have read the quote from Mitchell on Raiders.com, that the Bears called him and told him "to stay by the phone.'' However, the Bears seem to deny this. On the Bears' Web site, Larry Mayer was asked a question about this very subject and whether or not the Bears would have selected Mitchell at No. 49:

"Ohio safety Michael Mitchell was on the Bears' "hot list" as one of nearly 125 players they were going to consider selecting in the draft. But I can tell you with 100 percent accuracy that there's no way they would have chosen him as early as the second round."
I assume that Mitchell has no reason to fabricate the story about the Bears telephone call, and I know that the Bears would never (ever) lie about a player.  Do teams advise players that they are going to draft them at a certain spot on draft day if they don't intend to do so? Who's telling the truth here?   P.S.  Since all of the Jay Cutler jerseys are now gone, where can I be the first to get a Josh Bullocks jersey?

Chuck D., Oak Brook

A: That might have to be a custom order on the Bullocks jersey. As far as the great Mitchell debate, I don't think it's a matter of one side lying and the other side telling the truth, let me tell you that to start with. The Bears liked Mitchell an awful lot. They were one of a few teams that really had him on their radar. Secondary coach Jon Hoke went to visit with him on campus and that went really well. The Bears then brought Mitchell in for a visit and physical. He met with coach Lovie Smith for about 45 minutes. It was a good visit. The phone call you're referring to was a call that Bears Midwest scout Jeff Shiver placed to Mitchell. As it was explained to me, Shiver told him to stay by the phone. He didn't say stay by the phone because we're going to draft you today. The Bears thought they were going to get Mitchell, but not on Sunday.

Need No. 2--Free safety

Players on roster

FS Josh Bullocks (signed through 2009)
S Craig Steltz (2011)
S Glenn Earl (2009)
S/CB Danieal Manning (2009)
S/CB Zack Bowman (2011)

Need

The Bears thought they were selecting an athletic safety with the skills to man the position for some time when they used their first pick in 2006 on Manning. He's started 28 games at the position and that has been enough for them to determine he's not a fit for them there. The most athletic member of the secondary gets caught out of position too often and part of the problem has its roots in the coaching staff's desire to move him all over the defensive backfield. The Bears are content now leaving him at nickel cornerback where he started last year and excelled after coach Lovie Smith took over the position. Smith is adding that position to his growing list of job titles and that is probably a good thing. It's too bad because Manning has proven to be durable and that is one trait the team has not been able to find at safety. Bullocks figures to be the man for the job right now. A former second-round pick, he had a nice rookie season in New Orleans but from there the progress stalled. The hope is that new surroundings will make a difference for him, and he looked good in minicamp, but the easiest way to judge a team's faith in a player is by his contract. Bullocks has a modest one-year deal.

Need No. 7--Strong safety

Players on roster

SS Kevin Payne (signed through 2010)
S Craig Steltz (2011)
S Glenn Earl (2009)

Need

Make no mistake about it, this is a big season for Payne. Entering the third year of his contract, he has the opportunity to play so well that the Bears will be motivated to talk extension with him at this time next year. If he doesn't play well, the Bears could be exploring new options come 2010. Payne played well at strong safety last season, which is where he started the year before a change was made to benefit departed veteran Mike Brown. Payne had double-digit tackles, including a season-high 15 on Oct. 19 vs. Minnesota--in six of the first 10 games before the move. Payne was out of position at free safety and the idea that the positions are interchangeable is a stretch. There are some durability concerns with him. He missed most of his rookie season with a broken arm that required surgery. He had shoulder surgery after this past season.

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We covered a couple options for the Bears at safety earlier in the week when we touched on Alabama's Rashad Johnson and Ohio's Mike Mitchell.

In our quest to uncover some more possibilities for the Bears, we jumped on a teleconference this afternoon with Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly. He identified Oregon's Patrick Chung as someone who will merit ``strong consideration'' if he's on the board when the team goes on the clock with the 49th pick. Chung is considered one of the top three or four safeties in the draft and while the Bears have shown no outward interest in him, that doesn't mean a whole lot. West Coast scout Marty Barrett has seen plenty of Chung's career with the Ducks over the last four seasons when he made 51 consecutive starts. The question that we raise most when it comes to Chung is whether or not he has the range to play free safety.

``One that will be interesting for the Bears is a guy like Glover Quin (pictured above) from New Mexico,'' Nawrocki said in answer to our question. ``He played cornerback there but he is a big, physical player and he could be converted to safety. I think he'll definitely get some looks.''

One of the players we first identified here as someone the Bears were interested in may have looked like an off-the-radar candidate at the time.

Ohio University safety Mike Mitchell is very much on the radar now.

He had a private workout for two teams at his high school in Fort Thomas, Ky., on Monday. He travels to Cincinnati today for a visit with the Bengals and from there he will go to Cleveland where he will meet with the Browns. Mitchell then heads to Oakland on Thursday and will wrap up the week in Green Bay on Friday. That's a busy week to add to the three official visits he's already had to this point.

``I didn't want to smell like old cologne, so I had to get two more suits to add to the rotation,'' joked Mitchell about his weekend shopping expedition.

Suddenly, Mitchell has gone from a possible late-round selection to a guy who could come off the board in the middle rounds. The Bears went in for a visit with him last month and are just one of the teams with genuine interest in him.

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We've tracked down the names of a couple players the Bears will bring to Halas Hall on official pre-draft visits so far--Eastern Michigan offensive tackle T.J. Lang and Penn State guard Rich Ohrnberger. Scout.com's Adam Caplan first reported the Ohrnberger visit. The Bears are scheduled to put Ohio University safety Michael Mitchell through a private workout later this month.

Now a bigger name.

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If general manager Jerry Angelo has done one thing well in the draft, it's find defensive backs in the later rounds.

Nathan Vasher, Chris Harris, Kevin Payne, Corey Graham and Todd Johnson were all selected in the fourth round and later.

The Bears have their eye on a safety prospect that might fit into the mid- to late-round range in Ohio University's Michael Mitchell. The team has scheduled a private workout with him, one of at least three he will have. Here is a video that has some highlights from his career.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Michael Mitchell category.

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