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We were flipping through a few baseball games earlier this evening when the United Football League sent out a press release, oh, about the time Jayson Werth was circling the bases in Philadelphia following his three-run home run. The upstart league announced that quarterback JP Losman has been signed to play for the Las Vegas franchise.

"The United Football League is providing me with the opportunity to play the sport I love at a high level and for that, I am extremely grateful," Losman said. "There are many players just like me who possess the skills to compete at the highest levels and just need the playing time to showcase their talents. The United Football League is filling that void and giving more players the opportunity to play. I am excited to get back out onto the field and represent Las Vegas during the league's first season."

That removes one experienced quarterback from the list of players the Bears could consider if they go shopping. That probably will not happen unless Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez bomb out in training camp and preseason. Hanie is in position to become the No. 2 behind Jay Cutler and the Bears--coach Lovie Smith included--really haven't wavered off that. Smith said back at the scouting combine that he was comfortable with the players the Bears had at the time. We've written it before here, Hanie's physical tools probably make him a better athletic match to a guy like Cutler than Kyle Orton. We're not saying Hanie is going to become Cutler, but like Cutler he has some ability to scramble and keep plays alive in the pocket. Hanie also throws a pretty good deep ball.

Brian Griese, the ex-Bear, remains the most attractive option on the open market. His agent Ralph Cindrich told us last week that Griese hopes to remain in the game but he wants to play. Presumably, that means he wants to be in position to play and being behind Cutler might be like being behind John Elway. Griese did that for a year in Denver. It got him a Super Bowl ring.


The not so encouraging list of available quarterbacks grew by one on Monday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did the inevitable and cut ties with ex-Bear Brian Griese, reducing to four the number of signal callers they have on their roster.

Griese instantly becomes the best option for the Bears should they choose to bring in a veteran quarterback. At this point, less than three weeks from training camp, it appears they are confident casting their lot with Caleb Hanie as the backup to Jay Cutler. Brett Basanez is also in the mix but from the looks of things during the offseason program, Hanie will be in position to be the No. 2. The Bears are carrying just three quarterbacks to camp and that's not a problem because when they've had a fourth QB in the past he's done a lot of standing around.

"He wants to play,'' Griese's agent Ralph Cindrich said by text message.

KC Joyner received such a spirited response from Bears and Jay Cutler followers last week in his online chat at that he's back with more analysis, this time on the New York Times' blog The FIfth Down.

Joyner's comment that Cutler "will make Bears fans remember Rex Grossman'' has sparked controversy here and in plenty of other places, including Joyner says that Cutler is a risk taker who will win some games for the Bears with his aggressive approach and lose some for them as well. Cue the fireworks.

"I understand that fan scrutiny comes with the territory, so I don't mind that, but what I don't understand is why those fans are treating Cutler differently than they did either Grossman or Kyle Orton. Grossman was on fire during the first part of Chicago's Super Bowl season, and yet as soon as he had the bad game against Miami, it seemed the entire city turned on him. It didn't go that much differently for Orton. He had a tremendous start to the 2008 season, but when he struggled down the stretch, the populace seemed to say goodbye and good riddance without much of a second thought."

Joyner points out that while Cutler passed for more than 4,500 yards in Denver last season, he was second in the league with 616 attempts and his yards per attempt on vertical throws was 9.8 yards, 20th in the league. The stat that has readers here most agitated is the bad decision rate of 4.6 percent with Joyner defining a bad decision as one that leads to a turnover or a near turnover. Presumably (we're interested in learning more about this), it doesn't include a ball that goes off a wide receiver's shoulder pads and bounces 10 feet to the nearest defender before being intercepted. The bottom line is we don't have those numbers in front of us other than the 4.6 percent rate for Cutler was worst in the league.

One of the common replies, at least here, to all of this has been that Cutler played with one of the worst defenses imaginable on an 8-8 Broncos team and had to keep chucking the ball to try to keep his team in games. (Every quarterback is going to make more mistakes when they are playing from behind). Denver's defense was 29th in yards allowed and 30th in points allowed. The good folks at Football Outsiders ranked the defense 31st in the league, so we can agree it was sufficiently lousy.

Round and round.

The Bears quarterback carousel started spinning before Jerry Angelo came on the scene prior to the 2001 season.

But until Thursday's blockbuster trade for Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler, Angelo was destined to have the following words written on hios tombstone one day: Could never find a quarterback. Now, that space has been cleared. Perhaps one day it will read: Finally found Bears a QB.

When Cutler starts the season opener Sept. 13 at Lambeau Field, it will mark the 36th change in starting quarterbacks for the Bears over a span of 156 regular-season games. If you don't have your calculator handy, that's one change every 4.3 games.

Full day of football with the trip up to Evanston this morning for the Northwestern pro day. There were 32 players from other state schools at the workout too. More on the pro day action later. Right now, let's get into the mailbag. We'll have one more Four Down Territory on Friday--get your questions in now--and then we're going to move to an abbreviated schedule next week with minicamp. Here we go.

Q: I was just listening to the Score and they were saying Tampa was in trade talks for Jay Cutler. If Tampa can be in trade talks for Cutler, why can't the Bears be? Tampa doesn't have a quarterback and the Bears have a higher first-round pick than them. Shouldn't Jerry Angelo at least try to get in there for a quarterback of his caliber? Did he not say fixing the quarterback position was a priority? With all of Angelo's first-round busts would this not be a safe move? Cutler is not Matt Cassel, he has all the good and has shown it, he is a fan of the Bears and has the type of arm and feet you need in Chicago.

Creighton, Parts Unknown

A: I haven't found one report that the Broncos and Bucs have engaged in any recent contract talks involving Cutler. Tampa Bay, of course, was in the three-way deal that was proposed prior to free agency and included the New England Patriots. But nothing indicates Cutler trade talks have happened again. The Broncos finally got Cutler on the horn earlier this week and that didn't go over so well. It will be interesting to see if he shows up next week for the beginning of the voluntary offseason program, a pretty big step under new coach Josh McDaniels.

INDIANAPOLIS--While Bears coach Lovie Smith repeatedly refused to rule anything out at the quarterback position, he also made it quite clear the Bears envision Caleb Hanie in a position to be the backup quarterback this season.

You don't have to extrapolate anything Smith said Saturday afternoon at the combine to realize the Bears are not expected to make a play for a free agent. No, they won't be in a Kurt Warner derby if the two-time MVP does not re-sign with the Arizona Cardinals before Friday. They're also not expected to court Byron Leftwich or Chris Simms. Leftwich wouldn't want to join the Bears any way, he's seeking a starting job. Simms has stated his preference to return to Tennessee, where the Titans want him back. After those two, the discard pile is a short list of has been and never were type passers.

"I think sometimes you have to go with young talent,'' Smith said.


Delayed by some of the first news the Bears have made in a while, here is our final Four Down Territory for the week.

Q: Perhaps the most controversial argument amongst Bears fans seems to have been Rex Grossman vs. Kyle Orton heading into 2008. There are plenty of Orton haters as well as those who seem to be glad to give Rex the boot. Many fans still clamor for Grossman, making claims that the Bears will live to regret letting him go. What's your position on this issue? Are there teams indicating an interest in Rex? Do you think releasing Rex will become another poor personnel decision by the Bears current regime?

Dave, Parts Unknown

A: First, we pledge this will be the final Grossman vs. Orton question we take, for a long while any way.

Go ahead and take one veteran quarterback off the list of players Jerry Angelo can pick through.

David Carr, the No. 1 pick of the 2002 draft, has re-signed with the New York Giants, according to the New York Daily News. This reduces the short list of experienced veterans as free agency quickly approaches on Feb. 27. Another possibility also disappeared as Luke McCown re-upped with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for two seasons.

Kurt Warner has come and said if he plays next season it will be for the Arizona Cardinals. The Tennessee Titans are working to bring back Kerry Collins. Matt Cassel was already tagged by the New England Patriots.

All you quarterback dreamers out there can stop.

The third time won't be the charm for the Bears when it comes to Kurt Warner. You know, the two-time league MVP and former Super Bowl MVP and nearly Super Bowl XLIII MVP.

Yeah, that Warner. The one the Bears told "no thanks" to after he left the St. Louis Rams in 2003. Yes, this is the same Warner the Bears said "no thanks" to after he left the New York Giants in 2004. Warner stopped by Halas Hall in 2005 after getting out of Gotham. It was a fit that wasn't meant to be with the organization's undying devotion to Rex Grossman at the time.

Bears add QB Basanez to mix

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The Bears have a replacement for Rex Grossman.

The club has a third quarterback now after signing Arlington Heights native Brett Basanez to a two-year contract. For now, he figures to vie with Caleb Hanie for a spot as the No. 2 quarterback heading into the offseason. Grossman will be an unrestricted free agent beginning Feb. 27 and will not return.

TAMPA--The Bachelor has a choice and he's picking Rex Grossman to be a winning quarterback in the NFL.

Somewhere else other than with the Bears.

Grossman's college teammate at Florida, Jesse Palmer, said he was a little surprised Grossman's career didn't continue on an upward path with the Bears, who drafted him in the first round in 2003.

The mailman was a little delayed today but here we go:

Q: You seem to be locked into the idea that the Bears will sign a veteran quarterback of marginal talent to come in and wear a visor behind Kyle Orton after what may or may not be a half-hearted competition during training camp. The names Chris Simms, Byron Leftwich, J.P. Losman, J.T. O'Sullivan, Jeff Garcia and on and on and on do nothing for me. I'm accepting of the fact that Kurt Warner will probably re-up with Arizona. What about Matt Cassel? Why no Cassel discussion? Didn't Jerry Angelo say he wouldn't rule out anything?

Ivan M., Wicker Park

A: Fair questions, Ivan. Certainly Cassel has to be on the radar of every team out there seeking a quarterback solution. That rules out one team in the NFC North, Green Bay. All indications at this point are that New England will slap the franchise tag on Cassel, a $14 million proposition which means the Patriots will have $27 million tied up in him and Tom Brady alone under the 2009 cap. There's considerable speculation that New England will tag Cassel with the intent of trading him, likely for draft picks as the Patriots look to infuse their roster with some youth. There are a couple of things at play here, the most significant being Brady's health. He tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee and has battled an infection as well. If Brady isn't going to be available in 2009, and we're not suggesting that is the case, then it would be difficult to see New England shipping off Cassel. Brady's status is a source of great debate these days.

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