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Once again, our mailbox has blown up with Anquan Boldin inquiries. On the eve of the draft, we'll pick one out of the hat and cover the bases.

Q: Considering the latest update on the Cardinals trade demands and that Jerry Angelo is now a baller, do you think the Bears have the ammo or desire to land Anquan Boldin for their second-round pick plus Jamar Williams, Garrett Wolfe and/or Dez Clark?

Micah, Minnesota

A: We've thoroughly covered the Boldin situation in the last few months, and did so right here last week when we pointed out an interesting study on his effectiveness vs. that of teammate Larry Fitzgerald. Check that out if you missed it, and keep in mind the Bears don't have a Fitzgerald to run opposite Boldin. It's not a surprise to some personnel people we polled that the price has come down. That should give you an indication what kind of value people around the league place on Boldin. Keep that in mind.


Q: Wide receiver is the Bears' biggest need in the draft but count me among the crowd that is concerned they will be looking at the 8th or 9th wide receiver by the time their pick comes up. If that is the case, why draft a receiver that not only might not make much impact this season, but might not be anything down the road? Really what I want to know is what else Jerry Angelo could look at if he doesn't take a receiver?

Evan E., Chicago

A: You make a valid point and I believe it's the same thing the Bears have been mulling over for a couple weeks now. Do they pick a receiver to fill a glaring need for depth just to have one, or do they consider a player with a far better grade at a different position? It is all going to depend on how the draft board falls. I think it is safe to say that if they don't pull the trigger on a receiver that they will most assuredly being going with defense.

Maybe you wonder why Angelo would not consider an offensive lineman. Well, he laid out a pretty good reason earlier this week. The Bears already have eight veteran offensive linemen they will carry. Adding a ninth will force them to trim from elsewhere on the 53-man roster. Angelo feels better about his line than he has in some time. They believe line coach Harry Hiestand does a terrific job, particularly after last season, and they will not look at the line early in the draft. Quarterback, running back and tight end are not need areas, so we turn to the defense.

The Bears are set at linebacker for this season and the history of Angelo and coach Lovie Smith is for them to draft defensive linemen and defensive backs in quantity.

At defensive end, which is where the Bears have a need with three players heading into the final year of their contract, I don't know if there is a player who will fit their scheme that will be on the board. Northern Illinois' Larry English could slide into the second round, but won't go that far and he doesn't match what the Bears are seeking. There are a couple of nice players at the top of the list but they will be gone.

Welcome to draft week.

We have five days until one of the more exciting weekends on the NFL calendar. Check back with us often this week as we will be updating with information related to the Bears' situation as we come across it. General manager Jerry Angelo, college scouting director Greg Gabriel and coach Lovie Smith will speak Tuesday at a pre-draft session at Halas Hall. The smoke screens are already forming.

We will have a Four Down Territory each day through Friday, so get your draft-related questions in now and make sure you stay with us all week, including Saturday and Sunday from Halas Hall where we'll be filing continuous updates. Let's get to it:

Q: I've seen plenty of stories from all over that seem to indicate some of the top wide receivers could be falling into the second round. If so, why wouldn't the Bears trade up to give themselves a better chance to grab a player who could make a difference for Jay Cutler this season? I know rookie wide receivers are not always the most productive, and they are not the safest picks, but I'm with you. Are the Bears that sure Earl Bennett is a future star?

Sean B., Chicago

A: That is a good question and one we've covered a little bit before. The first point that needs to be made is that Angelo's history is to trade down in the draft. In seven years, he's traded up just once and that was to acquire wide receiver Justin Gage in the fifth round in 2003. Angelo has traded down a number of times, most notably in 2003 when he dealt out of the No. 4 overall pick and in 2006 when he traded the No. 26 overall selection to move out of the first round all together. History would say the chances are not good, but then again history would have told us the chances for Angelo getting in the running for Jay Cutler were not good either. That's changed and now the Bears need to do something to get some wide receivers to go with Cutler.

Now, draft analyst Mike Mayock said last week that you can throw the traditional draft value chart away. He calls is obsolete.

``Every team in the top 10 is looking to trade out,'' Mayock said. ``Never seen it, never seen the situation quite this heavy. And the theory is, everybody knows we're upside-down right now with this draft. The rookies are getting paid way too much money proportionate to their value. So, teams are scared to death of missing (in) the top-10.

``Here's what happening, though, that I think is really interesting, and I'm anxious to see if this trend plays out. That whole trade chart that all the teams used to use, it began to go out the window last year, and I think, like the economy, it's completely out the window now. So, I think any team in the top 10 that is looking to get out will listen to any reasonable offer, and more than ever, teams are looking to get down (to picks) 15 to 25, because you can get the same kind of player at (No.) 20 as you can at (No.) 7, and you pay one-third the money.''


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.''


If you're having second thoughts about Rashad Johnson, throw in some film.

The Alabama safety believes his performance the last two seasons for the Crimson Tide in the rugged SEC speaks loudest when it comes to his game.

Johnson is one of just a handful of free safeties that figure to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft, and he's one the Bears have been keeping close contact with as area scout Ted Monago remains in communication with him. The Bears have a need at the position. They signed Josh Bullocks to a one-year contract and he figures to compete with Craig Steltz with Glenn Earl perhaps having an outside shot. If general manager Jerry Angelo, who is known to like Johnson, goes with a safety in the second or third round of the draft, the position could come down to a training camp competition between Bullocks and the newcomer.

"I definitely believe I have the ability to come in and be a starter as a rookie,'' Johnson said Wednesday afternoon. ``My knowledge of the game is one of my strong points. That will help me learn the system and I believe that will be an edge for me. I think I could do that fairly quickly and I have the athletic ability to step right in.''

The Bears did just that with a rookie safety in 2005 when Chris Harris was quickly installed as a starter. Danieal Manning started at safety for the majority of his rookie season in 2006. Lovie Smith isn't afraid to go with young players, especially in the secondary.

Judging purely on production, Johnson is the best safety in the draft. He made 11 interceptions the last two seasons and also had 19 passes broken up. That means he got his hands on the ball 30 times, far more than any other draft-eligible safety. He's not the fastest safety but his instincts seem to put him in the right place the majority of the time and that's more critical than any stop watch reading. The issue is his size. He measured 5-11, 203 pounds at the combine, but one scout said he played closer to 185 as a senior. Johnson said he was in the 190 range. While injuries were not a factor at Alabama--he played in 50 games--durability will be a question in the NFL.

As we wait for word to come on the 2009 schedule let's get into another round of Four Down Territory. Here we go.

Q: I do have a question about the job security of Jerry Angelo, Lovie Smith and the coaching staff. Before the Jay Cutler trade, I could sense the leash on Angelo and company was tightening. Certainly the team, especially Lovie's defense, has been in steady decline since the loss in the Super Bowl, including several dubious coaching decisions (Danieal Manning, the end of the Atlanta game, etc.). I would think another year missing the playoffs this year would have put Jerry and Lovie squarely on the hot seat. Does the Cutler trade as the center of the most aggressive offseason in memory buy Angelo more time? Angelo's boldness in actually bringing in talented players seemingly has given him the leeway for another few years at the helm, but with talent finally in place on offense and Lovie taking the reigns on defense, is it time for these coaches to produce another playoff appearance? Hopefully the team will succeed with a truly talented quarterback, but these are the Bears after all. Will there be more pressure on the coaching staff this year, specifically offensive coordinator Ron Turner? Will another mediocre season mean ousting Turner and/or Bob Babich as scapegoats?

Ryan Y., Columbus, Ohio

A: Did the acquisition of Cutler buy Angelo more time? Angelo agreed to an extension following the team's appearance in Super Bowl XLI through 2013. I don't think he is going to be buying himself more time. Let's keep in mind the franchise we're talking about here--the Bears. The bold move to deal for Cutler was not the kind of move you are accustomed to in these parts. You're also not accustomed to the organization eating the contracts of high-powered employees and paying them to go away. It doesn't happen. Prior to the Cutler deal, I could not envision a scenario in which the Bears would have lost in 2009 and then Angelo would have been on the hot seat. I just didn't see any way the McCaskeys would have paid Angelo to not work for them in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Nolan Nawrocki over at Pro Football Weekly, the guy who puts together one of the finest draft guides there is, has a terrific draft value chart that is worth looking at.

It provides a good glimpse at where some of the players the Bears have been scouting the last few weeks are forecasted to go, as well as some other information. Nawrocki updated it today and it reflects some of the sentiment around the league that North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks could be falling. One source we spoke to Monday said he didn't expect Nicks to be on the board when the Bears select at No. 49 in the second round, but he wouldn't rule it out after concerns about Nicks multiplied when he showed up out of shape on his pro day.

Nawrocki's chart has three levels for each round--A, B and C. A is for players in the top-third of the round, B is for players in the middle of the round and C is for players in the bottom third of the round. He has Nicks at 2B with the arrow pointing down. The Bears' pick is the 17th of the round, so that indicates Nawrocki believes he will be coming off the board right around where the Bears are at.

Here is our final edition of Four Down Territory for the week. We'll get back to the mailbag on Monday, so make sure you get your questions in over the weekend with two weeks until the draft. Here we go.

Q: What do you think the chances are that the Bears will select Rashad Johnson of Alabama in the second round to play strong safety and wait until later in the draft to get a receiver like Ramses Barden and let him learn under a veteran like Torry Holt? I think Johnson has the ability to be an Ed Reed type of safety who can play center field. I also see Barden having the ability to possibly develop into a Marcus Robinson type receiver. What are your thoughts?

Nick D., Orlando, Fla.

A: Johnson is an interesting guy who had a very successful college career, particularly after Nick Saban arrived at Alabama in 2007. A former walk-on, Johnson turned into one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. No one is going to be drafting him to play strong safety though. He's strictly a free safety and there are some questions as to whether or not he will be able to hold up at that spot as well, but more on that in a little bit. Johnson thrived under Saban and made 11 interceptions over the last two seasons to go with 19 passes broken up.

We stirred some considerable debate Saturday when we suggested the Bears were locked into a wide receiver in the second round with the 49th overall pick.

Now that they have quarterback Jay Cutler, it's time to outfit him with the appropriate weapons.

Not everyone saw it that way. Some feel the addition of three starters on offense--Cutler, left tackle Orlando Pace and projected to left guard Frank Omiyale--signal a move to defense in the draft. At least in the early rounds. Certainly there are those out there who feel the Bears need some real work on the defensive side of the ball. Clark Judge of writes that Cutler is not necessarily a cure-all for all things wrong with the Bears.

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This page is an archive of recent entries in the Rashad Johnson category.

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