Bear Essentials: Smith Talks Free Agency

Bear Report discusses coach Smith's recent comments on free agency, whether Chicago should trade for Carolina's Steve Smith, the toughest NFL venues in which to play, Gale Sayers and more.

If the Chicago Bears' roster needs were each a piece of clothing hung on a drying line, that line would encompass the length of most back yards. Some would even have to zig-zag that line above the sun-drenched blades of grass confined within their picket fences.

Not only does the team need to re-sign players like Anthony Adams, Olin Kreutz and Danieal Manning, but they are also without a host of core special teams players. Additionally, only two linebackers are currently signed, along with holes at nearly every other position.

Coach Lovie Smith recently spoke with Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune about the team's roster vacancies. He said that, despite the potential loss of a number of key special teams contributors, he hasn't lost any sleep, as coordinator Dave Toub's system isn't dependent on one or two specific players.

"There was a time when Corey Graham wasn't our main gunner, Rashied (Davis) wasn't our main gunner," Smith said. "Things change. They change because we have a system we believe in that works. We set up our personnel in order to be good on special teams. If backup players are making it here, they have to be core special teams players. So I think we'll be okay on special teams."

While many fans are clamoring for the team to sign a big wide receiver, Smith isn't so sure size should be the deciding factor.

"Having a big receiver is kind of like having a big running back," he said. "I'm more interested in us having productive receivers. Talk to most defensive backs and they aren't terrified of a guy who is just big. They are terrified of a guy who can catch, is quick, has moves. That's what I'm wanting from our guys to take another step. There is a time when you can use big receivers, to block, and you can use height. But there aren't a whole lot of Calvin Johnsons out there."

Not big, but an upgrade

New Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, formerly the defensive coordinator for both the Bears and San Diego Chargers, recently spoke with the Charlotte Observer regarding the lockout.


WR Steve Smith
Diamond Images/Getty

Included in the conversation was a discussion regarding mercurial receiver Steve Smith. Previous to the lockout, the four-time Pro Bowler publicly declared his desire to be traded away from Carolina during the team's rebuilding years. Rivera said he spoke with Smith, but is still unsure of whether he'll be with the team next year.

"We had a great conversation. He was honest. He was forthright," Rivera said. "He did kind of leave me at a point where I was wondering exactly where does he want to go with this? I will wait until we sit down and talk when the time comes."

Not exactly a vote of confidence there. It looks as if Smith is adamant about leaving and will have no problem disrupting the team if he isn't granted his wish. While Smith is not large in stature (5-9, 185) he plays like a pure No. 1 receiver. He has big-play ability, can go up and get jump balls, and is great after the catch.

Statistically, last season was the worst of his career, yet the paltry 46 catches for 554 yards he racked up was due mainly to a lackluster offense run by an inept signal caller. Honestly, Jerry Rice would have had a hard time putting up numbers with Jimmy Clausen throwing to him.

In the four years between 2005-2008, when the Panthers' offense had a pulse, Smith posted elite numbers, averaging 88 catches, 1,288 yards and 8 touchdowns per season during that span. Even in 2009, when Jake Delhomme was proving he no longer belonged in the league, Smith put up 982 yards and 7 TDs.

At 33 years old, he's no longer one of the Top 5 receivers in the game, but he still has plenty left in the tank. He has the speed to blow by safeties, great hands and isn't afraid to go over the middle. If Carolina submits and puts Smith on the trading block, the Bears would be wise to consider him. If they can land him for a fourth round pick and throw him into a talented offense, he could come close to the numbers he put up in his prime. At the very least, he could mentor Johnny Knox, Earl Bennett and Devin Hester, using his vast knowledge of the game to help them become better receivers.

Soldier Field fifth toughest venue

ESPN experts recently voted on the toughest NFL venues for opposing teams to play in. Not surprisingly, Lambeau Field was voted the toughest, as pretty much every poll about anything remotely relating to football has Green Bay at the top. Even Packer Report publisher Bill Huber questioned the results, but I digress.

Soldier Field was ranked fifth on the list, behind Lambeau, Heinz Field, Qwest Field and Arrowhead Stadium.

Sayers and Ditka comment on lockout, current players

Fomer Bears running back Gale Sayers was honored last week at an event hosted by the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund. He sent a strong message to current NFL players, challenging them to help those who came before.

"Some players of today's game think that they made the game what it is today. I beg to differ," said Sayers, according to the Associated Press. "The players who are playing today are standing on the shoulders of those who made the game what it is that played the game for peanuts.

"If today's players cannot help these players, shame on you."

Former Bears coach Mike Ditka was also at the event. He, as always, had his own opinions on the lockout.

"You can't let egos get in the way of negotiation," Ditka said. "You have to give to take. You can't figure out a way to [divide] $9 billion? It's kind of goofy. The American public can't feel sorry for either side because they can't relate."

What's amazing is that everyone on the planet has the capability of finding a pragmatic solution to the lockout, except for those in charge of forging an agreement.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport com To read him every day, visit BearReport com and become a Chicago Bears insider


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