Quarterback Search Heading For Crucial Turn

The Bears will entertain their third quarterback in less than a week when Brad Johnson enters Halas Hall on Thursday. The options for GM Jerry Angelo appear to be dwindling and Johnson may represent the best chance to add a veteran to backup Rex Grossman.

The free agent quarterback merry-go-round is still spinning, although many of the key players have been plucked off. To catch us all up on what has happened, Bill Parcells had Drew Bledsoe rejoin him in Dallas, Kurt Warner teamed up with Dennis Green in Arizona after a quick visit to Halas Hall, Brian Griese remained in Tampa Bay, and Kelly Holcomb flew the pound in Cleveland for Buffalo. Cleveland, losing out on someone in their own backyard, turned to trading for Trent Dilfer from Seattle's depth chart.

Still spinning on the wheel are Jeff Garcia, Jay Fiedler and Brad Johnson. Teams still believed to be in search of veteran quarterback help include division rival Detroit, the Jets and Denver. The Broncos are believed to be looking for someone to back up the mercurial Jake Plummer. Garcia is rumored there, but he also has a strong tie to Detroit because of his history with Steve Mariucci. Fiedler seems the likely choice for the Jets, since he's a local kid and he'll have an opportunity to get first team reps while Chad Pennington rehabs from a shoulder injury. All of this means that there's a strong likelihood the Bears will be in a tug-of-war for Brad Johnson's services between either the Lions or Denver.

Does the merry-go-round have your head spinning as well? Consider this—if the Bears lose out in this attempt, they'll need to resort to a tier even below the castoffs they've been looking at. Suspects include players on the order of Gus Frerotte, Jeff Blake and the recently released Shaun King. No, Jim Miller was already signed by the Giants.

As soon as indications were given heading into free agency that the Bears would be a player for a veteran quarterback, signals were sent that they'd be looking for the last guy to shake out of it, and that the candidate would need to be willing to work his way up from third on the depth chart behind Rex Grossman and Chad Hutchinson. Was this a posturing maneuver to drive the initial asking price down in contract negotiations? Perhaps it was a way to ensure the candidate would come into the picture with the right frame of mind. Realistically, you'd have to have a pretty low self-esteem to be willing to accept those terms when you consider the career accomplishments of Grossman and Hutchinson as they compare to those of Warner, Johnson, Garcia and even Fiedler for that matter. Who fits that bill? Unfortunately, it points to the next tier. So it's extremely unrealistic to think any quarterback or backup worth his salt would take the job the Bears are offering, and I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Johnson or Fiedler turn them down even after the other spots are settled.

When I was in grammar school, the 2nd through 8th graders had their own playground for recess period with lots of toys, merry-go-rounds, and swings. The little ones in kindergarten and 1st grade had a separate area, with less toys and a slower moving merry-go-round. It's beginning to look like the Bears are going to finalize their free agent quarterback search in the place with the smaller, slower moving toys. Here's to hoping the Bears step up and play with the big kids.

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