Buffone's Blog

The one area the Bears will not address this off-season is running back. The team is so deep in the backfield any of their three backs could potentially start for most teams. However, that doesn't mean a potential problem can be ignored.

The Bears are in a trick bag because you don't take the 4th pick in the draft and give him $17 million guaranteed to sit on the bench. Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams contributed as rookies and it's time for Cedric Benson to do the same.

You could shop Thomas Jones and see what type of offers you get. If you take that direction are you sure Benson is ready to be the guy? If he played the whole year it would have been easier to make a move. If the Bears trade Jones what do they get in return? Anything less than a starter coming back or a first day selection would hardly be worth taking such a gamble.

Arizona and Minnesota were looking for running backs heading into the off-season, but have already signed free agents to big time contracts. Still there are teams looking for help, such as the Colts after losing Edgerrin James to the Cardinals.

The problem with exploring such a move is the Bears offense struggled all last season. What sense does it make to then trade your most productive player? That's where the business end comes into the equation. Jones has two years left on his current contract and is going to want a hefty raise. With a base salary of $2.25 million in both 2006 and 2007 he's still a bargain.

Jones' cap friendly cap figure makes him that much more desirable to other teams. He's also coming off a career year, becoming just the second running back in franchise history to go over 1,300 yards rushing. In his two seasons with the Bears he's accounted for 2,853 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns.

Adrian Peterson is more than capable of being the second back on the depth chart. There aren't enough carries for Jones, Benson and Peterson to go around.

General manager Jerry Angelo has some big decisions to make, but you have to look where the roster is the weakest. While the Bears have a trio of playmakers at running back, the team lacks difference makers at wide receiver, tight end and quarterback.

Although free agency could take care of the quarterback situation, there will still be holes to fill in the draft. There are also depth concerns on defense at cornerback, defensive end and linebacker.

If trading Jones would mean strengthening another area it has to be considered, but only at the right price.


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