Is Lelie Still an Option?

Under general manager Jerry Angelo, the Bears have shown a willingness to make a big trade with the regular season just around the corner. Will this year add to that history or is the roster set heading into the season?

Wide receiver Ashley Lelie skipped the first day of the Broncos' mandatory mini-camp as expected Thursday. "Anybody that's not here would get fined," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It's a mandatory camp. It's not a major fine. It would cost him a few dollars."

Lelie is not happy with his place on the team, which is currently third on the depth chart behind Rod Smith and Javon Walker.

"If you want to compete to be the No. 1 guy, why not be here? Why not be here in camp?" Shanahan said. "If you're afraid of competing against a No. 1 guy who's 35 years old, I don't think you're going to find a better scenario than what he has here."

Although the Broncos would explore a trade for Lelie, it has been difficult to find suitors considering the circumstances.

"It would be different if people were beating down the walls to get him, but they're not," Shanahan said. "Why not come in here and try to do what you can do and make a name for yourself at a place that drafted you No. 1?"

The honesty in Shanahan's comments clearly shows his frustration with Lelie, who has one career 1,000-yard campaign in four years with the Broncos. He's entering the final year of his rookie contract, which will pay him a base salary of $600,000.

The Bears have a disgruntled running back with two years left on his deal. Thomas Jones has made it clear he wants out of Chicago or a guarantee he'll be the starting running back heading into training camp. By boycotting the team's off-season workouts, Jones has given Cedric Benson the inside track to taking the job.

If the two sides were serious about pulling off a Jones for Lelie swap it would have likely already happened. It takes time for players to get acclimated to a new system. A trade in July or August could potentially limit the production of both players.

Angelo showed interest in defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, as a restricted free agent in 2004. However, not wanting to forfeit draft picks to acquire him, Angelo waited out the situation until late in the preseason. At that point, the Dolphins settled for wide receiver Marty Booker and a third round pick for Ogunleye.

While Ogunleye earned Pro Bowl alternate honors with 10 sacks last year, he struggled in his first season with the Bears. He had been working out on his own before the deal, so he had to get in football shape early in the regular season. Aside from trying to learn a new system and his teammates, an ankle injury limited him to five sacks, his lowest total since becoming a starter.

Even if the Bears were to acquire Lelie, there is doubt about how much of an improvement he would be over the team's current group of young wideouts. His career average of 17.9 yards per catch is impressive, but he' had more than 50 receptions in a season once.

When the running game is considered the strength of the offense, it would be a risk to trade Jones with Benson relatively unproven. Still, the thought of adding another playmaker to the passing attack could be enough to entice Angelo.

Jason Klabacha contributed to this report.


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