After the Thomas Jones trade, the Bears have a low first-rounder and a high second-rounder and should be able to address two needs with solid players. Although Desmond Clark had the best season of his career in 2006 with 45 catches and six touchdowns, I think a young tight end would be a very good idea to make this offense better. Unfortunately for Bears fans, Olsen was one of the stars of the NFL Combine and moved himself up the charts significantly. He could be the next great Miami TE, so I'd be shocked if he's available at No. 31. Zach Miller of Arizona State will probably be the second tight end to go, but that might be a little high for him.
I know they weren't starters, but who's gonna play safety with Todd Johnson and Cameron Worrell gone? And aren't they both good on special teams? – Tommy (Des Moines, IA)
First of all, I don't believe the Bears are going to miss Johnson or Worrell. Both were solid special-teamers, but neither had the ability to handle all the responsibilities asked of the safeties in Lovie Smith's version of the cover-two defense. Johnson was decent at best replacing Mike Brown before injuring his ankle, and the fact that he couldn't get the starting gig back from Chris Harris should tell you something. Worrell had a pretty good preseason, but he made no impact on defense and committed a few stupid penalties on special teams. I'd be shocked if the Bears don't take a safety with one of their first two selections in next month's draft, and there are still a few good free agents out there like Ken Hamlin and Colin Branch.
Are the Bears actually going to sign anyone in free agency this year? Players are moving everywhere, but the Bears haven't done squat. What gives? - Travis (Oak Lawn, IL)
I think the Bears are simply letting the initial rush of free agency calm down before they start throwing money around. It's ludicrous to think that Nate Clements got $80 from San Francisco and Joey Porter got $20 in guaranteed money from Miami, so GM Jerry Angelo is wise to sit back and relax for a minute. He has eight draft picks next month and will find some talent in the college ranks, plus the players that he's lost like Johnson and Worrell - or may lose like Ian Scott and Alfonso Boone - are quite replaceable. Franchising Lance Briggs will eat up $7.2 million in cap space for next season, as well. Remember that there will be many more cuts around June 1, so the Bears still have plenty of time to pick up some contributors for 2007.
Any word on Ruben Brown? Do the Bears plan on bringing him back? - Chris (Huntsville, AL)
I know the Bears would very much like to bring Brown back and keep the offensive line intact for another season. It's no secret that they desperately need to get younger and more talented behind the starting unit, but Brown is still a pretty good player even at 35 years old. Remember, he just played in his ninth Pro Bowl last month. He's still never won a Super Bowl and has already made a ton of money, so it behooves him to stick with a team that has an opportunity to win it all in 2007. I believe the Bears are one of those teams, so expect Brown to receive a generous one- or two-year deal from Angelo to come back next season.
I hear Tank Johnson could be facing some jail time. Do the Bears really want to deal with this? Could he still be cut in the offseason? – Lonnie (Tacoma, WA)
Johnson pled guilty to parole violation recently and is indeed in danger of having to serve some time behind bars. But as we've seen repeatedly in this country, being rich and famous is usually a good thing in terms of getting what you want out of the legal system. Johnson has the ability to pay for the best gaggle of lawyers money can buy, which will only help him in terms of what his ultimate punishment will be. That being said, I think the Bears would have already parted ways with him if they had planned on doing so. The team could certainly use another defensive tackle with the impending losses of Scott and Boone, but I'd expect to see Johnson back alongside Tommie Harris in the starting lineup next season.
The Bills got all kinds of draft picks for Willis McGahee. The Bears just moved up in one round for Thomas Jones. Did Angelo get ripped off? - Jasper (Itaska, IL)
On the surface, it appears that Buffalo did pretty well in trading McGahee by acquiring a third- and seventh-rounder in this year's draft plus another third next year. Angelo didn't acquire any additional picks by dealing Jones, but he did move up from No. 63 to No. 37 in the second round next month. First of all, McGahee is three years younger, commanded a huge contract extension from Baltimore, and is simply regarded as a better player than Jones. While the numbers don't necessarily back that up considering how productive Jones has been, I think the Bears did very well in their swap with the Jets. Moving up 26 spots in Round 2 is a much bigger move than most people think, and it made more sense for Angelo to add value to the picks he already had as opposed to simply stockpiling more selections.
What's the difference between the stuff players do at the Combine and at their pro day? - Stewie (Henderson, NV)
Simplistically speaking, the NFL comes up with all the testing at the Combine and the schools come up most of the testing at a Pro Day. It's pretty much the same - 40-yard dashes and the like - but much more geared toward actual football drills. A lot of high draft picks won't bother to work out at the Combine and will save everything for their Pro Day because they have more control over what they showcase and what they don't. Plus, they always feel more comfortable running at a facility they're used to and practicing with players they've known for a few years. Brady Quinn seems to be slipping a little on some draft boards because he didn't do much at the Combine, but he'll climb back up if he shines at his Pro Day in South Bend.
Since Lance Briggs is so unhappy with the franchise tag, do you see the Bears actually trading him away? - Billy (Des Plaines, IL)
As far as Briggs goes, I'm 95% sure he'll be playing for the Bears in 2007 and 90% sure he'll be playing elsewhere in 2008. He may be upset, but he has very little leverage right now to negotiate. He'll be rewarded very handsomely with a $7.2 million salary next season should he decide to play, and since the Bears have no real urgency to sign him to a long-term deal right now, that's probably all he's going to get from the McCaskey family. He'll miss out on about $450,000 for each game he sits out, so franchise players always end up coming back no matter how much they threaten to sit at home. The Bears didn't mind letting Rosevelt Colvin and Warrick Holdman go, so look for them to start grooming a replacement very soon.
I've accepted the fact that Rex Grossman will be the quarterback next year, but do you see the Bears drafting another QB this year? - Derrick (Ocala, FL)
You're right to assume that Grossman is going to be under center next season because the organization appears to be 100% committed to him from top to bottom. Brian Griese is paid very well to be a security blanket, and that's all he's going to be unless Grossman gets hurt or just completely stinks up the joint. Kyle Orton surely won't be happy coming to training camp as the third-stringer again after starting for most of 2005, but that's the way it's going to be. I guess the Bears could look at another QB in the sixth or seventh round in the draft, but they've already signed J.T. O'Sullivan to be the fourth signal-caller in camp. I'm assuming that the depth chart at quarterback next season will look very much like it did this past season.
Do you ever get bored in the offseason since you don't really have to follow the team around anymore? - Tyler (Palos Heights, IL)
Actually, I enjoy the offseason because I don't have to be absolutely everywhere the team goes like I do during the year. Although I miss being up at Halas Hall a few days a week and game days are always exciting, it's nice to be able to do so much work from home in my pajamas. It was almost strange to be up in Lake Forest for the press conference announcing the contract extensions for Smith and Angelo since I hadn't been there in so long. But there's no real offseason in the NFL anymore. Combine in February, free agency in March, draft in April, rookie mini camp in May, veteran mini camp in June - before you know it, training camp gets started in July and starts the whole process all over again.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|