The following is an e-mail exchange back and forth between BearReport.com Editor in Chief John Crist and Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan. The subject? Rex Grossman's future in Chicago ...
John Crist: The Bears are still looking for their first Pro Bowl quarterback since Jim McMahon all the way back in 1985, and they had a three-headed monster at the position in 2007 with Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, and Kyle Orton. Grossman is the most talented of the bunch, but he's also got the most baggage because of the dizzying highs and cavernous lows he's experienced over the course of his five-year career. Now he'll be an unrestricted free agent in March, which means GM Jerry Angelo has to make a decision whether or not to bring him back. The former Florida Gator admitted to the Chicago media earlier in the year that he missed the boat on getting a Tony Romo-like extension because he was benched, but I personally believe that he's the best option for this team in 2008 because of the dearth of talent available in free agency. Since offensive coordinator Ron Turner is most likely going to return and will be running the same system, wouldn't it make sense to have Grossman return, too?
Adam Caplan: In Turner's power-based run scheme, you must have a solid running game to set up the passing game and let both work off of each other. This year, unlike in 2006, the lack of a consistent or solid running game was evident, and Grossman really suffered in part because of it. And let's not underestimate how bad their offensive line was this season. According to one league insider who saw coaches tape of at least half of their games, he put the Bears' line in the bottom five of the league. So while Grossman's play was mostly poor in 2007, it wasn't like he was set up for success. So I could see them bringing him back on a short-term deal. But let's be honest here. Is he really a franchise-type quarterback? I say no, and that's why I strongly believe they'll look for a prototypical big, strong-armed passer early in this year's draft.
QB Erik Ainge
Harry How/Getty Images
JC: Angelo said in his season-ending press conference last week that solidifying the quarterback position is the team's top priority this offseason, but I'm with you and believe that this dreadful offensive line needs to be addressed first. And with all the scrutiny the organization as a whole has been subjected to the last five years because Grossman was a first-round pick, I think Angelo will look past the elite QBs in this draft – Brian Brohm, Matt Ryan, Andre Woodson – and take his chances with a second-tier guy in the second or third round – John David Booty, Chad Henne, Erik Ainge. There are a lot of scouts around the league who feel that Grossman is a classic reclamation project, a raw talent capable of flourishing should he finally be put in a more aggressive system with better weapons in a new city. The Bears are probably his best bet to be a starting quarterback in this league come Week 1 of next season, as he'll likely have to win the job in training camp should he sign elsewhere. So taking all of that into consideration, what kind of interest might Grossman generate in free agency around the league, and what kind of contract in terms of years and dollars is he worth at this point?
AC: Most league insiders believe that Grossman can't be counted on as a starter – size and inconsistent accuracy being the main issues – so it's highly unlikely he'll be able to secure a starting job elsewhere. But it's not out of the question that he at least gets an opportunity to compete for one based on the lack of talent at the position projected to be in free agency. That's probably the best he could hope for at this point. I think you're looking at a short-term deal for him – 2-3 years/$2 million per would be my guess. As for what Angelo will do, he'll select a quarterback on the first day – pretty much a lock. But the thing about this year's class of quarterbacks is it happens to be very deep. Probably 10-12 could be drafted on the first day, and 4-5 could go in the first round. So there's no real need to reach for one. While there's really no great prospect from what scouts are saying, there are lots of good ones.
JC: Alright, since we're both in the pigskin prediction business to some degree, let's put it all out there and proclaim what the depth chart will look like at quarterback in Chicago next season. I see Grossman being re-signed for decent money with lots of performance bonuses. Griese will be cut in order to save precious salary-cap dollars, and Orton will be given an opportunity to compete with Grossman for the starting job in training camp come July. Angelo takes a young QB in the second or third round for developmental purposes, which means he can address more immediate needs (read: offensive line) in Round 1. Grossman is once again under center when the Monsters of the Midway take to the field in 2008, Orton is the backup, and the mystery rookie is carrying a clipboard.
AC: My guess is they draft a QB on the first day – Joe Flacco of Delaware would make a lot of sense for Turner's system – who they believe will be the starter by Year 3. They like Orton enough to compete for the No. 2 job. As for Grossman, I don't see them re-signing him before the start of free agency, and there's no need to because there shouldn't be a strong market for him. They may bring him back to compete for the top job again if he can't find a better deal elsewhere. Don't discount Angelo trading for another solid veteran or signing one that's cut after June 1.
John Crist is the Editor in Chief of BearReport.com and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.