What We Learned Tuesday Afternoon

The Chicago Bears front office and coaching staff did their best to dodge every question they could at Tuesday's pre-draft luncheon at Halas Hall, but we did learn quite a bit about the state of the team and their wishes heading into this weekend's NFL Draft. What do we know now? JC enlightens us ...

Don't worry too much about all the players who are supposedly unhappy
Much has been made in the media about the likes of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Devin Hester, and Robbie Gould all being dissatisfied with their deals and wanting to renegotiate, and even Lance Briggs – fresh off signing a six-year, $36 million contract last month – is skipping the voluntary workout program at Halas Hall. But according to general manager Jerry Angelo, he isn't overly concerned because all of them are currently under contract and will be suiting up for the Monsters of the Midway in 2008 one way or another. While he would love to work out extensions with Harris and Hester as soon as possible since they are two of the most important players on the roster, he must conform to the restrictions of the salary cap and will never be able to make everybody happy at once.

Angelo went on to say that he warns every player during negotiations not to sign a contract unless he's 100 percent comfortable with it, and projecting future market value over the course of a long-term deal is simply not realistic.

Hester is going to be back there for every punt and kickoff return this season


WR Devin Hester
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Head coach Lovie Smith has an obvious man crush on Devin Hester and for good reason, although he had Bears fans scratching their heads recently when he suggested that he may limit the All-Pro return man's duties on special teams in order to get him more involved on offense. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub certainly didn't like the sound of that, as Hester's mere presence on punts and kickoffs scares every opponent to death and gives Chicago a field-position advantage like no other team in the league. While Toub appreciates Smith's vision that Hester can be a No. 1 receiver one of these days, he still has a long way to go and isn't ready to be a primary target in the passing game just yet.

Toub went on to say that he would be very surprised if his most dangerous weapon wasn't on the field for every single punt and kickoff return this season, meaning Smith may have just been talking for talking's sake.

There is more depth in the draft at running back than offensive line
A realistic result in the NFL Draft for the Bears this weekend would be selecting an offensive tackle and a running back with their first two picks Saturday. But since each position is considered awfully deep this year and many teams will be in the market for both once they're on the clock, which direction might the front office be leaning? Are we more likely to see a tackle like Chris Williams of Vanderbilt in Round 1 and then a tailback like Matt Forte of Tulane in Round 2, or can we look for a ball-carrier like Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois at No. 14 and then a blocker like Anthony Collins of Kansas at No. 44?

Look for the former scenario since general manager Jerry Angelo believes there is better depth outside the first round at running back than at offensive tackle, although he might be out of luck since the three teams picking directly in front of him – Buffalo at No. 11, Denver at No. 12, and Carolina at No. 13 – all need a tackle, too.

Either Benson, Peterson, or Wolfe will be out of a job after training camp


RB Adrian Peterson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Nobody who spoke Tuesday said anything to deny the notion that a ball-carrier is high on the club's list of priorities heading into draft weekend, which means it's quite reasonable to expect that either Cedric Benson, Adrian Peterson, or Garrett Wolfe will not be a Midway Monster in 2008. Benson has been a disappointment so far and still has a long way to go rehabbing last season's ankle injury, although cutting or trading him would mean a hard-to-swallow $5.15 million salary-cap hit. And since this team is reluctant to admit failure with regard to recent draft picks, look for Wolfe to be given the benefit of the doubt since he was a third-rounder just this past April.

That leaves Peterson – he did not impress after taking over for the injured Benson toward the end of `07 – as the most likely candidate to be axed in Bourbonnais, despite the fact that he is a fan favorite and continues to be a solid special-teams performer.

Roach is the leading contender to replace Ayanbadejo on special teams
Even though he didn't contribute at all on defense, the Bears have a major hole to fill after Pro Bowler Brendon Ayanbadejo left in free agency. According to special teams coordinator Dave Toub, reserve linebacker Nick Roach, who was signed off the San Diego practice squad toward the end of last season, is the leading candidate. While Ayanbadejo is a first-down-the-field wrecking ball on the coverage units, Roach is more of a pure tackler in open space and was awfully productive in limited playing time as a rookie.

Toub also mentioned Corey Graham and Darrell McClover when asked who else he expects to be key special-teams performers this coming season.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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