Which Veteran is Most Likely to ...

After examining the rookies for the Chicago Bears yesterday, now it's time to focus on the returning veterans and what we can look to see from some of them in 2008. Who is in line for a career year? Who will get paid first? Bear Report takes another peek into its crystal ball. Who is most likely to ...

... Have a Career Year

WR Mark Bradley
About halfway through his rookie season back in 2005, Bradley looked like the best pass-catcher on the team as a second-round pick out of Oklahoma. But then he tore his ACL on the turf in Detroit, and he's never quite been the same. The now departed Bernard Berrian emerged as the go-to guy in Chicago, and Rashied Davis made the switch from cornerback to wideout and earned a spot in the rotation in three-receiver formations. Despite Bradley's obvious physical tools, there was just no place to line him up consistently the last two seasons. And with return man savant Devin Hester added to the mix last year, Bradley caught a grand total of six passes and didn't find the end zone until Week 17.

But both Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad are sporting new addresses, and with all those injuries now finally behind him, Bradley might earn a starting job and could very well be on the receiving end of all those deep balls Berrian used to get.

... Take a Tumble Statistically

TE Desmond Clark

TE Desmond Clark
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
The Monsters of the Midway don't scare too many DBs at receiver as presently constituted, but the tight end position is in great shape with Clark, 2007 first-rounder Greg Olsen, and promising rookie Kellen Davis. Clark has quietly been one of the better tight ends in the NFL the last two seasons, reeling in 89 passes for 1,171 yards and 10 touchdowns – equaling the much flashier Jeremy Shockey – during that time. While he could have moped after the Bears selected Olsen at No. 31 overall a year ago, he instead mentored the talented youngster and enjoyed another stellar campaign. The organization rewarded him this offseason with a two-year contract extension. And he's still the starter, just in case you were wondering.

That being said, Olsen is the future at tight end for this offense, so even though Clark's name is currently atop the depth chart just like it's always been, expect to see a lot of Olsen because his explosiveness will be needed on a team with question marks at wideout.

... Make a Name for Himself

LB Nick Roach
Chicago was once again the class of the league on special teams in 2007, and it's not just because Hester is a wizard in the return game. The coverage units were excellent all season long, led by two-time Pro Bowler Brendon Ayanbadejo streaking his way downfield like he'd been shot out of a cannon. But since Ayanbadejo signed with the Ravens in free agency, special teams coordinator Dave Toub will be looking for a new coverage ace. When asked during the pre-draft luncheon in April who will most likely step into Ayanbadejo's role, Toub continually sung the praises of Roach. Not Jamar Williams, not Rod Wilson, and not Darrell McClover, all of whom also play linebacker and have more experience than Roach.

The Chargers were disappointed they could not find a way to protect Roach from the Bears and get him on the 53-man roster last season, so it will be interesting to see if he can be everything Toub looks for in the all-important third phase of the game.

... Enjoy a Bounceback Performance

DE Mark Anderson

DE Mark Anderson
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Anderson was arguably the biggest steal in the entire 2006 NFL Draft, registering 12 sacks as a fifth-round pick out of Alabama and finishing second in the voting for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The 255-pounder did almost all of his damage as a pass-rushing specialist on third down, using his speed and quickness to wreak havoc in enemy backfields. The Midway Monsters were hoping for even more from Anderson this past season, moving him ahead of veteran Alex Brown and into the starting lineup. He responded with four sacks in the first four games, but he all but disappeared the rest of the way. Anderson ended the year with just one more sack, eventually landing on the injured reserve list with a bum knee.

The Bears would be wise to shift Brown back into the starter's role because he is a better defender against the run, which would allow Anderson to do what he does best – rush the quarterback with reckless abandon in obvious passing situations.

... Get the Next Extension

DT Tommie Harris
It's been another tumultuous offseason for the Bears, as several key players have made it known that they are unhappy with their contract situations. Robbie Gould was the first to be satisfied, signing the most lucrative contract in NFL history for a kicker last week. However, Harris only has one more year remaining on his original deal, Hester is vastly underpaid considering all he's done, and Brian Urlacher is skipping the offseason program and could be a no-show for training camp even though he's inked through 2011. The team is currently under the salary cap and has some money to spend, but who is most likely to cash in first?

Look for Harris to set the standard financially for defensive tackles some time in the near future, as Jerry Angelo doesn't want to endure another franchise-tag soap opera a la Lance Briggs – that could be why Berrian is now a Viking.

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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