John Crist: The Bears are really rolling the dice at the quarterback position, both this season and in the future. Since Rex Grossman is only signed through 2008 and Kyle Orton got a one-year extension to stick around through 2009, how does it look on the QB free agency front next offseason? Also, what would it take to pry Brady Quinn out of Clevland assuming Derek Anderson has another solid year in Cleveland and further cements himself as the starter for the Browns?
Adam Caplan: I don't have a list of the quarterbacks available for next season at this time, but it's interesting that you listed the Cleveland quarterbacks.
As I noted in my blog several weeks ago, Anderson has a roster bonus due around March 15. So if he doesn't have a productive season, there's a pretty good chance that they wouldn't pick up the bonus – which would make him a free agent. They also could decide to deal him before the bonus was due. Anderson has a roster bonus due in March of 2010, as well, which is the final year of his deal. Quinn has a low cap number for the next few years, so they would like to keep him since it wouldn't cost them much to do so.
JC's Take: Once again, we learn that NFL contracts are never truly what they appear to be when originally announced. It sounded like Anderson got a three-year deal from Cleveland for about $24 million, but now it looks like he could be let loose after just one season. These salary-cap guys have a black belt in fuzzy math, that's for sure.
JC: I remember when you and I were discussing Cedric Benson during the NFL Scouting Combine two Februarys ago, and even then you were really down on him. Why do you think he was such a colossal failure as the starter this past season, and does he deserve more of the blame than what turned out to be a porous offensive line? Do you see Benson surfacing in the league again any time soon and, if so, where?
AC: Benson, according to team sources, never came close to realizing his potential because he didn't seem to be dedicated to making improvements to his game. He never really adjusted to the speed of the pro game, and he seemed to be relying on what got him by at the collegiate level. While Chicago's offensive line isn't very good, he seems to run straight ahead way too much and never really hit the holes consistently that were sometimes open for him.
Benson is the kind of back that needs a lot of carries to do well. The problem is there aren't any starting jobs open, so he's probably going to need to find a team that loses a starting back in order to get a significant job.
JC's Take: I've got to give Mr. Caplan credit here. I thought before the 2007 season that Benson had a chance to be better than Jones ever was. Looks like the Bears weren't the only ones completely fooled by the former Longhorn.
JC: What can Bears fans hope to see from Devin Hester this season? Lovie Smith is convinced that his most dangerous weapon can morph into a primary receiver one of these days, although personally I think he needs to temper those expectations quite a bit. I'm also of the opinion that using him too much on offense – you know he's going to run a ton of deep routes and end-arounds – could make him less effective in the return game, so do you agree?
AC: Some team observers think it's unrealistic for the team to believe Hester can be a high-end receiver for years to come. In limited time at receiver last season, the coaches were pretty happy with his progress – especially in practice. Apparently, according to a team source, Hester started to show significant improvement in his route running. The feeling is that they believe he can catch 50-60 passes this season in an expanded role as a receiver. That's a pretty bold statement considering his limited time at the position and also how poor their quarterback situation is.
The coaches believe that getting Hester in space on screen passes – like the "smoke play," which is similar to what Carolina does with Steve Smith – or downfield in one-on-one matchups will make it tough on defenses. Using him at receiver gives defensive coordinators one more issue to deal with in preparation each week.
I would agree that using him so much on offense could wear him down for the return game. That's the clear drawback in trying to make him a receiver. I'd rather use him in certain formations against certain coverages instead.
JC's Take: I can't stress it enough: Hester can be a breath-taking complementary piece on offense if used properly, but expecting him to be a 1,000-yard guy is nothing short of ludicrous.
JC: Although special teams coordinator Dave Toub is arguably the best in football at what he does, how much are the Bears going to miss captain Brendon Ayanbadejo on the coverage units? Toub still has plenty of quality special-teamers at his disposal – Adrian Peterson, Israel Idonije, Rashied Davis, Jamar Williams, Corey Graham – but Ayanbadejo is truly special in the kicking game. Is he irreplaceable, or can this unit be just as successful without him?
AC: Ayanbadejo is one of the best special teams players in the league. And no matter who else the Bears think they have to replace him, their coverage units won't be nearly as good. Not only can he do just about everything on special teams, but he's the leader of those units. It will take some time for them to figure out who will step up in his absence.
JC's Take: Toub keeps mentioning young linebacker Nick Roach at every opportunity, so expect him to be first in line as Ayanbadejo's successor.
JC: Who is the single most valuable player for this team on defense? You can make a pretty strong case for Tommie Harris with the way he wreaks havoc up front, Brian Urlacher because of all the things he can do both against the run and the pass, and also Mike Brown since the D always seems to player better when he's back there. Although all of them are indispensible to some degree, Brown is the guy who seems to make all the difference in the world when he's back there.
AC: When Harris is healthy – I would contend he wasn't healthy at all last season – he can be possibly the most dominant defensive tackle in the league. He's that explosive and a game changer. Urlacher would come in a close second because of the versatility that he brings to the defense.
As for Brown, although he hasn't had an injury-free season since 2003, he's one of the smartest safeties in the league and clearly one of their team leaders. But at 30 years old, he may never be the same.
JC's Take: Harris was indeed a beast in 2006 before getting banged up toward the end of the year, but the defense wasn't the same that season after Brown landed on injured reserve.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report. Adam Caplan is the co-host of SIRIUS Fantasy Football and the Senior NFL Reporter for Scout.com.
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