John Crist: Chicago hasn't figured out if Kyle Orton deserves an extension yet. On the one hand, he's better than what the Bears have had in a while. However, he's far from great. It seems every quarterback gets the same lucrative deal, right around six years and $60 million: Romo, Bulger, Garrard, etc. Can a fairly decent QB be extended for half the years and half the money?
Adam Caplan: I'm told he's not likely to get the extension based on his disappointing play after coming back from the ankle injury. What they might do is just bring him to camp and let him battle it out for the starting job against a rookie – possibly a high-round pick – or another veteran.
If he wins and keeps the job and gets off to a good start, he might get the extension.
JC: Matt Forte was just sensational this year, setting a franchise rookie record with 1,238 yards rushing and also leading the team in receiving. But for some reason, even though the team brought in veteran Kevin Jones as insurance, Forte was run into the ground and started to show some wear and tear in December. How badly do the Bears need a backup ball carrier?
AC: I was feeling late in the season that they needed someone to spell Forte from time to time. He probably got more touches (379) than they were expecting him to get this season.
Keep in mind Jones was coming off of ACL surgery and probably wasn't ready for a significant role, and he couldn't fill a special-teams role either. With Jones being a free agent, they'll need to find another veteran back that could handle 5-7 touches per game.
JC: Give Devin Hester credit for becoming a solid receiver, but I don't think he can be a No. 1 in the NFL. It's no secret his magic in the return game suffered badly since he was on the field so much. Hester's $40 million extension only pays maximum value if he puts up big numbers offensively, so have we already seen the last of him being a savant on special teams?
AC: We saw Danieal Manning take over on kickoff returns, and he did a good job in that role. So I'd expect Hester off of kickoff returns in 2009. As for punt returns, they could probably develop one of the receivers for that role.
While Hester really isn't going to be a No. 1 receiver, he could be a solid No. 2 or better over time, and getting him off special-teams returns would be a good idea so he doesn't wear down liked he appeared to this season.
JC: It's been two years since Brian Urlacher made the Pro Bowl, proving that neither fans nor players believe he's an elite linebacker anymore. Here in Chicago, it's hard to judge his play and his personality objectively because he's done so much for the organization over the years. But based on what you hear, what kind of reputation does Urlacher carry these days?
AC: Talking to people around the league, it appears he's not the same player on tape. Perhaps it's the back surgery or the result of previous injury, but he's not moving as well. He turns 31 in May, so you can make a case for him being on the down side of his career.
However, having a full offseason of rest and relaxation could help him regain what he appears to have lost athletically.
JC: The secondary is a mess, as Mike Brown can't stay healthy, Charles Tillman might need a move to safety, and Nathan Vasher has disappeared the last two years. On the bright side, Corey Graham looks like a find at corner and Kevin Payne has some upside at safety. If you were running the Bears, what would the defensive backfield look like in 2009?
AC: According to Stats Inc., Tillman was the most thrown at cornerback in the NFL during the 2008 season. He also gave up 952 yards and six scores. Not having Vasher on the opposite side was obviously part of that. But I'm not sure if Tillman is the same player he once was, and he's had some injuries to deal with that might have prevented him from playing at a high level. I'd probably still keep Tillman at cornerback along with Vasher, with Graham as the nickel back. If either one of the starters struggles, they could always move Graham in there and demote one of the other two. Keep in mind the Bears didn't play as much Cover-2 defense as they have in the past. They generally moved another player in the box, which explains why they were better against the run for most of the season.
Brown, who turns 31 years old next month, is still a solid player but can't be counted on because of injury. They should go out and find his eventual replacement sooner rather than later.
Bear Report Q&A: Adam Caplan
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