Rebound possible

The plunge from 13-3 in 2001 to 4-12 in 2002 exposed a lot of flaws. Still, the <!--Default NodeId For Chicago is 115,2005--><A HREF=>Bears</A> aren't as bad as the past season indicates.

At about $9 million under the salary cap, the Bears have some room to sign an impact free agent or two. And with the fourth pick in the draft, Chicago will have the opportunity to draft a possible franchise quarterback in Southern California's Carson Palmer and Marshall's Byron Leftwich. The Bengals will select one of the two with the first pick in the draft, and barring a trade by a quarterback-hungry team, the Bears will have a shot at whichever signal-caller the Bengals pass on.

The question is, will GM Jerry Angelo draft a quarterback? As the last few Super Bowl champions have illustrated, you don't need an elite quarterback to win the championship.

"I'm just not convinced you take that guy in the first round," Angelo recently told the Chicago Tribune. "The expectations when they come in are so great. They are in a fishbowl. To meet those expectations is hard to do. Usually, what is happening is they fail at that place, not because they are failing quarterbacks, but because it is so hard to develop in that kind of an environment."

If the Bears don't go quarterback with the first pick, they may look at defensive tackle or end in the first round and sign a free-agent quarterback. The aging defensive tackle tandem of Ted Washington and Keith Traylor is likely to be broken up.

Among the free-agent passers expected to be available are Arizona's Jake Plummer, Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart and Tampa Bay's Shaun King. The Rams could dump even former league MVP Kurt Warner.

"We'll be definitely looking at all those [quarterback] candidates and right now all they are is possibilities because you don't know who's going to end up out there," said head coach Dick Jauron.

"We'll definitely have an order. Then we'll see who gets out there and what happens as soon as they get out there because we know we won't be the only competitors in the field for these guys."

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