John Crist: Perry Fewell said no to the Bears and yes to the Giants to be their defensive coordinator, despite the fact that he was Chicago's defensive backs coach under Lovie Smith in 2005. Even with two years left on his contract, is Smith being viewed as a lame duck who can't offer much job security?
Adam Caplan: Usually, you look at a lame duck as one that's in the final year of his deal. There was talk in league circles that the reason why Smith kept his job is because the Bears owe him $11 million for the two final years. Smith made several coaching changes this season, so he'll get at least this season to see if they were the right moves to take this team back to the playoffs.
It was a bit surprising that Fewell didn't take the job, but it could be down to how other coaches view Smith's long-term job security. If Fewell was only offered a two-year deal, it's not hard to see why he would have turned that down.
JC: Smith said in his season-ending press conference that he still believes in balance on offense and running the ball when the weather turns late in the year, which would presumably eliminate Mike Martz from consideration for OC. Is this wise, or do the Bears need to be a pass-first team now with Jay Cutler?
AC: Actually, Martz will do what he's told. 49ers coach Mike Singletary mandated that they would run the ball two years ago with Martz calling the plays, and they did that. That's not the problem with Martz. It's actually what kind of running plays he calls and when he does it. Martz would actually be good for Cutler because he would set up parameters of expectations to be met, and he commands respect. Martz has been great for quarterbacks, but he puts a lot of pressure on them. He doesn't believe in maximum protection. He likes to have as many receiving options as possible, which generally means only five linemen in to block and, most of the time, no tight end.
Before they can have Cutler drop back 35-40 times each game, they have to build up the offensive line. Chicago's line is arguably one of the worst in the NFL.
JC: If there is no collective bargaining agreement in place by the start of free agency, can Chicago be a realistic destination for marquee players? It seems like the best available free agents will be restricted instead of unrestricted. But with no draft picks before Round 3, can Jerry Angelo make a splash at all?
AC: Money talks, so it comes down to whether or not the Bears are willing to spend the money. Based on my list of available free agents, most teams will have to look at signing restricted free agents this offseason. Teams simply locked up a majority of their top players long term, so they won't have to deal with them making it out as unrestricted free agents.
There are some very good restricted free agents, but those players will likely require giving up at least a first-round pick, and, as we know, the Bears don't own a first or second rounder this April. Trades are another possibility but more remote.
JC: Again, assuming there is no collective bargaining agreement, the Bears have some interesting names that will be restricted free agents as opposed to unrestricted: Mark Anderson, Danieal Manning and Jamar Williams in particular. Are any of them even worth a reasonable tender offer these days?
AC: Decent, young pass rushers are hard to come by, so Anderson should be able to yield a second-round tender. Manning's kick-return ability is strong enough that he might also get a second-round tender. Williams' play was solid during his one start this season – he only has two during his four-year career – so he should be tendered at least at his original draft status (fourth round).
JC: Since you spend a good amount of time at NFL Films, what do you think is the main reason for the demise of this defense? Some suggest that stars like Tommie Harris and Brian Urlacher aren't stars anymore. Others say the Cover 2 has been figured out and offenses know how to beat it now.
AC: Greg Cosell probably is more qualified than I to speak about how these players look on film, but Harris and Urlacher's performances in recent seasons have regressed. That much has been abundantly clear. Harris hasn't been the same since suffering through lingering knee problems. Much earlier in his career he was one of the top interior linemen in the league, but he's not even close to that level these days. He carries a $2.5 million roster bonus due in early June, so the team could get out of the final three years of his contract if they want to.
Urlacher was perhaps the most athletic and impactful middle linebacker in the league for several years, but, in similar fashion to Harris, his play plateaued a while back. Urlacher, as the "hole" player, was used to drop in coverage, and when he was at his best, he was one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL. With him hurt this season and not the same player in recent seasons, it's time the team starts developing some younger players at that position. He turns 32 in May and has a roster bonus due of $1.3 million in early June. If they keep him around for his 11th season, they'll owe him over $8.1 million for 2010.
I don't know if opposing offenses have figured out how to beat their defensive scheme, but the players who are running it aren't executing said scheme at a high enough level.
Be on the lookout for an INTERACTIVE chat with Scout.com senior NFL reporter Adam Caplan on Thursday at BearReport.com.
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Scout.com Q&A: Adam Caplan
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