The Bears made it three draft-pick signings in four days when fourth-round defensive end Corey Wootton agreed to a four-year contract last Wednesday that is expected to be worth $2.3 million, including a $500,000 signing bonus.
Wootton, the 109th overall selection, is expected to contribute in a rotation at defensive end that will have Julius Peppers starting at one end and Mark Anderson and Israel Idonije competing for the starting job at the other end. Wootton started 49 of 53 games at Northwestern, with 156 tackles, 19.5 sacks, 38 tackles for losses, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
In 2008, he was first-team All-Big Ten when he had 10 sacks before suffering torn knee ligaments in the Alamo Bowl. He rushed his rehab to get back on the field last season but was never at 100 percent, although he is expected to be at full speed well before the start of training camp on July 30.
Wootton is the third of the Bears' five draft picks who have agreed to terms. Offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb (seventh round) signed on Sunday, and cornerback Joshua Moore (fifth round) signed Monday. Only third-round safety Major Wright and sixth-round quarterback Dan LeFevour remain unsigned among the Bears' 2010 draft picks.
Manning, the last of the Bears' unrestricted free agents to agree to terms, was unhappy that he was tendered at the "original-round" level, and he skipped the first three weeks of voluntary team workouts in protest.
He has started 40 games in four years with the Bears, including 37 at free safety, but he will be competing for a starting job this season at a crowded position. In 2008, he led the NFL with a 29.7-yard kickoff-return average. Manning's 11 kickoff returns of 40-plus yards over the last two seasons (2008-09) are tops in the NFL.
Basanez originally entered the NFL with the Carolina Panthers as an undrafted free agent out of Northwestern in 2006. But he became dispensable when the Bears drafted Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour in the sixth round. LeFevour also played his prep football in the Chicago suburbs.
Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, struggled in his first practice against an NFL starting guard, going against Stephen Peterman.
"Peterman's definitely a vet, and he knows what he's doing and really knows this offense," Suh said. "He definitely has quick feet, strong guy, and he's more schooled in being able to pick up on things. You can't give off little tips like you did in college. You have to really disguise your stuff, because they start to pick up on those things and those tendencies that you do. So things of that sort, they're a lot more schooled in that area. Strength-wise, do I feel I can push him around? Not necessarily push him around, but I feel I'm strong enough to beat him to the quarterback or I wouldn't be at this level. So I did it a little bit, but he's still a great player. He's going to recover quickly if I beat him, if I don't make sure I close and get back to the quarterback and make sure it's no doubt that I don't give him any leeway or no air."
Some of the rookies, including rookie running back Jahvid Best, are still learning what NFL conditioning is all about. Suh seems to be an exception.
"In my eyes, it's not very different," Suh said. "Not at all. The only thing that I notice that we do a little bit more here is we use kettle bells a little bit more. I think the kettle bell is the only big difference I see from my college strength and conditioning coach and this strength and conditioning coach. I think if we had the opportunity and the leeway to do that at Nebraska we would do it, but I think it's a little bit harder, too much of a broader group."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Defensive end Justin Harrell likely is on a short leash to make it to a fourth season with the Packers after the team's 2007 first-round draft pick missed more games than he played the last three years because of an assortment of injuries.
Harrell, who was sidelined the entire 2009 season with chronic back trouble, has been an able participant with the team in offseason workouts and appears to be in the good graces of the coaches, who are waiting for him to finally contribute on a regular basis.
"Justin Harrell is definitely in our plans," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Justin has gone through a number of medical hurdles that he's had to clear, and that will be no different as he goes through (the ongoing organized team activities), and hopefully, he stays healthy through that, and when he gets into training camp, that will be another hurdle.
"That's the one I'm sure Justin is looking forward to, and we all are, because you never really know with a lower back, particularly with defensive linemen, until he gets into the trench work and you get into the padded practices."
The vacancy was created when veteran Aaron Kampman bolted for the Jacksonville Jaguars in free agency.
Then-rookie Jones was an adequate starter for an injured Kampman late in the 2009 season.
Poppinga was a starter in the past but couldn't keep then-rookie Clay Matthews, a first-round draft pick, from taking over the spot at right outside linebacker early last season.
The Packers moved the fifth-year player from cornerback to safety early in the offseason.
Blackmon, who excels as a punt returner, expects to be ready for the start of training camp in late July.
"Bryan Bulaga will play tackle in this league. I don't have any question about that," said McCarthy, reaffirming the team's decision to have the former Iowa standout work behind Clifton this year, rather than possibly contend for a starting spot at another position. "If we had any question about that, he probably wouldn't be here in Green Bay."
Graham Harrell, a former college standout at Texas Tech, had a workout with the team on the same day. At his request, Harrell was cut by the Canadian Football League's Saskatchewan Roughriders last month so he could try to latch on with an NFL team.
Harrell was on Saskatchewan's injured list last year after not being signed by the Cleveland Browns following a tryout as an undrafted rookie.
Green Bay reportedly released Chris Pizzotti with the signing of Harrell to maintain a quarterback depth chart of four players.
OTA practices will resume June 1 with three practices a week in a Tuesday-to-Thursday format for three straight weeks.