- As most fans know, the Bears will have plenty of cap space available to spend in free agency. What’s really interesting is that no one seems to know how much. Sean Jensen at the Chicago Sun-Times says the Bears will have $32 million available. But Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune puts the number at $28 million.
The problem appears to be in the league office where they are still trying to figure out how to handle the cap numbers under the new collective bargaining agreement. Its one of those rare times when the league doesn’t seem to have its act together. Here’s hoping they won’t be making a habit of it.
- Jensen comments as Phil Emery defines how he will try to handle his role within the organization.
“Over time, Emery’s style and approach will become more clear.
“The only thing he’s delineated is his desire to continue to be on the road, getting an up-close look at college players during the season. He said he plans to watch college games on Thursdays and Saturdays and be around the Bears on Sunday through Wednesday.”
Jensen continues the characterization in another article:
“After his news conference last month, Emery provided insight on his philosophy for evaluating players. He said he’s careful about ‘pre-judging an athlete’ because he has seen so many ‘do amazing things that people didn’t think they could do.’
“‘We call it in the scouting business, ‘Instant evaluation,’ ‘ Emery said. ‘ ‘Boy, he’s not going to do this.’ Watch the whole picture. Make sure you’re right. Watch the extra tape. Watch two extra tapes.
“‘If you see something, try to find out if he can do it again. Sometimes, that was an anomaly. But if a guy shows you he can make a spectacular catch or a great run, hone in on why that happened. What are the traits that allowed that to happen?’”
- Bears pro scout Dennard Wilson is expected to join the Rams as a defensive assistant coach. Dan Pompei at the Chicago Tribune describes the problem:
“Wilson’s anticipated departure would leave the Bears thin in pro scouts leading up to free agency, as assistant director of pro personnel Kevin Turks and pro scout James Kirkland are the only men at Halas Hall who have been committed to studying NFL personnel.
“Former director of player personnel Tim Ruskell had spearheaded the pro scouting department, and he has not been replaced. Former general manager Jerry Angelo also spent a good deal of time on the pro side.”
“It is likely Emery will lean on the Bears coaches, as well as Turks and Kirkland, to help him through his first free agent period.”
- Biggs reports on another disturbing example of teams not letting assistant coaches interview for coordinator positions. At least Bears head coach Lovie Smith isn’t doing it in a blanket fashion:
“Smith said while the Bears blocked secondary coach Jon Hoke from interviewing with the Minnesota Vikings for their defensive coordinator job, Hoke was allowed to talk to Greg Schiano about that position on his new staff with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
- Very few people would argue that Smith knows the defensive side of the ball. But its evident that he’s reached a critical juncture in terms of his tenure as head coach primarily because of the decisions he’s made associated with the offense. Biggs comments:
“It’s worth wondering if Smith is on his last offensive coordinator — if [Mike] Tice will be the final man he’s allowed to hire for the Bears. It’s easy to blame Angelo for failing to produce with offensive draft picks. Last season, [Matt] Forte became the first offensive player drafted by Angelo to make the Pro Bowl since 2002. But Smith shares some of the responsibility.
“Smith didn’t talk about any sweeping changes on offense, and Tice has said much will stay the same, including the verbiage and the running game. Smith fell back to an easy goal when talking about offense — scoring more points — and acknowledged the Bears have to be better in the passing game. That starts with improved protection, something Tice should deliver. Then it comes down to upgrading [Jay] Cutler‘s targets.”
- Cutler appears to have some strong opinions about what the Bears should do at wide receiver. Via ESPN:
“Appearing Monday morning on ESPN 1000 , Cutler sung the praises of his friend and former teammate Brandon Marshall, currently a member of the Miami Dolphins, but said: ‘Anyone really over 6-2 at this point is going to look good.’”
I can only agree.
- Pompei emphasizes that you can’t just add any talented receiver to the team and expect it to all workout:
“’Chemistry in the room often is a problem, and chemistry with the quarterback too,’ said an NFC general manager. ‘That position can mess with a team more than any other. They are the biggest chicks on the team. They often have a very high opinion of themselves. As a rule, they don’t approach their jobs with the same degree of professionalism players at other positions do.’”
- Phil Emery sounds like he had interest in Dwayne Bowe. Biggs says that he met with Bowe’s agent Todd France at the combine. France doesn’t represent any of the Bears’ free agents. Unfortunately, Bowe was franchised by the Chiefsso he won’t be available.
- Michael Floyd may have solidfied his position as the second best wide receiver in the draft after running an outstanding forty yard dash at the combine. However, Pompei reads my mind as he comments further:
“Sober scouts will point out that even though Michael Floyd was fast on the track, he may not play as fast as he timed.”
Something tells me that Emery is unlikely to make the mistake of over looking this. He seems like a guy who is going to rely heavily on game tape to evaluate prospects.
- Pompei has his opinion on what the Bears should do with that pick as well:
“A lot of pre-draft boards have the Bears taking Michael Floyd at No. 19. If Courtney Upshaw fell to that spot, would you take him? — David Comiskey, Chicago
“I would rather use that first-round pick on a defensive end than a wide receiver if all things were equal. The foundation of most great football teams usually is big men. And linemen tend to be safer picks than wide receivers. Upshaw might not be a bad pick, but I think Whitney Mercilus or Nick Perry would be better ones.”
- There’s a substantial amount of depth at the defensive line positions should the Bears decide to go in that direction in the first round. Via Pompei.
- Mark Potash at the Chicago Sun-Times talks Illinois defensive tackle Whitney Mercilus:
“When he was asked which teams had shown interest in him, Mercilus listed the ‘‘Bears, Chargers, also the Bills’’ — in that order. Ourlads.com, a well-respected scouting website, projects the Bears to select Mercilus with the 19th pick in the first round.
‘‘’Mercilus is a speed rusher with excellent athletic ability,’ one NFL scout said. ‘The question [is], will he be a one-year wonder or an up-and-comer? He could be productive as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 edge guy.’’’
- According to Biggs, defensive tackle Anthony Adams has been let go. Adams lost a lot of playing time last year and, though it may have simply been due to under-performance, my gut tells me that there was more to it. Perhaps it will eventually come out.
- Pompei comments on the (very slight) possibility that the Bears will target defensive end Mario Williams in free agency:
“Whoever signs Williams probably is going to have to make him the highest paid defender in the NFL. For the Bears, that would likely mean having to forgo signing a No. 1 receiver. But if adding Williams were a possibility, some sacrifices elsewhere would be well worth it.”
- Pompei answers your questions:
“Cornerback is one of the needs on defense this off-season for the Bears. Wouldn’t Brandon Carr be a good fit with the Bears? He has good size and Phil Emery has to be familiar with him considering the KC Chiefs background. — Matt, Montreal
“Carr is a fine player and would be an upgrade for the Bears. But it’s going to take mucho dinero to sign him. The Bears have more pressing priorities, I believe. And if you look at their history with Lovie Smith‘s defense, they have never gone after big money cornerbacks, or even drafted one in the top two rounds. The belief is you can get by in the Tampa Two without a premium corner.”
I’ve a sneaking suspicion that this philosophy may no longer completely apply. I agree that the Bears will never pay premium prices for cornerbacks but I think Lovie Smith is beginning to recognize that they need corners who can do more than play the cover two. That means they’re going to have to invest more in the position.
- The Bears have been linked to free agent Cortland Finnegan but I think he’ll be too rich for their blood at this position and he’s not exactly known for disciplined play.
- Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune gives some insight into what free agent Corey Graham might be thinking:
“’[Special teams coordinator Dave] Toub re-signing with the Bears doesn’t really factor in much with my decision unless there are no teams out there interested in me on defense,’ Graham said. ‘If all the teams are only interested in me on special teams, then I would love to come back and play for Toub.
“’But if any teams are interested in what I can do on defense, then Toub re-signing means very little because even after three interceptions in very limited plays this year, the Bears coaching staff still doesn’t see me as a defensive player.’”
It doesn’t sound like he’s gong to be resigning. Even the dumbest teams are going to tell Graham he will have a “chance to compete” on defense without making any promises. Graham has a good idea of how he stands with the Bears so even that will be an improvement for him.
- Both Bears offensive tackles were in the bottom 20 in the league in pass blocking efficiency last year according to Pro Football Focus. Here is a list of their top five free agent tackles.
- Smith sounds happy with the situation at safety. Via Biggs.
- The deals for Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster should frame the negotiations for Matt Forte’s contract. Via Biggs.
- Another week, another NFL concussion law suit brought be former players.
- On a peripherally related note, the NFL caused a storm of media coverage by stating that they were investigating allegations that former Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams helped put bounties on the heads of opposing offensive players. Players were paid for knocking opponents out of games. From the full press release:
“‘The payments here are particularly troubling because they involved not just payments for ‘performance,’ but also for injuring opposing players,’ Commissioner [Roger] Goodell said. ‘The bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity.’”
- Of course, this generated the usual calls from fans to sports talk radio all over the country about putting skirts on players. David Haugh at the Chicago Tribune explains why they’re wrong.
“The Saints bounty issue isn’t a referendum on violence in pro football. This is the NFL rightly reacting to one team’s formal plan encouraging dirty play as the league tried curbing it in the midst of the concussion-awareness era. This isn’t further emasculation of the NFL. This is necessary league intervention to remind teams where the line exists between the hard hitting that traditionally makes the game great and hired thuggery.”
- Judy Battista at The New York Times makes the case that injured players could sue Gregg Robinson and player who injured them under bounty system. There’s precedent.
- Saints owner Tom Benson says that when he found out about the bounties, he ordered GM Mickey Loomis to put a stop to it. Loomis apparently ignored him. Mike Florio at profootballtalk.com rightly questions the situation.
There’s only one reason why Benson would continue to support Loomis despite the fact that he supposedly disobeyed his direct order to have the bounty system in New Orleans stopped. Its because he didn’t. Loomis is undoubted covering for Benson, who is one of the lowest class owners in the league and who is just the kind of guy who would allow a bounty system of this type to continue.
The Sports Pickle asks how the league should punish the teams who used a bounty system. Here’s an interesting option:
“- fine the organization a large sum and send a message to other teams in the league by also fining James Harrison an even larger sum”
- They also have 8 tips for Brett Favre as he joins Twitter:
“#5 – Photo-Sharing
“There are several good photo-sharing services that work with Twitter: TwitPic, Lockerz and yfrog among many others. However, if you have photos that need to be enhanced in any way — such as for size — you may want to look into signing up for Instagram.”
One Final Thought
David Kamp at The New York Times puts things in perspective as he looks back on his life as a football fan:
“One of the few aphorisms I have committed to memory is a Nick Hornby line from ‘Fever Pitch’: ‘The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score.’”