Is Phil Emery going to surprise us all and go offense in the first round? -- @fronczak68 from Twitter
You need to learn to never say never in the NFL but I don’t know how the Bears will accomplish remaining work needed for the defense by going on the offensive side of the ball in the first round. A best-case scenario for Emery might be an abundance of offensive players to pick from at No. 14 that could create a trade-down scenario.
Did Jay Cutler know the Bears had the intent to cut Earl Bennett? Seems he would have lobbied for him to stay. -- @JasonLoetterle from Twitter
I would doubt general manager Phil Emery consulted with Cutler before the team made the decision to terminate Bennett’s contract. GM’s run the business in the front office, coaches coach and players play. I received a few other questions about this and Cutler has been at it far too long to not understand the business of the sport – the business that netted him a contract that will pay him $22.5 million this season. Sure, Cutler would prefer Bennett to be in the locker room and huddle but those choices aren’t up to him and it will not affect the way he goes about his job.
Will the Bears look to the draft to pick up another wide receiver now that Earl Bennett left? -- @jake_powers1 from Twitter
I would say the chances for this went up. It is a deep draft for the position this year too so that bodes well for every team in need of help, even the Carolina Panthers. But we’re talking about a pick in the middle to later rounds of the draft for the Bears, I think. A draft pick would likely be behind Marquess Wilson from the start of things too as the team works to replace Bennett.
What was the percentage of snaps the Bears third wide receiver had in 2013? -- @tekster420 from Twitter
Good question. The Bears used a three-receiver set more than any other formation last season and Earl Bennett was on the field for 542 snaps – 51.2 percent of the time. That is why his departure and replacement are significant. Marquess Wilson had 75 snaps (7.1), Eric Weems had 24 snaps (2.3) and Joe Anderson had 13 snaps (1.2).
How exactly are the Bears getting younger on defense? They have to be drafting defense with the first three rounds at least? -- @mrbuster60 from Twitter
It’s hard if not impossible to get younger via free agency. Top-tier players in their 20’s are rarely available on the open market. The Bears made a nice addition with Lamarr Houston and have high hopes for Willie Young. But to get younger and build a future, they need building blocks via the draft. I don’t know if the first three picks will be used on defense but that would not be a surprise. One mistake Phil Emery will not make is to get so locked into a position that he ignores superior value at another position. That played a role in the trade up to draft Alshon Jeffery in 2012 when many were clamoring for the Bears to draft an offensive lineman.
With additions of Lamarr Houston and Willie Young as starting ends who will be sacking the quarterback? Do the Bears care only about pressures? -- @tylermbrunson from Twitter
The Bears are certainly hoping Houston and Young provide healthy sack numbers. The plan is for Shea McClellin to rush the quarterback as an end in pass-rushing situations and the club is banking on a change of position and adjustments to the defense bringing out his strengths. I don’t know if the light will go on for McClellin but I do know Phil Emery places a high value on sacks over pressures. He views sacks as negative plays that can alter the course of the game. Sack differential is an important statistic and one all clubs keep a close eye on. Emery has referenced this statistic in the past.
Do you think the Bears will attempt to make any trades whether it be in the draft or a trade similar to when they acquired Brandon Marshall? -- @slickrob10 from Twitter
There isn’t a general manager in the NFL that turns his phone off. But the calls and chatter don’t always generate deals. The Bears would like to acquire more draft picks but that would require a trade down in the draft and typically those moves don’t materialize until the team is on the clock. As far as finding a special player like Marshall via a trade, that was an aberration. The Dolphins had a change in head coaches and wanted to move a player that had created issues for the previous coaching staff. You’re going to have to wait a while to see a player of Marshall’s caliber flipped for two third-round picks again. The Bears picked up linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo from the Dolphins in 2005 for tight end John Owens and a seventh-round draft pick. Like Marshall, Ayanbadejo was caught in a coaching change and Nick Saban wanted bigger linebackers. Ayanbadejo turned into a Pro Bowl performer on special teams for the Bears. So, you do see good players get traded by teams undergoing change. Players with Marshall’s ability, though, are rarely moved and his past issues appear to be just that – part of the past.
Who will be the middle linebacker and what upgrades on defense are you looking at? -- @RoRuckus from Twitter
I would expect D.J. Williams to get the first crack at the starting middle linebacker job based on his performance last season when he was healthy. Williams last played in 16 games in 2010 so hopefully Jon Bostic makes strides from his rookie season. Upgrades beyond the recent signings need to come via the draft and the safety position remains a legitimate concern.
The past two drafts Phil Emery took players no one predicted in the first round. Any idea if he will continue the trend? Maybe NIU safety Jimmie Ward? -- @jackbearmiller from Twitter
Ward had a terrific career at Northern Illinois and NFL scouts are impressed by his playmaking instinct. His size remains a concern for teams. Ward bulked up a little for his pro day and measured 5-10 ¾ and 197 pounds but it might be a stretch for him to get into the first round. One college scouting director I spoke to drew a comparison to former Colts safety Bob Sanders and said when you get safeties that size there are durability concerns. Ward is a good player and it will be interesting to see how his career tracks. If he’s anything like Sanders, some team is going to get an impactful draft pick.
Given the relatively small sample size, how do the Bears feel about defensive end David Bass moving forward? -- @Kieran_murphy92 from Twitter
Bass got good experience as a rookie after the Bears claimed him off waivers from the Raiders. He was on the field for 311 snaps (29.9 percent) and showed some upside. He’s long at 6-4, 256 and strong but remains raw as a pass rusher. I think the team would like to see him develop and become better with his hands. He could also use some secondary moves. He’s definitely in the mix and will challenge some of the newcomers like Israel Idonije.
Are the Bears preparing for the draft now? Or are there still more significant moves to make in free agency? -- @Gibinho9 from Twitter
With pro and college scouting departments, the Bears are tackling both fronts at one time. College scouts have been canvassing pro days across the country. I kind of doubt we will see any more big moves in free agency. Following the owners meeting next week, I expect general manager Phil Emery will shift nearly all of his focus to the draft. He’s been working both ends since the end of the season.
Are you hearing any word about re-signing Eben Britton? Was his performance last season viewed favorably by Marc Trestman and Aaron Kromer? -- @GrizzlyKurt from Twiter
Britton and the Bears have had small discussions and I think he is a possibility to return. The Bears need to have a swing tackle they are comfortable with and he filled the role nicely last season. I’d imagine the team is surveying what other options are available and what players might potentially be cut loose by their current teams.
Phil Emery traded up to great success with Alshon Jeffrey. Do you see him using the club's 2015 first-round pick in order to trade back into the first round this year and get two of the top defensive tackles? He could then use the third rounder to draft a cornerback to groom behind Charles Tillman and still have four other picks to fill out the roster. The Bears haven't been very aggressive in the draft in recent years. Do you think the players are there to do it this year? – Mark E., Arlington, Va.
I would be surprised if the Bears are interested in using high picks in 2015 to fortify their draft this year. Teams generally avoid mortgaging future drafts and the cost can be prohibitive as a premium pick in the current draft costs much more in a future draft. For instance, a third-round pick in 2014 might cost a team a second-round pick in 2015. The Bears have certainly been more aggressive in the draft than they were previously under Jerry Angelo.
My questions are in regards Taylor Boggs. He's got a great story but he took up a roster spot last year that in hindsight would have been valuable allocating towards defensive depth. Is Boggs a legitimate prospect to start at center? If this is Roberto Garza's last year with the Bears could Boggs start next year? If Garza did not return this year would the Bears have had enough confidence in Boggs to give him a shot to start? If not, they are wasting a spot on a nice story. – John L., Parsippany N.J.
The Bears needed a backup center last season and while left guard Matt Slauson has the ability to move inside and snap if needed, that would have necessitated two moves to replace Garza if something would have happened to him. Fortunately, Garza was on the field for every offensive play. Considering the injuries that can wipe out lines, operating without a backup center would have been foolish. Boggs’ presence didn’t preclude the Bears from stocking the defense with players. There were players deep on the depth chart on the defensive side of the ball that rarely saw the field, specifically in the secondary. If the Bears didn’t believe Boggs had upside, they would not have kept him around. His back story is an interesting one and something high school players should keep in mind. My guess is the Bears get another young center to look at along with Boggs when they consider a future without Garza, perhaps in 2015.
Recently aging players like Julius Peppers and Steve Smith have signed three-year contracts for large amounts with only a small amount guaranteed. Please explain the thought behind this when both the player and the team know he will not be there for the entire contract. -- Lino C.
Peppers was signed to a three-year deal by the Packers and given a $7.5 million signing bonus in order for Green Bay to reduce his salary-cap figure for this season to only $3.5 million. Smith received a $3.5 million signing bonus and the Ravens are doing the same thing, pushing down his cap figure to $2,166,666. Often times there is fluff at the back end of deals in NFL contracts. That is why signing bonuses and guaranteed money are key indicators of a club’s commitment along with the three-year payout for younger players.
Does Marc Trestman have enough of a reputation as a quarterback guru to attract interest from veterans trying to reboot their careers? Are the Bears getting calls where they have the chance to pick from a nice list? – James P., Chicago
Most backup quarterbacks are probably looking for a chance to get on the field first and foremost. The Bears have a deep commitment to Jay Cutler and playing time is going to become available only if an injury occurs. Given the financial investment in Cutler, it looks like the Bears will be seeking a backup on a minimum-salary benefit deal. The second thing backups look for is a pay day. That’s not going to come from the Bears with an MSB contract. Beyond that, I would imagine Trestman would be attractive for quarterbacks seeking work. The Bears produced with Josh McCown and few would have put much stock in his ability last March. We’ll see how this plays out. The list of quarterbacks on the street right now isn’t much to get excited about. It will also be interesting to see what kind of depth chart is built behind running back Matt Forte as I expect Michael Ford will get competition in the form of a veteran and a possibly a late-round draft pick.
With defensive tackle and end being glaring needs for the Bears in the upcoming draft do you think Phil Emery would reach to fill those positions in a modest talent pool? Do you think it would be worth trading back for a late first- and second-round pick or even an early second- and third-round pick with a deep cornerback pool and safety not really a good first-round option? I know it would be good to develop a defensive tackle but Timmy Jernigan and Aaron Donald are both under 300 pounds. Possible three techniques but I'm not sure the Bears need a three technique in the future and the defensive end pool looks better in the second round than first to me. – Todd Y., Melbourne, Australia
The needs are not quite as glaring as they were two weeks ago but the Bears need young talent on the defensive line. As I have detailed before, trades down can be difficult to pull off. Emery said at the scouting combine last month that it can be hard to acquire fair value in a trade down. The three technique will be a big part of the defense and this front will be driven by the right end and that interior position. You are right that good talent should be available in the second round for the line.
The Bears are signing a lot of one-year contracts. Is Phil Emery hedging risk that the defense regresses or putting depth behind rookie starters? -- @tffarkbocaj from Twitter
There have been a slew of one-year contracts signed this week and these are primarily depth additions and guys who will be in a battle for the final few roster spots. The bottom third of the roster is made up of journeymen and young players. When it comes to one-year contracts with no guaranteed money, players don’t have any incentive to sign multi-year deals. Why lock yourself up with a team for multiple years when there is no guarantee? In the case of a player like cornerback Sherrick McManis, signed to a one-year contract for the minimum-salary benefit on Wednesday, he’s hoping to have a strong 2014 season and position himself for more security in free agency when 2015 rolls around.
With free agency it looks like special teams will be vastly improved. What's your take? -- @rflashj from Twitter
When you look at newcomers in the mix since free agency opened, we’re talking about linebacker Jordan Senn, safeties Danny McCray and M.D Jennings and wide receiver Domenik Hixon right now. I think the plan is for Ryan Mundy to be a starting safety but he has special teams experience as well. The Bears need to be better at punter and have Drew Butler and Tress Way to compete for that job right currently. That was probably the biggest area of weakness last season. Can wide receiver Chris Williams, a CFL star, be a dynamic returner like Devin Hester? There are still plenty of questions and the turnover from one year to the next can be dramatic on special teams. The team has certainly made moves with special teams in mind.
Let's say that the Bears don't draft a three technique tackle in the first round. Can Jeremiah Ratliff and Nate Collins replace Henry Melton's production? -- @mosconml from Twitter
Ratliff is a ways removed from his run as a four-time Pro Bowl performer for the Cowboys. The Bears believed Collins was a fine role player last year when he suffered a torn ACL. If you’re talking about the Melton of 2012 when he was a force vs. the run and pass, that will be difficult. The Bears need to be better across the board along the line and with changes in the scheme, coaching staff and with additions via the draft, we’ll see how they stack up.
Along the lines of your recent article on the topic, are the Bears likely to go defensive tackle in the first round? It seems that way even though the safeties on the roster are mostly borderline starters at best or more special teamers at this point. What if Aaron Donald, who seems to be the favorite at this point is gone and/or Corey Wootton returns? Doesn't that make the pick wide open for the best cornerback or safety? If the best cornerback and safety were gone and a trade down wasn't available, is there any scenario the Bears consider North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron to avoid reaches even with a defense with significant needs? – Joe B.
Ebron is at the head of the class for the tight ends in this draft and I am not sure how much upside the position group has in this draft. One veteran tight ends coach I spoke to at the scouting combine and a scout called it the worst class of tight ends they had ever seen perform at the combine. That’s the group as a whole and the work they did at Lucas Oil Stadium. If Ebron is on the board at No. 14, he’d be an interesting discussion for general manager Phil Emery, I would think. But it’s clear that work remains on the defensive side of the ball.
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