The Bears created some additional salary cap room, clearing $2 million by restructuring the contract of Julius Peppers (not giving him a pay cut) and giving Earl Bennett a $1 million reduction in base salary. The latter move was probably somewhat cap driven and also because Bennett’s performance hasn’t matched the contract extension he signed in December 2011, not to this point anyway. Bennett can earn the money back through on-field performance. This has given the Bears operating room under the cap for this season in the event of injuries and additional needed signings. It’s also given them a little wiggle room to consider something maybe at the end of the season or the club can always elect to slide the leftover cap room into 2014. I don’t believe there will be a rush to sign Cutler during the season and Cutler probably doesn’t want to rush into anything. There is one game in the books. If he performs well over the course of the season, he can enhance his value. The Bears will have the franchise tag at their disposal if they want to ensure Cutler doesn’t go anywhere. I don’t believe any deals are imminent.
Does all of the cap maneuvering mean Phil Emery is willing to lock up some free agents instead of waiting until after the season and money wars? -- @ChiBears27 from Twitter
Twenty-six of the 53 players on the roster right now have a contract that expires at the end of this season. But the issue here, in my opinion, is that only two of those 26 are players that are coming out of their rookie contract – defensive end Corey Wootton and strong safety Major Wright. It’s those players, the guys coming out of their first four-year contract in the NFL, that are ripe for extensions, deals that can get done early and provide the player with long-term security and the club with just a little bit of a home-town discount because the club assumes the injury risk in signing a player to an extension early. The issue here is the Bears don’t have a large group of these players in the primes of their career. That is where clubs want to sink big money. They want to pay ascending players in their mid-20s. Why would Emery rush to throw money around at players on the wrong side of 30? There will be players in that category the Bears would like back at the end of the season, no question. Not all of them but surely some. But paying older players is a riskier investment and I think the club wants to see what those guys can do and how they hold up. If you recall this past offseason, there were not a lot in the way of “money wars” going on for veteran players in the marketplace. That is how Emery landed starters like James Anderson, D.J. Williams and Matt Slauson at club friendly prices.
If there was one player on the roster in the final year of his contract that you think absolutely should get extended, who is it and why? -- @SternOne from Twitter
See the reply above. And the one above it. Phil Emery has not completely ruled out the possibility of something at some point this season but right now it is not on the agenda. It depends on how these guys perform. If left guard Matt Slauson remains a durable performer, my guess is they would like to keep the offensive line growing together. Strong-side linebacker James Anderson looks like a nice find. Cornerack Charles Tillman has been terrific the previous two seasons. But to single out a player here – and at this point in the season – would be just throwing you-know-what against the wall and waiting to see what sticks. It’s a long season. Emery shouldn’t have money burning a hole in his pocket.
I’m surprised the Bears didn’t draft a quarterback for development behind Jay Cutler. I hope he stays and evolves but do you see a quarterback being drafted in 2014? -- @wickercat from Twitter
You share the same sentiment as WSCR-AM 670 host Mike Mulligan, who has a Wednesday Tribune column during the NFL season. Mulligan was adamant the Bears needed to draft a quarterback this past April because of the uncertainty of Cutler’s future. However, the team had only six draft picks to use and the list of needs was well documented. Add in the fact that this was considered a poor draft for quarterbacks and that could be one reason why Emery passed. We’ll see if some of the mid-round picks develop in the next year or two. Some like Mike Glennon in Tampa Bay, a third-round pick. He was the third passer selected and Josh Freeman looks to be on shaky ground with the Bucs. Oakland already cut its fourth-round pick Tyler Wilson, the sixth quarterback drafted, and re-signed him to its practice squad.
Why didn’t the Bears blitz more vs. Cincinnati? -- @Benyaminr1 from Twitter
I counted 12 blitzes on 33 pass attempts for Andy Dalton and that is a ratio that is pretty consistent for the defense prior to this season. There are a variety of reasons. For starters, the Cover-Two scheme the Bears play is predicated on getting home with four down linemen and covering with seven on the back end. That’s what the defense is all about. Keep the ball in front of you and make the tackle. Eliminate the big plays and force the opponent to methodically drive the length of the field to score. If an offense isn’t perfect – or darn good – it’s not going to pull off the 10-play, 80-yard drive that is often needed. What’s another reason? Defensive end Julius Peppers should be able to dominate or at least win a one-on-one matchup with reserve left tackle Anthony Collins. And franchise-tagged defensive tackle Henry Melton ought to collapse the pocket on occasion.
There was a lot of talk this preseason about Isaiah Frey. How'd he do in his debut? -- @K_M0neyswag from Twitter
I had Frey, the cornerback, on the field for 16 snaps (excluding plays with penalties) and 14 of those were in the nickel package. He also lined up twice on the outside when Charles Tillman was out of the game in the second quarter. The Bears didn’t go to their nickel package until the second quarter and the Bengals occasional hurry-up offense might have made substituting difficult. I thought Frey was solid in a small role. He was credited with four tackles – two solos and two assists – by coaches following their review of game tape. He made a nice tackle of A.J. Green on an inside route in the fourth quarter. The sample size was awful small and I am interested to see what Frey can do when he gets more playing time and is challenged more by an opposing quarterback.
Does Marc Trestman call his own plays or is Aaron Kromer doing that? -- @Zisk22 from Twitter
Trestman is the play caller and he radios the plays in directly to Jay Cutler. But Kromer has a big role in what the Bears are doing offensively and certainly is a heavy influence in the running game.
What do you see as the most dangerous “quarter” of the Bears’ schedule this year? -- @mspmef from Twitter
We’ve yet to hear Marc Trestman break the season down into quarters like former coach Lovie Smith did frequently. I think the season is pretty evenly divided. Certainly before it started and prior to the victory over the Bengals, I probably would have said the first quarter. But there is one win in the books now and all of a sudden the Week 3 trip to Pittsburgh doesn’t look quite as daunting with injuries piling up early for the Steelers. The Bears do not have a quarter with more than two games against a 2012 playoff team and only face one in the final quarter with the season finale at Soldier Field against the Packers. Quarters two through four look pretty even to me right now.
(home games in caps)