You are referring to the Steelers having less than $2 million in cap room and their acquisition of offensive tackle Levi Brown on Wednesday from the Arizona Cardinals. For starters, the move really didn’t require that much additional space for Pittsburgh. I believe Brown carries a cap hit for this season of about $300,000 more than the man he replaced on the roster, Isaiah Green. So, the Steelers didn’t have to make moves to create the space.
If Bears general manager Phil Emery wanted to create more than the roughly $3 million in cap space the team currently has available following the addition of defensive tackle Landon Cohen last week, sure, it could happen. Contract negotiator Cliff Stein could move some numbers around in any number of contracts for other players to create as much cap space as the team wanted. But there is a price to be paid for that in the future.
But let’s not assume the Steelers made a great move here in acquiring Brown, a former No. 5 overall pick. Brown was struggling badly in Arizona, beat routinely by St. Louis’ Robert Quinn in the season opener and again in Week 3 at New Orleans. Brown signed a $30 million, five-year contract in 2012 and unless he turns his game around, the Steelers are not going to want to pay him the bulk of the money remaining in that contract. If the Cardinals were happy with Brown, they would not have put him on the market and you can assume if the Bears were targeting a high-profile player via a trade, the team dangling him wouldn’t be very happy with current production. It’s going to be difficult to find defensive line help in the trade market during the season. In other words, if Brown was playing like a first-round pick and a guy with a $30 million contract, he wouldn’t have been traded. Let’s not confuse activity with progress just yet.
I will not disagree with you that a dash of speed at the position would be a nice addition to the offense. But I view this as more of a “want” than a “need” at this point for the roster. Consider how far the Bears have come at the position in two years. I thought Marquise Goodwin, the Texas speedster who went to the Bills in the third round of the draft, would have been ideal and presented options on special teams as well. But the Bears were short on draft picks in April and you can’t argue there were more pressing needs. Adding a player like Jackson to the mix might upset the apple cart too. You’d have a lot of high-profile players jockeying for a top role in the offense and it would, in my opinion, require too much financial commitment to the position. Here are Jackson’s salary and cap figures, if traded, moving forward:
2013 base salary: $6.75 million, cap would whatever pro-rated base salary remained
2014 base salary: $10.25 million, $10.5 million cap
2015 base salary: $9.75 million, $10 million cap
2016 base salary: $8.25 million, $8.5 million cap
Brandon Marshall is due $9.1 million in 2014, the final year of his contract, and if the Bears imported a player like Jackson, surely Marshall would feel like he deserved more money pretty soon if not right away. I think most would agree Marshall provides more value than Jackson would. This isn’t realistic, in my opinion. It would also challenge general manager Phil Emery’s stated goals of building the organization through the draft.
Assuming Jay Cutler has a decent year and the Bears re-sign him, what would you expect the team to do with its first-round draft pick? Look for a pass rusher? -- @BPspeak from Twitter
It’s really premature to start projecting where general manager Phil Emery would go in the first round of the draft. There are a too many factors that we don’t know right now. First, where will the Bears be drafting? Second, what is the strength of the draft and what is the strength of the draft board in the area where they will be selecting? It wasn’t too difficult to make an educated guess the team would prioritize the offensive line in the 2013 draft during the 2012 season. But you didn’t know if players the Bears wanted would be available. Most figured the Bears would want a left tackle to replace J’Marcus Webb and we saw three of those come off the board with the first four picks leaving not a lot to select from when the Bears went on the clock at No. 20. Know this: Pass rushers are always coveted. It’s impossible to have too many of them and the Bears and every other team will always put a premium on collecting them. Certainly it will have to be a consideration. But the team also has two starting cornerbacks on the wrong side of 30 in the final year of their respective contracts. There will be multiple needs and plenty of time to hash out the possibilities.
What if a team like Jacksonville or Oakland would offer the Bears first- and second-round picks for Jay Cutler? Would you take it? -- @Benyaminr1 from Twitter
First, Phil Emery’s stated goal is to win now. This year, next year and every year after. So, I don’t see him going into Cubs-style teardown anytime soon where he looks to trade off parts with value year after year. He needs a quarterback. Now, let’s step back and analyze this from the other side of the equation. If you are the Jaguars -- right now a definite possibility for the No. 1 overall pick -- or the Raiders -- who should have a similarly high draft position -- would you consider trading your top two picks for Cutler? In the Jaguars’ case, you could be talking about pick Nos. 1 and 33. The Raiders are finally going to be exiting draft hell in 2014. They will finally have a better collection of draft picks after recovering from the disastrous trade for quarterback Carson Palmer made in 2011 and other short-sighted decisions. They’ve been dealing away picks for far too long. Why would a team trade for a quarterback coming out of contract, one that is now 30? The Jaguars and Raiders have rosters full of needs. When the Bears traded two first-round picks and a third-round pick as well as Kyle Orton for Cutler and a fifth-round draft pick, the belief at the time was Cutler was the missing link to a Super Bowl run. A quarterback isn’t the missing link for the Jaguars or Raiders. It would be the first part of the equation. I think you could also make a case that Cutler’s value now isn’t quite what it was when the Bears dealt for him on April 2, 2009.
How come the Bears won’t look at Anthony Adams? -- @JamesSiko from Twitter
Got a couple inquiries about him this week. Double A was a quality part of the rotation on the defensive line -- better than Lovie Smith’s coaching staff gave him credit for when he first arrived. He was also a terrific addition to the locker room. But Adams wasn’t the same player in 2011, his final season, that he had been before. He would not help the situation right now on the defensive line and he was a true nose tackle, not a penetrating tackle that the Bears are now missing following the season-ending injury for Henry Melton.
Washington, the sixth-round draft pick from Georgia, played on defense for the first time this season in the loss at Detroit. He got four snaps and had a missed arm tackle (although he was pursuing on the play) on Reggie Bush’s 37-yard touchdown run. I didn’t see a while lot from Washington in preseason. He could continue to be a part of the mix but his athleticism didn’t translate well from what I saw. If he makes strides in practice, sure, he could play a bigger role.
Perhaps it's a little premature but we can safely conclude that the defense hasn't looked like it has in years past? How much of this can we pin on Mel Tucker and his coaching? If Ron Rivera was available after this year, should the Bears make a push for him if Tucker doesn't work out? -- Alex Navarro from email
I wrote in Monday’s edition that the defense showed signs of struggles through the first four games and not just in the loss to the Lions. Let’s remember, the Lions scored a defensive touchdown and had short drives of 2 and 22 yards for touchdowns. So, that is 21 of their 40 points right there that are hard to pin on Tucker and the defense. It goes beyond that, in my opinion. The pass rush has been an issue throughout. Third down was a problem spot really until facing the Lions. But let me ask you this: How is it on Tucker for a suddenly disappearing pass rush? We’ve said for a couple seasons the defense was getting old. That aging process is ongoing. Rivera, obviously, is hoping to stick with the Panthers as head coach. I couldn’t begin to speculate where he could land if things don’t work out in Carolina. Let’s see where this thing heads.
What is the best way to improve the pass rush? Could the Bears use Shea McClellin as a linebacker on third down and use him as a blitzer? He is not impacting at defensive end. -- @JoeRingblum from Twitter
Who do you take off the field for McClellin? Lance Briggs or James Anderson? Those are the two linebackers playing in the nickel package. I can’t see a situation where removing Briggs from the field would ever help the defense. I think Anderson has played well and he’s certainly been an asset in coverage where McClellin would be a liability. The defense is going to have to improve the pass rush with its down linemen with guys like McClellin playing better. There isn’t a fancy solution to this situation.
Do the long snappers that attended the tryout for punters on Tuesday get paid anything for that? -- Sean King from Twitter
The Bears brought in Charley Hughlett and Kyle Nelson, both long snappers, to work with the six punters they had in for a tryout at Halas Hall. That is standard because a long snapper is needed to properly evaluate a punter. Players are not paid for tryouts other than to have their expenses for the trip -- airfare, lodging and meals -- covered. It is an opportunity to show their craft to the evaluators in the event a need would arise on the roster.
Any rumors out there of the Bears looking to trade for defensive line help? -- @GoBearz99 from Twitter
Only ones that have been filling my Twitter feed. The reality here is none of the other 31 other teams are interested in shopping impact defensive linemen. It doesn’t happen.
When will Marc Trestman go to four- or five-receiver sets? Is the Bears offense predictable? -- @mikekimsoxfan from Twitter
The Bears have shown five-receiver looks and gone with an empty backfield on multiple occasions this season. Running back Matt Forte will vacate the backfield and line up as a wide receiver. I think they have pretty good personnel for this with Forte, wide receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, and tight end Martellus Bennett. That gives quarterback Jay Cutler three big targets and a crafty receiver like Earl Bennett along with Forte, who runs routes well and has good hands. I think most would agree Martellus Bennett is a better receiving option than any fourth receiver on the roster right now. You don’t have to have five “wide receivers” on the field to have a five-receiver set. As far as predictability, I think Trestman has been very diverse with his personnel groupings, his alignments and his play calls. That has been interesting to watch. Forte scored on a 53-yard run on a play with Pony personnel -- two running backs in the backfield -- and Jeffery has made two long runs in the last two games on end-arounds.
Will both Julius Peppers and Henry Melton get contract extensions? If not, who gets the ax? -- @carlosdiazl from Twitter
Peppers remains under contract through 2015 and Melton will be an unrestricted free agent in March provided he is not re-signed before then or is secured with the franchise tag for a second time. So, the only player that could get the “ax” would be Peppers. It is far too early to speculate with any certainty on the status of either player at this point. If either one were to leave, the Bears would need to have a secure plan in place to replace them.
Should the Bears pursue Josh Freeman if he is cut? I think they should if he clears waivers. Your thoughts? -- @josemonge from Twitter
Freeman is a vested veteran so he would not be subject to the waiver process. If the Bucs get rid of him, they will terminate his contract. I think Freeman is an interesting player with some talent but I don’t believe that is a move the Bears would consider in-season. It would create too many storylines and questions about the future of Jay Cutler for it to be a healthy and productive move. After the season, Freeman might be a guy worth exploring but he needs some work to refine his game and quarterback restoration projects are rarely big hits.
I am starting to believe the biggest offseason loss was Dave Toub. Do you agree? -- @chibob57 from Twitter
There is no question Toub is one of the best at what he does in the NFL and I think Joe DeCamillis has gone out of his way to praise Toub for the foundation he put in place with the Bears. When Lovie Smith was fired, Toub made it clear he desired to go elsewhere if he was not going to be hired as head coach. Toub had a relationship with Andy Reid dating back to their time together at UTEP in the 1980’s and Reid gave him his first job in the NFL with the Eagles so it was a natural fit for them to re-join forces with the Chiefs. I don’t think keeping Toub was an option for Marc Trestman. You don’t want to force assistants to stay that don’t want to be there. DeCamillis has a rock solid resume and Devin Hester has looked solid this season to this point. It’s tough to pin some poor punts by Adam Podlesh on DeCamillis last Sunday at Detroit. Granted, we are not accustomed to seeing touchdown returns like the Vikings had in Week 2 with Cordarrelle Patterson but those happen from time to time.
Is this finally the end of the long, strange journey of Harvey Unga as a Bear? -- @psiegfried from Twitter
One thing you learn about the NFL is never say never. That being said, I don’t think Unga has upside for the Bears’ 53-man roster. Some players on the practice squad are there for just that -- practice. That is the reality of the situation. Unga could help as a running back and fullback in practice. I never really viewed him as an asset to the offense.
Do you see the Bears trading Shea McClellin to a 3-4 team where he belongs? Seems like they're open to admitting mistakes like with Evan Rodriguez. -- @chibob57 from Twitter
I am not sure how much value McClellin would have to a 3-4 team right now. I don’t believe the Bears would come close to recouping a first-round pick for him. I think they are better off working with McClellin with the hope the light comes on for him. Sometimes it takes time to make the adjustment to the NFL. He is not making an impact commensurate to his draft status at this point.
What is happening with the punter tryout that was held Tuesday? Are the Bears leaning one way or another? -- @PJ_28_ from Twitter
For right now all indications are they are keeping Adam Podlesh as their punter for this week. I can’t say exactly how the tryout went because my invitation never arrived. However, multiple reports I got were that Mat McBriar and Brian Moorman did well in difficult conditions. It was very windy during the workouts. It would not surprise me if the Bears went with a punter Joe DeCamillis was familiar with if they make a move. Both punted for him in Dallas. If Podlesh has another bad game or two, I could see a move being made. The Bears were close to replacing Podlesh last season.
Do you think Dante Rosario will become more of a receiver later in the season especially if Martellus Bennett's shoulder worsens? -- @petemeyer5 from Twitter
Bennett’s shoulder injury was something that led the team to remove him from some plays when he would have had a greater role as a blocker. He hasn’t missed much practice time, at least that has been reported on the injury report, and I don’t believe there is fear right now that it is a serious situation. Rosario has some versatility as a receiver and I’d expect him to emerge as a complementary target from time to time but I doubt he will have many plays as a primary target.
Given the lack of production on the defensive line can we expect to see guys like Cornelius Washington, David Bass and Zach Minter to get playing time? -- @BeardownBureau from Twitter
If pass-rushing problems persist, I expect defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to exhaust all possibilities in hope of getting a spark. I would add defensive end Cheta Ozougwu, currently on the practice squad, as a possibility too. But in my opinion the answer is going to have to come from the players currently at the top of the depth chart. I don’t think there is a pass-rushing demon simply biding his time for a chance to explode. Maybe I am wrong.
Any chance Shea McClellin moves to linebacker? -- @gavgavdineen from Twitter
Not in a 4-3 defense.
After watching Detroit run all over the Bears, it's obvious the defensive line is too small in the interior. Why haven't the Bears called Amobi Okoye yet? Okoye's a run stopper, but he also can get some push up the middle in the pass rush (and he knows the defense). He's no Henry Melton, but the Bears aren't going to find anyone better on the street right now. – Robert, Malta, Ill.
I thought the primary issue with Bush was some poor run fits and missed tackles. I don’t think size was the issue. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about Okoye over the last two weeks and quite frankly I don’t understand the level of fascination with him other than he is a name player that was a former first-round draft pick. He wasn’t very good in the defense last season when he might not have been fully healthy. He was a decent rotational player in 2011, nothing special, and that was reflected in a weak free-agent market for him after that season. Most of the time there is a reason players are free agents in September and October.
Why wasn't Calvin Johnson's touchdown catch officially reviewed or for that matter challenged by the coach? Everyone in the place I was at did not see a catch. Also, when I watched again on DVR, I could still not see it. -- Ralph Shelhamer
Every scoring play in the NFL is looked at by the replay official to determine if a review is warranted. Coaches, by rule, cannot challenge scoring plays. Johnson’s catch was a touchdown. His body came down in-bounds.