Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Bears columnist answers your questions. This week: Hiring Bates, looking at possible free agents and who the Bears should draft at No. 19.
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Green Bay's Jermichael Finley celebrates a touchdown against the Bears. (Scott Strazzante/ Tribune Photo)
By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter 8:24 p.m. CST, February 9, 2012
I would like to know your thoughts on the Bears' first round pick (No. 19) in this year's draft. As I see it there will be plenty of quality No. 1 receivers in free agency, large and small. Wouldn't it be wiser for them to opt for a DE the likes of Nick Perry or OG David Castro. -- Chuck; Guilin, China
Generally speaking, I almost always would advocate going big in the first round if things are equal. We have no way of knowing yet how free agency will play out, or how the first 18 picks will go. But if there is a quality defensive end available at No. 19, I don't think there is any question that should be the Bears' priority. Given the lack of pass rush at times last year, and given that the team is aging quickly on the defensive side of the ball, the Bears need a young defender to build around. I would be less inclined to choose a guard in the first round, but if a difference maker at offensive tackle were still on the board, I'd look long and hard at him.
Who would you rather see in a Bears uniform next year: Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston? Both players seem to possess the talent and size of a number one wide receiver. Is there are possibility that the Bears sign one of these free agents? -- Phil Keith, Milwaukee
They are similar wide receivers. Both are very good players. Both have been very productive. Both players cause mismatches because of their size. Both have benefited from playing with outstanding quarterbacks and in ideal conditions. Their hands are decent, not great. Even though both players are about the same size (6-5, 230 for Jackson versus 6-4, 225 for Colston), Jackson is a more physical receiver. Colston might be a little faster and moreexplosive. From what I'm hearing, both could be available, probably at a price of about $9 million a year. Jackson might be a better fit for the NFC North, but either would look good in a Bears uniform. Jackson and Colston aren't the only attractive potential free agent wide receiver for the Bears. Others who could be on the market include Dwayne Bowe, Josh Morgan, Robert Meachem, Wes Welker, Reggie Wayne, DeSean Jackson, Mario Manningham, Laurent Robinson and Plaxico Burress.
Assuming the Bears address their biggest need and finally get Jay Cutler a legit No.1 receiver this offseason, don't you think they should trade Johnny Knox as well? They signed Earl Bennett to an extension, presumably to be the No.2 guy. And either Devin Hester or Dane Sanzenbacher would be an ideal third, slot receiver. This would leave Knox as a fourth option at best, meaning that he wouldn't be seeing the field very much. I say get some value for him while he's still under contract, especially if they know that they're not going to sign him to an extension. -- Martin G., Philadelphia
The trade market for wide receivers in body casts usually isn't too inviting. Knox is virtually untradeable in his current state. If the rehab goes well and Knox can get back to what he was, the Bears will be glad to have him. Furthermore, the Bears do not appear to be in any position to be trading any wide receiver. Even assuming they will add a big gun, their depth at the position still is questionable.
What do you think the chances are that the Bears go after Jermichael Finley in free agency? I'm assuming that new offensive coordinator Mike Tice will utilize the tight end much more than Mike Martz considering he actually played the position in the league. And of course the bonus to adding Finley is that it would be a huge setback for the Packers. Plus he's been destroying us the past couple of years and thus taking him away from the Packers would make them much more beatable. -- Mike Clark; Hawley, Penn.
It might come down to whether or not the Bears want to invest in a big time wide receiver or a big time tight end, assuming Finley hits the open market. You can't have everything you want because cash and cap space are limited. Finely would be an outstanding addition to the Bears because of the reasons you delineated. But adding him would not alleviate the need for a wide receiver. We have to be careful about making too many assumptions about how Tice wants to use the tight end. Just because he used to be a tight end doesn't mean anything. Martz is a former tight end too. In Tice's time in Minnesota, his tight ends were not big parts of the offense in his first two years. But in both of his last two years, tight end Jermaine Wiggins led the team in catches.
I remember Logan Mankins waiting until the last minute to report when he was franchised by the Patriots. If the Bears put the franchise tag on Matt Forte, how long could Forte hold out until he had to report in order to get paid and how much would the fine be under the new agreement in this scenario? -- Gary Peterson; Virginia Beach, Va.
Forte would have to sign his contract before the first regular season game in order to be paid in full in the scenario you describe. There would be no fines if he held out from training camp and preseason. If the Bears tag Forte and they want to keep negotiating with him, they would be unable to sign him to a multi-year contract after July 15.
A common theme in the playoffs was the importance of tight ends. Do you think Kellen Davis has the tools to be a big playmaker for the Bears? -- David J. Frazin, Highland Park
There is no question Davis has the tools. The question is if he use them consistently. Davis has an unusual blend of size, hands, speed and athleticism. He rarely has put them together though. Some of it might be attributed to inexperience. But he's been in the league for four years now, so it's time for him to grow up as a player. Davis finished the season strong and the best should be ahead for him.
Why was Jeremy Bates out of football last year? Did he get fired in Seattle and if he is so good why didn't he have a job in the NFL this past season? -- Chip, Wichita
Bates was fired in Seattle for a couple of reasons, according to people I've spoken with who are familiar with the situation. The primary reason is the Seahawks offense wasn't very good. The second reason is he didn't mesh well with everyone in the building. He is known for being a bit prickly. He is, however, a football junkie who has a passion for the game and is good at what he does. A lot of head coaches are leery of adding a coach who is potentially combustible, which explains why Bates was out of football last year.
Is it unusual to do what the Bears did with Chris Conte, and find a big, slow cornerback with tackling and ball skills, that is too slow for corner in the NFL, and convert him to safety? I would think that would happen more often than what you hear. Why not Corey Graham? -- R. Lenser, Glenview
There is nothing slow about Conte. He ran a 4.52 40 yard dash when auditioning for NFL teams last year. If I had to bet on one of the Bears defensive backs in a foot race, I'd bet on Conte or Zack Bowman. But it takes more than speed to play safety. It mostly takes instincts. I think Conte has them, but a lot of safeties don't. The Bears coaching staff obviously questions Graham's instincts to play the safety position. Graham looked pretty good at nickel corner last year though.
I just read Brad Biggs' analysis on the Bears safeties. Since the Bears have failed at drafting quality safeties do you think they'll look to free agency for a proven player? LaRon Landry or Dashon Goldson would look real nice in a Bears jersey. -- Brian, Providence, R.I.
If the Bears are going to spend big money on one or two players, they have bigger fish to fry than a safety in my opinion. Conte should be a fine player. Craig Steltz finished strong, but he is going to be a free agent. The Bears could re-sign him and let him compete with Major Wright and maybe add a mid-round pick to the mix. My expectation is Landry will be hit with the franchise tag by the Redskins.
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