Readers Q&A: Dan Pompei's Bears mailbag
The Tribune's Bears columnist fields questions on Johnny Knox, Mike Wallace, Percy Harvin and plenty more in this week's mailbag
Johnny Knox watches during Bears training camp last July. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Tribune Photo / February 12, 2013)
By Dan Pompei, Tribune reporter 5:33 p.m. CST, February 12, 2013
Do you think Johnny Knox resumes his career somewhere else? Or is he done? @harpermichaux, from Twitter
Johnny Knox is a good kid who worked very hard to come back. The Bears did right by him by keeping him around in 2012 and paying his $1.26 million salary. If the Bears thought there was any chance of him playing at a high level in 2013, he would have been brought to training camp. That was their mindset last fall, that they hoped he would be able to compete for a job come August. Everyone wanted to see him come back. Knox obviously did not make enough progress to encourage the team to think he could play again.
Could Phil Emery spend to bring in receiver Mike Wallace? @1901Madison, from Twitter
I would doubt it, given the resources the Bears already have tied up in the wide receiver position. Brandon Marshall will be one of the highest-paid players on the team in 2013. Wallace probably will be paid more than Marshall when he signs his new deal. If the Bears had two receivers with average annual salaries north of $11 million, they would almost certainly be the only team in the NFL paying so much to two wide receivers. It also would impact their ability to sign free agents at positions of greater need, and could force them to allow some of their own players with expiring contracts to walk. Then you would also have the issue of trying to placate both Marshall and Wallace. Good luck with that one. The idea of pairing Marshall and Wallace looks good at a glance, but there are too many issues that are likely to prevent it from happening.
What are the chances the Bears make a run at a trade for Percy Harvin? Can you please ask them to? Isaac, Chicago
I couldnít do that in good conscience, Isaac. First of all, the Bears would probably have to give up at least a second-round pick for Harvin. He would be worth it, but the Bears really need that pick for other things. Secondly, the Vikings are not going to be very enthusiastic about trading Harvin to an NFC North rival, if they are enthusiastic about trading him at all. My read is they want to keep him and extend his contract, but I could be wrong. And thirdly, I donít think I would advise putting Harvin and Marshall in the same meeting room. Harvin is an outstanding player. Love watching him. Of course, so is Marshall. But my feel is they would likely detract from the other.
What do the Packers do with Greg Jennings? @bullspackers33, from Twitter
It looks like a foregone conclusion that Jennings will be a former Packer within a couple months. His contract is expiring and the team is expected to let him walk. Jennings is a fine receiver, as the Bears well know, but he will be 30 in September and will be signing his third contract. As a result he probably wonít be paid as well as Wallace, for instance. He will be an intriguing possibility for a number of teams. If his price dips low enough, maybe even the Bears.
Iím intrigued by the possibility of Tavon Austin being available for the Bears in round two. Should I be? @BuzzBall54, from Twitter
Yes, that is reasonable. The draft stock of wide receivers tends to fluctuate some with their workouts, so weíll probably know more about where Austin fits in after the combine. There are so many wide receivers worth drafting that it can be difficult to slot them after the top tier. A lot of it depends on what kind of flavor the team doing the picking prefers. Austin would make sense for the Bears because he could help them on offense and potentially replace Devin Hester as a returner. His lack of size (we think he is 5-9, 175, but weíll get a better read at the combine) should almost guarantee he lasts until the second round. The question is if he will last to the 20th pick, which is where the Bears are slotted.
Did the Bears really get Brandon Marshall for two third-round picks? Is that the best trade the Bears have ever made? @DaBears42497, from Twitter
If Marshall keeps playing like he did in 2012, the trade to acquire him will go down as one of the greatest in Bears history. But there have been some other outstanding trades made by the team over time. The most similar and comparable trade came in 1955. The Bears traded a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick to the Browns for Doug Atkins and Ken Gorgal. The Browns gave up on Atkins after two seasons because they thought he was uncoachable. Atkins became a hall of fame pass rusher playing for George Allen in Chicago. Most of the other great Bears trades involved draft picks that were used to acquire players who became stars. In 1939 the team traded end ďEggsĒ Manske to the Pirates for the first round pick they used to take Sid Luckman. While Luckman became one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Manske went down in the history books alsoóas the last NFL player to play helmetless. Nine years after the Luckman deal, the Bears gave the Yankees defensive end Mike Jarmoluk for George Connor, who became a Hall of Famer at offensive tackle and linebacker. And you will love this trade. In 1964 the Bears gave second- and fourth-round picks to the Steelers for a first-round pick the next year. And who did they choose with that pick? None other than Dick Butkus, arguably the greatest Bear of them all. And Iíve got one more great Bears trade for you. The Bucs gave the Bears the fourth overall pick of the 1978 draft for Wally Chambers, a darned good defensive lineman who had been to three Pro Bowls for the Bears. But Chambers never played in another Pro Bowl after leaving town, and the Bears used the pick they acquired for him to select the great Dan Hampton.
Is best player available Phil Emery's plan for this draft? Or is he stuck with o-line or ILB first?
@Mattbud, from Twitter
Itís easy to sit here in February and lock in the Bears to take an offensive lineman or middle linebacker with their first-round pick. But that is making some dangerous assumptions. I donít think there is any doubt Phil Emery intends on filling those needs at some point in the offseason. But it does not necessarily have to be in the first round of the draft. It could come in free agency. It could come later in the draft. I donít believe Emery would pass up a player the team has rated considerably higher at another position just to fill a need. But if things are close, heíll probably fill the need. Remember last year a lot of people were surprised when the Bears chose a wide receiver, Alshon Jeffery, in the second round. The assumption was they would choose an offensive lineman. But Emery chose Jeffery in part because his talent stood out on their draft board. And he also chose him because he thought he was a playmaker. I wonít be surprised if Emery does not draft according to script again this year.
Could you see Bears bringing in Alex Smith to keep Jay Cutler on his toes and provide a competitive backup? @FacingRyan, from Twitter
No, I could not. Smith is probably going to be traded, and the Bears canít be giving up a valuable draft pick for a player they project to be a backup. Smith is scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2012. Thatís too much to pay a No. 2. Smith is probably going to be a starter on some team next season, and he should be. There arenít 32 quarterbacks better than him.
Why do you dislike Jay Cutler so much? @JoeCanci4, from Twitter
I donít dislike Cutler. I have written many, many positive things about him. But I dislike it when quarterbacks make poor decisions with the football. I dislike it when quarterbacks take unnecessary sacks. I dislike it when quarterbacks abandon their fundamentals. I dislike it when quarterbacks point fingers at teammates. And I dislike it when quarterbacks are disrespectful to coaches.
When healthy, could Brandon Hardin see time at nickel having played at both safety and corner? @LynchBaz
Interesting question. My inclination would be to say no. Hardin is 6-3, 217 pounds. You donít see many nickel corners his size. Usually, nickel corners are smaller, quicker cover men, like D.J. Moore. But we shouldnít rule anything out. We donít know what new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is going to look for in a nickel corner. And matchups could influence where Hardin plays as well. But I donít think it would be wise to try to make a living with Hardin lined up over the slot. The ideal for Hardin is matching him up with athletic tight ends. He would be better suited trying to cover Jermichael Finley than Randall Cobb, for instance, or Kyle Rudolph than Percy Harvin.
Does the NFL allow player-coaches? I know that in baseball they have in the past allowed player-coaches to be on the team. Wouldn't the idea of being a player-coach be perfect for Brian Urlacher? We all know that he has lost a step, we know that he isn't the player he was five years ago, but he still has the knowledge and some ability. I'm sure that he already acts like a linebackers coach in the locker room. Why not just give him the position as a linebackers coach and player? Do you think that would work? Will Jones, Dubai
There are no rules prohibiting player-coaches, but it simply is not done anymore. Being an assistant coach is such a demanding position that it can not be treated like a part-time responsibility. It also is important that a position coach is impartial. It would be difficult for a player-coach to be completely neutral, or at least it would be difficult for him to be perceived as being completely neutral. If Urlacher were named player-coach, he would be following a Bears tradition. George Halas himself was once a player-coach. Other big names in NFL history who served as player-coaches include Curly Lambeau and Tom Landry. But the NFL has changed quite a bit since those men filled dual roles.
Could you see the Bears trading Julius Peppers to give them flexibility with the cap? It wouldn't be a popular move, but they could sign a few different pieces with that cap space, including another DE. Peppers should be able to fetch a first-round pick or multiple picks. Dan Urbaniak from Facebook
Parting ways with Peppers would give the Bears some cap flexibility, but probably not as much as they would need for it to be worth it to give up one of the best players on the team. As it stands, Peppers will count $16.3 million against the 2013 cap. If they trade him prior to June 1, which they almost certainly would have to do, the Bears still would take a 2013 cap hit of $9.5 million. If they waited until after June 1 to get rid of him, the cap hit would be $3.2 million, but then they would carry over $6.3 million of dead money into the 2014 cap. Itís difficult to trade a player like Peppers after June 1 because teams like to have their big moves done by that time, and there arenít many teams that have the kind of required financial flexibility to pull off such a deal after June 1. And waiting until after June 1 would mean the Bears would have their hands tied on making over moves with the cap money they save until that time. The big-time free agents are going to likely all be off the market come June 1.
If the Bears can't extend Henry Melton and have to place the franchise tag on him, would they have to cut Peppers to have enough cap space? @MidwayBearsBlog, from Twitter
I donít believe so. There is enough cap space to pay two of the most important players on the defense. Itís a matter of priorities. Pass rush has to be a priority for the Bears. If they canít rush the passer, they arenít going to be a very good team. And if they donít have an interior rusher to go along with an edge rusher, they arenít going to be able to rush the passer very well.
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