Four Down Territory, Feb. 11: So what if T.O. becomes available?

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Plenty of football action already today, so we’ll dive right into Four Down Territory.

Q: So I hear the Dallas Cowboys want Terrell Owens out of town. Either they cut him or trade him. I’ve heard speculation they could take as little as a third-round draft pick for him. Give me the odds of the Bears being players for his services.

James T., Charleston, Ill.

A: First, the Cowboys and Jerry Jones have to arrive at the conclusion that they’re better off without T.O. than they are putting up with his antics and self-destructive behavior. Based on how Roy Williams played after Dallas paid a high ransom to get him from Detroit, that might be a tough decision to make. But Owens has become an unbelievably divisive force there, proof that problems ran much deeper than his run-ins with former wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator Todd Haley. That was the vibe you used to get, that T.O. didn’t get along with Haley, which was dead on. Haley exited for Arizona in 2007 and T.O. has been at odds with everyone else since. What Jones is witnessing is the window of opportunity slowly closing on his team. He’s moving into a shiny new $1 billion building and nothing sells quite like winning.

Popular opinion is growing that Owens will not be back in Dallas. Peter King weighed in on the issue Monday, writing “I think everyone doing free-agent lists should add one name in pencil: Terrell Owens. I’ll bet you a month’s worth of lattes he’ll be free in six weeks.” He’s not the only national writer thinking that way. In fact, there are more who consider T.O. a goner than think he’ll play with a star on the side of his helmet in 2009.

So, if the Cowboys are to begin gauging interest for T.O. around the league, certainly the Bears will be very much involved. T.O. would be the type of gamebreaking receiver general manager Jerry Angelo would add in a heartbeat.

OK. Just wanted to see if you were paying attention. T.O. to the Bears via a trade for a mid-round draft pick or as a free agent?

I’ll give you the odds: Zero. Zilch. Zip. Nada (we had a question from Nada the other day). Ain’t gonna happen. Fill-in-your-own-synonym here. The McCaskeys will sell the franchise before T.O. wears a Bears uniform. Yes, the circus will come to town, but it typically doesn’t arrive until November when the Bulls head on their annual West Coast trip to make room for the animals and performers in the United Center.

Q: I see you wrote Tuesday that the Bears might not bring in a quarterback with experience in order to create a competitive atmosphere for Kyle Orton. Why not?

Harris M., Apache Junction, Ariz.

A: Ever since Angelo made his comments about the position days after the season ended, the Bears have rallied around Orton as a franchise. The job is his for the 2009 season no matter who they might sign. Right or wrong, that’s where it is at. Looks like Chris Simms could be headed back to Tennessee. That’s not surprising. When asked about the future for his son, Phil Simms said an offense like the Titans best suited Chris. This was at the Super Bowl when Phil Simms also said he didn’t see anyone unseating Orton.

Byron Leftwich is looking for an opportunity to go somewhere and start. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and could land there with the Redskins. It’s been speculated that as many as a dozen teams will be interested in him. After Simms and Leftwich, who is there to compete with Orton? At that point, you might as well see what you have in Caleb Hanie and Brett Basanez. This doesn’t rule out a quarterback in the draft.

Q: Given that the 2010 and 2011 seasons might be uncapped years for the NFL, how does this influence Bears’ management concerning players whose contracts will expire after the 2009 and 2010 seasons?

Jan W., Germany

A: That’s a great question. While no salary cap will be a boon for some players and teams there are some issues that will not help all players. Specifically, instead of getting to free agency after four years of service, players will have to put in six years before gaining free agency. That’s a significant change as players look for that second contract to strike it rich in the NFL. In an uncapped system, that wait becomes longer as the club will hold exclusive rights.

Here are some Bears scheduled to come out of contract after the next two seasons who could be impacted by this if the league and NFLPA cannot come to a solution in the next year or so.

Players coming out of contract after 2009

Mark Anderson–This will be his fourth season.

Dusty Dvoracek–This will be his fourth season.

Danieal Manning–This will be his fourth season.

Kyle Orton–This will be his fifth year so in an uncapped system he would not be a free agent.

Jamar Williams–This will be his fourth season.

Players coming out of contract after 2010

Josh Beekman

Corey Graham

Caleb Hanie

Trumaine McBride

Kevin Payne

Garrett Wolfe

Q: I have a question for you that has really bothered me for a while now. With all that talk about a need to get a free safety via draft or free agency, what’s with Craig Steltz? He will be going into his second year now and showed a lot of promise last season. Nice tackler, he had a great interception vs. Tennessee and it looked like he can handle the NFL. Or is he just considered a special teamer? By the way, I really think you should bring a little more coverage on guys playing special teams only or recent rookies. I mean the previous mentioned Steltz or Joey LaRocque? Can they get in the mix or are the Bears drafting only special teams players and linemen third stringers?

Mike, Warsaw, Ill.

A: Steltz did some nice things in the playing time he received in the second half of the season but I think he reinforced the opinions of some that he is best suited for strong safety. The Bears announced on draft weekend that they had gotten a “starting quality” player in Steltz in the fourth round. He projected as an in-the-box safety and that’s probably where his future is if he can contend for a starting job. The Bears like to say their safety positions are interchangeable but they need someone with range to be able to play the deep post or deep hash. As far as LaRocque, what do you think he is going to be in the mix for come training camp? He did OK on special teams last season but I don’t see him pushing aside any starters at this point. Inside the Bears likes to believe it gives full props to special teams.

Thanks for all of the participation and for reading. Shoot in your questions and we’ll get to another Four Down Territory on Thursday.

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