Here we go, less than eight hours until the opening of free agency. The latest report is that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have $61 million in available cap space. To put that in perspective, the total cap in 2003 was around $75 million. Good thing the NFL has been recession proof to this point, right? The Bears will head toward free agency with what is believed to be about $31 million in cap room.
We’ll do our best to monitor the situation as it gets going but keep in mind general manager Jerry Angelo has already warned it’s going to be quiet. We’ll see if that’s the case or if the Bears have a surprise move or two in store for everyone. This will be our final installment of Four Down Territory for the week. We’ll resume with the Q&A’s next week. Let’s go:
Q: After a less than stellar showing at the combine where his speed was questioned, Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins could fall out of the top 10 and be available when the Bears pick. If he’s available do you think the Bears would consider him? If so, could he or a cornerback already on the roster be moved to free safety?
Chris, Homer Glen
A: Jenkins wasn’t the only cornerback to post some slower times than expected at the combine. He didn’t help himself by coming in at 4.52 and 4.59 and will almost certainly run again at the Buckeyes pro day on March 13. Had he been under 4.5, even just a little bit, his place in the top 12 picks of the draft probably would have been secured. He’s got a ton of experience as a four-year starter and he has ideal size at 6-foot, 204 pounds. There’s a lot to like there but the feeling is Illinois’ Vontae Davis could have gained some ground on him.
As far as who the Bears could play at safety, there has been some talk that that is where Jenkins will eventually land. It’s not something he wants to do. He fashions himself as a cornerback and you can’t blame him–cornerback is where the money is at in the secondary. But certainly he could be looked at in that role. As far as players already on the Bears who could be moved into that role, good question. Charles Tillman will not be making the switch. I doubt that Nathan Vasher would be tried in that role and they’re not going to move Corey Graham unless they find another cornerback. Graham would be interesting because he does have the body type and is a physical player.
The Bears are going to have to do something soon, though, to fill the hole at free safety and free agency might not be the place because as one defensive coordinator said Friday morning, “It’s real slim out there.” The Bears could get away with playing Craig Steltz in the position because he’s smart enough to handle the role, but eventually his range, or lack of range, would be exposed. He’s an in-the-box safety. Stay tuned on this one.
Q: Why have not we not heard any free agency discussion about Atlanta offensive tackle Tyson Clabo or Seattle offensive tackle Ray Willis? Both are 27 and would be solid John Tait replacements for years to come. At free safety, would Kansas City free safety Jarrad Page be a good fit next to Kevin Payne? And from way out in left field: Have the Bears ever considered giving Kellen Davis a shot with Rod Marinelli as a defensive end?
Jake, Middleton, Idaho
A: Clabo is an interesting guy but he is a restricted free agent so the Bears would have to not only put together a contract that the Falcons didn’t want to match, they would have to fork over their second-round pick for him (the level Atlanta tendered him at). I don’t know if the Bears want to make a move like that when they are at least considering using a high draft pick on a tackle. Willis doesn’t look to be as promising of a player. As far as Page goes, expectations are he will be tendered as a restricted free agent before the deadline.
Let me say this, I don’t know a lot about Page but I do know if the 2-14 Chiefs don’t think you’re worthy of a tender as an RFA, you’re probably not very good. (As expected, the Chiefs gave an RFA tender to Page). Kansas City can use all the help it can get right now. And about moving Davis to defense … no, that’s not in the cards.
Q: Will the Bears be in the market for some of the older wide receivers that have recently been released? Maybe Joey Galloway, Laveranues Coles or Ike Hilliard? I recall a few years ago a rumor that the Bears were interested in Jerry Porter. Would he be worth looking at after a bad year in Jacksonville?
Aaron, Normal, Ill.
A: We covered ground on Coles earlier today. I’d suspect he has a landing spot in mind already after walking away from $6 million. Galloway? He’s strictly a vertical guy at this point and he will be 37. I doubt it. Hilliard? Guessing not. General manager Jerry Angelo was pretty clear about not wanting aging, marginal talent to get in the way of the development of younger players. That being said, I think Bryant Johnson might be worth taking a look at because he offers something the Bears don’t have in a big target at 6-3. But Angelo has given no hint what the team might do. If you heard the Bears had interest in Porter, that was a bad rumor. He carried a lot of baggage with him to Jacksonville and the Bears didn’t want any of it at Halas Hall.
Q: I’ve heard about every college quarterback available for the upcoming draft except for Graham Harrell. Why is no talking about this guy? He threw a ton of yards and touchdowns this past year, and he’s a polished senior quarterback who ranked fourth in Heisman voting. I don’t think Michael Crabtree would have all those numbers without Harrell’s passing. How did he fair at the combine? Pros? Cons? I most recently read he is projected in the fifth or sixth round of the draft. Do you think the Bears should steal him in the mid rounds? I do! He reminds me of Tom Brady.
Jason P., Channahon, Ill.
A: I’m not sure how he reminds you of Brady, other than Brady was a sixth-round pick. Let’s keep in mind that Heisman voting is a zero when it comes to evaluating a pro prospect. Rex Grossman was second in Heisman balloting. Eric Crouch won the award. Gino Torretta? The list could go on all afternoon, but we’ve got other things to get to. Funny you should ask this question because we spent some time this morning picking the brain of an offensive coordinator about his thoughts in some of the QB’s not named Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez. It wasn’t real flattering stuff.
“He plays good on film but he looks a lot better on film than he does in person,” the coordinator said. “In person he just doesn’t do anything to jump out at you at all. Not in the drill work. Not doing anything. He’s not very accurate, he’s not real impressive body-wise. He’s not a real smooth thrower and he doesn’t have a natural motion.”
Granted, the reports on Brady were probably lousy when he came out also. So that doesn’t mean Harrell cannot succeed but he’s got a long way to go to move forward from the system he played in at Texas Tech.
Thanks for all of the e-mails and questions. Thanks as always for reading. We’ll get back to it next week.