Four Down Territory, March 26: The O-line mix with Shaffer on board

SHARE Four Down Territory, March 26: The O-line mix with Shaffer on board

Full day of football activity as the owners meetings wrapped up in Dana Point, Calif. We’re going to do one more Q&A this week on Thursday and then we’re going to take a break with the mailbag until next Wednesday. We’ll roll through some questions that day. Don’t worry, Four Down Territory isn’t going away but we’ve got a few things we need to knock out. So keep the questions coming. Let’s get to it.

Q: Is the money the Bears are paying Kevin Shaffer starting money or backup money? It feels like backup money. Is the plan now to move forward in the draft without placing a high pick on a tackle (first three rounds) and address other needs instead? Or should I not try reading anything into this signing? Your thoughts?

Dave, Parts Unknown

A: I think it is probably fair to characterize Shaffer’s pay day as being near the bottom of the wage scale for an experienced starting right tackle, or as a very solid pay day for an experienced swing tackle. That probably reflects how the Bears view him–as a guy who can man the position capably until they have a young player ready to take over. When that point comes, he’d be a nice veteran piece to have in the mix.

Shaffer’s deal is worth $8 million over three years. He gets a $1.75 million signing bonus and will be paid $2.75 million this season. How the line shakes out remains to be seen. It was a knee-jerk reaction for Frank Omiyale to be moved from left guard to right tackle after one day of minicamp. Maybe that was a message from coach Lovie Smith to general manager Jerry Angelo that he better sign a tackle and sign one fast. Who knows? It didn’t matter who was at right tackle in those non-contact practices.

Unless the plan has changed and won’t be changed back (when does this coaching staff hesitate to make change?) you would figure Omiyale makes his way back to left guard. That leaves Shaffer at right tackle in competition with a yet-to-be-drafted rookie. Given the financial commitment, Shaffer isn’t a longterm solution. He’s a bridge to the future, which is what John St. Clair would have been had he returned. That doesn’t mean Shaffer cannot start one, two or even three seasons, but the plan would seem to be to still get younger up front. Waiting anywhere past the second round to draft a tackle (and maybe even the first round) is going to leave the Bears with just a project. At this point, I would be surprised if they waited after the first three rounds to address the position.

Q: What about the Chargers’ 6-5 wideout Kassim Osgood? He’s 28, a two-time Pro Bowler on special teams and did a few good things over the last two years. He’s also looking for a trade and I wouldn’t imagine it’d take much to get him, if he doesn’t get released. Any chance the Bears could trade for him or someone like him?

Sean, Arcata, Calif.

A: You are correct, the Chargers are working to move Osgood a year after he requested a trade. We talked to one league source and he suggested the price tag would be a fourth- or fifth-round pick and that is steep for a special teams player. Kevin Acee’s article says he’s been on the market for three weeks and generated no interest to this point. Osgood has skills on special teams and that is a very difficult position to maintain a high level of play. Brendon Ayanbadejo and Larry Izzo are the exceptions when it comes to that. Osgood will be 29 when next season begins and that is the same age Ayanbadejo was in his first season with the Bears in 2005. The Bears dealt a seventh-round pick to Miami for him, a move the Dolphins wound up regretting. The asking price seems a little prohibitive to me, but certainly it’s worth keeping an eye on.

Q: I was wondering why the incredibly fast and large target Darrius Heyward-Bey is no longer mentioned as the best option for the bears in Round 1? I watched the combine workouts and thought he was spectacular, fast, and huge (a possible Randy Moss in the making). Perhaps, however, I misjudged what I saw and both Percy Harvin and Hakeem Nicks are superior targets. I understand that Harvin is a playmaker with his quickness and agility, and Harvin is supposed to be big as well (albeit slower), but doesn’t Heyward-Bey’s size, hands, and blocking ability make him a regular target with enough speed that together with Hester will spread defenses out to the extreme?

Samuel S., Vienna, Austria

A: I think Heyward-Bey has to remain on the radar of every team out there. He’s who ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. currently has the Bears selecting in his mock draft. I’m not sold on the hands of Heyward-Bey like you are, and I’m also not convinced he has above average blocking ability. But as a vertical threat, he is one of the best in this draft with blazing speed. He could come in and potentially be a better Bernard Berrian. If the Bears believe they already have a top vertical threat in Devin Hester, perhaps they go another route and thus the interest in other possibilities like Nicks, Kenny Britt and maybe Brian Robiskie and Mohamed Massaquoi. Don’t write Heyward-Bey off, though.

Q: I keep hearing that Danieal Manning is in all likelihood going to be the nickel back. So what will happen to the loser of the right cornerback derby between Nate Vasher and Corey Graham? I’ve heard lots of talk of Charles Tillman moving to free safety, but nothing about either of those guys, and one of them will be without a position pretty soon. Does either guy have the skill set to play free safety?

Tom N., Wisconsin

A: We addressed the Manning issue here earlier this week. You can write him in at nickel back and use a marker. No pencil necessary. Vasher to free safety has come up here before. I don’t see it happening. One of the knocks on Vasher’s game is his open-field tackling. That would be a bigger issue at free safety. Graham could probably make the transition, it’s at least been a thought in the past, but he’s entrenched at right corner right now in this battle. I don’t see him trading places, not this year. Free safety looks like it will come down to Josh Bullocks and a draft pick.

Thank you for all of the participation and questions. As always, thanks for reading. Our final Q&A for this week will be Thursday. Get your questions in.

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