One of my favorite podcasts to listen to as I’m walking in to work is the Around the NFL podcast. During yesterday’s episode (entitled “Midseason Power Poll”) which recapped the Monday Night game against the Chargers, I thought they did a very good job of encapsulating the debate surrounding the future of quarterback Jay Cutler with the Bears.
The debate starts at 31:30. The guys defending Cutler are Gregg Rosenthal and Dan Hanzus. The “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me for 10 years, shame on me” guy is Chris Weaseling (but I confess, could have easily been me). I recommend that you give it a listen no matter how you feel about this issue.
Mike Mulligan at the Chicago Tribune highlights the amount of cap space taken up by players no longer on the Bears:
“Jared Allen, now playing with the Panthers, is the second-highest cap hit on the team at $11.7 million. Brandon Marshall, catching touchdowns for the Jets, is the eighth biggest hit at $5.6 million-plus. Tim Jennings, playing for the Buccaneers, counts $4.4 million. The Bears have more than $25 million in dead cap space, led by those players.”
That is, indeed, a lot and if I’m the owner of the Bears I can’t be happy at spending that kind of money in that kind of way. Mulligan’s point that you can’t buy a good football team is well taken and I’m sure everyone who is reading this doesn’t need to hear again about how the Bears need to build through the draft from here on out. I realize that the McCaskey’s want to win as soon as possible but you can actually do that through the annual selection process if you have someone who is doing the drafting who knows what they are doing.
What I do want to do is point out that there is some good news here. Former general manager Phil Emery made a lot of mistakes but one he didn’t make was sewing these guys up with long-term cap implications. The Bears have all of this dead space this year because they were in a position to release those players. Yes, the cap space hurts but they still did it without totally crippling the team.
All of these players are off the books next year which means that the Bears are going to have more than the usual amount of cap space to work with in January. What they do with that space will be very interesting to see. Certainly they’ll want to pay their own. Here’s hoping they don’t blow the rest on long-term free agent contracts of the type that could have caused even more damage than we saw this year.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune comments on former Bears cornerback Tim Jennings‘ situation:
“When the Bears released two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Tim Jennings on Aug. 30, some questioned if the club was ditching a shot at winning now in order to get some younger players involved. Yes, that really was the approach some took. As is often the case, the front office had a solid gauge on where Jennings was at as the Buccaneers and former coach Lovie Smith released him on Monday. Keep in mind Jennings had arthroscopic knee surgery early in the offseason and Smith probably didn’t get the same player he remembered.”
Yes, but its worth noting that though the Jennings signing didn’t work out, former Bear Charles Tillman has been performing extremely well for the undefeated Carolina Panthers. So strike one up for the Bears on Jennings but take it away for Tillman, someone the Bears could sorely use in coverage this season.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune talks up undrafted free agent linebacker Jonathan Anderson. Anderson is asked about the fact that he was given the helmet with the headset in it on Monday night to call the plays instead of Christian Jones:
“‘I feel like they trust me a little bit more and that is why I got a little more action,’ Anderson said. ‘I was out there trying to do my job.’
“In press box statistics, Anderson was credited with a team-high 11 solo tackles and 12 total. It will be interesting to see how coaches grade him. The Chargers did some damage underneath in the passing game. Jones was second on the defense with seven tackles. When [Shea] McClellin is cleared to return, I’d expect him to regain some playing time from the younger players.”
That first comment was a blunt assessment that won’t score him points for tact in the locker room. But If Jones doesn’t like it, he should perform better.
Regardless, the bet here is that none of the linebackers is scoring many points with the coaching staff. As Biggs points out, San Diego running back Danny Woodhead did major damage in the underneath passing game and the old man at tight end, Antonio Gates, had a good game against them as well.
You have to play mistake free football to take advantage of that kind of weakness and the Chargers obviously weren’t up to the task. But if the Rams don’t execute well enough to take advantage of that weakness, I can guarantee you that the Broncos will and then the Packers will on Thanksgiving.
Rich Campbell at the Chicago Tribune celebrates Lamarr Houston after he got two sacks late in the second half against the Chargers:
“‘I was out there trying to work hard,’ Houston said, ‘and see if I could get something done.'”
Houston and Willie Young almost both saw opportunity knocking after starter Sam Acho had a lousy night where he gave up a touchdown on a blown coverage and was otherwise a non-entity. The Beras have gotten almost no pass rush opposite Pernell McPhee with Acho getting the bulk of the snaps and they obviously were in search for more in the second half on Monday night.
This will be a position to keep an eye on as it’s obviously a place that is waiting for someone to step up and take it.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers more your questions:
“Now that the trade deadline has passed do you see the Bears parting ways with Willie Young or Lamarr Houston and giving their reps elsewhere? — @sly034
“There aren’t any exciting outside linebackers on the street right [now]. As unproductive as Sam Acho has been as a starter opposite Pernell McPhee, is shows you what the coaching staff thinks of Young and Houston at this point. But getting rid of them right now doesn’t necessarily improve the roster and it also doesn’t save the Bears any money.”
I would add that both Young and Houston are recovering injuries. These frequently take more than a year to completely heal, particularly knee injuries like the top Lamar Houston. The recovery of former Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris comes to mind as a comparison.
It’s possible that the Bears are biding their time with both of these men. As Biggs points out, there’s not much out there anyway and you can always release them later if they don’t get better.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions:
“Is it too early to nominate Da Bears for next season’s edition of ‘Hard Knocks?’ — @TraderjoeyG
“You can nominate them all you want but unless there has been a dramatic reversal of thinking at Halas Hall, the Bears will do everything in their power to stay out of that spotlight come August.”
Truth. But will that be enough?
HBO and the NFL would prefer that someone volunteer for this duty. But what if no one volunteers?
The Bears are a guaranteed ratings winner and nothing demonstrates that more than the fact that they are on this Monday night – and on Thanksgiving – despite the fact that they are completely irrelevant this year.
Yes, the McCaskey’s don’t want to do Hard Knocks – nor should they. I have to believe that it would be a huge distraction no matter what anyone says to the contrary. But they are still team players and my gut tells me that HBO would crawl from New York to Chicago on their knees to get them on. If the NFL appears to be in a bind and they ask, the team might say yes.
Brad Biggs at the Chicago Tribune answers your questions. One fan wants to know if the Bears will be looking to draft a cornerback in 2016:
“[T]racy Porter is on a one-year contract for the minimum salary benefit and he’s been injury prone in the past. Alan Ball, who was passed on the depth chart by Porter, is also on a one-year contract. Whether that means re-signing one or both of these guys, drafting a cornerback or going the free-agent route, they’re going to have to take action. It would certainly make sense for them to look at a cornerback at some point in the draft.”
It’s very early to be thinking too much about the draft but based upon what we’ve seen, one thing can be said with some certainty. The Bears are in both an enviable and an unenviable position when it comes to their 2016 selections. They have a lot of needs, offense and defense. Offensive guard, defensive line, linebacker, pass rusher, safety and cornerback. Add future (if not immediate) starter at quarterback and a second tight end and wide receiver opposite Martellus Bennett (if he’s with the team) and Kevin White (if Alshon Jeffery isn’t with the team), respectively you’ve got almost everything.
There’s almost no doubt about it. It won’t be brain surgery. It’s going to be the best available player, again.