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Friday, September 27, 2013
Mailbag: Extensions coming for Bears?

By Jeff Dickerson

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Here is this week's installment of the Bears mailbag:

1. Do you think Phil Emery will consider trying to lock up a few key players prior to the end of the year? With so many starters and only one franchise tag available, the closer it gets to the end of the year the more likely all will go to the open market. -- Joe, Oxford, Conn.

Dickerson: The sense is that Emery might be in a position to address one contract before the end of the regular season, but keep in mind the Bears don't have the necessary salary cap space to extend multiple deals until the offseason. Remember, the Bears have several core players in the final year of their deals, such as Jay Cutler, Charles Tillman, Tim Jennings, Devin Hester, Corey Wootton, Major Wright, Roberto Garza, Robbie Gould, James Anderson, D.J. Williams and Matt Slauson. Who gets the extension? And do the others feel slighted when Emery tells them to wait until after the season? But the bottom line is cap space. The Bears simply don't have it right now. That's why Emery said on July 24 the Bears were inclined to wait on awarding extensions. My guess is Emery's stance hasn't changed in the last couple of months.


2. Special teams coverage has been quite bad through two games. It shows how wonderful Dave Toub was and how he was taken for granted. What are the Bears doing differently this year and how can it be fixed? -- Ron, Highland Park, Ill.

Dickerson: First of all, Ron, I agree with you that Toub was an outstanding special-teams coach. It's unfortunate the Bears were unable to retain him after Lovie Smith was fired, but Toub jumped into a great situation in Kansas City with Andy Reid. However, I don't believe the Bears' coverage units have been awful. The Cordarrelle Patterson 105-yard kickoff return in Week 2 does meet the definition of "awful," there is no doubt about that. But the Steelers managed just 48 yards on kickoff returns last week, and for the season, opponents have returned three punts for 17 yards. It's not as if the Bears have fallen off a cliff on special teams since Toub left town.


3. If our middle linebacker continues being a no-show, at what point do you give Jon Bostic a start? Lance Briggs and James Anderson have been doing an awesome job, and these past two weeks it just seems that D.J. Williams is not doing much. -- Carlos, Escondido, Calif.

Dickerson: Carlos, I think D.J. Williams turned the corner last week when he recorded two sacks and forced a fumble in the win against the Steelers. The coaching staff seems content with Williams in the middle, and I don't anticipate the Bears making a change in the near future, unless of course Williams gets hurt. Bostic will be a starter down the line. That is clear. Whether it's in the middle, or on the outside, the Bears love his athleticism and ability to chase down plays from behind. Bostic's speed is a huge selling point. He used to run down all those fast players in the SEC while at Florida. That's one of the things the Bears liked about him in the pre-draft process. His time is coming. But the present belongs to Williams.


4. I know it's really early, but from what we have seen so far this season, what do you expect the Bears to look at in the 2014 draft? -- Josh, Chicago

Dickerson: I think the Bears could go in several directions in May depending on the final amount of draft picks they hold. The Bears added a sixth-round choice from Tampa Bay in exchange for Gabe Carimi, but sent the Cowboys an undisclosed pick for tight end Dante Rosario. So it's unknown the exact amount of currency Phil Emery will have to play around with, but I believe it's logical to assume the Bears will look hard at cornerback since Tillman, Jennings and Zack Bowman all having expiring deals. Same goes for safety with Wright and Craig Steltz scheduled to be free agents. If the club decides to let Henry Melton walk, I could see Emery targeting another defensive tackle. Eventually the club needs to find another young quarterback. And tight end could use additional depth. Imagine pairing another dynamic tight end with Martellus Bennett. But to try and pinpoint exactly what the Bears are going to do on draft day is pointless. Did anybody see the Kyle Long pick coming last year?


5. Does Corey Wooten possess a skillset similar to Izzy Idonije to where he can move inside to relieve some of the duress of losing Henry Melton? -- Sean, Jacksonville, Fla.

Dickerson: Absolutely, Wootton is the kind of player capable of sliding inside. That's exactly what the Bears have been doing this year in the nickel package. The whole point is for the Bears to get their four best pass-rushers on the field in passing situations, and Wootton is one of the four. I'm not privy to how the Bears plan to specifically attack the Lions on Sunday, but I could see a scenario where Wootton plays some defensive tackle in the base defense. Nate Collins seems like the obvious guy to replace Melton, and rookie Zach Minter is likely to be active. But Wootton is a viable candidate to help inside. He is the quickest Bears defensive linemen off the football and is usually a half-step into offensive linemen before the opponent can get out of his stance. Wootton also has excellent hand placement. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons to begin his NFL player, Wootton has really turned the corner and developed into a productive and versatile member of the defense.