Chicago Bears: Vincent Jackson

Bears' Phil Emery announces his presence

March, 13, 2012

In the absence of information about -- and access to -- the Chicago Bears' new general manager, many of us took the logical step in classifying his philosophy. Like Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson, Phil Emery spent most his professional career as a scout, beating the bushes around the country for college players. So it wasn't a bad guess to think Emery would be more likely follow Thompson's mantra of minimal free-agent activity while building his team through the draft.

[+] EnlargePhil Emery
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastPhil Emery's actions spoke loudly on Tuesday, acquiring Brandon Marshall and re-signing Tim Jennings.
And then Emery went and pulled off the highest-profile surprise in recent offseason memory Tuesday, giving up two third-round draft picks to acquire receiver Brandon Marshall from the Miami Dolphins. He also re-signed cornerback Tim Jennings to a two-year deal and was working to sign veteran Jason Campbell as the Bears' new backup quarterback.

OK then.

The comparison still works if you remember that Thompson signed cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive end Ryan Pickett to bolster those positions early in his tenure. Only after two drafts with the Packers did Thompson begin backing away from the free-agent market.

We have no idea what the long-term future holds for Emery's stewardship of the Bears. He hasn't uttered a word in public since his Jan. 30 introductory press conference, and probably as a result, both the Marshall courtship and the interest in Campbell came as complete surprises.

But Tuesday demonstrated the Bears have a bold thinker sitting in their Halas Hall trigger seat. Recognizing his team's biggest need, Emery acquired a better player than the top free agent available. (I would take Marshall over Vincent Jackson. You?) Knowing his team needed a better situation behind Jay Cutler, Emery is trying to sign a player who has been considered starting-quality by every team he's played for.

The Bears didn't get the first visit with defensive end Mario Williams, a big point of our discussions the past few days, and it's not clear if they have interest. Williams is already visiting the Buffalo Bills. But in a matter of minutes, Phil Emery replaced a void of information with a flood of action that spoke volumes about the way he will manage the Bears. Reporters and fans might not like being in the dark, but no one can argue with Tuesday's results.

Hot Button: V-Jax or Mario?

March, 12, 2012
Williams-Jackson US Presswire
Should the Bears pursue a No. 1 receiver in free agency in Vincent Jackson or another dominant defensive end in Mario Williams when free agency opens Tuesday?

Vote in the Hot Button.

NFC North free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears

Key free agents: Tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte (franchise), cornerback Corey Graham, quarterback Caleb Hanie, defensive end Israel Idonije, cornerback Tim Jennings, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Roy Williams.

Where they stand: The Bears will have the most salary-cap space among NFC North teams, upwards of $30 million, and have plenty of potential uses for it. Quarterback Jay Cutler needs more targets in the downfield passing game, whether it's at the receiver or tight end position. And new general manager Phil Emery must start restocking a defense led by four players more than 30 years old: Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman.

What to expect: It's widely believed the Bears will be in the running for free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson. But Jackson's price tag could be steep and no one knows if Emery will prove to be a big spender. It seems likely he will re-sign Davis, and Emery should also save some of his cap space to extend Forte's contract. Secondary receiver targets could include Marques Colston. Bears fans are hoping the team will pursue defensive end Mario Williams, but it's hard to imagine the Bears budgeting for Williams two years after breaking their bank on Peppers.

Detroit Lions

Key free agents: Defensive end Cliff Avril (franchise), left tackle Jeff Backus, safety Chris Harris, quarterback Shaun Hill, linebacker DeAndre Levy (restricted), running back Maurice Morris, running back Kevin Smith, quarterback Drew Stanton, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Eric Wright.

Where they stand: The Lions are tight against the salary cap after franchising Avril and aren't likely to be big spenders on the free-agent market. They could relieve the situation by reaching long-term agreements with Avril and/or receiver Calvin Johnson, who has a $22 million cap figure for 2012. Tulloch made a big impact last season after signing a one-year deal, but so far the Lions' attention has turned elsewhere.

What to expect: The Lions' best-case scenario is to keep their 2011 core together without mortgaging their future relative to the salary cap. That would mean getting Tulloch re-signed to preserve the linebacker group they upgraded last season by signing him and veteran Justin Durant, moves that allowed Levy to play on the outside. Hill seems likely to re-sign as Matthew Stafford's backup, while Stanton might test the free-agent waters to see if he has a chance to do better than third on a team's depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

Key free agents: Cornerback Jarrett Bush, quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Ryan Grant and center Scott Wells.

Where they stand: The Packers took care of a big challenge by signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract last month. They will let Flynn depart for a possible starting job elsewhere and it appears Grant will test the free-agent market. Discussions with Wells haven't led to an agreement, but the Packers often go to the final moments before reaching a deal. There are no obvious internal replacements for Wells, making his return a priority.

What to expect: The Packers will have some flexibility with the salary cap, but general manager Ted Thompson's aversion to veteran free agency is well known. It's been three years since he signed a veteran unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Packers have needs at defensive line, outside linebacker and possibly at center if Wells leaves. But let's put it this way: Thompson's strong preference is to find depth and future replacements in the draft, not on other teams' rosters.

Minnesota Vikings

Key free agents: Safety Husain Abdullah, receiver Devin Aromashodu, receiver Greg Camarillo, defensive lineman Fred Evans, defensive lineman Letroy Guion, linebacker E.J. Henderson, linebacker Erin Henderson, safety Tyrell Johnson, quarterback Sage Rosenfels, cornerback Benny Sapp and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Where they stand: The Vikings seem poised for a major roster overhaul in their first offseason since Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager. Players like Shiancoe, E.J. Henderson, Camarillo and Johnson all seem poised to move on. There aren't many positions on the team that appear secure.

What to expect: If the Vikings don't plan to draft USC left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall next month, the first clue will be if they pursue a free-agent left tackle. That seems unlikely. But they'll need to combine their draft with at least a few veteran free agents if they intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. Cornerback could be a point of focus, where Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are among those available. Another could be receiver. The Vikings had major interest in Jackson two years ago.

Will Emery meet V-Jax's price?

March, 6, 2012
Chicago's expected play for San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson might require a contract that significantly eclipses the five-year, $36.25 million deal signed Monday by Buffalo Bills receiver Stevie Johnson, which included $19.5 million guaranteed, and $24 million over the first three years.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Vincent Jackson
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREVincent Jackson is likely to be looking for money exceeding the deal Roddy White landed in 2009.
While some agents predict Jackson could be in line for a potential contract worth approximately $30 to $40 million guaranteed (which would pale in comparison to the deal signed by Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald worth $120 million over eight years, including nearly $50 million guaranteed), the receiver's representatives are content to let the free-agent market dictate his value. Multiple teams -- including the Bears, according to sources -- will be in contention to land Jackson. Jonathan Feinsod, one of Jackson's agents, refused to speculate on the receiver's potential worth, what he's seeking in terms of compensation, or what teams might be in the hunt.

Feinsod also declined comment on the state of negotiations with the San Diego Chargers, a team that has communicated a strong desire to bring back the receiver for 2012.

"Vincent Jackson is a free agent," Feinsod said. "There is no team that is being ruled out as of right now. So we'll just see what happens."

What transpires in Chicago's expected pursuit of Jackson should also go a long way toward revealing a glimmer of insight into perhaps the biggest wildcard of the entire situation: new Bears general manager Phil Emery. Because Emery hasn't yet put a body of work on record as a GM, it's difficult to determine his method of evaluating and securing talent. One talent evaluator who has worked with Emery doesn't expect the new Bears GM to spend in excess of $12 million per year for Jackson, and an AFC offensive coach echoed those sentiments, saying, "I don't see the Bears doing it, but [quarterback Jay] Cutler needs help."

(Read full post)

Chargers WR Jackson on Bears' radar

March, 5, 2012
The San Diego Chargers fired the proverbial starter's pistol to ignite the sweepstakes to land receiver Vincent Jackson on Monday when they decided against making him one of the record 21 players to receive the franchise designation by the league's 3 p.m. deadline.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego's Vincent Jackson
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PRESSWIREVincent Jackson caught seven passes for 165 yards against the Bears in their game last season.
Believed to be one of the teams expected to make a run at Jackson, the Chicago Bears certainly aren't complaining. But they'd better be preparing their best offer for Jackson because there's sure to be competition for his services from a variety of clubs, including the Chargers, which continue to negotiate with representatives for the receiver on a long-term contract.

By standing idle as the franchise-tag deadline passed, the Chargers opened the door for Jackson to negotiate and sign with another team when free agency begins on March 13 (many times, deals are consummated before the official start of free agency). Jackson wants to remain in San Diego, and it's believed he'll accept a lesser deal to stay with the club. But it became virtually impossible for the Chargers to franchise Jackson under the new CBA regulations.

Jackson earned $11.4 million as the Chargers' franchise player in 2011. To retain Jackson again in that capacity in 2012, San Diego would have been required to pay the receiver 120 percent of his '11 salary, which all would count against the team's salary cap for the upcoming season.

(Read full post)

Final Word: NFC North

December, 23, 2011
NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge on Week 16:

Busted rivalry: When the NFL released its schedule this spring, many of us had high expectations for a late-December matchup between the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears. Instead, an injury-devastated Bears team will limp north as a (deserved) 13-point underdog. It's possible the Packers will have clinched home-field advantage even before taking the field Sunday night, if the San Francisco 49ers lose Saturday at the Seattle Seahawks. If not, the Packers will attempt to secure it against a team playing without quarterback Jay Cutler, running backs Matt Forte and Marion Barber, and receiver Johnny Knox. Third-string running back Kahlil Bell is expected to start, pairing with third-string quarterback Josh McCown -- who has a history of helping the Packers' playoff positioning. (See: Noooooooooooooooo!) One other interesting bit of history: The Packers are one of five teams in NFL history to open a season 13-0 and then lose in their 14th game. All four of the other teams lost their 15th game, too. That list includes the 2009 and 2005 Indianapolis Colts, the 2009 New Orleans Saints and the 1998 Denver Broncos.

[+] EnlargeJames Starks
Jeremy Brevard/US PresswireGreen Bay's James Starks is expected to play Sunday against the Bears.
Packers' run game: For several reasons, Sunday night's game would be an obvious target for the Packers to try to enhance their running game. James Starks (ankle) and Brandon Saine (concussion) are expected to return. The Packers will start a makeshift offensive line that likely will include T.J. Lang at right tackle and Evan Dietrich-Smith at left guard; the best way for offensive linemen to get comfortable is via run blocking. And it's also worth repeating that the Bears historically have done a good job limiting Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers' downfield opportunities. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Rodgers has completed only five of 26 attempts on throws against the Bears that traveled in the air 21 yards or more. He's thrown for one touchdown, a game-winner to receiver Greg Jennings in 2009, and two interceptions on those passes.

Detroit's challenge: The Detroit Lions will clinch a playoff spot Saturday if they beat the San Diego Chargers in what will likely be a raucous atmosphere at Ford Field. (There are also several scenarios to clinch this weekend even if they lose. They're noted in this post.) Hopefully everyone knows the Chargers are on one of their annual December rolls. They've won three consecutive games after a six-game losing streak. Since Norv Turner took the head coaching job in 2007, the Chargers are 20-2 in December. This will be no cakewalk.

Big targets: Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers struggled earlier this season, but he has been the NFL's most efficient quarterback over the past three weeks based on Total Quarterback Rating. Rivers has hit a groove with a pair of 6-foot-5 receivers that will pose significant matchup problems for the Lions. Malcom Floyd has 11 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games, while Vincent Jackson has caught 12 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. Jackson has been sidelined in practice this week by a groin injury. Lions cornerback Chris Houston (knee) clearly wasn't 100 percent last week against the Oakland Raiders, and the team re-signed Brandon McDonald this week for extra depth. Safety Louis Delmas (knee) also remains sidelined, and backup Chris Harris was cleared Thursday to practice following a concussion.

Make it stop: If you're a big-picture observer, you see ample motivation for the Minnesota Vikings to lose Sunday at the Washington Redskins. One more victory by the Indianapolis Colts, in conjunction with two more Vikings defeats, would give the Vikings an excellent chance to secure the No. 1 overall pick of the 2012 draft. A loss to the Redskins would extend the Vikings' losing streak to seven games, tying a franchise record set in their expansion season of 1961. But I'm not sure what would be worse: tying that record or extending their NFL record of games without an interception, which stands at nine. Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman has thrown at least one interception in his past 10 starts, and he is tied for the second-most interceptions in the NFL (18) despite missing three games this season. Something's got to give.
[+] EnlargeVincent Jackson
Icon SMISan Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson may be on the trading block.
An apparent logjam at receiver hasn’t deterred the Chicago Bears from holding internal discussions about the possibility of upgrading the position.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter posted on his Twitter account Wednesday morning that the Bears are among three teams -- which includes the Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks -- that have “debated making a run” at San Diego Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson, a restricted free agent, in the midst of a potentially long holdout.

Jackson is coming off consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons, in which he also led the NFL in average yards per catch. Desiring a long-term deal believed to be in line with the salaries of the league’s five highest-paid receivers, Jackson reportedly plans to stage an extended holdout until after Week 10 this season.

Chicago’s internal discussions about the possibility of adding Jackson are interesting, considering what it likely would have to pay the receiver in terms of salary, and what it would have to give up to consummate a trade with the Chargers. Brandon Marshall’s trade from the Denver Broncos to the Miami Dolphins may have set the framework for a potential Jackson trade.

The Dolphins traded away two second-round picks for Marshall. So it’s likely the Chargers, who reportedly are listening to trade offers, would seek similar value for Jackson, 27.

At 6-foot-5, Jackson appears to be an ideal weapon for the Bears to add to Jay Cutler’s arsenal. Jackson averaged 17.2 yards per reception last season, and caught nine touchdown passes.

It would be interesting to see how Jackson would fit into Chicago’s new offense, which relies on timing and route precision. In addition, if the Bears somehow pulled off a trade for Jackson, who would he bump out of the starting lineup between Devin Hester -- who said on his Twitter page recently that he’s working with former Rams receiver Isaac Bruce -- and rising second-year man Johnny Knox?

General manager Jerry Angelo has said this offseason that the Bears, who spent lavishly in free agency, aren’t looking anymore to bolster the roster by giving up high draft picks. Apparently, he’s reversed field on that stance, or at the very least, is simply doing his due diligence.

Either way, this adds a little excitement to arguably the dullest portion of the NFL offseason. So stay tuned. Even if the Bears aren’t able to acquire Jackson, it will be interesting to see how this story develops.