- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Q: Jeff, What is wrong with Jerry Angelo and the Bears? Just when I start to like Angelo, he pulls a move like this and gets rid of Alex Brown. I'd like your thoughts on this decision, and how much you think this will hurt the defense going forward. -- Roy S., El Paso, Texas
A: My response is simple; it's a bad idea motivated solely by money. The defense doesn't get better without Brown, and I question any move that hurts the product on the field. Let's not kid ourselves, Brown wasn't a super-elite defensive end, but he came to play every single down, every single week, every single season. Do you know how many games Brown has missed during his NFL career? One. That absence occurred Sept. 8, 2002, the first week of Brown's rookie season. I've seen the guy play through countless injuries, and play at a high level, even though his sack totals weren't eye popping.
Frankly, I'm tired of seeing certain members of this defensive line only show up when they feel like it. Leaders like Brown and Anthony Adams brought/bring a type of professionalism and work ethic that has been missing from others in the post-Super Bowl years. Brown's departure in no way sinks the Bears season, but if the Thomas Jones trade taught us anything, it's that moving aside a proven, respected veteran isn't always the best decision. Teams like the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers can get away with it because they draft so well every year. The Bears on the other hand, are not the Patriots or Steelers.
Q: JD, this is kind of a follow up to Alex Brown being shipped out. I've read a lot of reports stating Henry Melton could be a starter next year. Is that true? Could Melton ease a loss of Brown? -- Paul, Downers Grove, Ill.
A:This question needs to be answered in two parts. First, reports indicating the Bears -- especially Lovie Smith -- are fans of Melton are accurate. He has clearly shown them something since last fall that has the Bears convinced the former fourth-round pick can be a major contributor. However, I have to point out that I saw little from Melton last summer before he was placed on injured reserve. Maybe I was suffering from my annual case of Bourbonnais malaise, but I swore Melton was getting routinely pushed around by former Bears tight end Fontel Mines during practice. When I say pushed around, I mean being driven back like 7 yards, by Mines of all people -- no disrespect to Fontel.
So when I hear about these grandiose plans to move Melton inside to tackle, I have to wonder how he will hold up against bigger, stronger offensive guards. All that being said, I try to give every young player the benefit of the doubt, and I'll do the same with Melton. If the defense can get solid contributions from Melton and fellow second-year player Jarron Gilbert, then yes, that could ease the loss of Brown. But right now, that's kind of a big 'if'.
Q: All of you reporters keep hinting that Pisa Tinoisamoa is coming back to the Bears, but it hasn't happened. Why not? -- Morgan, Tinley Park, Ill.
A: I'm actually surprised we haven't heard more teams around the league expressing interest in Tinoisamoa. Maybe there are questions about his durability -- he only played in two games last season -- but there shouldn't be any issues surrounding his ability. I know Bears fans didn't get a chance to see Tinoisamoa much in 2009, but trust me, this guy can play, and would be a valuable asset for the Bears this season. If you read this blog you know I'm very high on Nick Roach, who can do everything on the field. But bringing back Tinoisamoa only strengthens both the defense and special teams. The Bears already made Tinoisamoa a contract offer before the regular season ended, so hopefully it's just a matter of time before he's back in the fold.
Q: You clearly don't have a clue about talent evaluation if you don't consider Kevin Payne the best safety on the roster. Craig Steltz, Josh Bullocks, are you joking? Payne is the best of the group and should be a starter again next season. -- Chris, Little Rock, Ark.
A: Payne is the best hitter of the bunch, but has limited coverage skills. There was a time in 2007 when I though Payne was going to be a star, but when he was moved to free safety, things sort of fell apart. He brings the hammer, but that's about it. Bullocks is probably the best safety on the roster, which really isn't saying much, and only illustrates how badly the Bears need to upgrade the position. Danieal Manning is the only guy who can cover, but he's been moved around so much it's tough to forecast his role. If you could combine Manning's speed with Payne's toughness in the box, you'd have one great safety. But this isn't a science project, it's football, so the Bears are going to have to go out and find safeties they can trust to tackle and cover. Finding the right parts is easier said than done, but it's imperative Lovie Smith finally gets some continuity at the position.
Q: I saw that Greg Olsen showed up Monday and seems to be happy, what does this mean now for other tight ends on the roster? -- Danny, Joliet, Ill.
A: Olsen and Brandon Manumaleuna are locks to make the team, so if the Bears decide to only keep three tight ends, the decision comes down to Desmond Clark or Kellen Davis. If the Bears keep the best three tight ends, Clark is on the roster, but the NFL doesn't always work that way. Right now, I don't know what role Clark fills in Mike Martz's offense, and until some clarity is provided on the subject, it's safe to assume his status is shaky at best. It does seem silly the Bears would cut Clark after paying his roster bonus, but maybe the front office wanted to see how the whole Olsen thing played out before making any final determinations. If the Bears release Clark, I wouldn't expect him to stay unemployed for long, especially since ex-Bears tight ends coach Rob Boras landed in Jacksonville. Don't be surprised if the Jaguars express interest in Clark if he hits the street.