Mailbag: Manning's plans; no Holmes?

Danieal Manning has a strong relationship with Bears coach Lovie Smith. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Q: When is Danieal Manning going to start attending the offseason workouts? I’m not the biggest Manning fan, but Lovie Smith did say Manning is going to start at strong safety. It can’t be a good thing that he’s staying away from the team. – Christopher, Round Lake, Ill.

A: Manning made it clear to ESPNChicago.com his decision to skip the start of workouts was purely business, and he holds no ill will towards the Bears organization. But there is something to be said for a player feeling disrespected, and I get the feeling Manning thinks the Bears should offer him a new one-year contract, or tender him at a higher level. Since neither of these things are likely to happen, I expect Manning to eventually sign his injury waiver and start attending workouts -- perhaps as early as next week. Manning loves football and has a very strong relationship with Smith, so I bet this whole saga ends peacefully. However, I wouldn’t anticipate Manning showing up this week because it wouldn’t make much sense for him to return before April 15, the deadline for teams to sign restricted free agents to an offer sheet. Manning has incredible talent, and I really hope the Bears find a way to utilize him properly this year, but I’m not holding my breath.

Q: I saw that Santonio Holmes was traded to the Jets for a fifth-round pick. What gives? Why weren't the Bears players in this deal? Aside from his suspension, Holmes would be a true No. 1. He would instantly upgrade a young group of wide receivers not to mention fit in perfectly with [Mike] Martz's spread offenses. Thoughts? -- Zach, Chicago

A: It's hard to blame the Bears for taking a pass on Holmes. Yes, the former Super Bowl MVP is coming off a career best 79 receptions for 1,248 yards, but look at all the off-the-field nonsense surrounding this guy. Not only is he suspended for the first four games of 2010, he's also under investigation for a glass-throwing incident in Florida, and has previously been arrested for domestic violence and possession of marijuana. Jerry Angelo once said the biggest character gamble he ever took was on Tank Johnson, and we all know how that turned out. Holmes may be an excellent talent, but in my opinion, he's not worth the hassle.

Q: JD, you really think Hunter Hillenmeyer would be a "solid addition" for multiple NFL teams at linebacker? Have we been watching the same Hunter Hillenmeyer? He's below average at best. -- Ryan, Crown Point, Ind.

A:I just don't understand why people fail to appreciate Hillenmeyer. He's not the flashiest guy on the field, but is always in the right spot, and more times than not, makes the necessary plays. Not only has Hillenmeyer recorded 100-plus tackles in two of the last three seasons, he's a prime example of somebody who sacrifices his body to play through tremendous pain. Let me ask you this question, Ryan: How many below-average former fifth-round picks stay in the league long enough to start 69 regular season games in his first seven seasons? Not many. Hillenmeyer is certainly not "below average" and if any team is looking for veteran help at linebacker, he'd be a solid choice given experience, intelligence, productivity and versatility [either at middle or strong side linebacker].

Q: Jeff, this might be a shot in the dark, but how about re-signing Adewale Ogunleye? Now that Alex Brown is gone, shouldn't the Bears look to add another veteran defensive end? Thank you for your response. -- Mark B. -- Skokie, Ill.

A:I don't think so. The Bears made it pretty clear they were moving on without Ogunleye, who remains unsigned. If I were to guess, I'd say Ogunleye ends up somewhere after the draft, when teams have a firmer idea of what they still need to fill out their rosters. I thought Ogunleye did a decent job here in Chicago, but the Bears need a little more consistency from that premiere pass-rushing spot. Also, I don't believe Ogunleye is looking to be a reserve -- he still views himself as a starter -- so the prospect of returning to Chicago probably isn't all that appealing.

Q: I was wondering if you think the Bears will try and turn Lance Louis into a fullback for certain situations? He can obviously block and has great speed, and also has great hands for his size. -- Jake, Calif.

A: I wouldn't rule anything totally out, but tight ends usually take on that H-Back blocking role, and the Bears already have plenty of candidates for that role: Greg Olsen, Brandon Manumaleuna, Desmond Clark and Kellen Davis. Plus, the Bears signed Eddie Williams, a bigger fullback who may be able to handle those short-yardage situations. However, Mike Martz is known to be very creative, and using Louis in that way certainly would be thinking outside the box. Unfortunately, I can't give you a scouting report on his hands, since we never saw him catch any passes last season -- he only had a small number of receptions at San Diego State. You're right about his speed, Louis is fast and athletic, a major reason why the Bears feel he can at least compete for a job this summer. To sum it up; it's not a bad idea, but I'm not sure if it's likely given the players currently on the roster who could fill that need.