I’ve been a Bears fan forever. I am just wondering why the Bears aren't jumping on the opportunity to sign Terrell Owens? He will take all the attention away from Devin Hester and open the run game. Do I need to work in the front office? -- Manny, Colorado Springs
Keep your resume safe at home. The Bears aren’t the only ones not ‘jumping at the opportunity’ to sign Terrell Owens. At this time of the year, when teams have spent the bulk of the cash allotted for free-agent acquisitions, a player such as Owens (who is seeking substantially more than the veteran minimum) just doesn’t fit. Throw in his reputation, which probably isn’t deserved; the potential for him to become a distraction -- the Bears don’t handle distractions well; the fact such a situation could prove highly detrimental to the growth of the club’s young receivers; and his age – 36 -- as factors explaining why teams haven’t shown significant interest in the receiver. Owens appears to be primed to join a team at some point during training camp as a stop-gap measure because of injury.
With that said, I’m somewhat in agreement with you. Why not take a chance? Lovie Smith’s job appears to be on the line, so if I’m in that situation, I’m doing everything I can to win games. At the same time, money would be a huge factor in acquiring Owens. I seriously doubt Owens would play for the veteran minimum, and that’s likely all the Bears are willing to pay.
How comfortable are you with Mark Anderson starting opposite of Julius Peppers? I would have loved to have seen Adewale Ogunleye and Peppers together. -- Joe, Sacramento, Calif.
Joe, I could tell you how Julius Peppers would draw lots of attention lining up opposite Anderson, which would free him up to do his thing on the other side. But let’s be real: Anderson hasn’t been a significant factor since his 12-sack rookie season. So I’m somewhat skeptical at this point.
That’s not to say the potential doesn’t exist for Anderson -- if he wins the starting job -- to make plenty of noise playing opposite Peppers this season. But that potential currently exists on paper. I need to see it on the field. In the three years since his rookie season, Anderson has produced just 9 ½ sacks, but flashed glimpses last season of his rookie year. Even if Anderson becomes the starter, you should expect to see plenty of Israel Idonije at that spot, too. Rookie Corey Wootton could also earn his way into the rotation.
Jeff, O.J Atogwe, one of the top safeties in the NFL, is in free agency. Bears need safeties, so should we, or should we not sign him and why? -- Henry, Chicago
Henry, it’s my week to do the Bears mailbag, but I’m sure Jeff would agree with me on this one. Atogwe’s pricetag at this point appears to be too high for the Bears, who are at their spending limit, in regards to adding new talent.
In addition, based on what’s happened so far, the Bears would be reluctant to disrupt the strides they’ve made at the position this offseason. To me, the club trading to bring back Chris Harris and drafting Major Wright indicated it wasn’t interested in adding a high-priced free agent at safety. Atogwe has intercepted 18 passes over the past four seasons, in addition to breaking up 29, and he played a role in a league-leading 41 takeaways. So adding him would seem to be a no-brainer. The problem though is that even without a salary cap going into the season, the Bears aren’t willing to spend the cash.
Do you think that Devin Aromashodu has a chance to start at wideout? -- Abdul, Chicago
I do. Apparently the Bears don’t. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz has already said that Devin Hester and Johnny Knox are the starters, while adding that Aromashodu “has stepped it up quite a bit … we’re trying to see what he can do with getting him the ball a little bit more.”
So at some point, Aromashodu could possibly land a starter’s role. But it appears Aromashodu will go into training camp as the No. 3. I’ll say this: Aromashodu is more polished overall as a receiver than Hester and Knox. Yeah, I said that.
Could you see Juaquin Iglesias supplanting Earl Bennett on the depth chart since both are very similar in terms of skills? -- Dominque, Phoenix
It’s a possibility, but I don’t see it happening. Did you know that Bennett led the team last season in receptions for gains of 20 yards or more (15)? I’m not sure you can disregard that big-play ability. Besides that, Iglesias has played in only one NFL game and still hasn’t caught a pass. You talk about them being very similar in terms of skills. The difference is that Bennett has proven himself against NFL competition. Iglesias hasn’t.
I think it was interesting that Mike Martz thought Hester would have a limited role as a receiver when he was first hired as the Bears offensive coordinator. As a Bears fan, I thought Martz was absolutely right. We already seem to have three other solid receiving options in the other Devin (I'm not even gonna attempt to spell his last name), Bennett and Knox. Why not let Hester return to being the best return specialist of all time, and limit his playing time at receiver to 15-20 snaps a game in the slot? Lovie Smith was quick to assert Hester would be the "No. 1 receiver" again this year when it’s obvious the other Devin has developed the chemistry with Cutler to fill that void. Is the reluctance to give up on the Hester receiver experiment simply a financially driven decision? -- Randy, Silver Spring, Md.
Randy, I’d say you answered your own questions. At the same time, Hester is such a dynamic playmaker that you want to get the ball into his hands as much as possible, whether that’s in the return game or as a receiver. With what the Bears are paying him, sure the club wants to squeeze the most it can out of its financial investment. Hester is scheduled to make $750,000 in base salary this season. But the contract extension he signed in 2008 maxes out at $40 million if he hits performance-based escalators, which are directly tied to him reaching the performance levels of a No. 1 receiver over the course of the deal. In fact, if Hester fails to perform like a No. 1 receiver, his bonus money de-escalates to account for that.
Is Tommie Harris healthy as of now? -- Brian, Memphis, Tenn.
Brian, he says he is. At minicamp, you could see almost a sense of relief on his face when discussing the situation. Harris said that one of the major plusses of being completely healthy for the first time in recent memory comes in the confidence department. Harris said his confidence is built out on the practice field. But in the past, he wasn’t able to work out with the team, which always gave him a sense of uncertainty about whether his body would hold up during the season. “So it always felt weird [to be recovering from an injury or surgery nearly every year],” he said. “I feel really good, man compared to last year where I really didn’t know what would happen. I’d come out, go to rehab, and do all the other stuff and just hope that everything is gonna turn out well. The grass is a lot different than a treadmill. Football is just one of those sports where you can’t come out here and think what you did in the training room is gonna translate.”