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Two of the more prominent names circulating as possible quarterback targets for Chicago are pending free agents Chris Simms (Tennessee) and Byron Leftwich (Pittsburgh). Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times takes the pulse of both situations in his Inside the Bears blog.
Leftwich is two years removed as a starter. But speaking to reporters in Tampa this week, he said his year with the Steelers has made him a better quarterback:
"Just picking up from a Pro Bowl quarterback like Ben [Roethlisberger], the way he does things. And just being around good football players, any time you are around good football players, the Troy Polamalus and Hines Wards, you become a better player by understanding guys who have been in this league longer than you and what they do on a day-to-day basis."
Meanwhile, Simms' father said he is unaware of any interest the Bears might have in his son but said he is the "wrong guy to ask." Phil Simms, who was in Tampa this week as part of his broadcasting duties with Inside the NFL, also said he believes that potential free agents won't view Chicago as a place they can go to win a job:
"I was on the record all year, I know Kyle Orton. I followed him through college, I saw him early with the Bears and I thought he grew up. He was a different-looking guy this year. I thought he had a little moxie to him. There is a little something he has that I like. Whoever goes in there, it would be awfully tough to think that you're going to take Kyle Orton's job. I know that.''
Orton will be the Bears' starter in 2009, but backup Rex Grossman is likely to depart and the Bears probably don't want to enter training camp with second-year player Caleb Hanie as their backup. Simms is right: Whomever Chicago signs will almost certainly be in line for a role as a strict backup.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Thursday morning: