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Monday, March 9, 2009
Daily mailbag: The K. Jones signing

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Ben of Chicago gives us an opportunity to explain ourselves:

I've read your comments since the Kevin Jones signing and I think you are being too negative. I'm really disappointed in the Bears efforts so far, especially at the WR and S positions, but this was one of their better moves. The Bears need another back to lighten the load on Forte. And they need a guy who's faster and can catch the ball to change pace. They can't afford to spend an early draft pick there and there isn't a guy in FA worth looking at. Keeping Jones, who clearly wants to be a Bear and knows the system already, is a good get at a very good price. Wolfe showed even less ability than Jones did last season and just doesn't have the talent to ever be a player. Jones was only 5 months off ACL surgery last season and should be closer to his old self this season with an extra year to recover. That's the big if, but considering he was on the team last year the Bears probably know his physical status better than anyone.

Ben, I actually agree with your assessment that the Bears need to find Matt Forte some help. According to Bears statistics, Forte accounted for a higher percentage of his team's total offensive yards (34.99) than any other player in football last season.

But I guess I'm just surprised the help will be Jones. First, the Bears seemed to have given up on him last season. Jones had 32 carries in their first six games and then only two thereafter, slowed by a stretch of five game-day deactivations in seven games.

Chicago RB Kevin Jones, final 10 games of 2009
Date Opponent Production
10/19 vs. MIN DNP
11/2 vs. DET 1 carry, -1 yards
11/9 vs. TEN 1 carry, 0 yards
11/16 at GB Inactive
11/23 at STL Inactive
11/30 at MIN Inactive
12/7 vs. JAC Inactive
12/11 vs. NO 0 rushes, 0 yards
12/22 vs. GB 0 rushes, 0 yards,
12/28 at HOU Inactive

Typically a player recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament gets stronger as the year progresses, so if anything I would have expected those statistics to be reversed.

What's changed between then -- when the Bears chose to use Garrett Wolfe and Adrian Peterson ahead of Jones -- and now? Is it just a matter of following the old rule that a player is always better two years after ACL surgery than he is after the first? The Bears should understand his condition better than anyone, but their understanding of it just three months ago led them to shove him to the far end of their bench.

Secondly, Bears coaches have made several public statements about Wolfe's potential as the No. 2 running back in 2009. In an interview posted on the Bears' Web site, offensive coordinator Ron Turner said: "We definitely know we need to incorporate other people. Garrett Wolfe is a guy we want to do that with."

Coach Lovie Smith had this to say last month at the annual scouting combine:

"I think we've had our most productive years when we had two running backs that we really felt comfortable playing, and you would like to get back to that situation. Maybe we have that complement there right now."

I took that final sentence as a reference to Wolfe, considering Jones was a pending free agent at the time. Many teams have a two-back rotation, but there aren't many three-man rotations in use around the NFL. It would almost be overkill in Chicago, as Forte's receiving skills all but eliminate the need for a third-down back.

It's possible those comments were negotiating ploys to increase leverage against Jones. But you don't often see players re-signed after they were phased out at the end of their contract year. I think the Bears needed another veteran running back and I believe Jones still has some football left in him. I'm just surprised that the Bears and Jones agreed on those points.