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The Chicago Bears will play the spectator role Thursday night when the NFL draft kicks off.
|Florida's Major Wright is considered a violent hitter who may be on the Bears' radar.|
With only five picks -- unless the club finagles a deal to acquire additional selections or to move up the board -- the Bears won't even go on the clock until Friday, which is likely why Halas Hall is closed during the draft's first day.
But don't be lulled to sleep by the team's early inactivity. There's still quite a bit going on behind the scenes.Here are 10 things to keep an eye on with the team during the draft and its aftermath:
1. Extra time to re-stack the board
Because the draft is split over three days, the Bears -- like the rest of the league -- will have additional time to re-stack their draft board between rounds. Depending on your perspective, that could help or hurt the club.
The additional time gives the Bears a full night to ponder scenarios, construct potential deals for trades and reshuffle the board headed into the next day's round. The extra time could potentially cause them to overthink things, too.
2. Will the Bears try to maneuver up into the second round or trade a vet or future picks to acquire picks?
The scenario presently seems unlikely, reading into comments made Wednesday by Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
"We can make a small move, but if [the player] gets to the point where he's there in the second, [in relation to what little] we'd have to give up, there's a good chance he makes it to the third round. We'd really like the player to come to us, because the third, fourth and fifth rounds have value to us. I doubt we would do it. But who knows? If we feel like that's what we have to do -- given he's the last player at the position -- it's not something that we wouldn't entertain."
Angelo also said the club is "out of that business" of trading away future picks, adding that "I don't want to get cute and keep borrowing in the future with picks."
But don't count the team completely out of moving a veteran to acquire later picks. Tight end Greg Olsen -- despite the club's steadfast denials -- would appear to be a logical choice as trade bait, along with linebackers Jamar Williams and Hunter Hillenmeyer.
Offensive coordinator Mike Martz expects Olsen to fit into the new offensive scheme. But Olsen's struggles as a blocker paired with the scheme's reliance on heavy blocking at tight end don't appear to be an ideal match. In addition, the Bears are loaded at tight end.
At linebacker, Williams signed his restricted free-agent tender Wednesday, opening the door for a possible trade. His reluctance to sign the tender early on signifies he'd likely be open to the possibility. Hillenmeyer, meanwhile, doesn't appear to have a well-defined role headed into the season, especially now that Pisa Tinoisamoa has re-signed.
"I've talked to several teams about several of our players," Angelo said. "I'm not going to get into specifics. If something behooves us [and] we feel we can be a better football team for it, then obviously [making a trade] will become more serious in terms of our thinking."
3. Will the Bears make their first pick based on need or take the best available player?
There seem to be two schools of thought about acquiring players in the draft, according to personnel men leaguewide. Some believe teams gain a higher level of productivity from personnel when they take the best available player and find a place to plug him in. Meanwhile, some use the draft to replenish talent and fill holes in the roster at certain positions.
Under Angelo, the Bears have utilized both approaches. But count on them addressing the need at safety with their first pick this weekend.
"We've identified four players with our third pick, five with our fourth pick and four with our fifth pick," Angelo said. "I feel there's a 50-50 [chance], maybe even a little better, that one of those players, maybe two, will be there at each round."
4. Will the club consider adding a potential backup quarterback in the later rounds, or a veteran after the draft?
Given the club's current situation at the position, it's doubtful the Bears would use a draft pick to add a developmental quarterback. The team wants to add a veteran capable of filling in seamlessly if Jay Cutler were to suffer an injury.
The club likely isn't sure whether current backup Caleb Hanie can do that. But the problem for Chicago is that the current crop of veteran free agents appears to be thin.
Patrick Ramsey, Josh McCown, Daunte Culpepper, Marc Bulger and Mark Brunell are the top veterans on the market. At 30, McCown is the youngest. Ramsey is 31. Culpepper and Bulger are both 33, and Brunell is 39.
There's a chance that one of those players joins the Bears sometime after the draft.
5. The Bears will select a linebacker.
Count on that. For some reason, Chicago can't get enough linebackers. The club has drafted at least one linebacker in every draft led by Angelo -- eight consecutive years.
6. Will the Bears find a starter at safety?
They sure need to, considering that Chicago's safeties combined last season for only one interception. It appears they'll be able to find a potential starting safety in the draft. Angelo said this year's class has six to eight safeties capable of helping a team as a rookie.
The question is whether the board shakes out so that Chicago will be able to select one.
Keep an eye out for Florida's Major Wright -- who is considered a violent hitter who needs to refine his coverage skills somewhat -- and Jeromy Miles of Massachusetts. The Bears seem to be high on South Florida's Nate Allen, but he's unlikely to still be on the board when they pick. South Carolina's Darian Stewart could be a late-round possibility at the position.
"Naturally when you don't have the first two picks, it's very difficult to put a stamp on a player and say we feel very strongly that he's going to come in and potentially start; very difficult to do," Angelo said. "We found it very difficult to do with a first-rounder, let alone a third-rounder."
7. With Frank Omiyale moving to tackle, do the Bears add depth at guard?
That's a strong possibility, because you have to wonder whether the club is satisfied with Josh Beekman, Lance Louis and Johan Asiata competing for starting jobs heading into next season.
The club's pursuit of veteran Seahawks guard Rob Sims in free agency shed some light on what appears to be a general feeling of uneasiness about the current state of the position. If the Bears can't find a guard who fits, look for them to grab a tackle they can kick inside. There's a good chance the Bears take a look at OT Tony Washington of Abilene Christian in the later rounds.
8. The Bears should take at least one defensive lineman.
Angelo places a premium on this position, saying you can never have enough guys capable of rushing the quarterback, which, of course, has been one of the Bears' main issues the last few seasons.
"As we do every year, we'll look at the defensive line," Angelo said. "We'll always be looking for pass-rushers, regardless of what our needs are."
The Bears made that apparent last year when they drafted DE/DT Jarron Gilbert with their first pick in the third round, when the prevailing thought was the club would take a receiver with the selection.
9. The Bears aren't likely to be players for any big-name free agents.
So don't expect Chicago to make another Julius Peppers-type of deal in the days following the draft.
The Bears flirted last season with receiver Anquan Boldin, but Angelo made it clear that the Bears are out of the business of mortgaging the future for big-name vets. Chicago gave up two first-round picks and a third-rounder to land Jay Cutler, in addition to a second-round selection for Gaines Adams.
Those two trades are why the club doesn't have first- and second-round picks this weekend.
10. Are the Bears set at receiver, or will they acquire one this weekend or on the secondary free-agent market?
All offseason, the Bears downplayed any notion of pursuing a veteran free-agent receiver to add to the current group. It should be interesting to see whether the club passes on a talented receiver if one happens to fall in its lap this weekend.
For all the young talent the on the roster at the position, Devin Aromashodu seems to be the only receiver with any real size. Would a bigger target enhance Martz's fast-break offense? That remains to be seen.
David Gettis (6-3, 217 pounds) of Baylor could be a Bears target in the seventh round, or in rookie free agency.
In veteran free agency, it might make sense for the Bears to take a look at Isaac Bruce, given his familiarity with Martz's scheme. Sure, Bruce is 37, and likely wouldn't add much in terms of production on the field. But he could be instrumental in helping Chicago's receivers adjust to Martz's scheme. Bruce worked with Martz in St. Louis from 1999-2005, then again in 2008 in San Francisco.