Chat with Michael Wright
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! On Monday, our Chicago Bears reporter Michael Wright makes his weekly appearance.
Wright joined ESPNChicago in April 2010 after spending the previous four seasons covering the Jaguars. He also covered the Redskins for two seasons. A native Texan, Wright was a four-year football letterman at West Texas A&M University. He covers the Bears for both ESPNChicago.com and Chicago's ESPN Radio 1000.
Send your questions now and join Wright Monday at 12 p.m. CT/1 p.m. ET!
Michael (1:01 PM)
Hello everyone. Hope you're enjoying the holiday if you got the day off. Anyway, I'll be headed to the combine later this week in Indianapolis, where I should be able to get at least a preliminary idea of what the Bears might be trying to do in the draft and free agency. Anyway, let's get started.
Kyle Long Island [via mobile]
When do you expect the bears to name a wide receivers coach?
Michael (1:03 PM)
Marc Trestman said they were in the process of trying to work that out, and ideally they'd like to get it done as soon as possible. My guess is the team will be making an announcement in the next couple of weeks. Just reading between the lines, it sounded as if the team had a couple of guys in mind but everything might be getting held up because of contractual issues. I'm guessing it's happening soon though.
How much does it take to resign Melton? 5 years $35 million? Do you think Emery sees this as a deal he has to get done, or will he low-ball Melton with the thought process that there is already a lot of money invested in the DLine?
Michael (1:09 PM)
Darrell, the number you just threw out there would be less than what Melton would receive if the team franchises him. The Bears can franchise Melton at $8.3 million between today and March 4. It's pretty difficult to assign a value for Melton because of the fact he's such a scheme-specific player. How would Melton perform in a traditional 4-3? That's somewhat of an unknown because the Bears don't play that way, and that could affect Melton's value with other teams. I'm quite sure this is something that Phil Emery is pondering or has pondered going into negotiations. At the same time, Melton's agent -- in doing his job -- needs to maximize his Melton's value. So this could end up being a case where the Bears franchise Melton to buy themselves time to work out an extension.
How exactly does converting a base salary to a signing bonus work? I see other teams changing expensive base salaries to signing bonuses as with Tom Brady and Eli Manning among others. Can't the Bears do this with Julius Peppers to get more cap room?
Michael (1:12 PM)
Really, Joe it's just a matter of moving around money. By turning those big numbers into signing bonus, you can prorate that money over the life of the deal. So instead of it hitting your cap all at once, it can be broken up over four or five (however long the deal is) years. The Bears re-worked Peppers deal going into 2011 to get more cap space. I could see them doing something with Peppers again; maybe even Charles Tillman, who counts about $8 million toward the cap and is entering the final year of his contract.
Harry (Lake Zurich)
Any word on o linemen the Bears might be targeting in free agency? Does having Kromer give us the inside track on Bushrod?
Michael (1:18 PM)
I don't even know what the Bears staff thinks of hte linemen they have on the current roster. I spoke with assistant ofensive line coach Brendan Nugent last week, and he said he sees some talent on the roster having watched plenty of film of 2012. He said the problem for him is trying to figure out how that talent transfers into the new system the Bears will be running. In Montreal, I know the coaching staff significantly improved the protection while using pretty much the same personnel they had before they got there. Maybe the same can be done with the Bears? I'm pretty sure that staff is confident they can salvage some of the players on the current roster. As for Bushrod, I wouldn't count on Kromer giving the Bears an inside track. People make too much of former teammates and coaches being able to lure people to different destinations. A lot goes into a player's decision when choosing between suitors in free agency. The biggest determining factor is the money. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Going back to Bushrod, my guess is the Saints will try to bring him back.
Patrick (Bloomington, IN)
Michael, the Alpha chapter says hello. E-Rod says he sees himself as Hernandez in NE. Although that's a stretch, how do you see him fare in 2013? Are we going to try and upgrade in FA or the draft?
Michael (1:21 PM)
Appreciate the warm welcome from the Alpha chapter. Anyway, I see the Bears giving Evan Rodriguez every opportunity to show what he can do. But I can also see the Bears trying to upgrade at the position through free agency or the draft. I spoke to tight ends coach Andy Bischoff last week, and it's clear this new staff plans to do lots of things we haven't been accustomed to seeing in recent history with the tight ends. Bischoff said they plan to split out the tight ends, line them up in the backfield, and attack all over the field with them. He said the days of the down-blocking, flat-route running tight end are over. And it's unknown whether the current guys on the roster can do what the staff envisions at that position. So my guess is you want to bring in as many people as possible to compete for those roles.
Alec Ogletree was a potential draft target for the team but with his latest arrest, how far do you see him falling and would the bears still select him at any point?
Michael (1:27 PM)
Scott, how many times have we seen guys get into heaps of trouble off the field without it affecting their draft status? Last I checked, Michael Floyd was arrested and suspended, and still was drafted No. 13 in 2012. So if any of these GMs around the league feel that Ogletree can help their teams, they won't hesitate to draft him. Sure, they'll do all the requisite homework required. Sure they'll talk to him about the situation and ask what they can expect of him in the future. And the guy, naturally, will say, "I learned a lot from this. It won't happen again." Blah, blah, blah. So what I'm saying is if Ogletree is there at 20, Emery will have already done all the research on the guy. If Emery is comfortable with him, and thinks he can help, the Bears wil draft him. I really don't see him falling much if at all.
Any word that the new coach has talked at length with Jay Cutler? No the corporate rhetoric they talked for a few moments.
Michael (1:28 PM)
Joe, Trestman said that they haven't talked at length. Trestman called their sitdown a "meet and greet" and said that Cutler flew back to Nashville immediately after. So this lengthy conversation you're asking me about hasn't yet occured, based on what Trestman said last week.
Does Armando Allen have a chance to beat out Michael Bush for the #2 running back position? I really think his skill set fits with what Trestman likes from his running backs (especially in the passing game).
Michael (1:30 PM)
Rob, I like Armando. I really do. But I seriously doubt he'd overtake Bush for the No. 2 spot. Catching the ball out of the backfield is only one of several attributes needed to succeed as a running back in this league.
Trestman said he didn't even have a playbook ready for Jay. How long does it usually take for a new coach to get his playbook ready, and is he creating one "based" on Jay or our current offense, or is he just changing his Canadian playbook to fit the NFL?
Michael (1:33 PM)
Roland, we need to stop bringing this Canadian stuff into any conversation about Trestman. The majority of his coaching experience is in the NFL. A very large majority of it. The playbook is actually a done deal. It's just not in an organized form where it can be distributed to the team. Besides that, yes, the staff needs to figure out what will work with the personnel they've got on hand. As Trestman said, there's a timeline already in place for installing the system and he didn't seem concerned at all about that being an issue. Trestman said they'd be ready to go in April, and he didn't mean the playbooks. He made it sound as if everything would be installed by then and that the players will have already been running it by then.
Dan O (Halas Hall)
What kind of renovations are they doing at Halas Hall?
Michael (1:38 PM)
I've got no idea, really. They're expanding the weight room and training room 1,500 square feet and they're upgrading the locker room. They are building an "event center" off the south end of the building and I think it'll be like a 4,000-square foot broadcast studio and conference space for events. They're also doing a press conference room and another media courtyard, in addition to expaning the work space for the media. They're also adding a practice viewing suite, a new kitchen, new dining facility. From what I understand we're talking about 30,000 square foot of expansion on a facility that is already 100,000 square feet.
Sean [via mobile]
Do you see the bears upgrading the receiving corps in free agency at all with Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace or other big receiver opposite B. Marshall?
Michael (1:42 PM)
Good question, Sean. The Bears are playing things close to the vest obviously. In my opinion, adding a (legit) speed receiver opposite Marshall would help tremdously. That would cut down on the extra coverage Marshall sees because opponents would have to respect the speed (which entails keeping a safety over the top) of the guy opposite Marshall, which would also help with the team's run game. The problem with adding a legitimate deep threat is they're pricey, obviously. The Bears say they want to extend Cutler. But they've also got to find a way to bring back Henry Melton, who is a free agent. The cap only allows for so much.
Mark (Washington, DC)
What free agent Wide Receivers or Tight Ends do you see the Bears bringing in? Would it make sense to bring someone like a Plaxico Burress or Kellen Winslow?
Michael (1:44 PM)
Mark, no and no on your second question. As for the first, I'm not sure the Bears can afford to bring in any of the huge names. As for tight ends, I think guys like Delanie Walker in San Francisco and Martellus Bennett in New York make sense. My guess is Walker will be a priority signing for the 49ers. I'd still say to keep an eye out on Bennett; maybe even Jared Cook in Tennessee.
John (Lincoln Park)
My lasting image of the the 2012 season is having Russel Wilson running all over a tired Bears Defense. The image that is still in my mind is the camera zooming in on Israel Idonije.....I don't think he should have played at End the entire season and I am not a big fan of him altogether.......Are his days as a Bear done?
Michael (1:49 PM)
I don't know, John. Obviously his deal is up, and the Bears need to decide whether they'd like to bring him back. I get that you don't like him. But you really can't deny his contributions in 2012. He finished with 7.5 sacks, 40 tackles and forced a fumble. That's decent production in my opinion for a guy that started in 11 games. Corey Wootton is now the starter at that spot, and Shea McClellin will probably start play a more significant role in 2013. So maybe you're right. Maybe it's time for the team to part ways with Idonije. But in my opinion, he's a very valuable backup they should bring back if they can afford to.
Jamie (Spokane, WA)
Michael, I know I am going to present a lot of hypotheticals here, but IF Urlacher leaves and IF the Bears don't draft a player like Ogletree to take over the MLB spot do you think the Bears look at moving McClellin to MLB?
Michael (1:51 PM)
No, Jamie. That won't happen. McClellin is a hand-on-the-ground pass rusher. That's what the Bears have said since they drafted him, and I'm going to continue to take their word on that. If Urlacher doesn't come back, you have to remember that Nick Roach is plenty capable of playing that spot.
Are the bears even attempting to keep devin hester?
Michael (1:52 PM)
He's under contract, Sid. It's not like they've got to work to re-sign him or anything.
MARK S (CHICAGO HEIGHTS, il)
What do you think it would cost the bears to swap first round picks with the browns this year? So they can finally draft a LT?
Michael (1:56 PM)
That's a pretty significant climb up the board, and I wish I could tell you what it would cost. There used to be a draft trade chart that teams used as somewhat of a baseline for moves up and down the board. But that chart is outdated because the financial committment at the top of the draft isn't near as high as it used to be with this new CBA. So teams now are probably a lot more aggressive than they used to be in moving up the board because they're no longer committed to giving up an arm and a leg for players that have never played an NFL down. I doubt the Bears would try to move that far up the board. I'm guessing they'll move up or back just a few spots if at all.
Any chance Woodson comes to Chicago?
Michael (1:58 PM)
Nate, he's a heck of a player. But I just don't see where he fits. Would the Bears bring him here to play nickel? The team could do that a lot cheaper by just bringing back D.J. Moore. Given Woodson's age, and what the Bears already have on defense, I don't see that happening. The Bears aren't deficient anywhere in that secondary, and I highly doubt Woodson would want to go somewhere as a backup.
Ryan (Sioux City, IA)
Give us some names you think the Bears will be pursuing this offseason in FA and draft
Michael (2:01 PM)
With a new coaching staff bringing in an offensive system we haven't even seen, it's difficult to tell. Even the coaches don't have a truly firm grasp on what they might pursue because they're still evaluating the current talent on the roster. Based on what I've seen, I think they've got to get at least one player on the offensive line, a tight end, and maybe a No. 2 receiver. Ryan, I'm not a names guy. I'm all about results. Big-name acquisitions don't automatically mean victories.
Trent (Amboy, il) [via mobile]
I personally dont like the idea of letting urlacher go just yet but if they do would mlb be free priority in the draft or do they let roach take over and leave a hole on the outside?
Michael (2:03 PM)
I think Roach could handle the role in the middle. I also think it's much easier to find a good player outside than it is in the middle. So you say the move by Roach would "leave a hole on the outside." True. But that's a hole that's pretty easy to fill compared to trying to find a middle backer.
Michael (2:05 PM)
Guys, that's my time. I'm headed to the combine on Wednesday, and we should have lots more about potential targets for this team in free agency and the draft over the next couple of months. We'll talk to Emery and Trestman in Indianapolis. So check back with us on ESPNChicago.com for more Bears information.