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March 4, 2:00 PM ET
Chat with Michael Wright

Michael
  (1:59 PM)

Hello everyone. My guess is we'll get tons of salary cap questions and questions regarding free agency and the draft. With everything being so fluid, it's impossible to provide answers to all the questions. I'm not even sure the Bears are 100 percent sold on what they'll do. But I'll do the best I can.

Geno (Nashville)

Are Emery and Trestman really going to wait a year to extend Cutler? Wouldn't it be better to sign Cutler and Marshall to extensions now?

Michael
  (2:03 PM)

Geno, would you rather the Bears extend Cutler now? Trestman doesn't know what he's got in Cutler just yet, and won't until he plays the 2013 season. The Ravens weren't in a hurry to sign Joe Flacco, but then rewarded him nicely with a new deal after he helped them to another Super Bowl ring. The Bears shouldn't be in a hurry to sign Cutler to a new deal if they're not sold on him as the franchise quarterback of the future. My thinking on it is you make him play out the contract. If Cutler plays well, you use the franchise tag on him in during the 2014 offseason and try to get something done long term. As for Marshall, his deal isn't up until 2014. With him, it would make sense to try to reduce his $9.3 million cap figure with an extension. When you make moves to reduce cap figures, I believe you do it with guys you plan to keep on the roster another couple of years. Marshall definitely fits into that. He's coming off his sixth-consecutive 1,000-yard season and hasn't shown any signs that he's falling off.

Matt (Houston)

Michael-does the Bears franchising Melton effectively mean they are out of the Jake Long/Brandon Albert race? Thanks

Michael
  (2:05 PM)

No, Matt. I look at the franchise tag for Melton as nothing more than a placeholder for cap space until they can work out a long term deal. Still, even if the Bears work out the long-term deal with Melton, it won't represent a huge cap savings. You've got to figure that he'll still command a salary in the $5 million-per-year range. If the Bears want to create cap space, they'll have to look at more than just Melton.

Jon (Chicago)

Have you heard any rumors for who the Bears might be interested in with their first pick in the draft? Are they seriously considering drafting Carimi's replacement after only two years?

Michael
  (2:08 PM)

Jon, it's March. The combine just ended recently and all these guys haven't yet had their pro days. The Bears will also have to take into account or anticipate potential trades above them and how they relate to the player/players they may have targeted. Any rumor about who the Bears plan to take in the first round right now would be just that, a rumor, with no real information behind it. If the Bears had it figured out now, then why work the rest of this offseason scouting guys? The Bears won't have anything narrowed down internally until the end of this month at the earliest.

joe (Bourbonnais)

Should the bears cut peppers? His cap hit is way too high and i dont think he has lived up to his contract and they need to just cut him.

Michael
  (2:11 PM)

When you start cutting players, you've got to consider candidates as replacements. Then when you consider the replacement, you've got to consider potential depth behind them just in case someone gets hurt. I don't agree with cutting Peppers, and I don't share your opinion that he hasn't lived up to the contract. Peppers plays a premium position that pays premium salaries. Peppers is still one of the best defensive ends in the game. The best the Bears can hope for is to restructure his salary. But even if they do that, they've got to do it knowing that 2013 will likely be his last year because any restructuring just adds to his cap number in the future.

Chris (Chicago)

With Melton tying up so much of the Bears' salary cap with the franchise tag, how will Chicago manage to be aggressive during the upcoming first days of Free Agency?It's especially difficult to imagine any early FA activity, when you recall that the front office could not come to a long-term deal with Matt Forte's camp until June of last year?

Michael
  (2:16 PM)

Chris, maybe they won't be aggressive in free agency. Did you see how that worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles a while back? I've said this somewhere else, but how we on the outside perceive a team is often different than how the team views itself internally. So all the needs we constantly talk about may not be needs in the team's mind. Maybe the Bears think all they've got to do is fill a couple of holes inexpensively and use the draft to supplement. All I'm saying is that big-time free agency moves don't necessarily equate to victories. Look at the addition of Brandon Marshall. The Bears finished their first season with him with just two more wins than they had in 2011. The Bears are going to need a ton of contributions from guys already on the roster under contract moving forward. It's time for a bunch of folks to step up and play.

Tucker (DC)

What are the talks of what kind of 4-3 def we are going to run? Just a base def or an uptempo blitzing style 4-3 like DEN?

Michael
  (2:18 PM)

Go back and look at what Mel Tucker did in Jacksonville. He didn't do a bunch of exotic things. He also didn't have the talent he's got now. In Jacksonville, the focus was on outexecuting the opponent. My guess is he'll do some of the same things in Chicago, but with a few more wrinkles out here because he's got a better talent pool to draw from. But I wouldn't expect a blitzing style.

Darryl (Winnipeg)

JD said on the radio that Carimi was going to have to earn a roster spot. Is it time that people stop penciling him in as the starter at RT?

Michael
  (2:20 PM)

Well Darryl, he didn't finish the 2012 season as the starter a right tackle. Jonathan Scott started four of the last five games at that position. So I'd say the team already has that covered for you. I'd also say that I agree with JD. Carimi's spot isn't secure. Nobody's is on that offensive line; especially with a new coaching staff.

Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans)

Where are the nice neighborhoods to live in Chicago? Are they a close commute to Halas Hall?

Michael
  (2:22 PM)

Doesn't matter. A prominent decision maker in the Saints organization told me the plan was to bring you back "at the right price." That right price is probably more than what the Bears will be able to pay.

Raekwon (Harlem)

What players should end up restructuring in your opinion? Thanks keep up the good work Michael

Michael
  (2:26 PM)

There are going to have to be a few restructures done or the Bears are going to have to sign guys to new deals. Here are the top 13 cap figures going into 2013: Peppers, $16.83 million; Cutler, $10.37M; Marshall, $9.3M; Melton, $8.45M; Tillman, $8M; Briggs, $7.416M; Forte, $7.175M; Jennings, $4.1M; Kellen Davis, $3.85M; Bush, $3.55M; Hester, $2.94M; Gould, $2.82M; Bennett, $2.35M.

dan (lakeview)

Michael, It makes me nervous to look at the previous coaching experience of the assistants on the Bear's staff. Do you have any concerns in that regard? I read an article on ESPN Chicago that said many coaches on the Bear's staff weren't familiar with the combine in Indy because as coaches in the CFL they didn't need to go. Kinda strange...no?

Michael
  (2:30 PM)

Dan, let's be real here: there's not a ton to glean from the combine. The combine is just a part of "the process" that personnel evaluators and coaches like to talk about. Ultimately, a player's resume is what they put on tape throughout their college career. So even if the CFL made the new coaches unfamiliar with the NFL Combine, it certainly didn't hinder their ability to watch and evaluate tape. Also, the offensive coordinator (Kromer), defensive coordinator (Tucker) and special teams coordinator (DeCamillis) all came to the Bears from NFL teams. The majority of Marc Trestman's career has been spent in the NFL. I think the new staff will be just fine.

Bob (Tinley Park, IL)

Mike, what's your personal opinion on restructuring? Some feel it's just kicking the can down the road while others point to 2015's expected cap increase and the desire to win now. Thanks.

Michael
  (2:35 PM)

That's a really good question, Bob. I think you have to look at each particular instance/circumstance. If you feel your team is close, I think you do what's necessary to win now and deal with the consequences later. When the new CBA came out a lot of people thought the cap would grow at a higher rate than it has. So until the actual figures come out for 2015 after the TV money kicks in, I think you still have to be cautious about how you handle business with regards to these contracts. But to answer your question, I agree that you're kicking the can down the road so to speak with some of these cap manuevers. But if that leads to a Lombardi Trophy down the line, I'm cool with it.

Tom (Wicker Park) [via mobile]

Michael, I did not see anything to give me hope that Shea McClellin will be an every down DE in a 43 defense. What would you do to him: nothing, move to LB, trade to a 34 team for a 2nd?

Michael
  (2:38 PM)

Tom, if you're a GM of a 3-4 team, would you take Shea McClellin for a second-round pick? If you wouldn't, what makes you think someone else would? McClellin has played one season of football, and it would be way premature to write him off based on one season. Whenever McClellin was on the field, he made an impact. And 2.5 sacks as a rookie in a rotational role isn't anything to sneeze at. McClellin's role will likely grow going into his second season, and at some point, I anticipate him becoming a significant contributor. I think it's way too early to write the book on McClellin. You can't really make a judgement on him until 3 or 4 years down the line.

Rena Menkes (work)

Hey Michael, keep up the stellar work. My question is what will Emery do with the backup qb position? It went from non existent to an area of major importance in the last 2 years. But the results on both were kinda stinky....thoughts? BYE!

Michael
  (2:41 PM)

Given the cap situation, I'm not sure they can afford to pay someone the $3.754M ($1.4 base, 2M signing bonus) they gave Jason Campbell last year to be a backup. My best guess is they try to bring a guy like Josh McCown back at a minimum-type of salary.

Rodrigo (Asheville, NC)

Michael, although I believe the offensive line needs help. I strongly believe that the bears need an additional WR and pass catching TE. Any chance those three positions are what get drafted in rounds 1-3? If so, what order would you prioritize them in? I say TE, WR, OL

Michael
  (2:43 PM)

Rodrigo, if I agreed with your belief, the order I would prioritize would be based on the best potential candidates at those positions where I'm drafting. For instance, if I can get a better tight end in the first round than a receiver or offensive lineman, then TE would be my first priority and so forth.

John (Green Bay, WI)

I really like what DJ Fluker has said in regards to what he intends to bring to a team. Do you think someone with his passion could turn the Bears O-line from a joke to dominant in a season?

Michael
  (2:49 PM)

I'm part of that don't-talk-about-it-be-about-it club. Let's face it, he can talk all he wants, but ultimately has to prove it on the field. I know there's always a ton of excitement every year about the next crop of talent in the draft. But pretty much every year, there are probably more misses and singles than home runs and extra-base hits in the draft. There's really no surefire way to know that you're going to hit on a guy in the draft, which is why we always see late picks develop and go on to be super stars, while many of the first-round guys wash out or play for multiple teams and never live up to their high-round billing. Maybe Fluker is a great player. Maybe he'll end up a Hall of Fame guy. But him talking about it does nothing for me. I've got to see it on the field.

Tommy (Chicago)

Michael if you were drafting for the Bears what position would you target in Rd 1, Rd 2, and Rd 4. Lets suspend plausibility and pretend you draft on needs not best player available.

Michael
  (2:50 PM)

The second sentence in your question automatically knocks me out of this. I'm more of a best-available-player kind of guy. I believe Phil Emery is more of a needs guy.

Stacey (Illinois)

What do you envision the Bears doing with Hester? He seems like he doesn't want to be here anymore and has the 11th highest salary on the team. Cut? Trade? Hope the new staff can get more out of him?

Michael
  (2:55 PM)

I'd take out trade as an option. I don't see the Bears getting much more than a sixth or seventh (not both a sixth and seventh) round pick for him. I don't think Hester "doesn't want to be here anymore" as much as I believe he's frustrated by not having a more significant role. If I'm the staff, I think I explore the possibility of giving him a more significant role on offense; essentially what you said, "get more out of him." I wouldn't cut him because his speed is too rare. At the very worst, in my opinion, Hester is the greatest kick returner to ever play the game. And guess what? There's nothing wrong with that. If that's all he is, he's worth the investment for just one more year. But I suspect the new coaching staff will be able to coax more out of him.

John (South Side)

Michael have you heard anything about the Bears cutting Davis as a cap relief move? His days of being in Lovie's favor are over if you ask me.

Michael
  (2:59 PM)

John, you'll never hear me calling for anyone's job. I don't always have great days or seasons as a sports reporter, and would be offended if folks called for my job. So I would never do it to someone else. Obviously, Davis' cap number ($3.85M) is up there, which makes him a guy the Bears could look to as they try to find ways to create cap space. I don't know if you cut him to do that or ask him to take a pay cut. But I think what you're saying is definitely legitimate.

Chris (Barrington)

Most teams have restructures major contracts by now - isnt it a little late in the game for the Bears? Any chance the Bears go after Avril to save money and replace Peppers? Hes younger, not as good, but has upside. I love Peppers but $19mil buys alot.

Michael
  (3:01 PM)

Chris, I think the Bears are working on some of this stuff. But as you know they're a very secretive organization, and nothing will come out before some of these things are close to or actually done. So don't write the Bears off as having not done anything. They've still got 8 days to make some things happen, and I suspect they're working hard behind the scenes right now trying to free up space. Also, if you cut Peppers you're still on the hook for a pretty good number.

Danny boy (South Side) [via mobile]

Do you expect the defense to take a step back under new D-coordinator Mel tucker???

Michael
  (3:02 PM)

I don't. I think they'll maintain or perhaps play even better if Tucker does some things that will allow them to play even faster.

Michael
  (3:04 PM)

Wow, time went by fast today. That's my time, but I thank you guys for coming by to chat. I know you've got concerns about the team's cap situation. But I suspect the Bears are working on some things and will surprise us all in the next few days. Let's just wait and see. JD & I will definitely be trying to find out what's going on and we'll let you know what we find out.