The Tribune's Brad Biggs answers your Bears questions weekly.
What are the chances the Bears can get a draft pick in return for Jay Cutler? — Edgar V., Chicago
My hunch is that general manager Ryan Pace will be hard-pressed to get a pick in return for Cutler. But he’s faced tough odds the past two offseason and managed to put together deals for wide receiver Brandon Marshall and tight end Martellus Bennett, players the Bears were poised to release if they couldn’t deal. It’s worth noting in both instances the Bears had to ship the player and a pick to get a pick back. The quarterback carousel is going to spin in the NFL when the new league year opens March 9 and teams that might be willing to consider Cutler could be looking at other options first. In other words, putting a deal together for him in the near future might be difficult. It remains to be seen how long the Bears would hang on to Cutler in an effort to see if they can pry a pick loose from another team. They may want to hit the reset button to signal a change and move forward. That would also do Cutler a solid in setting him free to sign elsewhere as a street free agent. Perhaps we’ll get some answers next week in Indianapolis at the scouting combine, or at least a little insight in what lies ahead. I don’t think the Bears will be able to trade Cutler, but Pace has pulled off tough deals before so don’t sell him short.
When do you expect the Bears to make a public decision about Jay Cutler? Guess on how many free agents the Bears sign on Day 1? — @KyleBeckrich
That’s a good question. Often teams are not going to shed one player at a position until they have a replacement on the roster. In other words, until the Bears trade for or sign a veteran quarterback, they might be most content keeping Cutler on the roster. They also might want to hang on to him through the draft in the event there is a team interested in potentially flipping a draft pick for him. I could see the Bears making a few signings on the first day of free agency but as always, I caution readers against believing that free agency is the key to a turnaround. It’s not like the Bears have sat on their hands when free agency has opened over the course of the last decade. They’ve been pretty active and don’t have a heck of a lot to show for it.
Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union had an interesting tweet over the weekend. He pointed out the Jaguars’ free-agent haul from 2015.
I believe the Bears will be aggressive in free agency but more importantly they need to be calculated.
In my opinion, I think the Bears need to draft Deshaun Watson with the No. 3 pick. They need a rookie quarterback with potential to learn the offense for a season from the sidelines and come in Year 2 ready to go. We all know the history of the Bears picking quarterbacks in the past has been horrendous, especially over the last 30 years. Do you think Watson would fit and do you think it would be wise to fill the most important hole among many with the No. 3 pick? — Pete B., Parts Unknown
It certainly sounds like you are sold on Watson, if available, being the slam dunk choice for the Bears at No. 3. It was at this point last year that some figured Watson would be the clear candidate to be the No. 1 pick in this draft. Now, no one is quite certain where he will be selected. He could be available when the Bears go on the clock and at the same time I don’t know if anyone would be stunned if his name was called in the top two picks. There certainly are elements of Watson’s game and makeup to like. He’s got a ton of experience playing against the best college football has to offer and he’s won a lot. He’s considered a gym rat and his football character is very strong. He’s been a leader in college and the role seems to come naturally to him. There will be concerns about his accuracy. It’s going to take some time to adjust to the NFL, although maybe not as long as some imagine. He’s probably not as tall as you would like. We’ll see what shakes out and what folks are saying next week at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Why isn’t Deshaun Watson the obvious pick at No. 3? The Bears *have to* find a QB to move forward. By all accounts, Watson is a high-character guy. He has physical skills. And he has succeeded on the biggest stage in college football. To me, Watson’s two games against Alabama are more impressive than Jimmy Garoppolo’s two games last September. I understand that Watson has some accuracy issues. So what. The Bears are rolling the dice to some extent regardless, and it’s not as if they can’t blow a high pick at another position. Kevin White, anyone? I don’t really care that Mel Kiper & Co. rate Watson as low-end first rounder. He won’t be around by the second round and the benefit of holding an early choice is that the Bears can take almost anyone on the board before other teams. — Andy K. Parts Unknown
You sound sold on Watson no matter what I say. I agree he is a high-character prospect. I would be very careful comparing what a quarterback does against a college defense to what an NFL quarterback does against an NFL defense. If the Bears fall in love with Watson, selecting him at No. 3 makes all the sense in the world. Perhaps they will come around to feeling the way you do.The deadline to declare for the draft has passed. The Senior Bowl is in the books. The NFL scouting combine is a scant three weeks away. Draft season is fully engaged and the many prospects are already well along the proverbial road to the podium.
Which players will get that invite to the 2017 NFL draft in Philadelphia? Plenty of those among my Top 50 will get that coveted invitation to Philadelphia, so let's take a look at my Big Board heading into the combine at the end of the month.
— John Harris, Special To The Washington Post
Assuming the Bears do cut ties with Jay Cutler, where do you see him ending up? What sort of interest is there in the league for him? As crazy as this might sound, doesn't he make more sense in Denver than Tony Romo, if the Broncos are indeed looking to bring in a veteran starter? — Dave J., Oak Park
I kind of doubt Cutler will return to the Broncos and I also doubt Denver will be looking to start a veteran quarterback in 2017. Remember, the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round last year and they also have Trevor Siemian on the roster. I think the Broncos ultimately view Lynch as their starter of the future. As far as where Cutler lands, that’s a good question. There are plenty of teams in the market for a quarterback and will be a handful of veteran options. Your guess is probably as good as mine at this point. But I’d be skeptical of Denver as a landing spot for Cutler.
I see that Vince Young is thinking of making a comeback. Was just curious if there would be any value in him on a prove-it type contract for a year or two? At 34 and with a couple of years of no contact, he might be a good fit while the rest of the pieces are assembled. And I guess I'm a throwback fan. For me, wins and losses aren't nearly as important as not being embarrassed week in and week out. — David B., Minooka
Is the Bears’ quarterback situation such that it leads to questions about Young? You’re right, he turns 34 in May and has gone several years without contract. He hasn’t started an NFL game since 2011. That is when he started three games for the Eagles coming out of the lockout. That was six years ago. Young would be incredibly fortunate to land a job in the NFL as a backup and I doubt that opportunity materializes for him. There has been talk of him perhaps joining the CFL.Vince Young Mark Duncan / AP
Then-Cleveland Browns quarterback Vince Young throws during a voluntary minicamp workout in 2014.
Then-Cleveland Browns quarterback Vince Young throws during a voluntary minicamp workout in 2014.(Mark Duncan / AP)
With the bears needing a "face" for the franchise, does Deshaun Watson make sense over anyone else? There's been no one since Brian Urlacher left. — @martmul
A quarterback is only going to become the face of the franchise if he’s a player, a successful, high-level player. Watson possesses intangibles that NFL scouts really like. That is the kind of makeup that can help a player become a leader and eventually a face of the franchise. But none of that stuff matters if he cannot lead with his play and performance first. So, if the Bears believe Watson’s physical skills are at the same level, he makes a ton of sense for them in the draft. If not, you’re trying to manufacture a player at that point and that can be dangerous, especially at the quarterback position.
Do you see this as possible: 1. Bears do NOT trade for a starting QB and 2. Bears do not draft a QB in the first 3 rounds. — @jjjcomics
Only if the Bears sign a starting quarterback in free agency. As you may know, the Bears have not drafted a quarterback in the first three rounds since 2003 when they selected Rex Grossman in Round 1. Maybe it’s time to use a high pick on a quarterback.
A look at the Bears' quarterbacks through the years, from 1934 to present-day.
Not pictured: Steve Bradley (1 game; 1987), Greg Landry (1 game; 1984), John Huarte (2 games; 1972), Kent Nix (9 games; 1970-71), Tommy O’Connell (12 games; 1953), Tom Farris (20 games; 1946-47), Johnny Long (12 games; 1944-45), Bill Glenn (2 games; 1944), Charlie O’Rourke (11 games; 1942), Young Bussey (10 games; 1941), Solly Sherman (14 games; 1939-40) and Bernie Masterson (72 games; 1934-40). | source: pro-football-reference.com
I know every draft pick has an assigned point value when it comes to trades. My question is are the point values of future picks discounted or is the 15th overall pick this year worth the same as one in any future year? — Jeremy S., New York
The first thing you need to know is there are probably four or five charts out there that teams use. The chart Team A uses in trade talks might be significantly different than the one Team B uses. So depending on what chart you’re looking at — and these teams are not going to publish their trade charts — the values are going to be slightly different. That being said, a pick this year is always worth more than a pick in a future year. Some have suggested the difference in value is a full found. So to get a third-round pick in this year’s draft, you would have to trade a second-round pick in 2018 if you were dealing with future picks. That is one of the ways the Patriots have amassed extra picks on a regular basis for years under coach Bill Belichick.
All the focus is on Jay Cutler. Did you miss the Super Bowl where all mid- to late-round picks and undrafted free agents, an area you don't cover, made plays? — @davesmith3
I think there’s focus in a lot of areas for a team coming off a three-win season and rightfully so. Naturally, there’s going to be an abundance of attention paid to the quarterback position, especially when there is widespread belief that the Bears are going to choose a different direction after eight seasons with one highly paid quarterback that cost a ton in terms of draft pick collateral to acquire in the first place. Anyone that was paying attention saw the Patriots (and the Falcons) get production from players that were not high draft picks. They also saw the Patriots get production from recycled players that have been brought in from other organizations. I’ve long said the Bears need to do a better job when it comes to undrafted free agents. That’s been a real sore spot on the roster for some time although they deserve credit for the play of players like wide receiver Cameron Meredith and cornerbacks Bryce Callahan the last two seasons. They need more players like that and the UDFA’s they bring in need to break through the ceiling. What I mean by that is you will see UDFA’s who look like they have a little promise and then they slowly disappear. Meredith stepped up this past season and played well. Callahan was injured too often. The Bears feel good about their draft this past season and they need to stack multiple good drafts together to have a playoff-caliber nucleus. Maybe they will land a quarterback along the way.
Should we take the openings on the Bears' staff as a lack of faith in John Fox? We were told he was a great coach recruiter. — @FelicelliJoe
I wouldn’t say that is the case. The most recent assistant to leave was Richard Hightower, who was the assistant special teams coach. He was allowed to leave to become the special teams coordinator of the 49ers. Hightower has a longstanding relationship with new 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan and Fox and general manager Ryan Pace have been amenable to allowing assistants to leave for other jobs provided it involves a promotion. In this instance, Hightower has become a coordinator. Last year, wide receivers coach Mike Groh was permitted to leave for the Rams, who made him the passing game coordinator as well as receivers coach. They blocked Clint Hurtt from what they considered to be a lateral move last year. Hurtt was out of contract this year and declined a new contract with the team to explore other options. He landed with the Seahawks. Wide receivers coach Curtis Johnson was also out of contract and he decided to return to the Saints, who he worked for previously, instead of re-signing with the Bears. The only way assistant coaches can maximize their value is to become free agents, so to speak, and work to the completion of their contracts. When they do that, they’re free to explore options from other teams. I wouldn’t consider it a lack of faith in Fox. Coaches are doing what they believe is in their own best interest and I would imagine when all is said and done that Fox and the Bears will be happy with the staff that is in place for 2017. In terms of replacing Hightower, it’s my understanding that Derius Swinton, who was the assistant special teams coach under Jeff Rodgers in 2015, will be re-hired. Swinton was the special teams coordiantor for the 49ers this past season.
A look at the faces at Halas Hall.
I heard that when Theo Epstein took over the Cubs, the scouting staff was bare. How does the Bears scouting staff measure to the rest of the league? — @Bartbjohnson from Twitter
Be careful making comparisons from the Cubs to the Bears. It’s apples and oranges when it comes to MLB and the NFL. Former general manager Phil Emery made a lot of hires to add to the staff when he took over in 2014 and Ryan Pace has since promoted a lot of those people while also adding and replacing some scouts. Pace has revamped the scouting system as well but that is something that any GM is going to do when he takes over. Time will tell if the moves lead to a successful rebuild for the Bears.
I think Christian McCaffrey would be a great return man/third-down back/slot receiver. Would the Bears draft him in the second round? — @TommyGlodo
I think McCaffrey might have more upside than that but certainly he has the skills to contribute in a lot of different ways. There’s a chance he could be available when the Bears are on the clock at No. 36 but some feel he will already be drafted. The Bears did very well with Jordan Howard last year and they might have more pressing needs in Round 2 than another running back. Think secondary. But if the Bears view McCaffrey as an incredible value at that point in the draft, it would be difficult to argue with the selection. Some will scoff because Howard is coming off such a fine rookie season. But the Bears need difference makers and they need to be looking for difference makers in each and every round.Christian McCaffrey Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey leaps over the line of scrimmage trying to score near the end zone against Southern California on Sept. 17, 2016.
Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey leaps over the line of scrimmage trying to score near the end zone against Southern California on Sept. 17, 2016.(Marcio Jose Sanchez / AP)
In your heart of hearts, has Ryan Pace acquired enough young talent in his first two years? — @Mwalschot
I think most people believe the 2016 draft class was productive and shows real promise for the future. Leonard Floyd, Cody Whitehair and Jordan Howard look like players to build around moving forward. If the Bears can get one or two of the defensive backs to step up and find a role for linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski, it was a very good draft class. I’m a little more skeptical when it comes to the 2015 draft class. They didn’t get a lot from that group this past season and it’s going to be an important season for those players, especially wide receiver Kevin White. Let’s see what kind of group the Bears get this season and ignore the hype that comes with draft grades in late April and May. Let’s see what the 2017 draft class does on the field this coming season. That is when we’ll have a better idea of what direction this is headed.
Are the Bears trying to trade down? Do you get that feeling? — @jpc23chi
I highly doubt general manager Ryan Pace is burning up the phone line looking for a trade partner right now. Draft pick trades typically don’t happen until a team is on the clock or in the days leading up to the draft. Those talks will happen in the week or two leading up to the draft but a team is going to have to be really driven to make a deal with the Bears for the No. 3 pick. There is going to have to be a player there that someone really covets and that is usually a quarterback. And if there is a quarterback that someone really covets, history shows us that player usually comes off the board No. 1 or No. 2. If Pace starts seeking a trade partner aggressively, he’s going to look desperate and never get the return necessary to trade down.
What is going on with Kyle Fuller? Do you think he will be a starting cornerback for the Bears this year? — @redflagdan
No one has seen Fuller play since last summer. To give an indication of where he’s at and what level he can play at right now would be premature and involve only guesswork. We’ve got to see what Fuller can do on the field and know that he’s fully healthy before we can make an assessment on his ability and future with the club. The Bears have serious needs in the secondary and are best to keep him to see what he can do until making a move.Kyle Fuller Nam Y. Huh / AP
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller walks around the sideline during the second half of a preseason game on Aug. 27, 2016.
Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller walks around the sideline during the second half of a preseason game on Aug. 27, 2016.(Nam Y. Huh / AP)
I've never been a fan of moving Kyle Long around the offensive line. I felt the right tackle move was rushed and not well thought out. However, this free-agent class is deep at lguard. Two Pro Bowlers and two high quality younger players as well. Both free agency and the draft seem thin on starting left tackles. Think Ryan Pace might consider moving Long to left tackle and signing a top-tier guard? And with his recovery, does he have ample time to get acclimated to the position? — Jesse G., San Diego
There are a handful of veteran guards poised to reach the open market on March 9 including Green Bay’s T.J. Lang, Cincinnati’s Kevin Zeitler and Dallas’ Ronald Leary. Personally, I have never been a big fan of major investments in guards although it has worked out pretty well for the Bears with Long and Josh Sitton paired together on the interior alongside center Cody Whitehair. I think Long is amenable to doing whatever coaches want him to do and if that involves another position switch, he’ll be a team guy. But I still think Charles Leno has some upside for the Bears and they should get the best he has to offer as he is entering a contract season. I would want Long to play where he is going to be at his absolute best. Is that right guard? Left tackle? Right tackle? Wherever they believe he will be at his highest level, he should play. My instinct tells me that is right guard. I believe he will be healthy in time to make any move if the team chooses to go that direction. Until we’re told otherwise, I’m assuming he is the right guard.
I have always liked A.J. McCarron. Are the Bears at least kicking the tires on him? — @Johnny_O_Graddy
I’d recommend you read the mailbag on a weekly basis. As I have said for some time, there is no question the Bears are exploring every potentially available quarterback. That means free agency, trade and draft. McCarron falls in that category. Former GM Bill Polian recently said that he would take McCarron over any of the quarterback prospects in this draft. It remains to be seen if the Bengals will make him available in trade. It would seem to make sense as like Jimmy Garoppolo in New England, McCarron is entering the final year of his contract. Would Cincinnati would ask for in return, I don’t have any idea. And as far as Polian goes, he also said Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly is the most talented quarterback in this draft. No scouts I have spoken to have shared that opinion. As far as kicking the tires, it’s not like the Bears can bring McCarron in. He’s under contract to Cincinnati. Any work they do on him involves only film and scouting reports.
Is it possible to sign both Eric Berry and Tony Jefferson or are both redundant? — @brandon_eiff
First, I can’t imagine the Bears will dip into free agency for two safeties. Second, there’s a difference between Berry and Jefferson as players. Could the Bears afford to sign both and fit them under the salary cap? No question. Right now, I think it’s a little unlikely Berry reaches the open market. The Chiefs could place the franchise tag on him for a second season and then work to sign him to a multi-year contract. The Cardinals would like to have Jefferson back but they’re deeply invested in the secondary and that might not be possible. Jefferson is coming off a season in which he 96 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles. He’s a nice player and if he hits the open market he’ll command big bucks and likely get overpaid. Maybe the Bears will be the team to sign that check. He’d certainly help them. The 25-year-old Jefferson had a big game at Soldier Field in Week 2 of the 2015 season when he recorded nine tackles and returned a Jay Cutler interception 26 yards for a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 48-23 victory.
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