My piece here from late last week on whether the Bears' five recent signings (including Jay Cutler) significantly affects their ability to upgrade the defense this offseason prompted a call from 670 The Score. There aren't many guys better at pushing the snark buttons than two former (as Ron Burgundy might put it) "compadres" when we all worked down the radio dial — Steve Rosenbloom and Ben Finfer. As they picked my brain, they brought about some other interesting takes on things.
We teed things off with my point that even if Julius Peppers is cut and the dead money on his deal is absorbed, will the estimated $20 million left in salary cap space be enough to make a leap to at least a middle-of-the-pack defense? If Josh McCown and Roberto Garza are re-signed and another $5 million is occupied by cash slotted for the draft picks they may end up relying heavily upon, that leaves around $10 million for the rest of the necessary fix-ups.
They could go to Cutler immediately for some necessary cash relief if they wanted to pursue a big-name defensive free agent. But how many veterans worth their weight can they expect to get for one-year, one-million-dollar deals? And is trying to convince a handful who were here last year to return at that price the correct move?
Parting ways with Peppers leaves them with no defensive linemen with any significant, and productive, NFL experience if Shea McClellin's headed to linebacker. Tim Jennings and Chris Conte (plus nickel back Isaiah Frey) would be their only experienced defensive backs under contract. Let's also remember Phil Emery acknowledged 10 days ago he didn't provide enough quality depth behind the starters he had.
The Bears' coaching staff reconvenes this week to prepare for the East-West Shrine game and Senior Bowl the next two weekends. I made the point that since Emery and Marc Trestman stated Jan. 2nd that "everything is on the table" to fix the defense, a good chunk of the time spent in between has likely been spent making crucial decisions — from scheme, to personnel possibilities via the draft and free agency. As they start pushing the accelerator to move forward, you'd think any potential switch on who runs, implements, and teaches that defense would come fairly quickly now.
Steve pointed out that since Emery's and the organization's commitment to Cutler is really three years, $54 million (the guarantees in the overall seven-year arrangement), that it should also reflect the McCaskeys' commitment to Emery. I tend to agree. As the general manager enters his third season in that role, an inability to get this team to the postseason (and further) over five years in charge is a fair measuring stick.
Finally, Ben asked about Charles Tillman's future. The thought here is, even though a perfect scenario would involve keeping him around for another year or two at a fair price — the two sides will have different definitions of what that is, especially considering the cap quandary that remains on that side of the ball. I just can't help thinking there will be a Peanut-Lovie Smith reunion in Tampa Bay. And he may not be the only one.