Hines Ward as a Bear this one is worth considering

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Hines Ward as a Bear this one is worth considering

The Bears-related frenzy surrounding every wide receiver with even a faint football Q factor runs a bit amok much of the time. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss would be two.

Now comes Hines Ward, being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while CSNChicago.com generally prefers to stay away from personnel endorsements beyond reporting relevant information, Ward is worth more than a casual look, particularly as part of a coordinated plan at wide receiver.

The Steelers have Mike Wallace as their clear choice as franchise receiver, with good reason, although they are not expected to protect him with a franchise tag by next Monday, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter.

But Ward was let go despite the option of taking a pay cut, according to a report from longtime Steelers scribe Ed Bouchette at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The math of the situation is that Ward now can be had for the price of 925,000, the minimum for a 10-year veteran (Ward has played 14 years), of which only 540,000 counts against a teams cap.

I do feel I have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again, this season, Ward said as part of a statement he and his attorneymanager released.

It is truly the end of an era in Pittsburgh, where Ward won Super Bowls and caught 1,000 passes, 46 passes even last season when he was demoted below Wallace, Antonio Brown and one-year-signee Jerricho Cotchery.

Ward turns 36 in a week but he was mentored by and remains friends with Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake. He is a proven leader and role model as a professional. At even the veteran minimum, not an insignificant amount, Ward would step in as a clear step up as the No. 3 receiver after Earl Bennett and a free agent (or draft choice) to be named later.

The Bears would not be getting the Hines Ward who as a Super Bowl MVP or four-time Pro Bowl selection. They would, however, be getting a veteran with huge intangible benefits and something still left, if his 46 catches as a part-timer in 2011 are any indication.

Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

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Bears showing prove-it theme with Alshon Jeffery that worked with Jay Cutler

The Bears of general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox have been comfortable with prove-it scenarios in their year-plus in Chicago. Indications are growing that they’re leaning toward another one with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery.

By way of perspective: When Pace took over as Bears general manager a year-and-a-half ago, he hired Fox, and Fox in turn brought Adam Gase with him from Denver as his offensive coordinator. What ensued was a detailed, under-the-radar scrutiny of Jay Cutler, with Gase reaching out to Cutler’s former coaches for their perspectives, among other vettings of the incumbent quarterback.

Neither Fox nor Pace publicly expressed more than tempered positive feelings about Cutler, even with the organization on the hook for a significant amount of money because of the contract given Cutler by former general manager Phil Emery. Chairman George McCaskey stated that the new staff would not be constrained by money if the decision was to move on without Cutler, whose contract still was decidedly not to the liking of the revamped organization, sources have told CSNChicago.com.

Proceeding with restraint and reservations yielded results for a new staff feeling its way with what Emery had declared a “franchise” and “elite” quarterback. Working with Gase and then-quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains, now Cutler’s offensive coordinator, Cutler produced the best statistical season of his career.

Now the Bears appear to be following a similar theme with Jeffery (who actually is a “franchise” wide receiver and has the signed tag to prove it). Not that the Bears aren’t down with Jeffery, just not to the degree he envisoned, and perhaps the Bears would be offering if Jeffery had been a gameday “show” more often than he was in 2015.

The Bears placed their franchise tag on Jeffery in late February, and the fourth-year wideout signed the deal that guarantees him $14.6 million for this season. The tag gives the two sides until July 15 to reach a multi-year contract, after which point the tag is Jeffery’s 2016 contract.

Pace has expressed what has sounded like gradually lessening optimism that a long-term deal would be negotiated. The staff was comfortable with Jeffery’s recent injury issues that cost him about half of last season, at least comfortable enough to consider a new contract — with reservations, the kind that come with talking an expensive contract with a player who missed nearly half the preceding season.

Concurrently, Jeffery has been a no-show for all of the Bears’ offseason programs or practices, working out on his own, first in California, lately in Florida.

Jeffery’s absence points to the obvious, that a deal to his liking, in the Dez Bryant/Demaryius Thomas range of $14 million-to-$15 million range per year, has not reached near completion. Matt Forte played through his tag season. Jeffery will play for his (players don’t skip $14.6 million), and the continued absence even from voluntary sessions says that is the anticipated short-term resolution.

Unfortunately, irrespective of tags, if there is one unofficial indicator of contract problems, it is the no-show.

With two years left on his contract at the time, Thomas Jones employed it in 2006 before then-general manager Jerry Angelo agreed to work at trading him after the following season (which Angelo did). Forte no-show’d in 2011 after he received the franchise tag that offseason, then signed a four-year deal next offseason after Emery succeeded Angelo.

Martellus Bennett, with two years remaining on his Bears contract, skipped voluntary sessions last offseason. He eventually honored his contract, then was traded to New England this offseason.

Just one glitch in the skip-workouts thinking: Jones got new paper from the New York Jets after Angelo dealt him there. Bennett did get himself traded to New England, but the Patriots haven’t done any more in the way of giving him a new deal than the Bears did. He’s still signed through 2016, still due $5.1 million this season. Maybe he envisions getting more balls from Tom Brady than he did from Cutler, but if he’s counting on more than Rob Gronkowski, good luck with that.

Bears agree to terms with first-round pick Leonard Floyd

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Bears agree to terms with first-round pick Leonard Floyd

The Bears' first-round pick is signed.

The team announced Friday afternoon that it agreed to terms with Leonard Floyd, the linebacker out of Georgia the Bears selected with the No. 9 pick in this year's draft.

According to the announcement, the contract is four years long with a fifth-year option.

With Floyd signing, the Bears have agreed to terms with eight of their nine draft picks, defensive end Jonathan Bullard being the lone unsigned member of the 2016 draft class.

Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

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Bears' move away from Forte part of change in run-game philosophy

The Bears’ decision to move on from Matt Forte, the No. 2 running back in franchise history behind only Walter Payton in yardage, was not necessarily an easy one. It was, however, unanimous at Halas Hall, sources told CSNChicago.com. And it was also part of a significant deeper change in the main operating principle underpinning the Bears’ rushing offense.

Depending upon what Forte does with the New York Jets — and for how long — the decision might be open to question. Few NFL decisions aren’t.

But the Bears’ offense under John Fox and new coordinator Dowell Loggains was clearly going away from what Forte was accustomed to — a true featured back with a relief-back in the form of a Chester Taylor/Marion Barber/Michael Bush — and moving onto a true use of two backs in the fashion that Fox’s Denver Broncos offenses used them.

The change will be more than just a few carries. Forte lost carries last season to Jeremy Langford and Ka'Deem Carey. This is different.

Instead of Forte and an understudy, as the de facto rushing offense has been since Forte was drafted in 2008, the Bears this offseason made the decision to emphasize the run even more under Loggains, and that has meant something other than simply more carries for Forte’s understudy.

For perspective purposes: Last season Forte missed three full games due to a knee injury but still totaled 276 touches (carries plus targets) to 236 combined for Jeremy Langford and Ka’Deem Carey. When Forte returned from the three-game injury break, the offense had changed. Forte had four 20-carry games in the first six. He had one over the final six.

Forte did not appear publicly to genuinely embrace the job-sharing approach as Langford’s carries matched and in cases exceeded his own. Whether he would have been on board with ceding even more meaningful time to a co-back is another matter that would have been open to question, though any suspicions that direction are now moot.

(If Forte would have had problems with younger backs rising, he would not have been the first; Thomas Jones ultimately demanded a trade after the Lovie Smith Bears drafted Cedric Benson to broaden the run game.)

Regardless, the true multi-back system will be a change for the Bears, harking back perhaps to the Bears building their run game on two starter-grade backs in Benson and Jones. The Bears’ unsuccessful attempt to bring in C.J. Anderson from Denver suggests less a no-confidence vote in either Carey or Langford than a measure of the commitment to both competition and a depth chart with meaning past the top one or even two names. The Bears have used mid-round picks on running backs in three straight drafts (Carey, Langford, Jordan Howard this year), making the same point the Anderson interest did.

And that’s how Langford took the Howard selection to a position that where confidence in him was one of the reasons the organization was OK with parting with Forte.

“I really didn’t think too much of (the Howard pick),” Langford said. “I know it’s just competition. That’s what brings a lot of running backs, a lot of positions, to push themselves even more. Competition is always a good thing, and playing in the NFL, there’s always going to be competition, so you can’t really become too complacent as a player.”

“Complacent” wasn’t a word anyone was likely to apply to Langford, and certainly to Carey, who played his way up from a roster bubble at the end of training camp last year. And Howard as a fifth-round rookie isn’t guaranteed anything for awhile in training camp except reps with the 2s or 3s, with Jacquizz Rodgers also re-signed after an injury shortened 2015.

Loggains has been dealt a hand without an ace like Forte but with what he and the organization think can be three or four kings, depending on roster decisions at the end of August.

“We like where Jeremy’s at,” Loggains said. “He needs to continue to develop. There’s things he can do a better job of in the passing game, but we still like our other backs. Ka’Deem Carey finished strong for us last year. We obviously drafted a back. We’re excited about getting Jacquizz Rodgers back as well.”