Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

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Moon: Bears will land DT, Austin in the spotlight

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Posted: 10:17 a.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Draft noodling on final approach.

JMarcus Webbs thoughts after being honored as the 41st Brian Piccolo Award winner were the stuff of character, which is ultimately a big part of why teammates vote for the particular honorees. A respect for what came before him, a sense of what it means to be an inspiration to others those came through eloquently from the rookie tackle who wasnt drafted until the seventh round, yet emerged as a starter on the offensive line, one of the more difficult jobs to secure as a rookie.

JMarcus also was candid, in a quality sort of way, telling me about his hope that hell get a good shot at playing left tackle. He wasnt exactly lobbying, just being refreshingly honest about a position preference, something players sometimes are reluctant to do out of deference to the fact that its always the coaches decision ultimately.

But left tackle was the position he played primarily at West Texas A&M and I feel really comfortable there, he said, so well see.

The reality is that the Bears will draft an offensive lineman, more than likely with the skill set and physical traits of a tackle. If the Bears end up with, say, Nate Solder of Colorado, whos a left-tackle body (6-8-12 and a former hoopster), or Derek Sherrod from Mississippi State (6-5 and a college career LT), Webbs future likely lies on the right side.

If the draft breaks such that the Bears add Baylor strongman Danny Watkins, a right-tackle type who can play guard, Webbs plane to the left side will be boarding.

Consider it a draft stunner if the Bears do not land a defensive tackle with one of their first two picks. Some measure of spotlight continues to fall on Marvin Austin, who had some success at North Carolina but was suspended for all of the 2010 season.

It is still difficult to get a grip on the idea that the Bears, a touchdown from reaching a Super Bowl, would invest a No. 1 or even a No. 2 pick on a player with any questions, particularly given the Tank Johnson episode and how mercurial Tommie Harris became in the closing years here.

But Austin is nothing if not intriguing, and he doesnt shrink from issues. The fact that he said at the Combine that he didnt regret anything was a bit of a jaw-dropper. But Austin will weigh in pretty articulately on matters like whether the NCAA, which suspended him for taking things like free trips, should in fact be giving players a stipend of some sort.

Thats an extremely hard question to answer, because you do get a scholarship, you do get certain privileges that some other non athletes get, Austin says. But at the same time its extremely hard, for me, being a 300-pound guy, to eat lunch and its only 10. That doesnt go very far with inflation and its still the same since like 1997.

So I think theres ways it can be improved and I think that some of the things that the NCAA is doing are good. Just like I said, going through the situation and seeing how some of these situations happened, the NCAA, they have a decent handle on it but there can be room for reform.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

A year after using franchise tag, Bears preparing for post-Alshon Jeffery scenarios

INDIANAPOLIS – About this time last year, Bears general manager Ryan Pace was evincing optimism about progress toward a long-term deal with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. That eventually faded to black in the form of a franchise tag that secured Jeffery for the 2016 season at a cost of $14.6 million.
 
This year, no optimism, at least not yet. The Bears have not ruled out having Jeffery for a sixth NFL season, but...

...where last offseason was spent deciding upon the best scenario for retaining Jeffery, this offseason is involving scenarios in which Jeffery is not back.
 
"Our approach – starting with [player personnel director] Josh Lucas, [pro scouting director] Champ Kelly, our pro scouts – they've done a great job, and our free-agent board is stacked," Pace said on Wednesday at the outset of the NFL Scouting Combine. "There's options in free agency and in the draft, and we have to see how it'll play out. We'll know a lot more in the coming week; a little over a week from now I'll be able to answer questions a little more directly.
 
"We have plans in place for every one of these scenarios. I feel extremely prepared for this free-agency process that we're about to enter and it gives me confidence with all these different scenarios."

The Bears opted against a second franchise tag, one that would have committed the Bears to $17.5 million for a receiver who missed 11 full games over the past two seasons and portions of others with injuries in 2015. After a season that saw Jeffery total 52 catches and two touchdowns in 12 games, missing four with a suspension for a violation of the NFL's substance policies.
 
Jeffery was not worth what he thought he was last season, based on production vs. cost. While they were unwilling to let the open market factor into Jeffery's value last year, the Bears were not prepared to use the tag again, a move that would have effectively cost the Bears $32 million over two years and still had him head for free agency after 2017 with nothing to show for it.
 
"It was thought-out thoroughly, obviously," Pace said. "I think sometimes when you can't come to a common ground with a player and an agent, sometimes it's necessary to kind of test the market to determine that player's value, and that's really where we're at.
 
"He's a good player and we'll see how it plays out. But I think there are certain instances where testing the market is a necessary part of the process...We're constantly having dialogue with him and that'll continue like it has pretty much always."

Report: Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo 'still in play' in potential trade

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USA TODAY

Report: Patriots' Jimmy Garoppolo 'still in play' in potential trade

Maybe Jimmy Garoppolo isn't off the trading block just yet.

Despite a different report earlier in the day, that the Patriots were not interested in dealing the young signal caller, the Boston Herald's Jeff Howe says a potential deal is 'still in play.'

Garoppolo, 25, is entering the final year of his contract. He's been linked as a potential trade candidate in deals with the Browns, 49ers and Bears.