Round 1 key for Bears, but hits must keep coming

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Round 1 key for Bears, but hits must keep coming

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 3:10 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The Bears first draft choice of the Jerry Angelo Era was offensive tackle Marc Colombo, whose Chicago career was ended prematurely by severe knee injuries. Colombo survived both the knee issues and his Bears release to go on to a successful run as a starting tackle for the Dallas Cowboys for the better part of the last five seasons.

Colombo was the 29th pick overall of the 2002 draft, coincidentally the same starting point for the Bears 2011 draft. While impact expectations are moderated somewhat with a 29th pick vs., say, a ninth pick, the expectations of the Bears draft should be anything but modest.

The point is not specifically the level of player that has come to the franchise with a pick of that number. The real point is the holistic nature of the draft, the reason why the focus should be on far more than just the 29th pick.

The Bears have made some subtle but significant tweaks in their evaluation process, something that is necessarily evolving with the state of the game anyway but more notable this year because of Angelo bringing in Tim Ruskell as director of player personnel, which obviously includes college scouting.

One note here:

A quick Ruskell Primer, courtesy of Danny ONeil with the Seattle Times, who looked back at the 15 first-round picks by teams with Ruskell heavily involved in the drafts. Going back through Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Seattle, of those 15 No. 1s:

9 were defensive players, including, 6 defensive linemen; and of the 15, 6 were from Florida colleges.

Without getting into more number-massaging, Angelo has made seven Bears No. 1 picks; two (Rex Grossman, Greg Olsen) were from Florida colleges. For what its worth, CG Mike Pouncey and OT Marcus Gilbert are from Florida; DE Allen Bailey at OT Orlando Franklin are from Miami; DT Terrell McClain is from South Florida; all have gotten individual attention from the Bears during this pre-draft stretch.

Ruskell notable: While he was Seattle president, the Seahawks had three No. 1s, none higher than 26th overall. The Seahawks landed starters with two of the the three (CB Kelly Jennings, C Chris Spencer).

But the real point...

is less the 29th pick or AngeloRuskell tendencies; also for what its worth, Angelo traded down in first rounds of the 2003 and 2006 drafts in addition to trading away his No. 1s for 2009 and 2010 on Jay Cutler, and traded down in second rounds in 2007 and 2009, so a surprise on Day One or Two of this draft will be if the Bears dont make a deal of some sort.

The real point, however, lies beyond that 29th pick. As critical as the need for upgrading the offensive line is, the interior of the 1980s line (guards Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer and center Jay Hilgenberg) were fourth-rounders or lower. The Bears best offensive lineman of the past decade, center Olin Kreutz, was a third-rounder (1998).

Over the past 20 seasons, the best Bears linebacker not named Brian has been Lance Briggs, a No. 3 (2003).

Winning the first round is a Bears imperative. But for the 2011 draft to be a Bears win, the hits need to keep on coming.

To that end, Ruskells Seahawks in his three drafts landed a Pro Bowl linebacker (Lofa Tatupu), quality tight end (John Carlson) and a starting defensive tackle (Darryl Tapp) in second rounds. They also obtained a starting defensive tackle (Brandon Mebane) and Pro Bowl linebacker (Leroy Hill) in third rounds. Ruskell also was the Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager when the Falcons used a third-round pick on quarterback Matt Schaub, who didnt work in Atlanta but has more than worked in Houston.

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.

Bears face decisions on Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and 2017 roster

Bears face decisions on Jay Cutler, Alshon Jeffery and 2017 roster

What we "knew" most about the 2016 Bears heading into the season is that, offensively, Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffery would be the straws that stirred the offensive drink. 

Thanks to injuries, suspension and a perfect storm that resulted in a 3-13 season, the straw had a hole in it, the team still couldn't collectively close out games and a fifth-round rookie (Jordan Howard) and a second-year undrafted free agent (Cam Meredith) turned into the greatest causes for optimism on that side of the ball. 

The news that the team is shopping Cutler is hardly news-bulletin worthy. We've written about Cutler Fatigue here and discussed it on CSN's BearsTalk Podcasts for some time now. A breakup has seemed inevitable after eight years of .500 ball when he's been behind center. The tricky part is finding an alternative that would be a marked improvement for a coaching staff that might need to finish .500 to continue on the job in 2018. Yet that's the gamble that must be taken for a franchise that almost needs to move on, for better or worse, in order to find a way out of the muddy ditch it's found itself in.

Cutler must first be deemed healthy enough after labrum surgery on his throwing shoulder - something similar to what Buffalo did with Tyron Taylor this week following groin surgery. But Taylor might be a safer bet to stay with the Bills than Cutler is here. Those medicals might be out there already around the league if shopping has truly begun. And while a new destination for Cutler might not earn him the same salary (roughly $15 million) he'd make here, the thinking here is he'd prefer a fresh start just as much as the Bears want one. 

So let's go shopping.

Cleveland? No. 

San Francisco as a stopgap starter? Maybe. There's tons of salary cap space while a successor is groomed, and there's the Shanahan (Kyle/Mike) Factor. But more losing. 

How about Jacksonville to push his young clone, Blake Bortles? Perhaps. There's still a loaded, talented young defense that has yet to reach a promising ceiling, and a couple of talented receivers. 

The Los Angeles Rams could provide a push for Jared Goff (though it's hard not to see Goff being the starter, for better or worse). But if something should happen, Cutler would be ready, with Todd Gurley, what should be a respectable defense and a location close to where wife Kristin Cavallari can return to actressing. 

Jay in Buffalo? Good one! 

Arizona has already shot down interest. 

We don't see Denver wanting him back as they await Paxton Lynch's maturity with Trevor Siemian as a bridge. 

Reuniting with Adam Gase in Miami could be an option with Ryan Tannehill's health still a mystery. 

Then there's always Houston. I'm looking for Tony Romo's ultimate destination impacting Jay's. 

But retiring, as some reports this week suggested? No. Despite the public perception, Jay is a competitor, and I truly believe that still runs through him. He may not get to prove his reputation wrong before he retires, but despite what body language experts feel, I believe he'd still like to prove something. But I'm also not counting on any team giving up a draft pick for him. Teams know the Bears will release him, but if a club lower on the waiver claim wire truly desires him, Ryan Pace has squeezed something out from teams for his players on the discard pile before.

As for Jeffery, all remains quiet on the franchise tag front. The seal remains tight at Halas Hall over whether there have been any negotiations this past week, and if so, whether they've moved in a positive, long-term direction. 

Two things to keep in mind: the Bears did not tag him last year until the day before the deadline to do so. That deadline this year is March 1. The other is the fact that other teams in similar situations (such as Washington with Kirk Cousins and Kansas City with Eric Berry and Dontari Poe) have yet to make moves either, as that deadline looms. If the Bears determine they'll cut ties with Cutler, Eddie Royal and Lamarr Houston, that will free up another $24 million in cap space on top of the $60 million-plus they have already. Perhaps that factors into the decision on Jeffery, who'd get paid $17 million in 2017 under a second straight franchise tag for a team that needs play-makers and a coaching staff that needs wins next season. Letting him go would require attention and a portion of those dollars to replace him in the draft and/or free agency.

We leave all our internet/talk radio caller GM's with this question: Would you REALLY want to be in Ryan Pace's shoes this offseason? Can you be as shrewd, wise and run the table to the extent he must, especially at the most important, franchise-shaping position (which, granted, he's put on the back-burner his first two years)? And "get it right" to build momentum moving forward for a franchise that's reached the playoffs just once in the past decade? The rebuild remains substantial. And so are the decisions he faces in a crucial offseason.

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

Jay Cutler is reportedly considering retirement

This is apparently the week of Jay Cutler news.

Reports surfaced earlier this week the Bears are pushing hard to find a trade partner for the enigmatic quarterback, though Ian Rapoport reported the organization informed Cutler in mid-January they were shopping him around.

It seems clear Cutler's time in Chicago has come to an end and an ensuing move is more of a formality at this point.

But apparently Cutler may not even suit up again...for ANY team.

Rapoport reported on NFL Network Wednesday night Cutler is mulling over retirement, even as he's healthy and working out now after shoulder surgery.

"There's no guarantee Cutler even plays in 2017, one of several veterans who are still considering whether they want to play or not play, retire, walk away. A lot of things at play here for Jay Cutler."

Host Dan Hellie immediately followed up, asking for clarification on the retirement part.

"It is a consideration; it's something he's confided in people," Rapoport said. "But Dan, I would say, it's not a surprise for quarterbacks this age. We've heard [Ben] Roethlisberger talk about it; we've heard Tony Romo talk about it. If it's not perfect, if he can't find the team he wants or the contract he wants, it's very easy for Jay Cutler to walk away."

Whoa.

Cutler, 33, has made more than $112 million in his 11-year career and is owed at least another $2 million in 2017, even if he's cut by the Bears.