Team-By-Team Offseason Analysis
Today: Chicago Bears
Next: Cincinnati Bengals
Offseason Recap: Bears
Fired: Dick Jauron, Dec. 29
Hired: Lovie Smith, Jan. 14
Kordell Stewart, QB
Phillip Daniels, DE
Warrick Holdman, LB
Chris Chandler, QB
Free Agents Lost
Chris Villarrial, G (Buffalo)
Dez White, WR (Atlanta)
Keith Traylor, DT (New England)
Free Agents Added
Thomas Jones, RB (Tampa Bay)
Jonathan Quinn, QB (Kansas City)
John Tait, T (Kansas City)
Michael Keathley, G (San Diego)
Jack Golden, LB (Tampa Bay)
Ruben Brown, G (Buffalo)
Free Agents Re-Signed
Stanley Pritchett, FB
Todd McMillon, DB
Bryan Johnson, FB (Washington)
Rd. 1 (No. 14 overall) Tommie Harris, DT, Oklahoma
2 (47) Terry Johnson, DT, Washington
3 (78) Bernard Berrian, WR, Fresno State
4 (110) Nathan Vasher, CB, Texas
4 (112) Leon Joe, LB, Maryland
5 (147) Claude Harriott, DE, Pittsburgh
5 (148) Craig Krenzel, QB, Ohio State
7 (215) Alfonso Marshall, CB, Miami
The Chicago Bears have gone 11-21 in the two seasons since their magical, 13-3 season in 2001, and that was enough to cost Dick Jauron his job as their coach. Jauron and General Manager Jerry Angelo never seemed able to coexist peacefully, and now Angelo has a coach that he hired with the arrival of former St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith.
Smith has embraced the Bears' rivalry with the Green Bay Packers and has vowed to build his defense around middle linebacker Brian Urlacher. The club gave Urlacher some help by using its first two draft choices on defensive tackles to occupy blockers in front of him, Tommie Harris of Oklahoma and Terry Johnson of Washington. The Bears were fortunate that Harris fell to them with the 14th overall selection in the draft, and he could be a difference-maker on the defensive line.
Rex Grossman enters his second NFL season as the starting quarterback, with Smith having released veterans Kordell Stewart and Chris Chandler. That doesn't mean, however, that there won't be a veteran quarterback in the fold before the season. Kurt Warner said on an appearance on NBC's Arena League studio show over the weekend that his agent has received permission from the Rams to talk to other teams, in anticipation of his release in June, and the Bears, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers are among the interested teams. The Bears and Oakland Raiders are among the top suitors for free agent quarterback Kerry Collins, released last week by the Giants.
The Bears fortified their offensive line by signing right tackle John Tait to a six-year, $33 million contract, dissuading the Kansas City Chiefs from matching the offer sheet to their transition free agent with a $14 million signing bonus. Chicago also added veteran guard Ruben Brown, and turns over its rushing offense to tailback Thomas Jones. The former first-round draft choice wasn't the answer for the Arizona Cardinals or Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however, and the Bears again seem destined to have one of the league's worst offenses. If Smith can approach .500 with this team while playing a young quarterback, his first season will have to be regarded as a success.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Collins Destined For Backup Role?
A source familiar with the thinking of Raiders officials said late Tuesday that the club is unlikely to offer a starting opportunity to Collins. So unless someone is being less than truthful, it appears that Collins will enter training camp as a backup, no matter where he signs. Dallas Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells has said he's sticking with Quincy Carter as his starter. Baltimore Ravens Coach Brian Billick has said he's going with Kyle Boller. Cardinals Coach Dennis Green has committed to Josh McCown, and Smith has said he's going with Grossman. Those are the teams that many executives around the league have linked to Collins.
Howard Signs With Saints
Five franchise players around the league remained unsigned after the New Orleans Saints' franchise player, defensive end Darren Howard, signed his one-year, $6.503 million tender on Tuesday. The still-unsigned franchise players are 49ers linebacker Julian Peterson, cornerbacks Charles Woodson of the Raiders and Chris McAlister of the Ravens and left tackles Orlando Pace of the Rams and Walter Jones of the Seattle Seahawks.
Bulger's Deal: $19.1 million
Quarterback Marc Bulger's four-year contract with the Rams completed Tuesday apparently is worth about $19.1 million. Bulger signed the one-year, $1.824 million deal that the Rams tendered him in restricted free agency, then he and agent Tom Condon agreed to a three-year extension worth about $17.25 million, including a signing bonus of $9 million.
Coach Mike Martz had said the Rams would need to draft a young quarterback and sign Bulger to a long-term contract before they would be willing to release Warner in June. Now both of those conditions have been satisfied, with St. Louis having selected Michigan State's Jeff Smoker in the sixth round of the draft. The Rams might be willing to keep Warner as a backup if he would agree to a pay cut, but the two-time league most valuable player seems unwilling to stay under those conditions.