Rice, Irvin and Carter talk Marshall, Forte

Some NFL greats see why Brandon Marshall and Jay Cutler are smiling these days. AP Photo/Jim Prisching

Melissa Isaacson caught up with three former NFL standout receivers who weighed in on the Bears, Matt Forte and Brandon Marshall during Friday's EA Sports event in Grant Park.

Jerry Rice

(How big of a difference will Brandon Marshall make?) I think a lot because with (Devin) Hester and those guys, now you've got your No. 1 receiver, a receiver that's really going to take a lot of pressure off your offense. You can double him and it's going to open up Devin Hester and those other guys. And Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall have a working relationship, so there's great chemistry there, and the guy's 6-4, 6-5 and 225-230 and fast, so it brings a whole different demographic to that offense.

Basically what their team is saying right now is we're going to win right now. We're not going to try to wait another three, four years. We want it now.

Michael Irvin

(On Cutler and Marshall) First of all, when you get to work with someone you want to work with and each person has an expectation of each other, good things usually are produced from that.

Brandon Marshall is still one of the best receivers in the National Football League. And getting the chance to be back with Jay Cutler and get in a system and with a quarterback he's comfortable with, a guy who's going to look for him, Brandon Marshall usually responds in that situation. Not many guys come back from a missed game and catch 18, 19 balls on their return.

(On QB coach Jeremy Bates) This makes other things work. Jeremy Bates is a great guy who I've worked with and I know him personally. If I have a primary that I can go to all the time, with comfort, now Jay drops back and any time he says 'OK, I have a one-on-one with Brandon Marshall, I can remove my reading and I can go to him.' But whenever they try to put more people on Marshall, it makes a lesser man get in front of guys like the Devin Hesters and now you can design plays where he can be really effective instead of trying to make him the primary. So it really is a great pick-up.

But to all of that, I do believe the Chicago Bears have to be careful because to put something like that together and then you leave out a Matt Forte, what message do you send? People can say, 'Well, they have time, they can do it before the season.' But no you don't. In OTAs is when you put things together. Now is when guys start saying, 'Wow, we look good, we have a chance to be part of something special.' And then they go back and put in special work leading up to training camp. If you wait until training camp, you've missed all this opportunity to prepare for the season. You've already missed the message that we're here for one reason. Now all the other guys on the team are saying, 'Why should I work hard if you're going to treat him like that? They're never going to pay me either.' It sends a horrible message, a horrible message.

Cris Carter

(On Marshall) I think he's a great player and I think the Bears have a great opportunity. Knowing Brandon since he was a junior in college, his state of mind is the best I've seen him in. He's very happy and very healthy. He's dealing with some of the issues he's had and it takes courage to be able to do that. And it feels like he's got some resolution for some of the things in the past. He feels like he has tools that might be able to help him be successful, so I think that's the most important thing is his mental and physical health.

No. 2, if you're going to be an elite team, you need a guy like him. So if the Bears are going to try to take that next step, you need a guy like Brandon Marshall.

(Forte elite or dispensable) The way their team is made up, if they're going to try to win the division, win playoff games, he's a great player. What has he done since they drafted him that they asked him to do he couldn't do. The reason why you're supposed to franchise someone, the reason why they made the rule is so you can tag your key players and sign them to long-term contracts. But the Bears are like some other teams and that's not the way they use it. They use it to kind of trap you and utilize the rules against you. Instead of trying to sign you to a long term, they're trying to sign you to one or two deals. Sign you to a one-year tender this year then re-up next year for a franchise. So they have you for two years. They don't have to make a long-term commitment. So I understand Forte. I wouldn't come. I wouldn't play, I wouldn't go out there until they gave me my contract.

With the way everything is going down, there's no way you can bank on your long term future with a team without some security. The overall story of this off-season ... when a guy gets an opportunity now to get his money, it's more important now than ever in the NFL to get his money. The next year, the Bears will be done with him, let him go. he's put his work in, he's done exactly what you want a young player to do, you're supposed to pay him. You get drafted, you perform like a Pro Bowler, then they pay you. But there's certain teams in this league, that's not what they're trying to do.