Chat with Michael C. Wright
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN NFL Nation Chicago Bears reporter Michael C. Wright drops by to chat and answer all of your Bears questions.
Wright joined ESPNChicago.com in April 2010 after spending the previous four seasons covering the Jaguars. He also covered the Redskins for two seasons. A native Texan, Wright was a four-year football letterman at West Texas A&M University.
Send your questions now and join Wright Monday at 1 p.m. ET!
Michael (1:00 PM)
Hello everyone. Thanks for taking some time out of your day to stop by and talk some Bears football. Let's get this started.
Hey Mike, I'm glad the staff at ESPN Chicago has finally begun the post Super Bowl NFL chats. My question is whether you think Phil Emery would prefer to target a safety or a defensive line player in free agnecy? I really like TJ Ward from Cleveland.
Michael (1:04 PM)
Ezio, my guess would be that they'd try to find a way to bring back Henry Melton and Jeremiah Ratliff. I know you don't want to hear that. But those two could be the most affordable options. As to your question about the safety, that's a tough one because we really don't know the direction of the defense moving forward. In the past, the Bears have not placed a great deal of value in safeties. That's why they've shuffled in and out the doors at Halas Hall so often. The Bears (in the past) just didn't believe in paying premium money to safeties because for the team, it was more about the system than the guys actually playing that position. But that could change depending on the direction the defense goes moving forward.
I liked your twitter response breaking down what would happen if the Bears restructure or cut Julius Peppers. If you were Michael Wright GM of the Bears, what would you do with Peppers and what would you do with the money saved?
Michael (1:09 PM)
Thanks, T.J. The truth is there's really not much you can do outside of asking him to restructure,take a pay cut or flat out cut him. But if you want to get rid of the guy, you'd better have a suitable replacement waiting in the wings. And from my vantage point, that's the biggest problem with regards to Peppers. Has he fallen off some? Probably. But I think I'd still want to have him on the team if I'm the GM. Obviously, that cap figure is monstrous. But there's nothing you can do in a restructure to reduce it without having to face the same problem later down the line. So I'd try to see if I could get get him to take a pay cut. I think what the Bears might have going for them is it's not like other teams are going to be willing to take over that huge contract.
MANNY (Park Ridge)
Didn't the superbowl show just how important and dynamic the saftey position can be? Those guys on SEA are the definition of game changers..will the bears get a clue and add a playmaker to the secondary?
Michael (1:12 PM)
I agree with you, Manny. But you can't pay everybody. They've already got tons of money invested in the quarterback, one of the receivers, the left tackle, and Julius Peppers, obviously. Also, you can't forget the Bears have 25 free agents (by my count) they've got to make decisions on, and many of those players are depth guys, which the team proved to lack last season after all those injuries. It's a difficult situation to navigate my man.
Mike, pleasure to talk to you (love your work). Question: Emery seems so far to have a history of going after high 'upside/ceiling' picks.. Athletic freaks.. With that said, do you see him looking at a guy like Ra'Shede Hageman with limitless potential but questions? Or a safer pick like Ha-Ha or Jernigan, someone with a high floor?
Michael (1:17 PM)
Thanks Joe. I'm looking at the chat questions now and someone asked whether I'd want Hageman or Jernigan, and for me, I want a guy who has been there, done it. I don't care about workout warriors. We've seen more situations where those types of guys didn't pan out than did. So if my plan was to remain a 4-3 defense, I'd definitely probably go with Jernigan over Hageman (and I'd stay away from the Clinton-Dix because he's a safety (there's more value in DTs in my opinion). Jernigan is an athletic, classic penetrating 4-3 defensive tackle who has championship pedigree. Give me that over someone like Hageman, who has "bust" written all over him at this point.
chris (new orleans)
the bears were some what predictable and awlful in short yardage situation any plans on how they plan to improve that going forward
Michael (1:19 PM)
Chris, that's why the Bears spend a major portion of the beginning of the offseason critically evaluating the tapes of the entire season. Obviously, after checking out those tapes, they'll pick up on some tendencies they showed throughout the season and look for ways to improve there. I've got a lot of faith in the new offensive staff's ability to adjust and make improvements in those areas.
Jackie Ohio [via mobile]
This season showed some highs and lows mostly the highs on offense . Too be honest I think it was Testman biggest mistake to keep Mel Tucker too many games where players not in there gaps not making tackles can't get off the field on third down let alone 4 down in the packer game. If you was the Bears GM would you fire Tucker. Cuz if Testman doesn't get the defense going in the right direction I think his tenure in Chicago will be short lived
Michael (1:21 PM)
Jackie, I wouldn't fire Tucker because I'd be worried about how bringing in a new coordinator would affect my ability to win NOW. Nobody wants to make excuses, but the injury situation last year was real. So if I'm the GM, I get the defensive coordinator the pieces he needs to put a respectable product on the field. If I accomplish that job as a GM and the coordinator still fails, that's when I go into the head coach's office and ask him to part ways with the coordinator.
MKSayHey (Orlando FL)
Hey Mike,Really pleased to see Tillman win the Bear great Walter Payton award. Is there any shot to resign him?
Michael (1:25 PM)
I think there's a chance, but I'd say it's going to depend more on what Tillman is willing to take. Tillman knows the cap situation, and at his age, he should also know that there's not going to be a $7.95 million base salary (his salary in 2013) waiting for him from another team on the open market. So somehow, Tillman and the Bears are going to have to meet in the middle. I think Tillman loves being a Chicago Bear and will make an effort to accommodate the organization (within reason). But you've also got to figure there's going to be some teams out there interested (Tampa Bay) because Tillman is still a very good player.
Mike (Salt Lake City, UT)
Do we know what a "Mel Tucker" defense looks like? Looking at his career he has been brought in by defensive minded coaches and he was running their scheme. This year I feel the Bears need to let him do what he wants and not be forced to run Lovie's scheme. The question is what would his scheme look like?
Michael (1:27 PM)
Mike, I think it would be very similar to Lovie's in that you're not going to see a ton of exotic looks. It would be more about lining up and out-executing the opponent. That said, a Tucker defense would probably feature more situation-specific packages, and I also think he'd more willing to blitz than Lovie was.
Brian- Old Bridge NJ [via mobile]
I read in an article that Emery had a clause in the contract of a few players like Cutler that allows for some cap relief. It said they could bring in a free agent if they felt it upgraded the team by taking money or something like that off the Cutler contract. Can you explain what this is and how it works if you understand what I mean? Thanks in advance.
Michael (1:31 PM)
Brian, what you're talking about is a clause that allows the team to convert portions of the base salary (in Cutler's case, we'd be talking about $22.5 million) into a signing bonus. By doing that, you can lower the cap figure for the next year by paying out a big portion of that base in a signing bonus. But, the money the team paid out in the signing bonus would be prorated over the life of the deal.
Joseph (Chesapeake VA)
In you opinion, is Chris Conte going to be on the 2014 Chicago Bears roster?
Michael (1:34 PM)
Joseph, I definitely think he'll be on the roster in 2014. He's entering the final year of his original rookie deal, and is set to count $650,000 against the cap. That's a very affordable deal, and let's not get it twisted here, Conte didn't all of the sudden just become a horrible player. He had a bad season, as did many other players on that defense. When you're not getting a decent pass rush with the front four, the secondary is going to suffer, and that's what happened some in 2013. But I'll readily admit Conte also compounded matters by playing badly. I'm not ready to say he's a bad player though. I think he's got a chance to bounce back, especially in a contract year.
CJ Hall [via mobile]
Will the Bears re-sign DJ Williams at lb?
Michael (1:38 PM)
CJ, I think there is legitimate interest on the team's part. But again, it's going to come down to the money. Given that Williams wasn't really able to show what he could do last season to spark interest from other teams, my guess is the Bears should be able to bring him back for 2014 with a deal similar to the one he signed last offseason (one-deal that counted $1.328 million against the cap).
Stephen (Orlando FL)
What are the chances Ford gets the backup RB role over Bush?
Michael (1:39 PM)
Stephen, Michael Ford's got skills, no doubt about it. He flashed all through training camp last year and in the preseason. But I think the big thing for him is he's got to gain the staff's trust in pass protection. That's just as important of an element in a running back's game as his ability to actually tote the pill.
What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial this year?
Michael (1:40 PM)
Horatio, I'm not gonna lie to you. I was so frustrated by the lopsidedness of the game that I turned it off after Percy Harvin's kickoff return to start the second half. So I only saw the commercials in the first half, which weren't very good. I turned off the game and started watching home videos of vacations, man.
what did you make of the game last night?
Michael (1:41 PM)
See my last answer. I was disappointed.
Brian F (Cedar City, UT)
If the Bears did switch to a 3-4 or a hybrid defense, and we resigned Williams and Anderson while drafting no new talent at the position, who do you see being the two inside and two outside backers?
Michael (1:43 PM)
That's a great question, Brian. If that were the direction the Bears are going, I wouldn't bring back Anderson. I'd try to re-sign Williams and play him inside next to Lance Briggs with probably McClellin and Cornelius Washington playing outside.
Why isn't their more talk about moving Peanut Tillman to safety? I think he would be great the way he already plays Cover 2 corner with his ball-hawking tendencies. He seems to have the skill-set, it could prolong his career the way it did for Charles Woodson, and it would represent an upgrade at a position very much in need next season. Is Peanut not open to it? The Bears? What gives?
Michael (1:44 PM)
Tim, it's because that's not what Tillman wants to do. And why would he? He's still playing cornerback at a high level. Tillman said he wants to remain at corner, and believes he can still play good ball at that position. I'm sure other teams agree.
Coach White (Chicago)
It sounded like you were thinking we would resign Melton and Ratliff (which I like) but think there is more value at drafting a DT in first round. Dont we need a projected starter at that pick? like a safety or cornerback?
Michael (1:47 PM)
Probably, but that's something for Phil Emery to gauge. Emery is all about "value," and if he feels it's more beneficial to the team to add a corner or safety over a defensive lineman he'll go that route. But you do have to consider that the defensive line is what failed that defense last season, and two of the starters from that unit (Corey Wootton and Henry Melton) are free agents. There's no guarantee they'll be back.
If the Bears switched to the 3-4, you wouldn't just keep Bostic at one of the ILB spots with Briggs?
Michael (1:47 PM)
But if I've got D.J. Williams, Bostic isn't starting.
Is it looking like the Bears will resign Garza? It would be great to have the same staring offensive line 2 seasons in a row. Same with Tillman? How high are these guys on the priority list?
Michael (1:51 PM)
I'll skip the Tillman part of the question because we've already answered that and go straight to Garza. I think the Bears want to re-sign Garza, but I don't think the team wants to pay him even at the level he was compensated at last season ($2.05 million). So my guess is if the Bears want to come with a minimal offer, Garza will be content to wait it out to see if there's a place for him somewhere else before coming back to sign essentially a veteran-minimum deal with the Bears. I don't know for a fact the Bears are offering Garza the veteran minimum, but the writing is on the wall that this is where it's headed.
The key to the Bears D next year is a consistent pass rush. Assuming they keep Peppers (via a reworked contract). Is there anyone that can make the needed 1st year impact at pick #14? Besides Clowney is there anyone person you would trade up for that will make the necessary impact in regards to pass rush? Saftey is important but I'm predicting they could be upgraded when having much improved Dline play alone.
Michael (1:56 PM)
Good stuff, Julian, and I'd say that for me, it's still too early to tell. I'd like to get through the combine interviews and all the Pro Day workouts before considering whether there's someone worth trying to move up for. The last sentence in your original question are precisely my thoughts, too. So with that said, I think they need to use that first-round pick on the defensive line. But as of right now, I haven't seen anyone at any of the defensive line positions that I'd say the Bears absolutely have to move up to grab. There are several solid defensive linemen in this year's draft, but I'm not even sure Clowney is the game changer he's been billed as so far.
How do you feel about Martellus Bennet recruiting his brother Michael Bennet to the bears? Do you think that it could actually happen?
Michael (2:00 PM)
I don't know how I feel about it because I'm not sure I'm totally sold on Michael Bennett. He played a ton of snaps for the Seahawks and led them in sacks this season, but he should be able to command a pretty hefty contract on the market (in the neighborhood of $5 million per year); one that Chicago might not be able to afford. What I find interesting is that despite them being brothers, Martellus and Michael Bennett have different agents. I'm not saying that means anything at all. I just find it a little peculiar.
Michael (2:01 PM)
Wow. Time flew by fast. That's my time, and I'm sorry I couldn't get to everyone's questions. I've got to start typing a little faster. Anyway, thank you all for coming by to chat for a while. You know you can always find me on Twitter answering your questions, too. So everyone enjoy the rest of the day, and thanks again for the chat. I'll be doing these every Monday throughout the offseason.