I know that the Bears are on the hook for a lot of money with Julius Peppers, but wouldn't it make sense for them to acquire Mario Williams? The Peppers and Williams combination would be unblockable, and would severely limit the high powered offense of Rogers and Stafford. Also, it would require them to keep their TE's at the line to pass protect, rather than killing us the way that Jermichael Finley routinely does. Despite our glaring need for a WR, in my opinion our team is way better with Mario Williams than any other combination of free agents or draft picks, and we'd be set with a good pass rush for several years. Do you agree?
-- Jon Litwin, Chicago
The Bears should be one of 32 teams that is very interested in Mario Williams. It makes no sense for them not to want him. Williams is young (27), he's as gifted as any player in the game, and he plays a premium position. And the Bears need both a pass rusher and a young building block on defense. It's true the Bears already have a lot of money allocated to the position because of Julius Peppers, but you can never have too many good pass rushers. The Super Bowl champion Giants should be a good reminder of that. They have more pass rushing talent than any team, and they keep trying to get more. In their stable of pass rushers are three former first round picks and three former second round picks. The downside of signing Williams would be that paying him would limit the Bears' ability to add players, especially premium players, at other positions. Whoever signs Williams probably is going to have to make him the highest paid defender in the NFL. For the Bears, that would likely mean having to forgo signing a No. 1 receiver. But if adding Williams were a possibility, some sacrifices elsewhere would be well worth it. I wouldn't get too excited about Williams making it to the open market though. The Texans are too smart to let that happen.
Cornerback is one of the needs on defense this off-season for the Bears. Wouldn't Brandon Carr be a good fit with the Bears? He has good size and Phil Emery has to be familiar with him considering the KC Chiefs background.
-- Matt, Montreal
Carr is a fine player and would be an upgrade for the Bears. But it's going to take mucho dinero to sign him. The Bears have more pressing priorities, I believe. And if you look at their history with Lovie Smith's defense, they have never gone after big money cornerbacks, or even drafted one in the top two rounds. The belief is you can get by in the Tampa Two without a premium corner.
I've been reading that the Steelers will not be able to afford to put the franchise tag on Mike Wallace. Is there any chance the Bears offer a first-round pick to sign Wallace and open up the offense?
-- Steve, Denver
It makes sense from the perspective that Wallace probably is going to be better in the near future than anyone the Bears would be able to draft with the 19th pick. But giving up that first round pick is not very appealing for the Bears. In addition to having a number of holes to address, the team is starting to get a little gray in spots. The Bears need young players. They have given up a number of draft picks in recent years in trades. Continuing down that path will lead to long term problems.
I was wondering if in the draft Justin Blackmon falls to around the sixth or seventh pick do you think there is any possibility that the Bears would trade up for him? The Bears desperately need a play maker at wideout and he seems like he would be a perfect fit. Also I don't know the situation with Lance Briggs if he is still not happy then the Bears could make a straight up trade for the seventh pick which is held by the Jaguars whose linebacking core isn't great and give them our first and Briggs.
-- Sam Rudman
I don't see Blackmon in a Bears uniform, unless he falls to the 19th pick, or at least well beyond where he is supposed to be chosen. A trade up of a few spots might not be out of a question, but a trade-up like you are talking about seems far-fetched. The Bears are not in position to be giving up multiple draft picks for one player. If anything, they should be looking for ways to acquire more draft picks. As for packaging Briggs in a trade-up, I doubt he would have the kind of trade value you are suggesting. At the age of 31, Briggs is still a fine, fine football player, but his value to the Bears is probably much greater than his value in a trade would suggest.
Wide receivers Ashlon Jeffrey and Michael Floyd have both been projected to be taken by Chicago with the 19th overall pick. In your opinion, which receiver has the better potential upside in this year's draft?
-- Ben Main, Freeport
I think Jeffrey has more upside, which is to say the chances of him becoming an elite NFL player are better. But I also think the chances of Jeffrey becoming a bust are better. Floyd is a safer pick, though he is not without risk either. Floyd also is more NFL-ready, I believe. Most teams I've spoken with at this point believe Floyd is a better prospect. But teams still are forming their opinion of Jeffrey, who is an underclassman.
If a premier, disruptive defensive tackle were still available at the 19th pick, would the Bears be willing to invest a first round selection in that position, or are they satisfied with Henry Melton and Stephen Paea?
-- Nicholas Secco, Chicago
If the DT was clearly the best player on the board, the Bears would have to think long and hard, given the value of the position. Drafting a defensive lineman is almost always OK with me, assuming he's the right guy. But defensive tackle is not a great position of need for the Bears. What's interesting is there is some quality depth at the defensive tackle position in the first round. As many as five DTs could go in round one, and it is not out of the question that a defensive tackle could be clearly the best player on the board at 19. Tackles who could interest the Bears are Penn State's Devon Still, Louisiana State's Michael Brockers, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy and Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox. At this point, there is no clear established pecking order for these players.
Do you have any idea when league typically announces its schedule for the upcoming year?
-- Tom Eder
The schedule usually comes out after the NFL meetings and before the draft. This year, my guess is the schedule will be released in the first two weeks of April.