The Bears need a quarterback. With injury-prone Jim Miller and Chris Chandler and ineffectual Henry Burris on the roster, it's safe to say the team will pursue a veteran QB this off-season.
Whether he turns into just a quarterback or the quarterback, as in the quarterback of the future or the franchise quarterback, that's up to general manager Jerry Angelo.
The Bears have the fourth overall pick in the draft, but Angelo has said he's looking for a veteran arm. Here's what's available, either through trades or free agency.
Kurt Warner, St. Louis. It would take a trade to get Warner out of St. Louis and that would take a restructured contract since Warner is owed a $6 million bonus in February. Warner recently passed a physical, meaning he does not need shoulder and hand surgery. That's only one problem. His fall from grace in St. Louis has been as fast as his rise from obscurity. But a trade scenario means either St. Louis would be saddled with $13 million against its cap or Warner's new team would have to take on the $6 million bonus, in addition to the remaining four years on the contract. Yes, it's confusing. But it's the Rams' problem, not the Bears'. So the next logical question is what about Marc Bulger, Warner's backup turned Dan Marino?
Marc Bulger, St. Louis Rams, restricted free agent. The Rams can match any deal for Bulger. And why wouldn't they after last season when Bulger stepped in and went 6-0 as a starter?
Jake Plummer, Arizona, unrestricted free agent. Plummer has been on a downward spiral during his six years in the desert (try 90 touchdowns against 114 interceptions) but should command a big contract because he's the biggest name of a lame free-agent class. But there's always the bouncing-around theory: It takes quarterbacks a few stops in the NFL before they catch on. See: Rich Gannon.
Kordell Stewart, Pittsburgh. After losing his starting job to Tommy Maddox, Stewart likely will be cut or traded by the Steelers. A trade is less likely; Stewart will make $6 million, count $7 million against the salary cap and will be eligible for free agency after 2003. Bouncing-around theory applies here, too.
Tim Couch, Cleveland. The former first-overall pick could find himself on another team next season. Again, the bouncing-around theory says with a new team, Couch would summon what NFL scouts envisioned from him before the 1999 draft. And that brings up this analogy: What Kurt Warner is to Marc Bulger, Tim Couch is to...
Kelly Holcomb, Cleveland. Couch should be nervous after backup Holcomb threw for 429 yards in a wild-card loss to the Steelers. Bad news for the Bears: Holcomb signed an extension before the season that will keep him in Cleveland through 2004.
Jake Delhomme, New Orleans, unrestricted free agent. For a guy who's attempted just 86 passes in two years in the NFL, Delhomme sure is attracting a lot of interest, including the Bears'.
Maybe the Bears have the edge. Delhomme's agent is Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein, who also represents Olin Kreutz and Bryan Robinson. And Delhomme told the Monroe (La.) News-Star that Bartelstein and the Bears have talked. Delhomme also told the paper he wants to go to a team that needs a starting quarterback. The Bears need a starting quarterback.
"I don't want to go to a situation where a team is just blowing smoke, and I really don't have a legitimate chance to be the starter," he said. "If I'm going to be a backup, I'm going to stay in New Orleans."
Brian Griese, Denver. Expected to be released June 1 by the Broncos. Griese, banged up and ineffective in Denver, will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder and is still rehabbing his knee he injured last season.
Shaun King, Tampa Bay, unrestricted free agent. In two years, King has gone from starter to third stringer behind the Johnsons, Brad and Rob, on the Super Bowl champion Bucs. King appeared in just three games in 2002, threw 27 passes and completed 10 of them for 80 yards, with no touchdowns and an interception and hardly was instrumental in the team's success. The Mike Smith theory applies here: Executives of former teams love to bring players from their old teams. Jerry Angelo has Tampa ties. It's safe to say King will be in a different uniform next season.
Rob Johnson, Tampa Bay, unrestricted free agent. Like King, Johnson lost the Bucs' preseason quarterback competition to Brad Johnson and played sparingly in mop-up and injury duty. The 29-year-old chose to come to Tampa from Buffalo but likely will move on for a chance to start.
Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh, unrestricted free agent. Steelers want Batch to stay as Tommy Maddox's backup. Batch wants to start again and will test the market.
A.J. Feeley, Philadelphia. Performed well when Donovan McNabb broke his ankle but has said he want to remain in Philly as McNabb's backup.
Tony Banks, Houston, unrestricted free agent. Didn't throw a pass in 2002 as David Carr's backup in Houston.
Jeff Blake, Baltimore, unrestricted free agent. Shaky under pressure and throws a lot of interceptions, 11 to 13 TDs.