I know I promised a Part 3 to the "What Went Wrong with the Bears Season," but I've got a bit more work to do on that. I've been getting a lot of questions along the lines of "How can the Bears fix their glitches?" So, here are my thoughts on that subject:
1. Draft offensive linemen and develop them. Specifically, try to snag one of those highly touted LTs coming out this year and move John Tait back to RT. Fred Miller needs to retire or something. I think John St. Clair has looked adequate as a back-up tackle and guard. It appears to this blogger that Josh Beekman is a bust or simply needs more time. I fully expected Beekman to see some playing time when Ruben Brown went down for the season. I thought he would mature into a good replacement for Ruben Brown or Roberto Garza. I read that Beekman showed up to the combine looking "fat and un-athletic," which may be why the Bears didn't start him when Brown was moved to the IR. A free agent pick up at guard may be in order. Terrance Metcalf? He needs to ply his wares somewhere else. He's officially a bust in my book.
2. Draft a RB in the second or third rounds and develop him. Procure a free agent RB to compete for the starting job next season, and be ready to dump Cedric Benson. Who wants to pay that much for a number-two back? There's been a lot of talk about Michael Turner. The Bears could do a lot worse than landing Turner. And how cool would it be to have two running backs from NIU in your stable? I was starting to wonder if it's worth it to hang onto Adrian Peterson, but the game against the Saints was telling, I think. The Bears' AP puts forth a very solid effort. He's harder to bring down than he looks, and is a competent blocker and receiver out of the backfield. He's also a stud on special teams. But all those comparisons to the Vikings' AP have gotten old after only one season. Geez, can we stop it already? Garret Wolfe didn't put up gaudy numbers, but he showed enough promise to earn an invitation to training camp in 2008 in my book. And he blocks better than Cedric Benson!
3. Draft or procure a possession WR, and let Bernard Berrian get overpaid somewhere else. He is supposedly the best free-agent WR this offseason, and I think it would be a big mistake for the Bears to pay too much to keep him. He hasn't shown much consistency and he doesn't fight for the ball enough. In addition, the Bears have been paying entirely too much money to Mushin Muhammed, who has never produced at the level the Bears hoped he would. It's time to renegotiate with Moose. The Bears should look into paying Moose less money. He's only a handful of yards away from 10,000 for his career. No one else will want him after this years' performance (at least not for what the Bears are paying him) and I'm sure he *really* wants to hit that 10,000 yard career mark. The Bears need that Moose-Berrian money to plug those glaring holes on offense. And then there's Devin Hester. If he can grasp the WR position, he can be a weekly highlight-reel regular. But I still wouldn't like to see him as the #1 or #2 receiver. Call me crazy. He makes a big enough impact in the return game and it's not worth messing with that IMHO. The Bears need to accept the fact that Mushin Muhammed is NOT their number one receiver, Berrian is, and they're going to lose him during the offseason. I think the Bears can afford the loss of Berrian if they scheme to use their talented tight ends more often. Greg Olsen is versatile enough that I can see him taking the place of a playmaking WR if he's properly utilized. His size and speed were supposed to wreak havoc with opposing defenses and it would be nice to see next season with the wide receiver corps having nothing to get excited about.
4. Let Rex Grossman go. I know this probably won't happen because both Jerry Angelo and Ron Turner are in love with his arm strength. You know what I say? Damn the arm strength, if the kid doesn't have it between the ears, he won't be a quality NFL quarterback, period. You know who else had a great arm? Bobby Douglass. You know who else? Vince Evans. Kordell Stewart. Cade McNown. Need I go on? Alrighty then. I think Grossman needs to go to another team and make a fresh start for himself. The Chicago Bears--Rex Grossman Experiment has failed. Accept it and move forward. If the Bears want a cheap solution at QB, they need to hold a competition between Kyle Orton and Brian Greise. One of these lucky contestants will win the honor of holding down the fort until the kid the Bears draft in the 2nd or 3rd round is ready to take over the offense.
5. Bolster the safety positions. I like the idea of signing Mike Brown to a contract worth much less money, then not counting on him to finish the season. Kevin Payne will be back and Brandon McGowan got some quality time on the field this years. Daniel Manning struggled at times this season, but he showed signs of improvement late in the season. I think one more veteran and/or one more solid draft pick will round out this group well for the Bears. Too bad the Bears let Chris Harris go, because he would've provided a very solid future for the Bears at strong safety.
6. Dump Darwin Walker or renegotiate his contract. Again, the Bears are paying too much for a player who didn't do all that much. I know he was hurt, but so was Tommie Harris and he got it done. Invite those late season additions at DT back to training camp next year. Those guys looked impressive, especially Matt Toeaina. They at least deserve a shot at making the roster, and the Bears need depth at DT.
Sneaky Pete's generic draft picks for the Bears
Round 1: The best LT available.
Round 2: QB or RB
Round 3: QB or RB
Round 3: WR
Round 4: SS
Round 5: Best OL available
Round 6: LB
Round 7: CB
Sneaky Pete's generic free-agent acquisitions for the Bears
Tailback - Cedric Benson is a joke as a #1 back in the NFL.
Offensive Guard - Ruben Brown is getting very old...
Free Safety/Strong Safety - Mike Brown cannot be relied on to stay on the field for the entire season.
Defensive Tackle - The Bears need depth and experience at this position. A moderately priced veteran would be nice.
Sneaky Pete's cuts/free agent departures
Adam Archuleta - He can't play the game any more.
Cedric Benson - He obviously has no real desire to play football, so the Bears should grant him his wish. Who else would want this fool anyway?
Bernard Berrian - He will command a ton of cash since he's the best FA receiver this offseason. He's a good receiver, but he's not worth the cash he's going to get somewhere else. With so many needs at other offensive positions, the Bears should (begrudgingly) let him go make his money with another team.
Lance Briggs - Jamar Williams is ready to fill Briggs' role as a starter. It would be a shame to let Briggs go, but the Bears need to save their pennies to bolster the offense.
Rex Grossman - He needs a fresh start, and so do the Bears.
Ricky Manning Jr. - He's making a bit too much money for not being able to step into the back-up CB role. He was NO help when Nate Vasher went down last season.
Terrance Metcalf - Another OL draft bust for the Bears.
Fred Miller - Watching this guy play RT was like watching a one-legged cat bury turds on a frozen pond. In the dictionary under "futility" it reads, "See Fred Miller in pass protection."