WR Marty Booker, WR Brandon Lloyd.
RB Matt Forte, WR Earl Bennett, WR Marcus Monk, TE Kellen Davis, OT Chris Williams, OT/G Kirk Barton, G Dan Buenning, DE Ervin Baldwin, DT Marcus Harrison, OLB Joey LaRocque, CB Zack Bowman, S Craig Steltz.
QB Brian Griese, RB Cedric Benson, WR Bernard Berrian, WR Muhsin Muhammad, WR Marcus Robinson, TE John Gilmore, OT Fred Miller, G Ruben Brown, G Mike Jones, DT Darwin Walker, DT Antonio Garay, DT Babatunde Oshinowo, DT Jimmy Kennedy, OLB Brendon Ayanbadejo, S Adam Archuleta.
2008 Chicago Bears Offense:
When looking back at some of the worst offenses since the NFL went to a 16-game slate in 1978, we're reminded of the 2006 Oakland Raiders (168 points), a team that featured a comatose coach (Art Shell), one of the most inconsistent quarterbacks of all time (Aaron Brooks), a malcontent receiver (Randy Moss) and the worst offensive line I've ever seen. Tied for third place in least points scored since 1978 are the 2000 Browns, who at one point had Doug Pederson at quarterback, and the 1998 Eagles, who quit on lame-duck head coach Ray Rhodes.
In second place, the 1991 Colts tallied just 143 points, and were held to single digits 11 times. Winning the grand prize were the 1992 Seahawks, who managed a mere 140 points, or 8.8 per contest. That Seattle team went 2-14. Quarterbacks Stan Gelbaugh and Kelly Stouffer combined for nine touchdowns and 20 picks. They were sacked a total of 60 times, and they each failed to complete 50 percent of their passes. If it weren't for Cortez Kennedy's 14 sacks and Eugene Robinson's seven picks, the 1992 Seahawks would have gone winless.
So, why this list? Well, I have every reason to believe that the 2008 Bears could challenge that Seattle squad as having the worst scoring unit in modern-day history. Seriously, I can't think of one redeeming quality Chicago has in its offense. Starting at quarterback, Lovie Smith will see who sucks less between Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton to determine who the starter is. Does it really matter? Grossman has more upside because of his arm strength, but he can't make reads, his accuracy is abysmal and he can't stay healthy. Grossman has more career picks (33) than touchdowns (31), and is infamous for his fumbling woes. Grossman actually played well at times in 2007, however, going 66-of-116, two touchdowns, one interception and three fumbles in his final full three games of the season. But of course, Grossman suffered a knee injury in Week 14 and missed the rest of the year.
So, what about Orton? The Purdue product has a good shot to win the starting gig because he's way more careful with the football. But if the Bears fall behind? Forget about it. Orton's arm strength rivals that of a 12-year-old girl's. Actually, now that I think about it, Smith should rotate quarterbacks in and out depending on the score. If Chicago is ahead, let Orton milk the clock, convert third downs and take care of the football. If Chicago is behind, allow Grossman to bomb it downfield.
Seems like an effective plan based on how horrid the signal callers are, but there's one problem - there aren't receivers for Grossman to throw to. The team's two leaders in receiving yards, Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad, are both gone. That's 111 receptions, 1,521 yards and eight touchdowns the Bears will have to replace with bums like Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd. Once upon a time, Booker registered back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Since 2003, however, Booker has never had more than 747 yards. His production dropped to 556 yards and one touchdown in 2007. Booker will be 32 in August, so I can't see him reverting to his former self.
As for Lloyd, the sixth-year receiver has fallen off since recording 48 receptions and 733 yards with the 49ers in 2005. He signed a big contract with the Redskins, but managed just 25 catches and 379 yards in 23 games. He was quickly jettisoned out of Washington. Now, there's a chance Lloyd could be motivated to play hard for one season so he can ink another lucrative signing bonus, but I doubt he can accumulate the proper numbers with Grossman and/or Orton at the helm.
Competing with Lloyd to start opposite of Booker are Mark Bradley and Earl Bennett, while the always-dangerous Devin Hester will be in the slot. Bradley, once a promising, young wide out, has never eclipsed 300 yards in a single season, while Bennett is just a rookie, albeit a talented one. At least Chicago actually has something at tight end; Desmond Clark is dependable, while Greg Olsen looked good in the middle of his 2007 campaign before hitting the infamous rookie wall.
Berrian and Muhammad weren't the only skill-position players to leave the Windy City, though they did so by choice. Running back Cedric Benson, on the other hand, was kicked off the team after a series of arrests, lies, injuries and poor efforts. Remember when Benson cried during the draft when he was trying to prove he wasn't Ricky Williams? Well, Benson's definitely not Williams; Ricky is still in the league, while Cedric may never play professional football ever again. Seriously, who would take a chance on an injury-prone back who sucks and gets thrown into jail every weekend?
In Benson's late-season absence, the original Adrian Peterson out-performed the No. 4 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. Peterson maintained a pathetic 3.5 yards-per-carry-average, but hey, it was better than Benson's 3.4. Plus, Peterson was second on the team in receptions with 51. That said, it looks like Lovie Smith is planning on throwing the entire workload on rookie Matt Forte. Forte, chosen in the second round, is an intriguing prospect out of Tulane, but as all Bears fans know, just because a runner is selected with a high pick doesn't mean he'll pan out. Just look at Rashaan Salaam, Curtis Enis and Benson as examples.
Forte will struggle, but not necessarily because of Chicago's track record with running backs. It's his offensive line that will fail him. Not only was the unit unable to open up any lanes for its ground workers, it also yielded 43 sacks in 2007. John Tait, the former anchor of the front, has switched from left to right tackle. Tait was miserable on the blind side, but at 33, should be able to have a few quality seasons on the right side. The new left tackle is rookie Chris Williams. I really like Williams' upside, but he's only 22. How can he be expected to keep the best speed rushers in the NFL from pummeling Orton and Grossman into the turf?
Excluding center Olin Kreutz, it doesn't get much better in the interior. Roberto Garza is OK, but the Bears have nothing at left guard. Literally, nothing. They're trying out five players at the position, all of whom have looked terrible thus far.
So, will the 2008 Bears break the record the 1992 Seahawks set? Probably not, but it's fun to speculate. I'll be shocked if Chicago finishes any higher than 30th in total offense. Don't be surprised if undrafted rookie Caleb Hanie is starting at quarterback by Thanksgiving.
2008 Chicago Bears Defense:
As Cortez Kennedy and Eugene Robinson did for the 1992 Seahawks, Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris and company will keep Chicago from becoming the first 0-16 team in league history. It's no secret that Chicago has tons of talent on its stop unit, so why was it ranked 16th in points (21.8), 27th against the pass and 24th versus the run? One word: injuries.
Let's take a look at all the major players Chicago had on the IR in 2007: Anthony Adams. Dusty Dvoracek. Antonio Garay. Nathan Vasher. Mike Brown. Losing five players may not seem like the end of the world, but it was for the Bears, as the former three are all defensive tackles, while the latter two are key contributors in a secondary affected by the losses up front. Though Tommie Harris is one of the best players at his position, he was the only guy Chicago had remaining at defensive tackle, unless you want to count bums like Jimmy Kennedy. Harris just signed a 4-year, $40 million extension a few weeks ago. He'll be joined by Adams, Dvoracek and third-round rookie Marcus Harrison.
Meanwhile, the secondary will welcome Vasher back from a torn groin with open arms. Vasher and Charles "Peanut" Tillman form one of the premier cornerbacking duos in the NFL, so you can imagine how much the former was missed, especially with pedestrian defensive backs like Ricky Manning Jr. and Danieal Manning replacing him. Meanwhile, it would be nice if Brown actually, you know, played for the Bears once in a while. The talented free safety has played just 21 games since 2003. At strong safety, Adam Archuleta was a failure last year, as he was replaced by Brandon McGowan as the starter in December. McGowan, a marginal player, will compete with rookie Craig Steltz and sophomore Kevin Payne for the job.
Though no one on the Bears had double-digit sacks, the front seven did a great job assisting their secondary by generating 41 sacks. Adewale Ogunleye, positioned at left end, led the squad with nine. At right end, Mark Anderson was a disappointment in his second season; after generating 12 sacks as a rookie, Anderson had only five. Part of the problem was that Anderson struggled as an every-down lineman; he was much better in his situational pass-rusher role. Lovie Smith recognized this and re-inserted Alex Brown back into the lineup. Brown is better against the run, and with less things to worry about, a fresh Anderson can focus on just getting to the quarterback.
Of course, Chicago's stop unit is anchored by Brian Urlacher. It's been reported that Urlacher may hold out, but I don't see that happening. Despite Urlacher and the Bears' organization being at an impasse, Urlacher has reported for voluntary workouts. Definitely a good sign. Lance Briggs, whose 102 tackles were second to Urlacher's 123, is an elite talent at weakside linebacker. The third player in this group, strongside linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer, may not be nearly as talented as Urlacher and Briggs, but he can definitely hold his own and is definitely not a liability.
As I mentioned in the initial paragraph in this section, Chicago's defense saves the team from an 0-16 campaign. Actually, this stop unit is so good, the Bears might actually get four... maybe even five victories this year.
2008 Chicago Bears Schedule and Intangibles:
Well, there is a second thing that will save the Bears from an 0-16 disaster. That would be Devin Hester, the best return specialist in NFL history. Hester had six touchdowns on special teams in 2007 alone, making that 11 in the past two years.
It's actually a shame the Bears have absolutely nothing on offense. I'd have them as a sleeper even if they had a marginal scoring unit. That's because if you take away a 34-10 defeat to Dallas on Sept. 23, all of their losses were by 11 points or less. When you consider that Chicago had tons of injuries on defense, you have to figure that a healthy Bears squad would have notched nine or 10 victories.
Moving back to special teams, Robbie Gould is an extremely accurate kicker, as he's 63-of-72 (87.5 percent) the past two seasons. More importantly, Gould is 24-of-28 from 40-49 yards during that time span. The only knock on him, however, is that he has yet to nail a 50-yarder in his career.
Punter Brad Maynard maintained a mediocre 41.8 average, but hit 27-of-88 attempts into the opposing 20. Not bad.
The NFL schedule-maker must not like the Bears; three of their first four games are against the Colts, Buccaneers and Eagles. They also have to face the Packers (twice), Vikings (twice), Titans, Jaguars and Saints. Winnable contests include Detroit (twice), Carolina, Atlanta and St. Louis.
2008 Chicago Bears Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2008 Chicago Bears Analysis: It's going to be a frustrating year for Bears fans. Sure, the defense will be fun to watch, but it'll get monotonous after a while, given that the stop unit will be on the field most of the time. The offense may not break the 1992 Seahawks' record for futility, but it may seem that way for everyone living in the Windy City.
Projection: 4-12 (3rd in NFC North)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
Rex Grossman: If you're thinking about making Rex Grossman your starting quarterback, please lay off the crack. Grossman put up respectable numbers during Chicago's Super Bowl run, but the team had much better talent at running back, receiver and offensive line that year.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 2,200 passing yards. 12 passing TDs. 40 rushing yards. 0 rushing TD.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 186.
Matt Forte: Lovie Smith announced that Matt Forte will garner close to 300 carries in his rookie year. Unfortunately, Forte will be hindered by Chicago's anemic offensive line. Plus, there's something called a rookie wall. You may have heard of it. Forte may be undervalued in some leagues, however, as many fantasy football mags, foolishly released way too early, will say that Forte and Adrian Peterson will split carries.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,025 rushing yards. 175 receiving yards. 7 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 161.
Adrian Peterson: The original Adrian Peterson picked up the slack when Cedric Benson got hurt last year. Expect him to do the same thing in 2008. Peterson is solid at catching the ball out of the backfield, making him a nice fill-in late in the season in PPR leagues.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 300 rushing yards. 250 receiving yards. 2 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 67.
Greg Olsen: Greg Olsen had 26 receptions and 270 yards in a six-game stretch, but registered just 11 catches and 93 yards from Week 12 on, as he was clearly hampered by a knee injury. Olsen willl improve this year, but will be handicapped by terrible quarterbacking.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 640 receiving yards. 5 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 93.
Desmond Clark: A decent bye filler in most leagues. Desmond Clark had 44 receptions, 545 yards and four touchdowns, but will be sharing catches with Greg Olsen more often this season. Clark's numbers dropped off when Orton was under center, so make sure you pay attention to whom the quarterback is.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 450 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 63.
Marty Booker: Can Marty Booker recapture the magic he had in 2001 and 2002, when he had a combined 197 receptions, 2,254 yards and 14 touchdowns? Very doubtful. Bears fans should be happy with a quarter of that production, as Booker, 32, has regressed. He had 556 yards and one score last season.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 600 receiving yards. 3 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 78.
Devin Hester: Unless return numbers count in your league (I've seen a few leagues that actually count them), don't bother with Devin Hester. He'll be in the slot, but won't catch enough passes to be a factor.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 10 rushing yards. 375 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 50.
Earl Bennett: I'm not wasting my time with Mark Bradley. The Bears always seem to have high hopes for him, yet all he's done in his three-year career is register 38 receptions, 583 yards and four touchdowns in 32 games. Bradley blew out his knee as a rookie, and never really recovered. Thus, I'm willing to bet Bennett is the team's starter across from Booker by November. Regardless, neither wide out will produce much.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 375 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 49.
Robbie Gould: Robbie Gould has never hit a 50-yarder in his career, but he's extremely accurate elsewhere; the past two years, he's 24-of-28 from 40-49. Unfortunately, he won't get many extra-point attempts.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 26-30 FG (0-2 50+). 26 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 114.
Chicago Defense: Chicago's defense will be on the field a lot, so that means they'll give up more points than they should. That may also mean more chances for sacks and turnovers when they play another team with an inept offense.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Top 10 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
It seemed like the Bears made (almost) all the right moves early on. I'll get to that almost in a second. But for now, Chris Williams was definitely the right pick at 14. He should be able to start from Day 1 on a horrendous offensive front. Meanwhile, another solid line addition was Kirk Barton in the seventh round. Major steal ... Chicago also added some juice to the skill positions. Matt Forte will quickly displace Cedric Benson. Earl Bennett was an awesome third-round selection and is probably the most talented receiver on the Bears' roster at this current moment. Marcus Monk, meanwhile, was another seventh-round gem ... The defense wasn't ignored either. Marcus Harrison is some much-needed depth at defensive tackle. Craig Steltz was a major find in the fourth round. At pick No. 142, Zack Bowman figures to be a low-risk, high-reward proposition.
Now for the "almost." What happened to addressing the quarterback position? Why didn't the Bears go after Brian Brohm in the second round? Jerry Angelo is going to hear it for decades if Brohm becomes a Pro Bowler with rival Green Bay. And why Kellen Davis instead of Andre' Woodson at 158? Davis won't get any playing time in a crowded tight end corps. It's a shame Bears fans are going to have to suffer through another year of Rex Grossman's turnovers.
Grade give on 4/28/08: A-
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
14. Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt
Great pick. The Bears addressed their biggest need. I probably would have went with Branden Albert, but I definitely can't argue Chris Williams. (Pick Grade: A)
44. Matt Forte, RB, Tulane
I'm surprised the Bears didn't go Brian Brohm at 44, but the fact remains that they addressed a need while acquiring a very talented player. Good job, Jerry Angelo. On a day of utter madness, you managed to have an excellent draft. (Pick Grade: A)
70. Earl Bennett, WR, Vanderbilt
Another great pick by the Bears. They're having an incredible weekend. (Pick Grade: A)
90. Marcus Harrison, DT, Arkansas
I expected the Bears to take a break from addressing their offense in the third or fourth rounds, and acquire a defensive tackle for depth. (Pick Grade: A)
120. Craig Steltz, SS, LSU
The Bears needed safety help, and they get a major talent in the fourth round. When are they going to address the quarterback position? (Pick Grade: A)
142. Zack Bowman, CB, Nebraska
Andre' Woodson would have been better, but I still like this pick. Zack Bowman is a very talented corner, who falls to the fifth round because of his injury history. The Chargers drafted Antonio Cromartie in a similar situation in the first round a few years ago, so risking a fifth-rounder on a high-reward guy seems like a good idea. (Pick Grade: A)
158. Kellen Davis, TE, Michigan State
Tight end's pretty crowded in the Windy City. Why not a quarterback? This is the first pick of Jerry Angelo's that I don't like. (Pick Grade: C)
208. Ervin Baldwin, DE, Michigan State
Where's the quarterback? Are the Bears seriously going with Rex Grossman again? (Pick Grade: D)
222. Chester Adams, G, Georgia
Not on my board, but it's the seventh round. Where's the quarterback? (Pick Grade: C)
243. Joey LaRocque, OLB, Oregon State
Not on my board, but it's the seventh round. (Pick Grade: C)
247. Kirk Barton, OT, Ohio State
MAJOR STEAL. Kirk Barton should have been drafted in the fourth or fifth round. Yet another upgrade or depth player for a thin Chicago line. (Pick Grade: A)
248. Marcus Monk, WR, Arkansas
MAJOR STEAL. Marcus Monk was a second-round prospect before his knee injury. If Monk can make it back healthy, the Bears will have obtained a very talented receiver. (Pick Grade: A)
No surprise that the Bears missed the playoffs; not that they had a lack of talent, or anything, but they were simply the sixth team in seven years to miss the postseason immediately following a loss in the Super Bowl. Apart from that infamous jinx, injuries also played a factor. I have to believe Chicago will be back in the hunt for the Doggone Playoff.
Bears acquire G Dan Buenning from Buccaneers for undisclosed draft pick
Bears announce retirement of WR Marcus Robinson
Bears sign RB Kevin Jones
Bears cut RB Cedric Benson
Bears announce retirement of WR Marcus Robinson
Bears cut DT Babatunde Oshinowo
Bears cut G Mike Jones
Bears cut SS Adam Archuleta
Bears re-sign WR Rashied Davis
Bears re-sign S Brandon McGowan
Bears sign WR Brandon Lloyd
Bears sign WR Marty Booker
Bears trade QB Brian Griese to the Buccaneers for a late-round pick
Bears re-sign OLB Lance Briggs
Bears re-sign QB Rex Grossman
Bears cut WR Muhsin Muhammad
Bears cut OT Fred Miller
Bears cut DT Darwin Walker
Two Offensive Tackles: The main reason the Bears couldn't pass protect (43 sacks) or run block (3.1 yards per carry) was because their two offensive tackles, John Tait and Fred Miller, are declining veterans entering their mid-30s. There's growing speculation that Miller, 35, won't be back with the team next year. Chicago has a dire need for two stout tackles, and that's why I believe it will select the best one available at No. 14. Drafted Chris Williams and Kirk Barton
Quarterback: The sad part about Rex Grossman's season-ending injury against the Redskins in Week 14 was that he was coming off one of the best four-game stretches of his career. During that span, he was 73-of-130, 897 yards, three touchdowns and just one pick. Still, despite those statistics, I think at least 90 percent of Bears Nation would have an aneurysm if their team brought Grossman back as a starter for another year. Tons of options for Chicago - a trade for Donovan McNabb; a signing of Derek Anderson; or the drafting of Andre' Woodson or Chad Henne in the second round. Given the team's vast offensive needs, the latter is probably the better choice. Re-signed Rex Grossman
Running Back: Remember when Cedric Benson was trying to shy away from comparisons to Ricky Williams? The truth is the two aren't alike at all. Williams is addicted to weed but likes playing football. Benson, on the other hand, is a lazy, overpaid bum. The Bears could look to Ray Rice or Tashard Choice with one of their two second-round selections. Drafted Matt Forte; signed Kevin Jones
Left Guard: Ruben Brown, a free agent, is older than time itself. A new left guard (Alan Faneca, perhaps?) is a must.
Two Wide Receivers: Make this one receiver if the Bears re-sign Bernard Berrian, who will command tons of money in the free-agent market, seeing as how he's the top guy available at the position, excluding Randy Moss. Lavelle Hawkins or Harry Douglas could be around in Round 3. D.J. Hackett and Bryant Johnson wouldn't be bad replacements for Berrian if he leaves. Drafted Earl Bennett and Marcus Monk; signed Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd
Re-Sign Lance Briggs: I know the Bears like Jamar Williams, but Lance Briggs is one of the elite linebackers in the NFL. With $20 million in cap space, how can they possibly let him go, especially in the wake of Brian Urlacher's mysterious neck injury? Re-signed Lance Briggs
Defensive Tackle: The interior of Chicago's defensive line is uncharacteristically thin, so the Bears could be looking for depth in the middle rounds of the 2008 Draft. Drafted Marcus Harrison
Safety Depth: I'll be shocked if Mike Brown and Adam Archuleta are brought back next season. Drafted Craig Steltz; re-signed Brandon McGowan
Chicago Bears Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 13): $19.80 million
Lance Briggs, OLB. Age: 27. Re-signed with Bears (6 years, $36 million)
One of the best linebackers in the NFL at the top of his game, Lance Briggs will receive top dollar this offseason.
Bernard Berrian, WR. Age: 27. Signed with Vikings (6 years, $42 million)
Bernard Berrian had 71 catches for 951 yards and five touchdowns last season. Not bad considering the crap Chicago had at the quarterback position. Berrian's an explosive receiver, but sometimes criticized for dropping too many balls.
Rex Grossman, QB. Age: 28. Re-signed with Bears (1 year, $3 million)
It's a shame Rex Grossman got hurt against the Redskins because he was coming off one of the best four-game stretches of his career. In Weeks 10-13, Grossman was a combined 73-of-130, 897 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. Not bad. Grossman has always had a powerful arm, but he lacked confidence. Perhaps his performance late last season made him believe that he can be a starting quarterback in this league. He definitely deserves another chance.
Brandon McGowan (RFA), S. Age: 24. Re-signed with Bears (1 year, $1.417 million)
Brandon McGowan looked pretty solid in relief of Adam Archuleta last season. However, that could just be because Archuleta really sucks.
Muhsin Muhammad, WR. Age: 35. Signed with Panthers (2 years)
Muhsin Muhammad is all but done; he had 40 catches for 520 yards last year, but with his 35th birthday coming up in May, I don't see him sticking around for too much longer.
Ruben Brown, G, Bears. Age: 36.
It looks like Ruben Brown will attempt to play his 14th season next year. At the age of 36, he can't start anymore, but he'd make a great veteran backup.
Darwin Walker, DT. Age: 31. - Signed with Panthers (1 year, $1 million)
John Gilmore, TE. Age: 28. - Signed with Buccaneers (3 years)
Brendon Ayanbadejo, OLB. Age: 32. - Signed with Ravens (4 years, $4.925 million)
Marcus Monk, WR. Age: 22. - Signed with Giants
Mike Jones, G. Age: 23. - Signed with Vikings
Jimmy Kennedy, DT. Age: 28. Signed with Jaguars
Only one free agent this offseason is as crappy as Mike Williams, and that's Jimmy Kennedy. Remember when he said that the Rams were winning the Super Bowl when they drafted him? Yeah, how's that working out, Jimmy? No stars for you. Come back next year.
Cedric Benson, RB. Age: 25.
Not only does Cedric Benson suck in every aspect of the game, he can't stay out of legal trouble. There's a chance he may never play in the NFL ever again.
Divisional Rival History: Detroit Lions: Prior to this season, the Bears had won four meetings in a row. Well, that's done with. How did the Lions sweep Chicago? Green Bay Packers: Brett Favre dominated the Bears for years. That's not the case anymore. Under Lovie Smith, Chicago is 6-2 against the Packers. Minnesota Vikings: The home team has claimed 10 of 12.