I’ve gotten a good response for the new Boomer’s Mailbag segment, so let’s do it again. Sorry for the slow response; I’m enjoying unwinding a little bit at the start of the offseason.
If I don’t single your question out, it’s nothing personal. I’ll try to get to as many as I can and give you as much insight as I can. If you want to get in on the next Mailbag segment, just send me a note with the Subject Line Mailbag to firstname.lastname@example.org. So, let’s dive into the mailbag after the jump.
This first question comes from longtime reader and commenter, Mr. Pickles:
"The last mailbag had plenty of questions about free agents; however, the beloved have relied a little too heavily on free agency recently, at least in my opinion, and need to start making smarter draft decisions. There are tons of needs, be it filling a hole or grooming a replacement for down the road, so who do you think the Bears should target during the early rounds?"
Couldn’t agree more Mr. Pickles. The Bears have been bailing out poor Jerry Angelo drafts with big time offseason trades (Jay Cutler) and big spending sprees in Free Agency (Peppers, Taylor and Manumaleuna) and it’s time to stop covering for piss-poor drafts. Look at the Super Bowl participants this year – the Steelers and Packers. There are 2 organizations which build through the draft and as a result can sustain longterm success.
The Bears need to focus on a few key positions in the draft. They need at least two offensive linemen, a defensive tackle and a cornerback. They’ve got to find a left tackle and possibly a left guard. I expect Tommie Harris to be gone before his June 1st roster bonus kicks in, so they need a defensive tackle that can be a disruptive force on the line. Peanut Tillman isn’t getting any younger and Tim Jennings was serviceable but far from great. Besides, there’s not much behind him, so a CB should be on the shopping list.
It will be really interesting to see how the draft plays out this year with the CBA and all the usual free agent shopping likely on hold. It will really change the way teams go about their business.
Here’s one from my old buddy Jimmy, otherwise know as Hunter:
"Boomer,That guy sure did give you an awful lot of topics. But you are correct when writing about free agency – none of it means anything without a new labor agreement. While everyone I have heard talking about it seems to think this is going to go into the season – do you remember the ’87 players strike? – no one but Hub Arkush has offered a real explanation of just what the “sticking points” are between the two sides. Could you describe in layman’s terms just what is it the owners are locking the players out over?Also, I would love to see a breakdown of who is making what next year and their impact on the salary cap or whatever it is projected to be next year. (I’ve heard it may be reduced to $119MM) We could also then play GM by guessing what some of our UFA’s would be demanding – bye, bye Olin? – compared to adding new UFA’s.Okay there’s two more. You do a great job with this site and I have been trying to promote it to all of my fellow Bears fans."
That’s a whole heck of a lot to cover. Let’s talk a little bit about the impending work stoppage and CBA and agree to get back around to some of the Bears Free Agents later in another post or series of posts.
The CBA is a HUGE mess and threatens life as we know it. Can you imagine having to actually spend time with your families next September if the owners and players can’t reach an agreement? Yikes!
The most important thing to know about the labor dispute is quite simple – follow the money. The 18 game schedule, rookie wage scales, player safety, etc. are all really just bargaining chips to push and pull to try to get leverage for how the players and owners will split up the league’s revenue. It’s a staggering amount of money. Most players are getting contracts for a few million, which in and of itself is a ton of cash. The NFL revenue pie is worth about $9 billion. Let me help put those numbers in some perspective.
To count to 1 million seconds, it takes about 11 and a half days. To count to 1 billion seconds, it takes nearly 32 years. Like a said, those billions are serious numbers and no one is going to just toss a billion aside.
As it stands right now, the NFL owners get $1 billion off the top and then the players and owners split what’s left over with a 60/40 split. What owners are seeking is to take another billion dollars off the top. They argue that with more money they can help grow the overall revenue pie so that while the players would be getting a lower overall percentage, the actual dollars go up.
So while you’re hearing about all these different negotiations, remember, it’s all about the Benjamins. I recommend you check out this article about some of the key issues of the labor negotiations and this more recent post about the 7 things you should know.
I’ll be on top of this issue throughout the offseason with more posts to cover the news as it breaks, so stay tuned.
This next one comes from Ryan, who contributed to our first Mailbag segment:
"Hey Boomer, me again. Thank you for answering my questions in your first mailbag post. I was wanting to get your view on Lovie Smiths contract. I know you are not a big fan of Lovie, but if possible, could we get an unbiast look as possible into what you think the Bears should do with his contract status? My personal thought is that he should not get the extension just yet. If the Bears have a losing season next year (assuming we have a season) we are all back to “Fire Lovie” after they sign him to an extension. Also, the available Free Agent coaches in the next offseason are great, such as Bill Cower (my perosnal favorite), Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden and Brian Billick. What are your thoughts?"
Another great question. If you’re asking for an unbiased opinion, you’re at the wrong site, but let me give you as honest of an assessment of Lovie as I can. First, I agree that he should NOT get an extension. That said, it seems like a trip to the NFC Championship game helped Lovie wiggle off the hook once again and an extension is coming. It pains me to say that.
If they’re going to extend Lovie – and if any upper Bears brass is reading this, I URGE you to RECONSIDER – they should tie the end of his contract to Jerry Angelo and Phillips’ contracts, which expire in 2013. It doesn’t make sense to have the coach, GM and team president on different timelines. Get them all on the same schedule please.
Here’s my take on Lovie. Lovie seems to be a good motivator, even if we don’t see that from the outside. I suspect that in the locker room and on the practice field, there is a different Lovie that we don’t get to see. Unlike a couple of guys that got fired during the season – Brad Childress comes to mind specifically -Lovie has his players’ respect. His players are fiercely loyal to him and went all out to rally behind their coach.
Lovie’s defensive philosophy is flawed and the difference between last season and this season is a perfect example. When Urlacher went down last season, clearly a huge loss, the Bears couldn’t recover and Lovie’s scheme went to hell. This season, Lovie gets a healthy Urlacher and new addition Julius Peppers and the defense is a Top 5 unit.
In today’s NFL, you can’t have a scheme that is so reliant on a couple of key players. Look at what the Packer did as players dropped all year. They just plugged the next guy in and kept rolling. It’s not a totally fair comparison, but gets the point across. The Bears need to be more flexible on defense and that’s not Lovie.
This one comes from loyal reader Danny:
"Hello BoomerMy question is do you think the bears will use fantuz the way they should? Will he be a slot and 3rd down receiver with his size? And I have not seen him play so I can only guess that he has good hands having over 1000 yards in the last season? What are your thoughts."
My impression of Fantuz is he is a big target, but he’s slow. The Bears have speed to burn with Hester and Knox on the outside, so it would make sense that Fantuz could fill a void on the offense. If he can step in a present a big target for Jay, he’ll have a good chance to make the squad and contribute. His lack of speed means he could have trouble getting separation from defenders, so he’ll need to go fight for the ball. He could be a bigger Earl Bennett or a small version of Greg Olsen.
That’s been a pretty busy mailbag. Again, send your questions to email@example.com and I’ll do my best to answer your questions.