This is from today's Sun-Times. Brad Biggs.
Mark Slough knew he would have interest in Frank Omiyale but he didn't expect his phone to go off like it did when free agency began late Thursday night.
The Bears landed the versatile offensive lineman after 10 teams expressed varying degrees of interest in signing the 26-year-old, including the Carolina Panthers, who he spent the last two seasons with.
"Chicago is very fortunate,'' said Slough, Omiyale's agent. ``There were other teams that were extra high on him. This is really an incredible story.''
Omiyale's story began in Week 5 when he filled in for Jordan Gross at left tackle. The Pro Bowl performer was out with a concussion. Omiyale helped open up some big running lanes in a 34-0 shutout of the Kansas City Chiefs. Then, when Carolina played the New York Giants in a high-profile Week 16 meeting, Omiyale played the entire second half at left tackle as Panthers lost Gross and right tackle Jeff Otah. Again, he played well. But other than preseason action, the fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2005 didn't have any action for teams to judge.
``He looked like an NFL left tackle should look,'' Slough said. ``That is what set him on this path. A lot of people are going to say free agency and Frank Omiyale is one of the first persons to sign? The level of interest in him though is indicative of what kind of players teams believe he will be. The level of interest speaks volumes. People knew.''
Omiyale's deal is worth between $11.5 million and $14 million, and Slough said the maximum value is easily attainable with play-time incentives. He's a big-legged guy who is strong and has good reach.
Omiyale can also play guard but right now he likely projects as the right tackle, at least until the Bears better define their line in the draft. This casts into doubt whether or not the club will work to re-sign veteran John St. Clair. He is seeking a starting opportunity and it's clear the Bears' first target was Omiyale as there was no movement toward a deal with St. Clair.
Omiyale is on his way to town to complete a physical.
Stay tuned as the first day of free agency continues.
I'm a fan of yours but I'm serious when I say this, Jerry. Shut up. When a reporter asks you a question, any question, turn to him and say "I don't know." Then get in your automobile and drive really fast in the other direction. Because at this point you're starting to sound less like a proud organization's general manager and more like a man trying to protect himself from the firing squad in ten months.
I DON'T WANNA HEAR...
...you explaining that coaching is going to be the singular thing to improve the defensive side of the ball while placing a ridiculous amount of pressure on the new defensive line coach. You paid Ogunleye. You paid Harris. And they both mailed in 2008. Maybe coaching is responsible for their poor play. In that case, you should fire the man that hired the coach.
..."Nathan Vasher needs to play better." Oh, does he Jerry? You mean "sucking" is not what you expected when you made the man rich? I always excused the Muhammad signing because he was a proven veteran that did not perform to expectations. Vasher was someone you rewarded prematurely and that impulsiveness landed us the most expensive dime corner in the game.
...Kyle Orton is, Kyle Orton isn't, Kyle Orton is, blah blah blah. If you wanted to criticize KO at the end of the season, you should have been definitive. "We're going to bring someone in to compete for the starting job in 2009." You weren't. People speculated. And the head coach had to come out a month later and confirm his role as the starter. Do you have any real say in this matter?
...your rhetoric. Maybe it works on reporters or morons but it ain't working here. This article has about ten different sentences that make me want to fist fight you. You want to know how to build a great football team? (1) Pick a good coach. (2) Assemble really good players. (3) Get some luck along the way.
Right now the Bears are 0-3.
Here's my problem with the Chicago Bears organization and a lot of their fans: nobody likes blaming the defense. "I mean, they were awesome in 1985! How could they suck now?" This crap logic has permeated through the offices of Halas Hall, up and down the bar at Rossi's on North State and on silly websites like this one for years.
I'll write it over and over again until I fall dead to the ground. The reason the Bears did not make the playoffs in 2008 and compete in an eminently winnable NFC was because their defense was atrocious for most of the year (actually ending up two brilliant Alex Brown plays from finishing 7-9). This unit's performance is the reason I've had an impossible time gathering interest in the off-season. Lifeless. Passionless. Stupid plays all season long. The Bears defense left the most sour of sour tastes in my mouth.
Then John Tait decides he is going to hang em up. Great. And the Bears don't show a ton of interest in re-signing the wildly hard-working, over-achieving John St. Clair. Double great. Now I'm reading articles about every offensive tackle in the college ranks. This after a month wherein the only names listed in conjunction with the Bears have been Jeff Garcia, Fred Taylor and T.J. Housh. (While I support bringing in Garcia, I've seen no mainstream support for Peppers and Haynesworth.)
So now the Bears will use the circumstances-out-of-their-control excuse to strengthen the offensive side of the ball. Draft linemen. Draft receivers. Find a back-up quarterback. The fans will be excited and the organization will lean on Lovie's pending play-calling to make everything okay. And when Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson and Bernard Berrian are putting up record numbers against us next year, don't ask why. It's a different season but the same reason.
Jeff Garcia has been told by the Tampa Bay Bucs that his services are no longer required in the south of Florida. The Bucs faded down the stretch because their defense disintegrated - not because of Garcia, who'll immediately becomes the most ready-to-start free agent quarterback on the market (with the possible exception of Kurt Warner). The Bears will certainly be one of the teams in the conversation.
And I think they should be.
Here's what Garcia brings to the Bears immediately. (1) Toughness at the quarterback position. (2) Ability to elude a sure-to-come pass rush with his legs. (3) Accuracy on the underneath routes - a new staple of the Bears passing game. (4) Combine both of those things and you have a perfect roll-out quarterback to throw to our tight ends. (5) Leadership in the offensive huddle.
And I say all this as a Kyle Orton fan. I don't think signing Garcia would send any message to Orton other than, "You're going to have to earn this job every year until you give us four good months." Starting training camp with two solid, professional quarterbacks on the roster (and Caleb Hanie) would mean the Bears enter the summer with the position in its best shape since the mid-80s.
The question is whether or not Garcia would want to come to Chicago. The most logical destination would be a starting job on the running-game ready Jersey Jets. Pioli/Haley might see him as a stabilizing force in Kansas City. Minnesota? San Francisco return? Halas Hall must sell Garcia on the prospect of starting for this club in 2009. Sell him on an "open competition" and this year actually make it "open". If he wins, the Bears have a sturdy, reliable quarterback. If he loses, the Bears will have a surprisingly sturdy, reliable quarterback and they'll be deep at the position. That's right. The Bears. Will be deep. At quarterback.
Pardon my current infrequency of posting but this theatre writer needs to use these non-football months to get as much done as possible, including the debut of a new play last night. I'm just spending this afternoon catching up on what's been going on.
(1) David Haugh wants to trade Urlacher for Boldin.
I actually don't imagine the Cardinals would want to make this move. Urlacher is an aging middle linebacker on the down slope of his career. And he's really, really expensive. The Cardinals would seem more interested in stockpiling draft picks for the star receiver than taking a huge cap hit in the form of a fallen star.
(2) Marty Booker has been released.
I don't care. But if they release Brandon Lloyd, they'll need to find someone to catch the football outside of Devin Hester and the tight end position.
(3) John Tait is contemplating retirement?
If this happens, the Bears can simply not allow John St. Clair to walk out the door in free agency. He needs to be signed and penciled in as the starting right tackle headed into training camp. Either that or the offensive line must be the primary pre-draft focus.
(4) Bears also cutting ties with Mike Brown.
(Interesting that this Tribune article has a link to the Sun Times. First time I've seen that.) Mike Brown was a great player and a great leader for the Chicago Bears. He's neither of those things anymore and it is time the Bears say goodbye.
(5) The Bears should sign or trade for Julius Peppers.
Peppers acknowledges in a Charlotte Observer interview that while he'd like to play in a 3-4, he refuses to rule out playing for a 4-3 club. Peppers draws a double-team on every play and will immediately eradicate some of the Bears pass defense woes.
If you're looking for the one player on the market who'll make an immediate impact on the football field and in the locker room, look no further than Albert Haynesworth. I never expected Haynesworth to be a free agent option, simply assuming the Titans and he would come to terms on a long-term contract. But with reports now circulating that the Tampa Bay Bucs are going to make a play for him, it is time for the Bears to consider bringing in the best defensive tackle in the sport.
I know the reasons why not. (1) We're deep at defensive tackle. (2) We have more pressing needs. (3) He'll cost a boatload of cash. (4) He once stepped on a man's face. (5) He struggles with injuries and it's a position on the Bears where some durability would come in handy.
I don't care. About any of it. Lining up Haynesworth next to Tommie Harris would give the Bears the best pair of defensive tackles in the game and - most likely - the best rush defense they've had since Buddy Ryan was in charge. Haynesworth also brings a particular brand of toughness to a unit that spends more time excusing bad performances than delivering good ones.
Making the jump from 9-7 to serious title contender is one of the most difficult leaps in the sport (I know what the Cardinals did, relax). It often involves upgrading not only the positions of weakness but making strengths stronger. Haynesworth does that. And he also helps restore pride to a unit desperate for it.
Don't Turner Away
The Sun-Times cites a couple sources linking Ron Turner to the vacant offensive coordinator position under the worst coach in the history of organized sports at Pittsburgh. I know my opinion on Ron Turner isn't popular 'round these parts but losing him at this juncture could prove to be catastrophic. Aside from his play-calling in short-yardage scenarios this season, Turner oversaw an offense that was a remarkable improvement over a year ago. We've got a young quarterback, running back, star tight end and wide receiver. Now is not the time to change the scheme.
Can We Stop With These Kinds of Articles?
Mike Imrem in the Daily Herald writes arguably the most boring sports piece of the decade in his attempt to define Lovie Smith's definition of the word "close" (as in close the door not "I'm close, I'm close!"). You know what? The Bears didn't win enough games to get into the playoffs. I don't care how close the coach thinks they were. Win more games and we don't have to talk about it.
Absolutely No Chance...
That I watch even a snap of the Pro Bowl.
Dan Pompei's article in today's Tribune comes as a welcome read to someone (namely me) who just can't muster up the strength to plunge face-first into the roster realignment efforts of the late-winter, early-spring. The Chicago Bears organization will not raise ticket prices for the 2009 season.
The basic response could be, "Of course not. How could they in this economy?" Well the truth is they can't without suffering a public relations nightmare. But this announcement is not something that should be casually discarded by fans as a symptom of the economic downturn. The Bears ARE suffering an amusement tax increase from 8 to 9 percent and accepting credit card payments for the first time - both of which will take substantial money away from Halas Hall (about a million bucks or more). The easiest solution to the problem: charge the fans.
But Ted Phillips and the Bears won't do that and I figured I'd show some appreciation. The economy is shit and it seems the Bears have realized that their organizational issues pale in comparison to those of the people who fill those seats every Sunday.
Now go get better players.
Unless you're in Pittsburgh - or a Pittsburgh Steelers fan living elsewhere - today is the official start of the 2009 NFL season. (Steelers fans get the next couple months to watch the DVR'd game, buy championship merch and tell Super Bowl anecdotes.) Thirty-one fanbases will spend the next year hoping to experience the peachy-keen Monday morning exhilaration of the western Pennsylvania faithful.
The first questions the Bears organization must answer involve the status of the offensive line. Is Chris Williams a starting left tackle in the league? Is John St. Clair worth re-signing? Is John Tait incapable of handling a speed rusher on the edge? Is Josh Beekman's progress enough to take the "Help Wanted" sign off the guard position? How many years does Olin Kreutz - the guts of the Bears offense - have at center?
I don't have the answers to these questions which will ultimately define the 2009 Chicago Bears on the offensive side of the ball. This is left to Halas Hall with a stern warning: choose wrong, lose a lot of games. The Bears need a line that makes third-and-short a push. That gives the quarterback a few seconds to look down the field. That controls the pace and tempo of a ballgame. The Bears need to replace their whiney post-game excuses with vicious in-game toughness.
That starts up front.