The usually quiet Chicago Bears head coach, Lovie Smith, had a lot to say about the Bears today at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis (player workouts begin there Saturday).
Certainly, the topic Lovie addressed that will generate the most response from both the media and fans was in regards to free-agent running back Matt Forte's future with the Bears:
“The team hasn’t changed its approach to Matt Forte at all,” Smith said. “I think we’re on record of how important Matt is to our organization, just him in the community for what he and Danielle do -- I’m talking about his wife -- just what they mean to us and just him as a football player. Matt’s going to play his football for the Chicago Bears. So you start with that. In time hopefully he can get an agreement in place that suits Matt and we feel comfortable with. I think it’s just a matter of time; that will happen eventually.”
Source: Chicago Tribune
Very nice. It's still considered likely that the Bears slap the franchise tag (estimated to be at $7.7 million) on Forte for the 2012 season, but it sure appears that eventually, the two sides will come to agreement on a long-term deal.
Now, as for other important Bears topics that Lovie talked about...
Jay Cutler (fractured thumb; missed the final six games) and Brian Urlacher (sprained his MCL in the final game) are healthy. Lovie even said that Urlacher (who turns 34 in May) is "in perfect health" (ESPN Chicago). No surprises here, but it's still nice to hear.
While Cutler and Urlacher are fine, wide receiver Johnny Knox still has a long way to go in his recovery from back surgery, after suffering a spinal fracture (that was so nasty it looked like it could be even career-threatening) against the Seahawks in week 15. Lovie had this to say about Knox's recovery:
''I'm just counting on him to get better each day and we'll see how it all plays out. There's a long road to recovery. We have time. So we'll just see how it plays out. Johnny's ready to go. Of course, he's one of our guys. And I'm hoping that he'll be OK.''Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Knox's status for at least the season-opener seems to be very much up in the air, and wide receiver was arguably the Bears' biggest need this offseason, even with a healthy Knox. If I'm Phil Emery, I'm going into the offseason with the thought that Knox will not be healthy this season, and place even more urgency on upgrading the position. I'd put a primary focus on adding a wide reciver like Mike Wallace, Vincent Jackson, Dwayne Bowe, or Marques Colston in free agency, and additionally sign a wide receiver from the second-tier of free agent choices (Mario Manningham, Robert Meachem, etc.) as well, or draft a wide receiver that appears as though they could be a legitimate contributor to the Bears this season. Because right now, Earl Bennett is the only Bears wide receiver that can really be counted on.
One other need the Bears clearly have is at backup quarterback. Caleb Hanie of course failed miserably when he had to start following the Cutler thumb fracture. Josh McCown then replaced Hanie, and did an okay job... I guess. But he'll be 33 in July, was out of football for two years before joining the Bears in 2011, and his career numbers are hardly impressive (37 TD /44 INT, 58% completion, and 71.2 QB Rating). If he's kept as the #3 quarterback, fine, but the Bears could find a much better #2 option in free agency.
Here's what Lovie said about the backup quarterback situation, according to the Sun-Times:
''We thought we had a better plan at the quarterback position. I knew how valuable Jay was to us. That won't change. But we do need to get ourselves in a better position at that backup quarterback position.
''We have a lot of options out there. I think this is an attractive place for a quarterback. We're going to look at all people. And I'm talking Caleb, Josh and free-agent quarterbacks out there. I just feel like we'll be able to strengthen that position more than we were this past year.''
So, the Bears apparently realize, as they should, that the #2 quarterback spot needs to be upgraded.
We'll have much more on developmentCombine, s regarding the Bears at the Combine, and throughout the offseason, so stay tuned. Also, you can follow us on Twitter (@DaBearNecess) and Facebook.