Are the Bears now the favorites in the NFC North?

In one day, the Bears seemingly addressed their 20-year old quarterback problem and also added a significant piece to their offensive line. In one day, the Bears might have gone from a .500 team to the perennial favorites in the NFC North.

It’s way too early to be getting into predictions for the 2009 NFL Season. Voluntary workouts have begun, but the draft is still weeks away and teams are still trying to reshape their rosters.

But with the trade acquisition of Jay Cutler and the signing of left tackle Orlando Pace, the Bears significantly upgraded their offense and hopefully made current players like Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Frank Omiyale and Chris Williams better.

Make no mistake – Chicago is far from a Super Bowl contender. They still need to upgrade their wide receiver position, could use another defensive end to throw in the mix with Alex Brown, Adewale Ogunleye and Mark Anderson, and even though they signed Josh Bullocks this offseason, they could still use an upgrade at safety as well.

But while every team in the division has arguably gotten weaker, the Bears have upgraded. The Vikings are still pretty strong, but they lost long-time center Matt Birk and still have questions to be answered at quarterback. The Packers are planning to run a 3-4 defense next season, but have done next to nothing to add true 3-4 personnel and the Lions will continue to take a sandblaster to their entire roster.

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Bears sign Pace to protect Cutler

Shortly after sending multiple draft picks and quarterback Kyle Orton to the Broncos to acquire Jay Cutler, the Bears signed former Rams’ left tackle Orlando Pace to help protect their new signal caller.

Pace will sign a two- or three-year contract and will be inserted as the starting left tackle meaning that 2008 first-round draft pick Chris Williams will have to stave off newly signed veteran Kevin Shaffer to claim a starting job at right tackle. Pace, 33, missed 25 games over the last three seasons but started 14 last season and cleared a physical when he visited the team on Monday. Agent Kennard McGuire praised the visit and it led to quick negotiations.

Pace is considered a better pass blocker, and that will allow the Bears to perhaps get a better run blocker in Williams or Shaffer on the right side. A lot of teams are right-handed when it comes to running the football. The depth chart looks much different than it did when minicamp ended two weeks ago and free-agent pickup Frank Omiyale, originally signed to play left guard, was running at right tackle with Williams on the left side. There were no backups in place.

This is a great signing for a couple of reasons. One, if Pace can stay healthy he offers an immediate upgrade at the left tackle position for the Bears. Although aging, Pace still has enough left in the tank to give Chicago one or two quality seasons until they can secure a more long-term answer. The Pace signing also allows the youngster Chris Williams to move to right tackle, which might be a better position for him because he doesn’t have to worry about protecting the quarterback’s blind side. Lastly, Omiyale isn’t a tackle. I don’t know why the Bears signed him to be a tackle, but at his size and quickness he’s more suitable for guard. With Pace now on board, Omiyale can shift down to guard and now as a unit, Chicago’s offensive line has been completely upgraded. (It’s not spectacular by any means, but they’re in better shape now than they were at this point last season.)

You have to give the Bears a ton of credit. They played possum all offseason, waited for their time to strike and then stole Cutler and Pace away from other teams. I know fans are probably waiting for their next signing to be Torry Holt, although he seems destined to land in Tennessee. Then again, I wouldn’t count the Bears out of anything right now.

Jay Cutler traded to Bears

Several media outlets are reporting that the Broncos have traded quarterback Jay Cutler to the Bears in exchange for first round picks in 2009 and 2010, a third round pick in 2009 and Kyle Orton. Denver will also give up an undisclosed draft choice in the later rounds.

It’s amazing how this entire situation unraveled. Two months ago there wasn’t a peep about a potential Cutler trade and now he’s set to become a Bear. One has to wonder whether Cutler wanted out as soon as Denver fired Mike Shanahan and when he saw an opening (i.e. Josh McDaniels’ supposed interest in former Patriots’ quarterback Matt Cassel), he took it and ran with it.

Even though they gave up a king’s ransom to acquire him, Chicago fans have to be ecstatic. They get a young quarterback with plenty of starting experience and one that has a strong arm to play in poor, late-season weather conditions. The bottom line is that the Bears haven’t had a reliable quarterback in nearly 20 seasons and now they have one who has the potential to succeed. Two first round picks are a steep price, but as I wrote yesterday, GM Jerry Angelo was probably going to blow those picks anyway (Chris Williams instead of Branden Albert, Jerry? Really?!) so Chicago might as well get a franchise-type quarterback instead.

Another note about the compensation, you have to remember that Cutler is a young quarterback with starting experience and who was sought after by multiple teams. And when you factor in how weak the quarterback class is this year, any team that wanted Cutler was going to have to give up several high draft picks like the Bears eventually did.

Read the rest of this entry »

Related Posts