With the draft and rookie minicamp in the books, we know a lot more about the 2014 Bears, and we’ll learn even more when OTA’s get started next week, so it’s the perfect time for a mailbag.
From @nacdownunder: What is the salary cap increase expected for next year and how are you expecting Phil Emery to handle Alshon Jeffery’s contract?
There’s a Pro Football Talk report that says the salary cap, which jumped to $133 million this past March, could take another big leap to $145 million.
Jeffery is definitely next in line to get a big contract for the Bears, but there’s no rush. He is under contract through 2015, and if the Bears wanted, they could place the franchise tag on Jeffery in 2016. This regime has done a good job of rewarding players with extensions, and the Bears can start negotiating with Jeffery next offseason, but they also have time on their side.
From @nwfisch: Is there any way [Lance] Briggs could get an extension before the season starts?
Briggs is the highest-profile player up for a new contract, now that Brandon Marshall signed a three-year extension. Briggs will turn 34 in November, and as important as he is to the defense and has been to the franchise, I would not expect an extension before the season. The Bears need to figure out what they have in Jon Bostic as a potential weak-side linebacker of the future. In an ideal world, I’m sure the Bears would love it if Briggs plays great and then signs on again for another two seasons, but at his age with youth coming up at linebacker, it’s far from guaranteed.
From @AJPhotographyPR: Which Bears rookie will make a big impact and improvements to the team?
Kyle Fuller will get the most playing time and will be put in position to make the biggest impact. He should certainly be an upgrade over Isaiah Frey at the nickel position, and he brings more playmaking prowess to the field. If Charles Tillman or Tim Jennings got hurt, Fuller would step in as a starter.
The other rookie who should make his mark on the 2014 Bears? Punter Patrick O’Donnell, of course. The Bears were 29th in net punting last season, so that’s an area where O’Donnell could help make a big improvement.
From @blaizablaize88: Is there any shot Christian Jones starts Week 1
Let’s lower the expectations a bit, or, a lot. Jones wasn’t drafted, so right now the better question is, “does he make the team?” The talent is there and he is an absolute physical specimen, but right now, Jones is slotted as a “Sam” linebacker. To start, he would have to beat out both Bostic, last year’s second-round pick, and Shea McClellin, the 2012 first-rounder. Jones would need to be one heck of a player in Bourbonnais to do that, and it wouldn’t be a good sign for the Bears if neither Bostic nor McClellin are starting Day One.
From @BearsBN: Who will the Bears draft in 2015?
Clever response to my tweet asking for questions, but not a bad thing to think about. How about safety! I kid, kind of.
Thinking way ahead, cornerback is the first position that comes to mind, especially if this is Tillman’s final season, and considering the team’s clear emphasis on the position and having three legit corners, not to mention Jennings will be 31 in 2015. After cornerback, I’d say linebacker, depending on the futures of Briggs and D.J. Williams.
From @jtbbears: Phil Emery has had a great offseason but are you surprised how little depth they have at TE (why not [Colt] Lyerla) behind [Martellus] Bennett?
I thought backup tight end would be behind backup running back in terms of offensive priorities, however, this was not a good TE draft class. One player I pegged as a potential Bears target, Crockett Gillmore, was considered a later-round prospect and he went in the third. The Bears will let Fendi Onobun, Dante Rosario, Matthew Mulligan and Zach Miller fight it out. This is actually a good sign for Onobun, I would assume, and the rest of the vets that a rookie didn't get thrown into the position battle. Sure, the offense could always benefit from another player at tight end, but the unit did just fine last season with Rosario, and Eben Britton as an extra blocker.
From @R_D_Three: How is Jordan Mills progressing after foot surgery?
We talked to Mills after he won the Brian Piccolo Award, and he said he is preparing to go full speed for OTAs, which begin next week. It seems that everything is on schedule, and he will get a better idea of his health once those workouts start.
From @EdEdyak: Thoughts on Da Bears [defense] stopping the run this year? Is the [offensive] line going to protect Jay Cutler?
If the Bears don’t improve against the run following last season’s debacle, well, it’s not really a hypothetical worth considering. Pro Football Focus had high run-defense grades for new defensive ends Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton will help Jeremiah Ratliff and Stephen Paea, plus healthy linebackers D.J. Williams and Lance Briggs should all make the front seven much better against the run than what we saw last season.
The O-line did a great job protecting Cutler last season, and that should continue, even as teams try to find ways to rattle him and Trestman’s offense. Remember that a lot of that success can be attributed to the quarterbacks getting rid of the ball quickly, a trait of the offense that isn’t going anywhere.