(Photo by Jonathan Willey/Getty Images)
By Gene Chamberlain
It’s too early to classify those draft day trade talks by the Chicago Bears
with the Arizona Cardinals
for wide receiver Anquan Boldin as dead even after Chicago
general manager Jerry Angelo said he assumed this to be true.
There are solid reasons to think the teams could eventually make a deal, and if so it would have a decisive impact on what currently figures to be the Bears’ most interesting training camp battle for a starting lineup spot.
Boldin’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, late last week on Twitter said he still expects the Cardinals to trade Boldin before the season.
Flash back to 2004 when Rosenhaus client Adewale Ogunleye had the Bears’ interest very early in the off-season, but no trade with Miami
occurred. Eventually Rosenhaus, the Dolphins and Bears hooked up and the defensive end wound up in Chicago with a late preseason trade.
This sort of scenario could occur again, especially because Arizona would get little in a future compensatory pick if Boldin gets to unrestricted 2011 free agency.
Without a trade, the Bears are forced to start training camp choosing between rookie third-round pick Juaquin Iglesias, rookie seventh-round pick Derek Kinder, unused third-round 2008 pick Earl Bennett, practice squad player Brandon Rideau and possibly even veteran Rashied Davis for a starting spot opposite wide receiver Devin Hester.
That kind of scenario is enough to make someone think seriously about using a two-tight end formation as a base offense.
Without a deal for Boldin, the Bears are going to need to see a lot from untested players in camp and preseason or else quarterback Jay Cutler
may well be wearing out the hands of tight ends Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark.
The only other real training camp battle on offense for the Bears will be at left guard, between free agent acquisition Frank Omiyale and 2008 starter Josh Beekman. It shouldn’t be much of a battle since Omiyale has a good size advantage at 6'4", 310 pounds and coaches want the line to be bigger this year.
The Bears generously list Beekman at 6'2", 310, but they must be looking through a magnifying glass on that one.
It’s defense where the Bears have the most starting lineup battles.
Their free safety battle looks like free agent acquisition Josh Bullocks, who played four years for a porous Saints
pass defense, second-year safety Craig Steltz and possibly rookie sixth-round pick Al Afalava.
At Oregon State, Afalava played strong safety. They’re going to need drastic improvement from Steltz and Bullocks, who arrived in March mini-camp saying the team’s coverage schemes were much different than what he was used to playing. For this reason, talk backup cornerback Corey Graham could move to free safety is not far-fetched.
Afalava figures in the strong safety battle, as well. Kevin Payne is back from a season-ending shoulder injury, and although the Bears like him, he hasn’t shown enough to cement his name as starter.
It will be an inexperienced deep secondary any way you cut it.
There could even be a battle at right cornerback because former Pro Bowler Nate Vasher hasn’t lived up to his $28 million contract extension of two years ago.
Graham is pushing him and fourth-round draft pick D.J. Moore caused general manager Jerry Angelo to remark on draft day “I haven’t seen a corner with this kind of ball skills since Vasher.”
The Bears also have a decision at nose tackle, where Anthony Adams, often-injured Dusty Dvoracek and second-year defensive tackle Marcus Harrison play. Dvoracek will need to prove he can stay healthy to regain the starting spot Adams had at season’s end.
Another battle looms at strong side linebacker between Nick Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer after Roach took the spot away from Hillenmeyer late last season.
The most interesting battle, though, will be on offense at wide receiver—barring a quick resolution with a trade for Boldin.