Let's get this Jay Cutler business out of the way.
Yes, the Chicago Bears gave up an arm and a leg to get him.
Yes, Cutler has a reputation to be whiny and a little self-centered.
No, it wasn't a bad trade. Let me explain:
Every Bears fan remembers where they were the moment they found out about the infamous Jay Cutler trade.
Personally, I was at work and received a text message that got me kicked out of my weekly department meeting. My friend almost punched me because he didn't believe me when I told him.
Matt Stafford and Mark Sanchez were the first quarterbacks taken in the draft (1st and 5th overall, respectively). Can you or can anyone guarantee that one of them will become franchise quarterbacks?
No, you can't. Where's Brady Quinn? Matt Leinart? Vince Young? Alex Smith?
Not that those players won't become franchise quarterbacks and there have been just as many contemporary draft picks that have become franchise quarterbacks. Stafford and Sanchez just aren't guarantees.
Cutler is a guarantee. That guarantee is worth the first and the third alone. The 2010 first round pick is what separated the Bears from the other suitors therefore making it a necessary evil.
Now add in the fact that Chicago hasn't had a true franchise quarterback in perhaps a half-century.
The trade is, and will be, worth it.
The Not-so-free Agents
Overshadowed by the Cutler trade was a very solid list of free agent acquisitions.
With holes due to age, injury and cuts, the offensive line is one position that needed major addressing.
The Bears also released Rex Grossman before the trade occurred and signed Brett Basanez to fill his spot. There's not much to report on Basanez other than the fact that I felt he was a solid college quarterback and will in all likelyhood be a journeyman backup in the NFL.
Orlando Pace and Frank Omiyale immediately make the offensive tackle position one to watch in training camp. Sophomore Chris Williams and incumbent Fred Miller will be pushed hard by the two very good pick ups by the Bears.
Just today, GM Jerry Angelo made yet another brilliant move by signing TE/FB Michael Gaines. Known for his blocking, Gaines can play on the end of the line or in the backfield and possesses good enough hands that one or two dump passes a game can keep opposing defenses honest.
I'm also going to throw in coaching changes to this department. Technically they aren't "free agents" but they are key acquisitions that can be the difference between missing the playoffs and making the playoffs (a jump the Bears are hoping to make).
First off is the big one, the hiring of former Detroit Lions head coach Rod Marinelli the new defensive line and assistant head coach. This was the best coaching hire in the entirety of the NFL. His tenure as the D-Line coach at Tampa Bay under Tony Dungy has some tremendous accolades including the developments of Warren Sapp and Simeon Rice.
Former defensive coordinator Bob Babich was stripped of that title but remained with the team only as the linebackers coach. Babich was widely considered to be a disappointing play caller and those duties have been taken over by head coach Lovie Smith.
Defensive backs coach Steve Wilks was released after three seasons and replaced by Jon Hoke who filled the same position for seven seasons with the Houston Texans.
Every single addition in this section is an upgrade on its respective position whether it be a player or a coach. Jerry Angelo did his homework on this one.
The Bears didn't make their first pick of the 2009 NFL Draft until the second day after trading away their second round pick for two later picks.
Despite a fairly boring Saturday in April for Bears fans, the second day led those same fans searching the Internet to find out who their favorite team just drafted. Let's start with the ones you really need to know.
Jarron Gilbert is listed as a defensive end but will most likely end up as a tackle either rotating with, or stealing the starting position of, Dusty Dvoracek along side Tommie Harris. He's the athletic freak (as evidenced by The Pool Jump) who can get to the quarterback but still plug running holes.
Going out of order, wide receivers Juaquim Iglesias, Derek Kinder and Johnny Knox are a little surprising. I like the pick of Iglesias (a sharp route runner with very good hands), but I'm not sure Chicago's wide receiver woes will be helped by late-round and average athletes.
Defensive end Henry Melton is my pick to be the guy no one remembers drafting, but in a good way. He was lost in the aftermath of Gilbert and Iglesias, but I think he'll see a lot of playing time, especially in the second and fourth quarters to keep the line fresh. He's not flashy like Gilbert, but he's a very solid defender.
My vote for the biggest steal of the Bears draft is DJ Moore. A lot of draft experts had him anywhere in the late second to early fourth. Apparently his height was more of a concern that anticipated and he dropped to the Bears in the fifth. I think he'll develop just as Danieal Manning and fill in on package defenses and special teams.
Safety Al Afalava and guard Lance Louis are small time draft picks who have a lot of work to do to get on the field. They were solid players on their respective teams but I just don't see much of an impact from them.
Overall, if you take out the Cutler trade, I like this draft. It's a filler draft. It gives the team added depth at key positions but perhaps other than Gilbert there aren't any play-makers to keep an eye out.
I give an A for the Cutler trade, an A+ for the off season acquisitions and a B- for the draft. Just about everything the Bears did improved the team, so on paper they deserve a solid B+/A- for the entire off-season.
Jerry Angelo has started the season off quite well for the Bears.