A starting-caliber quarterback, two first-round draft picks and a third-rounder: the grand price Jerry Angelo and Bears brass paid for the rights to a cannon-armed quarterback unlike any Bears fans under age 80 had ever seen in navy, orange and white.
Certainly Jay Cutler would annually throw for 4,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns as the missing piece to a team starving for a legitimate quarterback, right?
We all know the story from there: baffling interceptions and grumpy gazes mixed in with impossible throws made possible, followed by even more baffling interceptions. Cue the grumpy gazes. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.
Maybe Chicago’s North Side curse extends south along the lake shore and into the Bears’ top spot on the quarterback depth chart. Maybe a stubborn ownership just can’t put together an astute front office.
Regardless, General Manager Jerry Angelo must take out another mortgage this offseason to make good on his buy from 2009.
No, the Bears' first first-round draft pick since 2008 isn’t going to cut it. Not when the A.J. Green’s and Julio Jones’s of the world are off the board.
Instead, once again, it’s going to take the checkbook. Angelo needs to be the high roller he has been the past two seasons. He needs to cut another fat check, and that could also mean parting ways with more draft picks.
NFL purists would say that's not the way not to build a football team. They would point to the Cutler trade—mortgaging a future on one player—as a move that in the long term would do more harm than good. They’re probably right.
But those same people also probably pointed to the Julius Peppers pickup—six years, $92 million for a 30-year-old with a questionable work ethic. They were wrong.
I say Angelo wouldn’t have hit on those draft picks anyway.
For every Greg Olsen, Matt Forte and Johnny Knox, there’s seven Dan Bazuins, Juaquin Iglesias' and Jarron Gilberts. You read right—seven of each.
In the drafts from 2006 to 2009, Angelo has called the names of just five difference-makers in 37 picks. And of those 37 picks, just 16 are still with the team. Fail.
Even if Angelo were to pick a good one with the 29th pick of this draft, with, say a Jonathan Baldwin or a Gabe Carimi, the investment isn’t likely to pay instant dividends.
Wide receivers typically don’t grow into their NFL cleats two or three seasons in.
Offensive linemen have more of an impact early on, but those odds decrease greatly when you own the fourth-to-last pick in the first round.
So, instead of flipping a coin and relying on a rookie, Angelo needs to live in the now. When you've made the moves you have the past two off-seasons, there's no going back.
Step one is giving Cutler his Brandon Marshall. Not the real Brandon Marshall, unless he wants to jump the Miami ship just one season in, but a legit, over-sized wide receiver.
Think 6'5'', 230-pound Vincent Jackson, who, even with his character issues, lack of top-end speed and cost in draft picks, would add one of the premier go-up-and-get-it threats in the NFL to the Bears' wide receivers corps.
Think free-agent-to-be Sidney Rice, who needed Brett Favre to have his best season but would bring a 6'4'', 205-pound frame along with 4.5 speed to the Bears’ offense.
Or think 6'3'' Braylon Edwards, who the Bears were rumored to like before the Cleveland Browns took him one spot ahead in the 2005 NFL Draft. He's headed to free agency, too.
True, these aren’t the types of wide-outs that have flourished in Mike Martz’s system. Instead of size and physicality, Martz’s offense rides on finesse and precise route-running. But when Jay Cutler is tossing up donuts on the lakefront, the book goes out the window.
Cutler, set in most of his ways, needs a security blanket—a guy that will not only fight for a jump ball but use his size and strength to pry it out of a defender's hands on, say, third-and-12 late in the fourth quarter.
Of course, let’s not forget about a need to address the offensive line, which came along nicely at the end of the year but could use one or two replacements.
Grabbing a new guard or a solid right tackle is a priority. Inserting a big playmaker along the sidelines is a necessity.
And with that necessity comes another grand price, another mortgage that could and probably would cost the Bears down the line.
But this town’s top team needs to take note of the theme for this town’s south side team.
The 2011 mission statement for the Chicago Bears? All in.
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