The Chicago Bears became the first team to sign a 1st round pick this year, as they made it official Monday when they inked former Hurricane, now Bear, TE Greg Olsen to a five-year contract, (also look for Dan Bauzin to sign in the next day or two.) The deal is worth somewhere around 11 million and he received a signing bonus close to 5 million. This 6’6” 254 pound pass-catching weapon will be featured in two tight end sets with Desmond Clark. Olsen’s signing was huge and it came very early and surprisingly done with Drew Rosenhaus as his agent (Briggs’ agent.) From all the reports from his brilliance in mini-camp, unheard speed from a TE, and great hands , pulling ’em down one-handed, look for Greg Olsen to excite many Bears’ fans this season. Olsen is good for 5-7 TD’s in ’07 and his “YAC” (yards after catch) will be a lot, due to the fact of his aforementioned speed and his ability to break tackles. Olsen will up their on the list for “ROY” candidates at the end of this year.
Rookie RB Garrett Wolfe from NIU, has been very impressive catching the ball out of the backfield during workouts. He already has the blazing speed everyone knows about and the Bears are starting to realize/see how good his hands are. His pass-catching skills will be utilized on 3rd downs and in early passing situations for screens, dump-offs, and out routes in the flat. Wolfe runs his routes very good and has been working on catching a lot. Look for Wolfe to be your “main” 3rd down back as RB Cedric Benson takes a breather. Especially on 3rd and longs when the Bears need to pass, he will be kept back there for a sneak draw play or just another option out of the backfield. Wolfe is very shifty and can make you miss, he will be an immediate impact if he shows he can block and protect #8 from blitzers. As he showed in college, he can take it the distance whenever he gets his hands on the football.
The Chicago Bears will plan on using a “certain” offensive package for WR/RB Devin Hester. The Windy City Flyer will be used in this set to help him stay fresh, as it will allow him to return kicks on Special Teams. This is a smart move by the Bears because Devin Hester will need to ready and rested on ST’s for the Bears to remain dominant in this unit. I say Devin Hester will get 3-5 touches a game on offense and will be kicked away from a lot on punts and 30-40% of the time on Kickoff Returns. #23 still should return 3-4 kicks to the house along with his production on offense, that will result in another 3-4 TD’s.
A key player in replacing departed Terry Johnson, lining up next to DT Tommie Harris, will be ST standout Israel Idonije. Israel is the best defensive lineman special teamer and he can rush from the DE spot and play the DT position at around 290 pounds. I expect to see him bigger this year around 295-300 pounds, up from last year’s 280 pounds. The Bears will use him more at defensive tackle where their is more a need at that position. He’s more effective there and can be placed there on passing downs, sometimes during short-yardage situations. He is versatile and is an x-factor this season. He will be a valuable part of the Bears defensive line.
The Chicago Bears and CB Charles Tillman have begun dicussion about a new contract extension. It could pay him more than CB Nate Vasher beacause of bonuses received from last year’s performance (clauses in his deal.) Charles Tillman is the Bears best CB against physical, #1 WR’s and they need to get him signed now before its too late. You do not want to let him get out on the market next year. They definitely have enough cap room to sign to a big extension. Look for this to get done before the start of Training Camp (July 27.) The Bears have been on top of this issue and have been prepared to sign for the future. Tillman, Vasher, and Manning Jr. give the this team the best 1-3 defensive backs in the NFL.
DT Tommie Harris is the Top priority for the team’s contract extension spree. He is, as I said before, the anchor to this defensive line. The Bears Defense struggled mightily against the opponent’s run game without Harris as soon as he got hurt at home vs. Minnesota in Week 13, including the Playoffs, and later in SB XLI also. Teams ran all over the Bears from Week 13 on and this is why Tommie Harris is the second most important Bear defender next to MLB Brian Urlacher. They have to him play at the Pro-Bowl level he usually performs on, to become SB Champions of 2007. This team relies on strong DT play from Harris because the other tackles are young and unreliable. In signing him long-term, they can assure him of being a Bear for the prime of his career. He is #1 on their list of deals to get done. LIST: Tommie Harris, Charles Tillman (should be the soonest though), Bernard Berrian, Rex Grossman (pending season in ’07), and Lance “whine and pout” Briggs.
Lastly it is the disliked, disgruntled LB Lance Briggs, who is expected to hold out during Camp. The Bears and GM Jerry Angelo signed him to a one-year franchise deal worth 7.2 million (sounds good), not to Briggs and agent Rosenhaus… Briggs wants a long-term deal he has played for the last three seasons, making two “Hawaii” apperances in that span as the Bears weakside linebacker next to Urlacher. The Bears front office is playing “hardball” the right way and not budging in to his requests of a new deal, and rightfully so. They’re doing this the right way, as the Bears deal with all their players contracts/demands/trade talks well (Thomas Jones, Alex Brown, Nate Vasher, Charles Tillman, Brian Urlacher, and Tommie Harris.) They do not want to tie up all this money to one position at LB. They offered him a seven-year $33 million deal last year, as he declined it. He is a very good linebacker in this league, but what makes his attacking style and talent really good is the Tampa-2 Defense and fact that he plays next to the best LB in the NFL, his whole career. So Briggs can sit on it and wait for a long-term deal elsewhere (July 16th Deadline), or go to a new team next season, or just handle it the proper way (Put Up or Shut Up Time) by ending a holdout, doing things the “professional” way playing the whole, entire season. He needs to apoligize for his actions and remarks, he needs to turn this around. The Bears are pressing the right buttons and standing their ground. They will stay patient (no new deal) and wait for him to show up. Look for this former Arizona Wildcat to start Week 1 at San Diego, fired up and ready to play for a victory versuses the Chargers. Only one holding him back is himself as two Bear players said; talking to him recently (not his agent.) This is a dead issue now and the ball is in Briggs’ court ready to serve and play for the best team in the NFL ~ Chicago Bears. Suit up, put on your helmet, and your Bears’ blue uniform with the #55 on it. This is all he has to do and he needs to play for what is on the front of the jersey – the Team – Chicago Bears Franchise – put that first – and do your job without complaing, and then maybe you’ll earn the long-term deal you need to play for! #55 will be taking the opposition’s heads off with big-time hits this 2007 Season with Urlacher, Harris, Brown, Vasher, Tillman, and Co. for the Chicago Bears (not a doubt in my mind.)