Archive for July, 2011

Potential Bears’ Free-Agent Targets…Wide Recievers

It seems that everyone EXCEPT those within the Bears’ Administration sees that the Bears lack something at the Wide Receiver position. One by one, it seems, elite wideouts became available; and one by one, the Bears chose not to pursue them. In 2009, it was Brandon Marshall. In 2010, it was Anquan Boldin.
Even when the Bears brought Mike Martz on board to be the Offensive Coordinator in an attempt to bring the “Greatest Show on Turf” to Soldier Field on Sundays; the Bears seemed satisfied—some would say stubbornly so—with the group of WRs: A small-but-fast Division II Prospect (Johnny Knox); A super-quick college DB-turned-wideout (Devin Hester); A tough, but not that fast or not that big WR (Earl Bennett); An ex-Colts castoff with raw potential but bad work ethic and attitude (Devin Aromashodu); and another DB-turned-WR we discovered in the Arena Football League (Rashied Davis). Maybe the Bears Front Office were convinced by Lovie Smith and Mike Martz’s ego that this group could be greater then the sum of its parts; Maybe the Bears just did not want to spend any more money than what they had given to Julius Peppers, Brandon Manumaleuna, and Chester Taylor; but the Bears decided NOT to get a big-name WR to pair with new franchise QB Jay Cutler.      To be fair, its not that in the past, the Bears have NEVER tried to invest big money into the Wide Receiver position. Curtis Conway and David Terrell were high draft pick disappointments. Muhsin Muhammed was okay; but not worth the money we gave him in Free Agency. Marcus Robinson seemed destined for stardom; but injuries derailed his career here after a couple good seasons.
Chew on this stat—the Bears all-time leading Wide Reciever, statistically, RETIRED IN 1967 (Johnny Morris). Morris finished his career with 5,059 yards—good enough for 233RD ON THE ALL-TIME LIST. To put this in perspective, here are a list of guys who did not play for the Bears who have eclipsed that number: Deion Branch…Lee Evans…Chris Chambers…Jason Witten.
The Bears are now into the Year Three of the Jay Cuter Era, and while Cutler is overall playing well and breaking all of (GASP!) Sid Luckman’s team passing records; Cutler still lacks a true #1 Reciever—a guy that has been a WR his whole football-playing career—a guy that was coached in college on the nuances of route-running and creating separation. With the exception of Tom Brady, every elite QB has had that one guy the QB can throw the ball to in a crucial situation and trust its going to be caught. Peyton Manning had Marvin Harrison (and now Reggie Wayne); Philip Rivers has Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson; Drew Brees has Marques Colston; Aaron Rodgers has Greg Jennings. And yet, here we are expecting to Cutler to be our franchise’s savior—and you still haven’t given him any WRs or TEs that he can rely on consistently. This has to be fixed now.
Other than maybe the quarterback position, the wide receiver position is probably the hardest position to draft or sign free-agents and hit a home run with. Aside from the fact that a lot more factors go into the success of a wideout (quarterback play, style of offense, how teams play defense against that player, etc.) than say an offensive lineman or defensive player. That is not even taking into account the seemingly direct correlation of an NFL Wide Receiver’s talent and his ability to be an selfish a-hole. Instead of listing the free agent Wide Receivers that are available by name and explain how they might fit with the Bears; I wanted to do this with as little pre-conceived biases towards reputations, misconceptions about a player’s attitude (which NONE of know for sure), or giving unjust credit to a player who might have been in a better offense with a better QB—as opposed to guy who has played with subpar talent around him. So I will list all wideouts anonymously—with their stats over the last 3 seasons; and the QB rating of the QBs throwing to them over the last 3 seasons. And I invite you, just by the numbers, to decide which WR the Bears should pursue:

Wide Receiver “A” –  35 out of a possible 48 games played
115 receptions (3.3 per game); 15.1 yards per catch
14 touchdowns
1 fumble lost
83.6 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “B” – 48 out of a possible 48 games played
153 catches (3.2 per game); 16.0 yards per catch
14 touchdowns
2 fumbles lost
68.2 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “C” – 38 out of a possible 48 games played
122 catches (3.2 per game); 13.5 yards per catch
14 touchdowns
3 fumbles lost
85.3 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “D” – 39 out of a possible 48 games played
159 catches (4.0 per game); 11.6 yards per catch
20 touchdowns
3 fumbles lost
98.9 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “E” – 46 out of a possible 48 games played
196 catches (4.3 per game); 15.1 yards per catch
24 touchdowns
2 fumbles lost
81.8 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “F” – 42 out of a possible 48 games played
102 catches (2.5 per game); 13.9 yards per catch
11 touchdowns
3 fumbles lost
99.7 quarterback rating

Wide Receiver “G” – 45 out of a possible 48 games played
179 catches (4.1 per game);
14.3 yards per catch
7 touchdowns
3 fumbles lost
85.3 quarterback rating
Before I reveal the names behind these statistics, let me say that I understand that there are other ways to rate a wideout’s performance—namely, drops; percentage of targets that ended up as a reception, etc. With the statistics I used, I am trying to portray a player’s proneness to injury; production; susceptibility to fumbling; and the quality of the quarterback they were playing with.
Player “E” had the best overall production, going by receptions and touchdowns. Player “D” was not far behind, although he averaged less than 12 yards per catch.
Player “B” missed the fewest games (0), and had the best yards-per-catch average; in spite of having, statistically, the worst quarterback play of the group. Players “F” and “D” had the benefit of the best quarterback play.
Remember—I only used free agent wideouts—so no Chad Ochocinco or Steve Smith here. Make your choice yet?

If you chose straight production, you undoubtably went with player “E”—TERRELL OWENS; or Player “D”—Lance Moore. THe interesting thing about Moore is that his numbers look alot like a guy who would be a big, possession WR—not a guy who goes about 5’10” and 185.
If you chose Player “B” because he seemed to do the most with less in the way of QB play, you chose BRAYLON EDWARDS. The rest of the choices go as follows:
Player “A” – Sidney Rice, formerly of MIN
Player “C” – Mike Sims-Walker, JAX
Player “F” – James Jones, GB
Player “G” – Steve Breaston, ARZ

I am not claiming this should be the way the Bears go about targeting a WR in free agency—other things such as age, and asking price should be included in any evaluation—but its interesting what you see when you take names, measurables such as height and weight, and reputations out of the equation.