The Bears and Lovie Smith were a hot topic this past weekend at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis due, in large part, to the free-agent talk.
Chicago is expected to spend some cash this weekend, and the names that kept coming up were Julius Peppers of the Panthers, Aaron Kampman of the Packers and Antrel Rolle of the Arizona Cardinals. Two positions of need for the club: defensive end and free safety.
We know the Bears are looking to upgrade and improve those positions, and Lovie wasn’t afraid to talk about it when he took the podium to talk to the media.
But as the weekend rolled on, the discussion of the tight end position started to pop up around town after dark, and Greg Olsen became the subject of trade talk.
Tuesday night, Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com laid out a three-step plan for the Bears in free agency that mentioned the defensive end conundrum of Peppers and Kampman, plus the options at free safety — including names such as Ryan Clark of Pittsburgh and Kerry Rhodes of the Jets as backup plan for Rolle.
However, No. 1 on the list was trade rumors surrounding Olsen.
This could be a reaction on Olsen’s part, who realistically could view new offensive coordinator Mike Martz as a speed bump in his career — as the tight end position has not played a prominent role under the former Rams head coach. We can look at Vernon Davis in San Francisco, who started to put up good numbers only after Martz was gone.
Possibly a stance by the tight end to get out of town and into an offense that fits his style? Yes, without question the Bears would get value for him on the trade market, but is that the right play here?
I just don’t see the logic of trading Olsen. He’s the favorite target of QB Jay Cutler, and he’s athletic enough and talented enough to be used creatively under Martz. Whether he’s split out on the backside of a 3x1 set as the “X” receiver — matched up against a corner — or the No. 3 receiver in Martz’s bunch sets, he should see the football. Imagine what he could do in the various route combinations with a full offseason under Martz and, the Bears hope, a new and improved Cutler.
I understand the knock on playing TE under Martz, but when he sees Olsen during minicamp and OTA’s, I have a hard time believing the new OC is going to use him as a blocker, an extra tackle in the run game. That’s not good football.
The NFP’s Brad Biggs reported this week that the Bears have targeted free-agent TE Brandon Manumaleuna of the Chargers. He played under Martz in St. Louis and knows the system that will be installed. But Manumaleuna is a blocking tight end.
Olsen, on the other hand, is what is quickly becoming the most dangerous position on the field. He’s a hybrid tight end of sorts, no different than an Antonio Gates, a Todd Heap or a Jermichael Finley of Green Bay. Tight ends who cause matchup issues from a game plan perspective. They’re a nightmare for safeties -- too big for corners with an ability to run after the catch and score in the red zone.
Entertaining trade offers and finding out the true value of the roster in Chicago is GM Jerry Angelo’s job, and he should make a call on almost every player if he can upgrade his team.
But trading Olsen doesn’t do that. Instead, it weakens the Bears’ offense.
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