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Offseason Primers: Chicago Bears

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Lovie Smith era ended with another whiff at a postseason berth. The Bears cleaned house as a result and went on the offensive with their next head coach, choosing Montreal Alouettes head coach and long-time NFL offensive assistant Marc Trestman. The theory behind the hire is that the Bears will finally have some stability on offense after having two offenses and three playcallers over the last four years.

Those last four years have been a nightmare for Jay Cutler as he's navigated through those scheme changes while playing behind a clumsy, unimproved offensive line. Many people will characterize Cutler as a malcontent through his actions and body language but the reality is that he's been stuck on a roster bereft of talent.

Not until last season did he have a legit No. 1 receiver in Chicago and he made the most out of throwing 193 passes to Brandon Marshall, affording the receiver to have a career year. Having Matt Forte in the backfield has been a perk for Cutler too, as the rusher recorded another year with over 1,400 total yards. The Bears' run game tallied 11 touchdowns but Forte only had five on the ground. In order for Forte's touchdown numbers to get better, Cutler will need to find him.

2012 Touches Leaders
757 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Matt Forte 292 (248 car., 44 rec.) 38.6%
Michael Bush 123 (114 car., 9 rec.) 16.2%
Brandon Marshall 119 (118 rec., 1 car.) 15.7%
Jay Cutler 41 car. 5.4%
Earl Bennett 29 rec. 3.8%
Alshon Jeffery 24 rec. 3.2%
All Others 129 17.1%

The rest of the Bears offense, for lack of a better term, stunk out loud. The offensive line struggled to protect Cutler, the receivers behind Marshall were either banged up or overmatched and the tight ends couldn't contribute much, be it as blockers or pass catchers. Trestman has his work cut out for him, but fortunately he has a modest track record going back to his days with George Seifert and the San Francisco 49ers. Though only twice in his NFL coaching career has Trestman fielded a quarterback that has thrown for over 4,000 yards, he has a solid history of being unafraid to throw often while developing versatile running backs.

While handing the defensive duties over to veteran coordinator Mel Tucker, who probably won't change much, Trestman should be able to breathe life into the Bears offense. In turn, Cutler should be able to perform to levels he hasn't had since joining Chicago. For a playoff-hungry team like the Bears, the plan better work out as good as it sounds.

Jay Cutler -- Late-round flier

2012 Target Leaders
485 pass attempts
Brandon Marshall 194 40.0%
Matt Forte 60 12.4%
Earl Bennett 49 10.1%
Alshon Jeffery 48 9.9%
Kellen Davis 44 9.1%
All Others 90 18.5%

It seems like every year we're labeling Cutler as a quarterback worth a late-round gamble. Well, this might be the last. Cutler is entering a contract year and the Bears could opt to go in a different direction, or at least not sign him to a long-term deal, if he doesn't perform to the expectations they had for him when the traded for him in 2009. To Cutler's credit, he's balanced so many schematic changes while dancing behind a brutal offensive line since he's started in Chicago, yet he's still led the Bears to one NFC title game, two 10-plus-win seasons and three non-losing campaigns. Many quarterbacks swear by Trestman's knowledge and play-calling abilities and there's little doubt he will lean on Cutler this season, so it should afford him the chance to put up 4,000 passing yards, a number he has yet to reach while in Chicago. Cutler sees Joe Flacco go from pumpkin to hero and could do the exact same thing in 2013. That's why he should be a late round consideration after the likes of Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger are off the board.

Alshon Jeffery -- Bust

It took the Bears an eternity to land a legitimate receiving threat, and now you think they're good enough to have two?! Marshall is going to get his targets, which means he'll get his numbers. The only way that doesn't happen is if he misses playing time, in which case Jeffery could step in and be a factor. Last year, Jeffery scored in three of 10 games and posted seven or more Fantasy points in four of eight games where he played at least 40 snaps. Those are decent jumping off points for a young receiver but they don't necessarily translate well to Fantasy. What's more, Trestman's track record suggests his offenses will tilt toward one receiver rather than aim for balance. In the last 22 years he's coached in the pros, college and in Canada, Trestman has had two or more highly productive receivers seven times (four in the pass-happy CFL).

Michael Bush -- Bust

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Jay Cutler Late-round pick
Matt Forte 13-22 overall
Michael Bush Late-round handcuff
Brandon Marshall 20-30 overall
Alshon Jeffery Undrafted
Kellen Davis Undrafted
Robbie Gould Late-round pick
Bears DST 125-135 overall

The only Fantasy owners who should spend time staring at Bush's name on Draft Day are those who spend a second-round pick on Matt Forte (or those looking for running back depth in Round 15). A year ago we were frustrated that Bush "settled" for a part-time gig in Chicago but it looks like NFL decision makers knew what they were doing. Over 114 carries Bush averaged a career-worst 3.6 yards per and paired it with a three-year low in receiving average (a still-good 9.2 but on just nine catches). About the only positive to Bush's game is his touchdown production and Trestman has shown a willingness in the past to use a fresh back at the goal line. All you have to do is figure out when Bush will score and you'll have yourself a Fantasy stud -- but that's obviously hard to do. Steer clear of him in drafts this summer.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Cardinals coach Arians: I was not going to let Logan Thomas fail
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(8:46 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians still believes in young quarterback Logan Thomas. Arians didn't want to ruin his confidence last season after being forced into action with multiple injuries to Arizona quarterbacks, reports the team's website.

"He's going to get a ton of work and those reps are invaluable," Arians said. "Just in decision-making, how fast you're getting it out of your hand, where you're going with it, where you're going when 'one' and 'two' are still covered. Are you still scrambling around or are you going to find your outlets? That growth process comes strictly from reps."

Arians still has a plan for the second-year pro.

"We drafted him for two years from now, not November," Arians said. "It just so happened his number got called (earlier.) I was not going to let him fail (in San Francisco) because once you fail those scars never go away.

"It's very hard to get the guys back in the locker room if you cost them the playoffs. I just wasn't going to put him in that situation. Right or wrong, it just was my decision."


DT Letroy Guion visits with Seahawks
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(6:04 pm ET) Nose tackle Letroy Guion visited with the Seahawks on Friday, adding another suitor into the mix as the Packers attempt to retain his services, per ESPN.com.

After Guion's criminal case was closed earlier in the week, with Guion paying only a fine, the Seahawks set up a visit. Guion recorded career-highs in tackles (32) and sacks (3 1/2) with the Packers in 2014. 


Panthers claim OT Jonathan Martin off waivers
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(4:27 pm ET) The Panthers announced Friday they have signed tackle Jonathan Martin off waivers, one day after the lineman was released by the 49ers. 

Martin played in 15 games with San Francisco last season, starting nine of them. Prior to that, he was a member Dolphins before being traded for a conditional seventh-round pick in 2014. The 25-year-old has started 32 of the 38 games he's played in. 

"Jonathan brings quality experience to our offensive line, having started 32 games in his career at both tackle spots," Panthers GM Dave Gettleman said. 


Panthers sign WR Jarrett Boykin to one-year deal
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(2:22 pm ET) The Panthers signed free agent wide receiver Jarrett Boykin to a one-year deal Friday, per David Newton of ESPN.com. 

The 25-year-old receiver had a big campaign with the Packers in 2013, catching 49 passes for 681 yards, but fell out of favor last season, grabbing just three balls for 23 yards in 13 games. Boykin has 57 career receptions in three seasons, all with the Packers. 


Bears sign CB Alan Ball to one-year deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:44 pm ET) The Bears have signed cornerback Alan Ball to a one-year contract on Friday, per the team's official website.

Ball, 29, spent the last two seasons with the Jaguars, but was limited to only seven games in 2014 due to a biceps injury. He racked up 59 total tackles, 17 passes deflected and three interceptions over that span. He has played eight NFL seasons with the Cowboys, Texans and Jags.


Titans sign CB Brandon Harris to one-year deal
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:09 pm ET) The Titans have signed cornerback Brandon Harris to a one-year contract on Friday, per the team's official website. Harris played 11 games in 2014, his first season with the Titans. He finished with 11 combined tackles and three pass deflections last season.

Redskins' Thompson, Redd to compete for third-down back role
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:24 am ET) Redskins coach Jay Gruden said this week at the NFL owners' meetings running back Chris Thompson will get the first chance to secure third-down responsibilities, according to The Washington Post. Silas Redd will also get consideration for the role of third-down back.

“Chris [Thompson] came in last year at the end and did some things, and we’re hoping that he can come back and stay healthy in the offseason and give us a little jolt back there,” Gruden said. “And Silas Redd will get every chance to do some things also.”

Although, the Redskins could look to bring in some competition before training camp begins.

“I also think that at the running back position in the draft, there’s a ton of them,” Gruden said. “It’s a very deep running back draft in my opinion, and we’re excited to add another piece at some point, hopefully. We have seven picks. Hopefully one of them will be a running back, or a free agent to compete. There are some good free agents that haven’t been signed yet. But, giving Chris an opportunity, Silas, Alfred (Morris), that’s where it starts. And we’ll add some more later on for competition.”


Falcons could bring in Matt Schaub to vie for backup QB role
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:10 am ET) Falcons coach Dan Quinn is not ruling out bringing back former Atlanta quarterback Matt Schaub to compete for the backup role behind starter Matt Ryan, per ESPN.

"Schaub is certainly somebody that we could [add]," Quinn said. "As we get through it, we'll let you know if we go down that road."

The 34-year-old Schaub was released by the Raiders in mid-March. T.J. Yates and Sean Renfree are the other quarterbacks on the Falcons' roster.


Panthers' Rivera expecting Stephen Hill to contribute in 2015
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes wide receiver Stephen Hill is ready to make an impact in 2015 after spending the 2014 season on the practice squad, per ESPN.

“Very much so," Rivera said Wednesday during the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix. “He’s a guy we feel has an opportunity. We’re very excited about [seeing] Stephen during OTAs and minicamp.

“With his size (6-4, 215) and speed and his ability to get vertical, if he can assimilate to what we do -- and I think he will; he seems to be a very smart man -- he might be a guy that has an opportunity to contribute for us."

Rivera felt Hill's year on the practice squad was beneficial after the 2012 second-round pick failed to live up to expectations during his tenure with the Jets. 

“I thought it was a good opportunity to take a step back and take a break," Rivera said. “The thing I liked about Stephen was how he contributed to our football team’s success. He came in. He had been a second-round pick. He had no assumptions, no entitlement.

“He ran all the scout teams for us. He ran them hard. Gave us great looks, which is what makes us excited 'cause you watch a guy perform who could very easily dog it, and he didn’t. And you saw him grow. You saw him make catches. You saw him get comfortable in his own skin again."


Terence Newman reunites with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:16 am ET) The Vikings announced Friday they signed cornerback Terence Newman, who played for coach Mike Zimmer in Dallas and Cincinnati.

“That’s the biggest thing. He can still play. He came in the league later. I think he was 25 when he came in,” Zimmer said, per the team's official website. “He struggled a little bit in Dallas and then played great in Cincinnati. Last year, he didn’t play quite as good, so seemingly with me, we get things fixed a little bit. I really respect him, and I think he really respects me.”

Although terms of the deal were not officially released, NFL.com reported earlier this week the veteran cornerback's deal is a one-year, $2.5 million contract.


 
 
 
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