Why all the focus on getting another defensive end? I thought one of the biggest keys to Lovie Smith's defense was a stud three-technique tackle -- someone like Tommie Harris before his decline. Are the Bears satisfied with what they have in that regard? -- Kellen Maicher, Columbus, Ohio
Henry Melton is 25. He is a former college running back who still is learning to play the three-technique position. In his first full year as a starter in 2011, he had seven sacks. Only two defensive tackles in the NFL, Geno Atkins of the Bengals and Tom Kelly of the Raiders, had more. And each had one half sack more than Melton. As good as Harris was, he had more than seven sacks once in his career (in 2007 he had eight). The Bears will do just fine with Melton, who should only improve. That does not necessarily mean they should ignore an interior pass rusher who they think can be better. But it does mean they need not prioritize tackle over end. The Bears do not have a third defensive end who is proven, and both of their starters are on the wrong side of 30. Defensive end is an area of critical need. Defensive tackle is not.
If Jonathan Martin, Whitney Mercilus and Dre Kirkpatrick are all available for the Bears at 19 -- which I think is very possible - who should they take? -- Bill Dukenfield, Philadelphia
I would take Mercilus in a heartbeat. He fills the Bears' most pressing need. He is a perfect fit for the system. And he is a higher-rated prospect than Martin or Kirkpatrick, according to the front office men I have spoken with.
If NFL.com's reporter-based mock draft is any indication, there is a small chance that Luke Kuechly could be available for the Bears at 19. It's obviously not too early to consider Brian Urlacher's eventual replacement, Kuechly fits the Cover-2 scheme perfectly, and there is a distinct possibility that the crop of top defensive ends in the draft and Michael Floyd will be gone by the time the Bears pick. Assuming the Bears don't trade down in the first round, do you think it would be wise for the Bears to select Kuechly there? -- Mike, Lake Forest
I would have no qualms about selecting Kuechly in the scenario you describe, Mike. He is the best linebacker in the draft and a player who should play for a decade. He could be a star in Lovie Smith's system, and he would make the defense better immediately. The Bears needs some youth at the linebacker position. And Kuechly has enough versatility that he can start out as a strong side linebacker and eventually move to middle to replace Urlacher, or eventually move to the weak side to replace Lance Briggs.
I know the Bears have needs. I also know at 19 he may be a stretch, but I like Stephen Hill. I realize his lack of overall catches leads some to wonder but just watch how fluid he is, his body control and his speed. I think he could be a steal outside the top 15. Why not? -- Joe, West Jordan, Utah
I think 19 is too high for Hill. I get what you are saying. He has more potential than any receiver in the draft. But there also is a chance he could be a major bust. Given the fact that he has not produced much and he has not done the things an NFL wide receiver will be asked to do, he is too much of an unknown to be chosen that high. With the 19th pick in the first round, you don't want to completely whiff. You want to make a pick that is somewhat safe. The time to take big risks comes later in the draft, ideally in the third round, but in the case of Hill I would say the second round.
With an offensive coordinator like Mike Tice, the Bears would seem well-suited to select an offensive tackle who has the physical skills required for the left side, but not yet the technique. Based on your draft analysis of the OT's in the draft, it seems like drafting either Jonathan Martin or Mike Adams early or players like Donald Stephenson, Andrew Datko, Tom Compton or Nate Potter later in the draft would be good strategies. -- Stephen Z, Los Angeles
One of the advantages of having a coach like Tice is he can develop offensive linemen. He has done it in the past and is trying to do it presently with J'Marcus Webb, Lance Louis and others. I would think the Bears are likely to find another developmental offensive lineman in this draft for Tice to work with. You have to be careful about thinking you can create a left tackle, however. A left tackle needs a certain degree of athleticism to go with the appropriate size. You don't often find those players anywhere other than early in the draft. Webb was an aberration. He has everything it takes to play the position. He just needs to put it all together.
The Bears' final game of last season against the Vikings was a very close victory. I'm not suggesting that they should ever play to lose, but I can't help but wonder -- if they had lost it, where would they be drafting this year? -- Greg Foltz, La Grange
If the Bears had lost to the Vikings, they would have moved up six spots in the draft to the 13th slot in the first round. They would have jumped ahead of the Cardinals, Cowboys, Eagles, Jets, Raiders and Chargers.
Could you see a scenario in which the Bears trade Matt Forte for a couple of second-rounders or a second-rounder and a third if Doug Martin or Lamar Miller were available? The Bears and Forte don't seem like they will reach an agreement on a long term contract, and the new general manager seems to prefer a tandem of backs rather than a workhorse and a backup. -- K. Butler, Chicago
I don't think a Forte trade is likely, but I wouldn't completely rule it out. The problem with trading Forte is the same problem with signing him: It's going to take a lot of money. The Bears can't trade Forte while he is unsigned, so they would have to sign him first. They would have to find a trading partner that is willing to make Forte one of the highest paid backs in the game, and give up multiple draft picks. The chances of that happening are not good, but if someone offered, the Bears would be foolish not to consider it.
I'm a big fan of Forte's. Why does the new regime continue to show no respect for a very good back? I want to see him receive what he has earned in a long term deal. Why are they dragging this out? -- Bob, Trinity, Fla.
You are assuming the Bears are being unreasonable. That's an assumption no outsider can make because we are not privy to the particulars of the negotiations. Perhaps the Bears are being unreasonable. Perhaps Forte is. The Bears believe they have shown plenty of respect to Forte. Forte clearly disagrees. It's a difference of opinion.
Now that Lance Briggs has a contract, will the Bears talk to Forte? If I recall correctly, back in the day teams could talk directly to the athletes if contract talks got tough. Can they do that today and get a deal done? -- Terry Berg, Goshen, Ind.
The Bears could talk directly to Forte if Forte would be willing to negotiate in such a manner. It is Forte's decision who represents him in contract talks. There are some players who don't even have an agent. It is not uncommon for teams to try to appeal directly to a player if they feel the agent is being a hindrance in negotiations.
Like most Bears fans, I think Phil Emery has been doing a great job so far as our GM. However, going on various blogs and comment sections on the Bears, I think that most if not all of my fellow Bears fans are being unfair and ignorant about Emery's predecessor. I see nothing but vile directed at Jerry Angelo in comparison with Emery, but consider the following. Angelo drafted two probable Hall of Famers in Lance Briggs and Devin Hester and might have had a third Hall of Famer (Tommie Harris) if not for injuries. He also drafted our best running back since Walter Payton (Matt Forte) and perhaps our best pure cornerback ever (Charles Tillman). And to top it off, he was able to acquire a franchise player on offense (Jay Cutler) and defense (Julius Peppers) outside of the draft. The bottom line is the cupboard was definitely not bare when Emery was hired. Of course, Angelo had his faults -- offensive line, wide receivers, first round picks -- but I think the beating he's been getting online since his firing has been extremely uneducated. Do you agree? -- Jim K., Mount Prospect
I think Angelo has been unfairly blamed for a lot of things. I agree that he put together a pretty good team. It was a team that was in the NFC Championship Game in 2011, and was poised to get back there this year before the injury plague hit. It's one of the reasons I did not agree with his dismissal. You make a lot of good points about his acquisitions. He also was an effective leader and a loyal employee.
As a former Chicagoan I read your work daily online and you are my Bears connection. My boys claim that all teams are/were involved like the Saints in getting "rewards" for hurting opposing players. I say nonsense. Is there any truth to what my boys claim? -- Rev. John L. Bush, Flat Rock, MI
If other teams were giving rewards for injury opposing players, a certain ginger-haired commissioner would like very much to know about it. There were likely many instances where players were contributing to a pool that would reward individuals for big plays and big hits. The difference in New Orleans is the Saints defensive coordinator was apparently running the pool. And he was offering rewards for injuring players. It's possible this happened on another team or two, but I can't believe it was widespread.