When news of D.J. Williams’ season-ending pectoral tendon injury spread early Friday afternoon, this became a popular question via email and Twitter. A lot of people want to know if the Bears would consider bringing No. 54 back. I don’t believe there is any chance of this happening and I seriously doubt Urlacher would want to return. When the Bears announced the sides agreed they could not work out a deal, that was general manager Phil Emery charting a new path. It didn’t take too long for Urlacher to make the decision to retire. He’s doing television work now and won’t be back on the gridiron.
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- Week 6 photos: Bears 27, Giants 21
What is up with Julius Peppers? Is it motivation? Not only is he not producing on the defensive line, but after the first interception of the Giants game, Peppers did not stay with his block. If Peppers maintains his block, Zack Bowman scores easily. Something isn't right. Also, wouldn't Israel Idonije look good in a Bears uniform this season? For all of the good things Phil Emery has done, he dropped the ball on this one. – Keith L., Wichita, Kan.
There is no question the Bears are not getting the production and impact needed from Peppers. I noted in film review following the victory over the Giants that New York double-teamed him only twice and provided chip help against him four times on a total of 23 pass rushes.
I asked veteran Giants offensive lineman David Diehl, the Brother Rice and Illinois product, about Peppers after the game. Diehl played right guard but he’s been a tackle throughout much of his 11-year career and had plenty of NFC battles against Peppers.
“When you’ve got their two D-tackles that was hurt, you can’t do what they were doing at the start of the season, which was almost like hockey lines,” Diehl said. “They can’t shift and bring in all of those guys and keep everyone fresh which is tough for them. If they can get (Stephen) Paea back healthy and start getting a rotation, that will help. I’ll tell you what, Nate Collins was having a good season. Watching film, he was playing well and so that was a big loss for them after Henry Melton went down. Paea has been out the last two games. Those are guys that play well in that rotation and with them in there then you can get (Corey) Wootton back out at defensive end. That is the only thing that is different right now. Peppers is still an elite player. He is still a player you have to be alert for and a guy you have to get a back every once in a while to chip or keep a tight end in for protection because the minute you think you don’t, he will make a play.”
Opponents still respect Peppers but he hasn’t flashed like the Bears would like. I thought he was solid in the loss at Detroit but other than that, there hasn’t been a lot to get excited about, and that is an ongoing issue. When it comes to Peppers’ block on the interception return, he was blocking left tackle Will Beatty, who then turned around to pursue Bowman. Had Peppers blocked him from behind, that would have been an easy penalty for the officials to call. He didn’t do anything wrong on this play.
As far as Idonije, I don’t know that he wanted to return to the Bears badly. Here is what I do know: The Bears had a standing offer for Idonije for some period during the offseason. He didn’t take it.
Idonije wound up signing a minimum-salary benefit deal with the Lions. It is a one-year contract with a base salary of $840,000 and the deal included a signing bonus of $65,000 for a total of $905,000. Of that, $485,000 was guaranteed and he counts $620,000 against the Lions’ salary cap. So, the Bears put an offer on the table and he didn’t accept it because he was obviously seeking more money, right? He wound up going to the Lions for the minimum. The Bears did not get outbid in efforts to retain Idonije. Sure, Idonije would help right now. I don’t think he’s great by any stretch of the imagination. He’d be a role player at his age but the Bears didn’t want to pay over market and I don’t know if you can blame them. I sense Idonije wanted to leave as well. It’s a two-way street.
Everything we heard leading up to the season was how Julius Peppers was buying in and running sideline to sideline to make plays. Right before the season the Bears asked him to restructure his contract. Did it cost Peppers any money now or in the future? Some of the stories from Carolina when he first got here makes me wonder, is he staging a little "blue flu" to show his displeasure? – Tom B., Somonauk
When Peppers restructured his contract, all he did was allow the Bears to do some accounting work for salary-cap purposes. The move did not cost him a nickel this season so there was no downside to the move for him. The move reduced his salary cap number for this season to $14.383 million and in the process bumped it up in 2014 to $18.183 million and in 2015 to $20.683 million.
If Julius Peppers’ production stays flat will the Bears cut him? Trading him is unlikely due to his high salary, right? He is too pricey to keep with an average performance. -- @KobukWalks from Twitter
If you think he is too pricey to keep on the roster, consider how pricey he would be to pay to stay at home. Peppers is a vested veteran and his base salary is $9.9 million – or more than $582,000 per week of the season. If the Bears were to release him in-season, they would owe him the full $9.9 million in termination pay. You’re right, he is too expensive to trade. He’s also not going to be released.
With season-ending injuries to three defensive starters, what is this going to do to the defense? Even with Jay Cutler playing well, where will this put him in contract negotiations if the team fails to meet expectations? Will these setbacks be taken into consideration? – Chuck D., Guilin, China, from email
You’ve raised an interesting question here. The defense is going to have to scramble now with three starters gone for the season and really four of the top 12 players when you consider nickel cornerback Kelvin Hayden suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in training camp. The challenge is pretty obvious. The “next man up” is going to have to do all he can to prevent a significant drop-off in play. As to how that relates to Cutler, well, I don’t think a meltdown by the defense is going to do major damage to him. But it he was holding out hope for a Joe Flacco-style happy ending to his contract push, that might be difficult. Ultimately, quarterbacks are judged on how they perform in postseason. But Cutler can do just fine for himself at the negotiating table if he has a strong regular season.
That being said, there is an element of me that has wondered, since Lovie Smith was fired, if general manager Phil Emery would apply a similar (maybe not exact) measuring stick to Cutler as he did the former coach. Smith was dismissed because of his inability to guide the team to the playoffs. Will Emery use this criteria in evaluating Cutler? Not just this season but over the course of his career with the Bears? It’s worth wondering to a degree but in no way can the struggles of a defense wrought with injuries affect Cutler.
It seems both starting safeties have not been playing well. Do you think they should be given a message by one or both being benched in the next game? I think they're both just assuming they'll be starters no matter how bad they play. – Gary T., Allentown, Pa., from email
I got a number of inquiries about the play of Major Wright and Chris Conte. A lot of people have concerns about their play. I think the first point to consider is that the pass rush has not been what it needs to be this season. When the pass rush isn’t getting home, that affects the back end. It makes it more difficult for cornerbacks and safeties alike. A great pass rush can make an average defensive back look like a pretty darn good player. I thought Conte did a nice job in the open field against Giants running back Brandon Jacobs on Thursday night. He hasn’t been around the ball as much in the passing game as you would like. Wright has made some plays on the ball. He has two interceptions and two forced fumbles but his performance has been uneven. He’s also blown some plays and he was late getting to Giants wide receiver Reuben Randle on a 37-yard touchdown pass against Cover-2. The Bears have allowed 29 completions of 20-plus yards and that ranks 31st in the NFL. Certainly, the safeties should take some blame for this. But don’t forget the pass rush.