We are now just 44 days away from the start of the Bears’ training camp and the excitement is already in the air. Perhaps it never truly went away following an exciting month of April that brought a potential franchise quarterback to town and concluded with the extravaganza known as the NFL Draft.
Following the acquisition of Jay Cutler, and free agent signings along the offensive line, the only hole remaining on the offensive side of the ball is wide receiver. It’s only fitting that the Bears have been in the center of rumors regarding free agent Plaxico Burress, and, just recently, the Broncos’ Brandon Marshall. Marshall, unhappy with his contract and the lack of progress in talks for an extension, has asked Broncos owner Pat Bowlen for a trade, which reportedly will be granted if an acceptable offer is received.
Either receiver would look good in navy blue and burnt orange, particularly Marshall, who wore nearly identical colors while catching passes from Cutler last year in Denver. A third receiver, the Cardinals’ Anquan Boldin, is still unhappy in Arizona, but is not likely to be dealt. Give Jerry Angelo credit for at least inquiring about him in April’s draft.
When recently asked the question by a friend, who would I rather see in a Bears uniform, Burress or Marshall?, my response was Marshall, and for two reasons.
First, Marshall (25) is six years younger than Burress (31). Six years in the NFL is an eternity. Need I remind disgruntled Bears fans of the quarterback the Bears drafted six years ago in 2003?
Second, Marshall has already played with Cutler and the importance of the rapport between a quarterback and his receivers cannot be overstated.
As it stands now, even with a mediocre crop of receivers — and some might say I’m being generous with that adjective — the Bears have a great chance of winning the division, or a wild card, and making some noise in the playoffs. With a No. 1 receiver, they’re at the top of the class in the NFC and could be favorites to make the Super Bowl.
I’ve been surprised once by Angelo after he acquired Cutler, but I don’t think he’ll fool me twice. I’d be shocked if the Bears had enough ammunition to land Marshall. For a 25-year-old Pro Bowl receiver who averaged 103 receptions and 1295 yards the past two seasons, a team would have to be extremely crafty working out a trade that didn’t involve a first round pick. As everybody is aware, the Bears traded next year’s first round pick for Cutler.
That takes us to Burress, who is still looking for a team after being released by the Giants this off-season. His weapons possession case, stemming from an incident last year when he wound up shooting himself in the thigh and was charged with criminal possession of a weapon at a nightclub, was postponed until September. Both Burress’ agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and his lawyer are confident that a trial will not take place until after the 2009 season. And Rosenhaus is confident the NFL will not penalize Burress until after legal proceedings have taken place. Hence, Burress could very well play a full season this fall.
Bears players are reportedly open to bringing in Burress. And Angelo has stated recently that Burress is “a special player” and “Who wouldn’t like to have the guy on their football team?”. Reportedly, there was a rumor that Chicago was Burress’ preferred destination. So, the idea of him coming to Chicago is not only not that farfetched, but it could be a real possibility if he is permitted to play this season.
Angelo said recently on ChicagoBears.com that he was pleased with the progress shown by his receivers in OTAs this off-season. He also previously stated that he would be comfortable entering the season with the hand they’ve been dealt.
That was his public response. But I have a feeling that behind close doors, there’s another side of Angelo that we don’t see. I believe there are serious discussions about bringing in a veteran receiver that can help put this team over the top.
And if that move is made, whether it’s Burress or Marshall or Boldin or somebody else, I’ve got to believe that the Bears will be heading back to the Super Bowl sooner than anybody expected. It would be just perfect if it were in Super Bowl XLIV in Miami, where they have some unfinished business waiting for them.