Do you see Jordan Lynch returning kicks if he sticks with the team? -- @Mitlane from Twitter
No. I don’t think Lynch has the speed or quickness to excel as a returner. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.76 seconds at the scouting combine. One of the under-the-radar winners on the roster entering the draft was wide receiver Chris Williams, who will have a real shot to win both returner jobs. The Bears did not draft a player with return skills or sign an undrafted free agent that looks like a returner. If Lynch makes the roster, I imagine he would be a multiple-phase contributor on special teams and could fit as a blocker. But he’s never blocked before and will have to learn that craft quickly.
Will Jordan Lynch actually be used as a running back? -- @RonPyke from Twitter
The Bears are not going to use him as a quarterback although there could be some package plays where he has a chance to throw the ball. Running back is his best shot to make this team, yes.
Why is Colt Lyerla still unsigned? -- @RooneyPatrick from Twitter
Multiple questions about Lyerla, a physically gifted tight end who left the Oregon football team last season. While some have suggested he was dismissed from the program for a rules violation, others have said it was a mutual decision. Whatever the case, it is always alarming when a player doesn’t finish a season with a college team, and shortly after his exit Lyerla was arrested on a cocaine-possession charge after undercover officers said they witnessed him using the drug in a car. He pleaded guilty in December. Previously, Lyerla intimated on Twitter that the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut was a government conspiracy. Suffice to say, Lyerla has a lot of baggage and was unable throughout the pre-draft process to convince an NFL team he was worth a shot. Prior to leaving the Oregon program, he was considered a talented prospect. Who knows? Maybe he gets a shot at some point, but some regrettable incidents in his past are weighing against him. Eagles coach Chip Kelly has been collecting former Ducks players for two years now in Philadelphia and he hasn’t touched Lyerla.
I know the Bears wasted no time signing nine undrafted free agents. How does this compare with other teams? Seems like great value. -- @BobbyZoeller from Twitter
It is common practice for all 32 teams to sign undrafted players as quickly as possible at the conclusion of the draft. In fact, teams devote serious labor and manpower to forging relationships with UDFA prospects prior to the draft. They want to be able to sell the player and the agent that the opportunity they present is the best. The Seahawks produced a slick brochure that they sent to agents detailing how they give UDFAs a strong opportunity with not only their roster moves but with playing time in preseason. Some believe the NFL should delay the process of the UDFA market for a day or two after the draft concludes in order to not pressure players into what are very quick decisions that must be made. Sometimes teams will tell an agent if they don’t have an agreement in place while they are on the phone, they are moving on to the next guy.
Who do you think will be the starting safeties? Ryan Mundy and who? -- @danpro01 from Twitter
Nothing is set in stone for Mundy, one of the club’s first signings in free agency, but he has to be viewed as the favorite to claim one job, likely at strong safety. I’d say the free safety job is a three-man battle between holdover Chris Conte, fourth-round pick Brock Vereen and newcomer M.D. Jennings. This will play out in training camp and preseason.
Why are the Bears so resolute that Charles Tillman and Kyle Fuller will play cornerback as opposed to safety? Shouldn't they be more open-minded? -- @CopyrightWRC from Twitter
For starters, Tillman has made it clear he does not want to move to safety. Cornerback is a more premium position than safety, even when you consider the Bears’ struggles at safety over the last several seasons. General manager Phil Emery has said he wanted to get away from taking a highly drafted cornerback and trying to make the conversion to safety. The nice thing with Fuller is he has experience doing a lot of different things in coverage and he’s got the body type that will allow the Bears to match him up on a wide variety of offensive players on the outside or in the slot. Tillman is 33 and coming off an injury-plagued season. Having a starting-caliber cornerback in the mix was a must. I think allowing Fuller to remain where he is best as a player is the right call.
What about the Bears shifting Kelvin Hayden to safety now that they have added quality and depth to the cornerback position? What about Isaiah Frey, could he play safety? -- Mike S., Chesterfield, Mo., from email
Hayden has had some durability issues and 2012 was the only season in the last six that he appeared in all 16 games. He missed all of 2013 with a torn hamstring suffered during training camp and is a little light for what you would ideally seek at safety at 195 pounds. I doubt he is a consideration at safety. I also believe Frey is too small for the position. He’s listed at 6-foot, 190. I don’t think there is a conversion project on the roster right now.
The Bears have added several safeties via free agency and Brock Vereen through the draft. With Chris Conte coming off an injury and the safety position still uncertain, is there any chance undersized linebacker Jordan Senn gets a shot to compete at safety? Senn played safety in college, had great measurables and in 2011 started seven games at linebacker totaling 71 tackles, three forced fumbles, and one interception, which was one of the highest totals in the NFL for the time frame. Has he never been given a shot to play safety or is the book already written on his skill set? – Jeremiah, Gilbert, Ariz., from email
Senn does not project as a player who can be shifted to the secondary. I see him as a special teams ace and he likely takes the role Blake Costanzo held the previous two seasons. The Panthers had a lot of issues at safety and they didn’t shift Senn into that role when he was in Carolina. They did want him back this year but the Bears stepped up and signed him quickly in free agency.
Could you give us some insight or speculation on the second round? Timmy Jernigan was within striking distance and Kony Ealy went after the Bears picked. What's up with that? What about Jackson Jeffcoat going undrafted? -- @Arnold A., Edinburg, Texas, from email
It’s worth wondering if the Bears would have made a play for Jernigan at No. 51 if he remained on the board, but the Ravens selected him 48th overall. Ealy lasted until No. 60 when the Panthers drafted him. I think teams consider him a little raw and not quite as NFL-ready as Aldon Smith was when he came out of Missouri. The Bears made a very heavy investment in defensive ends in free agency by signing Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, so end was not nearly the kind of priority tackle was in the draft. As far as Jeffcoat, he was productive at Texas but I imagine teams figured he was a little on the small side and a little slow. He also had injuries throughout his college career.
If Phil Emery was going to trade up in this draft and give up a fifth-round pick, why didn't he do it earlier in the second round when he had a chance to get Timmy Jernigan instead of settling for Ego Ferguson? Jernigan was more productive in college, is much more ready, finished product than Ferguson, and to top it off was a vital member of a national championship team. Did Emery really believe there wasn't much of a difference between these two? I'm pretty sure that the legion of critics who called the Ferguson pick a reach would have said that Emery got a steal if only he would have moved up a few spots to snag Jernigan. Also, he could have gotten the safety with his original fourth-round pick and a running back later on in the draft. Everybody knows running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL now. – Ron S., Springfield, Ill., from email
Lot of moving parts here. For starters, the success of the Seminoles is really a non-issue. The Ravens drafted Jernigan No. 48 overall, three slots ahead of the selection of Ferguson by the Bears. So, Emery would have been forced to trade up a minimum of four slots to be in position to select Jernigan and that is if they could have swung a deal with the Redskins at No. 47, who were in that position after a trade down with the Cowboys. Emery moved from No. 50 to No. 45 in the 2012 draft to select wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and the cost for that jump was a fifth-round pick, No. 150 overall (top third of the round). Emery wound up packaging his fifth-round pick this year (No. 156) and a fifth-rounder in 2015 to the Broncos to get back into the fourth round at No. 131 and draft Minnesota safety Brock Vereen. The Bears also picked up a seventh-round pick from the Broncos that was used on offensive tackle Charles Leno Jr. Keep in mind Jernigan had a diluted sample when he took a drug test at the scouting combine and typically teams treat that the same way they do a positive test. Jernigan may go on to a productive career in Baltimore. He was a solid prospect. But Emery isn’t going to make moves in the draft room based on what he thinks public perception will be. We don’t really get a true gauge on what is a “steal” in the draft until a season or two has been played for each draft class. I think Ferguson should be ready to play in the rotation this season so I don’t know that he’s quite as far behind Jernigan as you suggest. I agree with you about running backs being de-valued. If Ferguson doesn’t perform well, it’s a miss no matter what the alternatives were.
I get that Kyle Fuller is a good cornerback, but don't you think the Bears had a more pressing need at safety? They could have addressed the cornerback in the late rounds, right? The Bears have two Pro Bowl corners on the roster. The risk of Charles Tillman getting injured is there, but that risk is there for any player. What do you think is the main rationale that they chose a cornerback over a safety? Did they think that it is the best value pick at No. 14? – Natarajan M., Aurora, from email
Considering the Bears selected Fuller with Louisville safety Calvin Pryor (drafted 17th by the Jets) and Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (drafted 21st by the Packers) still on the board, it’s pretty evident the team had a higher grade on the Virginia Tech cornerback. The team has been operating with minimal depth at cornerback the last few seasons, perhaps even inadequate depth at times. With Tillman missing eight games last season because of triceps and knee injuries, the Bears had to get an infusion of young talent at the position. This situation didn’t sneak up on them. It’s been simmering for a while. I’d submit a 33-year-old cornerback with high mileage like Tillman is probably a greater injury risk than “any player” as you suggest. Especially a physical cornerback like Tillman that is so involved in the run defense. Safety might still remain a need area for the Bears and sometimes you can’t plug all the holes just like you want. If Pryor and/or Clinton-Dix go on to successful careers with multiple Pro Bowl appearances, maybe the Bears regret the decision. But I don’t think you can overlook the pressing need at cornerback where Tillman is on a one-year contract.
Why did the Bears pass on Calvin Pryor in the first round? Does the decision to opt for Kyle Fuller over Pryor indicate that Charles Tillman's recovery is in doubt? Or did they need a nickel back more than they need a safety? – John O., Seattle, from email
To my knowledge there isn’t any concern over where Tillman is at physically. There is no question in my mind he will open training camp atop the depth chart at right cornerback. But durability is an issue for the 33-year-old and that reflects one staple of his contract, which can max out at $3.4 million. Tillman has a $400,000 roster bonus that is divided into per-game bonuses of $25,000. He receives $25,000 for each game he is on the active 46-man gameday roster.
Didn't you find it extremely disrespectful how the Bears assigned Devin Hester's No. 23 to another player just a few months from his leaving the franchise? They waited over 20 years before giving out Mike Singletary's No. 50 and it looks like it will be at least a few more years before No. 54 is worn by a Bear again. I believe Hester should have given the same reverence since there's a very good chance he'll be joining Singletary and Brian Urlacher in the Hall of Fame one day. Didn't the Bears disrespect Hester enough this offseason already by not even making him an offer to return during free agency? It seems to me like the front office could use a little sensitivity training. – George S., Lawrence, Kan., from email
What number did you have in mind for Fuller? Cornerbacks are eligible to wear numbers from 20 to 49. Taking a look at the Bears’ roster and noting 28 (Willie Galimore), 34 (Walter Payton), 40 (Gale Sayers), 41 (Brian Piccolo) and 42 (Sid Luckman) have been retired, that left Fuller and the Bears with exactly two options – 23 or 45. Every other number between 20 and 49 has been assigned. Interestingly, the Bears have only sparingly used No. 45 since Gary Fencik retired after the 1987 season. Craig Heyward (1993), Tony Stargell (1997), Scott Dragos (2000-01), Cameron Worrell (2008), Chris Massey (2011) and Harvey Unga (2012) all wore the number briefly. The Bears retired No. 89 for Mike Ditka last season, giving them an NFL-high 14 retired numbers and reducing to 85 the numbers eligible for use. I understand sentimental feelings for Hester, who was great during his eight-year run with the Bears. But I also don’t get caught up on numbers. Giving out No. 23 doesn’t diminish anything Hester did in a Bears uniform. As a first-round draft pick, Fuller should get a little say in the process as well and you don’t see too many cornerbacks in No. 45 these days. It’s an entirely different debate, but I believe Hester will face an uphill battle to reach the Pro Football Hall of Fame based on the body of work in his career. He was dominant but for a very brief period of time. He’ll need to rekindle some magic as a return man to bolster his case for such an honor.
After using a first-round pick on a cornerback, is it a foregone conclusion now that this will be Charles Tillman's final season in a Bears uniform even if he remains healthy and regains his All-Pro form of 2012? – Trey A., Newark, N.J., from email
I wouldn’t make any conclusions on Tillman’s future as we sit a little less than four months away from the start of the 2014 season. At 33, I believe Tillman will be hard-pressed to perform at an All-Pro level, but I wouldn’t count him out. He’s a rare player who continued to ascend into his 30’s so it wouldn’t make sense to count him out.
Joe Anderson was cut late in the year after an injury. The Bears seemed interested in him until then. Brandon Hardin was drafted in the 3rd round as a cornerback then given a shot at safety. He too was injured and released. Hardin was signed to a futures contract with the Jets. If that had not happened, do you think there would be any interest in bringing Hardin back for a look? How about Anderson? Or is that a function of what things look like after the draft? – Eric, Waterloo, Iowa, from email
Anderson was waived/injured during the middle of last season and spent a portion of this offseason with the Eagles before being released. He is currently a free agent. The Bears declared Hardin was a safety when he was drafted. They didn’t bring him in as a cornerback and then shift him to safety. Hardin signed a futures contract with the Jets in January and remains on their roster. I would be surprised if the Bears brought Anderson back again and when the Bears cut loose Hardin last year, they were moving on from him.