Readers' Q&A: Brad Biggs' mailbag

Now that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall have been re-signed, who would the next likely target be for an extension? -- @BradPintar from Twitter

The Bears have been on a serious pace signing players since the very end of last season. Then, Cutler, cornerback Tim Jennings and left guard Matt Slauson received new paper just after the end of the season. It’s been a busy pace for general manager Phil Emery and contract negotiator Cliff Stein. I’d imagine the checkbook remains in the drawer for a while now as there isn’t a candidate for a new contract that really jumps out at you. Now that Marshall is locked into place through 2017, there are only three players who were starters last season that have contracts expiring at the conclusion of the 2014 season, most notably weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs. He turns 34 in November and his future will be an interesting topic as the season unfolds. If he plays at a high level, he could potentially return in 2015. Safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Stephen Paea are also coming to the end of their rookie contracts. Center Roberto Garza, cornerback Charles Tillman and linebacker D.J. Williams all returned for this season on one-year deals but I didn’t include them because they just completed contracts. It will be interesting to see what happens with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. He is signed through 2015 but could potentially get an extension after the 2014 season is complete. With another big season, he could command a blockbuster deal.

What is the best positional fit for Brock Vereen in his rookie season? Slot cornerback, free safety, strong safety and/or special teams? -- @dkirk_mms from Twitter

My guess is they consider him at free safety first and the Bears might be best served by picking one position and letting him get settled. Certainly a role on special teams will be expected. I see Vereen, Chris Conte and potentially M.D. Jennings in competition for the free safety job. Ryan Mundy will have to nail down the strong safety job. That is not a given at this point.

Have you heard if the Bears were strongly considering someone at No. 14 other than Kyle Fuller? -- @thetimmalone from Twitter

General manager Phil Emery isn’t going to come out and say exactly how his board was stacked and if he was considering another player with that pick. I think it’s fair to wonder what the club would have done had Aaron Donald made it through to them. Emery did say Fuller was the No. 1 cornerback on the team’s board and he entered the draft with a short list of six players.

Where do you think Stephen Paea stands in this year's defensive tackle rotation? -- @FAbbriJohn from Twitter

Good question. Paea battled some injuries last year, including a turf toe issue. That impacted his performance he was replaced in the starting lineup at the very end of the season by Jeremiah Ratliff. I think Paea will definitely be in the mix for a starting job but the good thing is the Bears have significantly added to their depth on the interior of the line and have multiple options, including Ratliff, Nate Collins, Israel Idonije and draft picks Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. Competition for the two starting tackle spots will be interesting to track through training camp and preseason. In a contract year, you’d expect Paea to be poised for a big season.

How much of a fake punt threat will Pat O'Donnell be? Seems like he could get the corner with his speed. -- @hohoholnagel from Twitter

O’Donnell certainly is an athletic guy for a punter but let’s remember the guy he is replacing, Adam Podlesh, was considerably faster when he entered the league. Podlesh ran the 40 in 4.43 seconds at his pro day and O’Donnell was clocked at 4.64 seconds in the Scouting Combine. Special teams coordinators prefer a punter that can throw the ball to a fast punter when it comes to fakes because the punter is lined up 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage and he’s got to run that far just to have no gain on the play. If a punter pulls the ball down to run, before he gets to the line of scrimmage the defense (with faster players) is going to be reacting. Podlesh didn’t throw the ball well. Before him, Brad Maynard (a former high school quarterback) had a good arm. Maynard completed 5 of 7 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns with the Bears. It is more possible a punter could be used to run on a fake field goal or extra point because of the closer proximity to the line of scrimmage. Having a good athlete as a punter always helps when you consider the coverage plan doesn’t always go as designed.

What positions do you feel Phil Emery is not done tinkering with? Tight end depth doesn't get a lot of consideration in my opinion. -- @hamrijp from Twitter

Don’t rule out a move at any position. The Bears, like the other 31 teams, are going to monitor what names come across the personnel notice on a daily basis. Key positions to watch for a veteran, in my opinion, are tight end, safety and potentially running back if the younger players don’t emerge. I’m not saying Ka’Deem Carey and Michael Ford are poor options behind Matt Forte, I’m saying it’s possible the Bears could seek a player with more experience at some point. Obviously, the best-case scenario is to have a backup on a rookie contract.

With all the changes on special teams this year, which one will make the biggest difference for the Bears? -- @steveoatms from Twitter

If the change at punter doesn’t make the biggest difference, the Bears will not have accomplished their No. 1 goal on special teams for this season. Despite what were perceived shortcomings on special teams last season, the Bears were actually pretty good in comprehensive rankings. They struggled punting and had too many penalties. Replacing Devin Hester will be a tall order for Chris Williams, who looks like the man to beat as the returner right now. The Bears routinely gained positive field position because of the threat Hester posed. Opposing kickers and punters would kick short or to the boundary to avoid Hester.

Does Khaseem Greene have any shot at starting? Why don't we hear about him in the D.J. Williams/Jon Bostic/Shea McClellin linebacker competition? -- @JBiuhoosiers from Twitter

Greene is in the mix. Like Bostic, he got some exposure as a rookie and at points late in the season I thought he was performing better than veteran James Anderson. The Bears have two open positions alongside Lance Briggs with four players competing for starting jobs and Greene is one of them. You named the others.

Love the Bears’ starting receivers but do they have much depth in case of injury? -- @bullscub from Twitter

The potential is there for improved depth this season. There really wasn’t any competition a year ago when Brandon Marshall was the clear No. 1 followed by Alshon Jeffery and then Earl Bennett. With Bennett, a durability concern, departed for the Browns, Marshall and Jeffery remain in their positions. After that, it is wide open. Marquess Wilson, a seventh-round pick in 2012, is going to have a legitimate shot to claim the No. 3 role. But a nice blend of veterans is also in the mix, including Josh Morgan and Domenik Hixon. I think the Bears can potentially be stronger as a group at this position.

Who stood out during the rookie minicamp? -- @HalasBearReport from Twitter

It’s dangerous to make sweeping judgments after a rookie minicamp or even a veteran camp. Often times the stars of the spring disappear before the end of summer. Defensive tackle Will Sutton showed the athleticism needed from the three technique position even though it looks like he’s got a ways to go to get into top shape. Running back Ka’Deem Carey looked like the real deal but how do you really rate a running back when there is no contact? Cornerback Kyle Fuller was fluid in his movements. We’ll see how these young players do moving forward.