Bears

NFL lockout to cost veteran players money?

NFL lockout to cost veteran players money?

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:05 a.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

The impasse between NFL owners and players has for some time pointed toward the draft coming before some form of free agency. That unfortunately also points toward costing veterans money and giving teams a significant financial boost.

The enormous number of potential free agents, upwards of 450 by most counts, means a target-rich environment for teams. In a supply-demand economy, which the NFL is, that means more players options for teams; and when the supply of something is higher, prices typically are lower rather than higher.

Elite players will always command elite dollars. The price for a Julius Peppers will be high because there are not many Julius Peppers.

But add to that the situation where teams will have invested draft choices to address needs and you have decreased job opportunities for veteran free agents who in normal years would have been signed before teams turned to the draft.

Now, if a team has spent even a mid-round draft choice on a position, that organization is less likely to sign a veteran to a position already filled in its mind. If the Bears select a guard with a high pick, for example, they are all or part of the way out of at least the top end, i.e., pricier, market for guards.

And as if there werent enough already lining up in teams favor, fold in a less-expensive salary structure for rookies...

Austin sitting limits

The draft stock of defensive tackle Marvin Austin, particularly with the Bears, will be something to monitor. He was suspended and missed his entire senior season at North Carolina after being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for dealings with an agent. By Austins description those involved two trips each to California and to Miami.

Those and the suspension that came with them hurt the 6-2, 310-pound with respect to draft status, given the presumed first-round grade on him through his junior season. Character questions may indeed plague Austin, who plays a position of need for the Bears but whether GM Jerry Angelo will invest a high pick on a character question after his Tank Johnson experience is problematic.

Beyond just the draft status, however, the back-channel buzz about Austin hurt him personally.

There were so many rumors about, I did this and was getting cars and a lot of things that werent true, things about me as a person and it was extremely hard, Austin said during the Combine. Its still hard to watch some of the stuff thats said about my character.

Ive never taken a drink in my life. Ive never smoked in my life. Ive done everything to get to this point, but one mistake, taking a couple of trips, and one of them was taken to help me get better as an athlete, has cost me may whole senior season and my image.

And I had to sit and listen to my little sister ask me, Marvin, I heard
you were drinking and all of this. So it was an extremely tough situation, but I got through it and Im a lot stronger for it and I think its going to make me a whole lot better professional.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: How hot is John Fox's seat?

Seth Gruen (Bleacher Report/”Big Ten Unfiltered” podcast), Chris Emma (670TheScore.com) and Matt Zahn (CBS 2) join Kap on the panel. If the Bears lose badly to the Lions, should Sunday be John Fox’s last game? 

Plus Bulls Insider Vincent Goodwill joins the panel to talk Bulls as well as the Niko/Portis cold war.

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing.