We've spent enough time documenting the complicated off-season currently facing new Bears GM Phil Emery. Emery has to do the following before the start of the 2012 season:
- Find those few players (WR, OL, DE) to elevate the Bears, 7-3 with a healthy QB, to a legitimate Super Bowl contender. (Although I'm not sure they were not already a legitimate contender.)
- Rebuild roster depth that has been lacking due to several years of mediocre (or below) drafting.
Emery's first job, however, is analyzing the players currently on the Bears roster. Which of those men is currently untouchable? Because the word untouchable might have varying degrees of meaning, I'll rephrase it this way: Which players on the Bears roster would you not include in a trade for Brandon Marshall?
The Untouchable: Jay Cutler. Cutty is the going to be the Bears franchise quarterback for the next five-plus years and the club realized in 2010 just how far he can carry them without a single great player on his offensive line or in his receiving corps. He's the real deal and he can bring this city a championship.
The Aging Superstar: Julius Peppers. If the Bears were to trade Peppers they would see their defense decline more rapidly than they care to imagine. Peppers may not have the sack numbers of the other premiere defensive ends in the game but his versatility and play against the run continue to make him one of the elite defenders in the game. He's got three solid years left.
The System Man: Brian Urlacher. Urlacher is the prototypical middle linebacker for the Lovie Smith system and dealing him now would be to castrate the head coach before he's able to jump into bed. If Lovie were no longer the head coach and Marshall could be acquired for Urlacher I would consider the deal awfully hard to pass up.
The Spinal Cord: Matt Forte. I have never been as high on Forte as most, thinking he lacks the breakaway speed and explosiveness needed to be a top tier back in the current NFL. But having watched Marion Barber moron a game away and Kahlil Bell fumble half his touches I am coming to terms with the fact that without the Forte as this offensive organism's spinal cord, the organism cannot stand. I expect Forte to be signed to a long-term deal in the not so distant future.
The Great Debate: Lance Briggs. Will the regime change lead to a softening of the Lance Briggs' heart or will one of the best linebackers in the game continue to bicker and moan each summer that he's underpaid? Will Phil Emery believe his talents outweigh the PR negativity? If Briggs could be dealt in the coming months for Marshall, how would you feel? I admit I' m torn on the question but I'm leaning towards the Bears needing Marshall more than Briggs. Especially as playing great run defense becomes a secondary need in the modern NFL.
The Up-and-Coming Star: Henry Melton. Melton had 7.5 sacks in 2011, tied for the NFL's lead among defensive tackles. In the post-Tommie Harris era the Bears have eagerly sought a Sapp-like talent to disrupt the middle of opposing offensive lines and pressure the pocket. Melton has emerged to fill that role in only his second season. Will he take the step to elite player in his third year? Would you be willing to risk his future should a team ask for him in return for a big-time receiver?
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