Chicago Bears

Plenty of wide receiver options for Chicago Bears to replace Brandon Marshall

Brandon Marshall drags Packers' M.D. Jennings (43) and Sam Shields (37) for 13 yards in the first half in the NFC North title game Dec. 29, 2013 at Soldier Field.
Brandon Marshall drags Packers' M.D. Jennings (43) and Sam Shields (37) for 13 yards in the first half in the NFC North title game Dec. 29, 2013 at Soldier Field.

I have reported for you for a couple of months now that Brandon Marshall would be gone before the beginning of free agency and that Jay Cutler will be the Bears’ starting quarterback for at least one more season.

That said, I have no idea what general manager Ryan Pace and coach John Fox are thinking right now. They have until Thursday to release Cutler and avoid owing him another $10 million guaranteed. Perhaps they will?

But the flood of speculation we’ve seen with Marshall gone, Cutler’s exit must be right around the corner is silly and uninformed.

I suspect Cutler will be here because at the moment he is impossible to replace and the way the salary cap works in the NFL today, the Bears will be forced to spend that $10 million elsewhere anyway.

Unless the Bears are in a complete rebuild – two words they studiously have avoided – there is no reason to move Cutler.

He is not the problem Marshall was, and Marshall is much easier to replace.

In a perfect world, I had hoped Randall Cobb would be Alshon Jeffery’s new running mate, but we know that’s not going to happen. The fact that he, Jordy Nelson and Aaron Rodgers all are locked up together in Green Bay through at least 2018 should send shivers down the spine of every Bears fan.

What makes Cobb so valuable beyond his Pro Bowl ability is he still is only 25 years old.

Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree both are free agents and potential No. 1 receivers, although Maclin is a much better match with Jeffery than Crabtree.

Maclin will turn 27 in May while Crabtree will be 28 in September and has been a bit fragile in San Francisco.

Maclin missed all of 2013 with an ACL injury but made a spectacular return in 2014, compiling 85 catches for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Unfortunately, it seems unlikely the Eagles, who recently have cleared a lot of cap space, will let him get away.

The player the Bears need to focus on right now is Torrey Smith. He’s not staying in Baltimore, and although he’s been a bit of an underachiever, he could be the perfect complement to Jeffery, a “Mr. Outside” with Jeffery moving into Marshall’s “Mr. Inside” role.

Although Smith has averaged only 53 catches over four seasons, he also has averaged 16.9 yards a catch, scored 30 touchdowns (11 in 2014) and is the ultimate home-run hitter in this year’s free-agent crop.

He also just turned 26 on Jan. 26 and is a good kid who’s overcome some tough times. He will be expensive, but no more so than Marshall and a much better fit.

The Bears also desperately need a No. 3, and Hakeem Nicks should be first on the list.

Four seasons have passed since his breakout campaign with the Giants, when he had 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he admittedly didn’t prove a lot in a prove-it season in Indianapolis last year.

But as a third option to Jeffery and Smith, he could fit like a glove.

Brian Hartline, Cecil Shorts, Eddie Royal and Harry Douglas all also are attractive, available options for the third wideout spot.

I keep hearing the Bears have to go defense in the first round of the draft. If Pace believes it, he is doomed to not just follow, but walk in the footsteps of Jerry Angelo and Phil Emery.

I think Pace is smarter than that and knows that if he is going to succeed, he has to draft the best football player available with every pick he makes.

I would not draft West Virginia wideout Kevin White at No. 7, but if Amari Cooper somehow slips to that spot, the Bears cannot afford to pass up on the best player available.

USC’s Nelson Agholor, Central Florida’s Breshad Perriman or Ohio State’s Devin Smith could be great value in the second round and Auburn’s Sammie Coates could be a steal in the third round.

Now, show me one available quarterback you’re comfortable will make the Bears better now or in the future?

• Chicago Football editor
Hub Arkush can be reached at or on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.

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