Ten Thoughts on the NFL: Chicago Bears and beyond

Mike Ehrmann

The NFL is a year round entity. Their off season isn't really an off season, as they have something scheduled every few weeks leading up the the 2014 season. The combine, free agency, the draft, OTAs, mini camps, and before we realize it, training camp will be here.

1) History could be made during the 2014 NFL Draft.

University of Missouri defensive end Michael Sam, who was the SEC Co-Defensive player of the year after racking up 48 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles, and who is receiving mid round draft grades, has come out publicly as gay.

Sam is 6'2" and 260 pounds, and some scouts peg him with the tweener label. A bit small for defensive end, not quite athletic enough for outside linebacker. The NFL combine will be an important weekend for his draft aspirations, not only on the field, but also with the media circus that is no doubt coming now that he's out to the world.

His college teammates knew about his sexual orientation before the 2013 season, and he wasn't going out of his way to hide it from anyone, but now it's out there for everyone to talk about.

The media storm started last night, and it will only build as every sports outlet wants a piece of the story.

For the most part, Sam's decision to come out has been met with support and admiration, but there will be ignorance.

The NFL released a statement about his decision;

"We admire Michael Sam's honesty and courage. Michael is a football player. Any player with ability and determination can succeed in the NFL. We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014."

Sam does have ability and determination, but that may not be enough to get him drafted. There are only 32 people he has to prove himself to, and the general managers of the National Football League teams are going to look at the big picture. Does his talent trump any potential distraction he could bring to a training camp?

By Sam speaking up now, it'll give the media enough time to write about him, to interview him and to discuss him, that by the time the combine comes, every possible story angle will be exhausted.

Sam deserves a spot on an NFL roster, but it wouldn't surprise me to see his draft stock take a hit. It wouldn't surprise me to see him tumble all the way to the undrafted free agent pool.

But I think there's at least one team that will give him a chance.

One team will make history.

One team will take the necessary step to ensure that the next time an athlete comes out as gay, that the media circus is a little smaller.

One team will join Michael Sam in his journey that will change minds and open eyes.

For more on Michael Sam check out this article from SB Nations's Outsports, and also this SBN long form article that goes behind the scenes of his decision.

2) The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will have a few roster decisions to make in regards to their current free agents, and more importantly their future free agents. Both safety Earl Thomas and corner Richard Sherman are entering their last contracted season, and early reports are that they will lock up Thomas first.

It's also being reported that defensive end Michael Bennett would like to remain in Seattle, but he's expecting a raise from his $5 million annual salary of 2013. If the Seahawks can't come up with a number he deems worthy, he will test free agency.

3) The New Orleans Saints are about to piss off star tight end Jimmy Graham. They are far apart on a contract for the free agent, so the franchise tag is expected to be in play. The problem is that the Saints will tag tight end Graham as a tight end, but Graham believes he should be tagged as a wide receiver.

Tight end is the position he's listed at, but wide receiver is the position he mostly lines up at. The difference in the two tagged positions is around $4.5 million dollars.

I think I'd be pissed off too.

4) The Redskins nickname is back in the news, as two members of congress are planning to strong-arm NFL commissioner Roger Goodell into forcing a name change. Their threat; Revoking the NFL's tax-exempt status.

Hitting the league in their wallet may be the tipping point. Most colleges, high schools and grade schools have abolished Native American nicknames, it's time the Washington Redskins follow suit.

5) This will be the second time Justin Bieber has appeared in my NFL Thoughts, and just like the last time, it's because he was being a dumbass.

Bieber chartered a flight to the Super Bowl, and he and his father (yes his father) were verbally abusive to a flight attendant.

But that's not all!

Biebs and his old man were reportedly smoking so much marijuana that the pilots had to don gas masks.

Deport this kid immediately.

6) New Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien will call his own plays. That's not really news, as a few 1st time NFL head coaches last year elected to do the same, and a few others have been doing it for years. The odd part about his decision is that he'll do so with no offensive coordinator on staff.

That just makes no sense.

An NFL head coach has so much to worry about throughout the week, not to mention on game day, that having an O.C. in place to share some of the responsibilities is the logical decision. I'll bet the first sign of confusion will have the Houston media circling like buzzards.

7) Good drafting allows you to ignore high priced free agents. Being able to avoid signing free agents to build a roster allows you cap flexibility. Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery is a guy that really stresses scouting, drafting and developing to build the top to bottom of a roster, but it takes time.

No team has been better at this philosophy that the Green Bay Packers. Many of their front office staff have gone on to other teams after learning from Green Bay GM Ted Thompson. Even though the Packers have around 17 unrestricted free agents, they have plenty of cap space to bring back the guys that want to bring back.

For a peek into Thompson's philosophy, check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

8) Here's one thing to keep in mind when dissecting the numerous Mock Drafts floating around out there. Don't get that worked up over them. Philly.com took a look at five prominent mock drafters from last season, and their hit rate was an unspectacular four correct in total from all five 1st rounds.

We bring you our Mocking the Mocks series of articles to drum up some good draft discussion, and to bring numerous potential Bears picks to light.

9) The parade of articles ranking the NFL players for the 2014 season has already started and Jay Cutler is lumped in with the "Very Good" fantasy quarterbacks this year. CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Dave Richard has Cutler down for a 4100+ yards and a 29+ TDs type of season.

Do you expect that kind of production out of Jay this year?

10) Chicago mayor Rahm Emanual wants the Super Bowl in Chicago. I don't think he'll receive his wish. With the New Jersey Super Bowl avoiding a major snow storm by less than 24 hours, I don't think the NFL will come back to a cold weather non-domed city.

Mayor Emanuel also would like to see the NFL Draft held in Chicago, and this is an idea I can get behind. The NFL has held their draft in New York City since 1965, but prior to that it has made stops in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Chicago.

What are your NFL related thoughts this week?

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