No position on the Bears was more scrutinized (from begining to end) during the 2009 season than the wide receivers. From the second Jay Cutler was acquired 'til... well, it's still ongoing... fans have been looking for the Bears to revamp their receiving corps. In fact, many were looking for the Bears to find a legit #1 WR the last few years. With as much negativity as there was surrounding those wide outs, I thought they did a solid job. Nothing spectacular (although there were a few special moments sprinkled throughout '09), but definitely trending upward. And now on the list of problems the Bears may need to address before 2010, is receiver even in the top 5?
WIDE RECEIVER - The Bears can't go into 2010 with the same faces as 2009, can they? It is a possibility. There wasn't a big problem with drops last year, instead it was the route running that was the constant bugaboo. Seemingly every week, whichever color analyst was given the chore to work a Bears game, the topic eventually came around to the young and inexperienced receivers not running the right routes, or making the right reads, or not running hard the entire play, or not coming back to the scrambling quarterback. Even when the occasional color man (Ron Jaworski) would call out Jay Cutler for making the majority of mistakes that led to those interceptions, said color man would still find some fault in the unproven receivers.
Devin Hester - Signed through 2013 - With all the ‘Hester isn't a #1' and ‘trade Devin' talk out there, he sure was on pace for a solid season. Had he not missed those games and maintained his pace, he would have had about seventy catches for around a thousand yards. Not #1 WR numbers, but a heck of a lot more than some expected. (But real close to what I predicted back in June! Yes I'll quote myself; 'I'm already on record as saying I think Hester will get about 70 catches for 1000+ yards') Anyway... I still don't see Hester ever becoming a number one receiver in the truest sense of the term. Mainly because I don't see him having the instincts to go get the ball in those situations where you'd expect your #1 receiver to make a play. He has improved, and he has had a handful of the 'go get it' type plays, but just not enough for me to see him as any more than a potentially game breaking slot receiver. And that's not a bad thing.
Devin Aromashodu - Signed through 2010 -Of all the receivers on the roster D.A. has the skill set to blossom into that #1 WR. Which was probably why Cutler was asking for him to get some p.t. all season long. With the way he finished up he should go into the OTA's as a starter. Extrapolate his final 4 games (when he finaly saw some meaningful snaps) into a 16 game season and we're looking at 88 receptions, 1128 yards, and 16 TD's.
Earl Bennett - Signed through 2011 - After essentially redshirting last year he showed a knack for making the tough catch. He was the only Bears wide out that caught a ball in all 16 games last year. Another year working with Cutler and his numbers should go up. He could fill the posession receiver role on the Bears for years to come.
Johnny Knox - Signed through 2012 - Did anyone expect this kind of season when he was drafted? That 5th round pick that many thought was a throw in in the Cutler deal may turn out to be a valuable part of the Bears offense and special teams moving forward. And to think, had D.A. not been hurt going into week 1, Knox may not have even seen the field. Reagrdless of the kind of offense the Bears end up running, Knox will be in the mix at receiver.
Rashied Davis - Signed through 2010 -Last year I just knew he'd end up back on the roster due to his quality special teams play, but this year I'm not as sure. He's still real good in the 3rd phase, but at some point you need to keep receivers around because they are good receivers. Davis is due $935,000 in 2010, not that out of line for someone of his talents, but still quite a bit for the 5th WR on the roster. If another receiver can step up and show promise on special teams I can see Davis being cut.
Juaquin Iglesias - Signed through 2012 - Best case scererio for Juaquin is his he'll be the 2010 version of Earl Bennett (redshirt then snag about 50 balls), but I think the Bears are hoping he can ease his way into the offense while playing on special teams. With his draft status he'll be given every opportunity to stick around, but he'll have to take to special teams to increase his value. The Bears seem to be be very comfortable with their top 4 WR's so baring a Mike Martz type offense with some 5 receiver sets, look for Iglesias to again be a little used 5th or 6th WR on the roster.
Eric Peterman - Contract undisclosed - Peterman was signed to the practice squad in late December when the Bears had some injuries to their wide outs. He should be in camp next year and vying for a roster spot or at the very least a chance to be on the practice squad again. This will be another guy that has to thrive on special teams if he's to make the final 53.
2010 WR OUTLOOK - I'm sure the Bears will explore all options to find an established #1 WR, and even with no first or second round pick in the 2010 draft they'll still be involved in some trade talks, with their 2011 picks in play. After Jerry Angelo traded for Cutler, I'll never discount anything again... even with as unlikely as it seems. Brandon Marshall and Anquan Boldin will be on the market, and while I wouldn't mind either one being picked up, I also wouldn't mind them sticking with what they got.
On the free agent front, Charger starting wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcolm Floyd are two posibilities, and with San Diego having so many free agents to sign, one of them may be available. Terrell Owens could be had for a 1 or 2 year deal (he was on his best behavior in Buffalo). And of course Matt Jones is always looking for a job. Once the CBA stuff is worked out we'll have a better idea on the free agent status of a lot of players.
Look for the Bears to draft at least one WR at some point and then bring in a few undrafted receivers to compete in camp.