Cleveland is believed to be shopping Tim Couch, who has had a variety of injuries since the 1999 draft.
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
CHICAGO -- "Hey, whaddya want for him?"
So begins many a conversation between the Chicago Bears' Jerry Angelo and agents or other general managers. This year those calls concern quarterbacks.
Some of those calls already have taken place. Free agency doesn't officially start until Feb. 28 and contact with another team's players still under contract or their agents is forbidden, but everybody does it and everybody knows it.
They just can't talk about it.
Can't say a lot
"We'll be definitely looking at all those [quarterback] candidates and right now all they are is possibilities because you don't know who's going to end up out there," said Bears coach Dick Jauron. "Other than that there's not a lot I can say because they're all property of their team until free agency late this month."
But will the Bears wait until the start of free agency to address the "veteran" component of their veteran-rookie plan of stocking their depth chart at the pivotal position of the franchise? They have an interest in the Saints' Jake Delhomme.
Or will they seek a trade?
Among the rumors flying around Cleveland lately is that the Browns would package quarterback Tim Couch and linebacker Earl Holmes off to the Bears for a late-round draft pick and Brian Urlacher.
Not likely. The general manager who sends Urlacher out of Chicago would need to book passage for himself on that same flight, under an assumed name.
The Browns are believed to be shopping Couch, who has had a variety of injuries since being the first player taken overall in the 1999 draft. It would mark the Bears' second foray into that draft for a quarterback, having selected Cade McNown with their first pick at No. 12.
Couch has been replaced as the starter in Cleveland by Kelly Holcomb and has said he is willing to restructure his contract, and he has the distinction of having a good day against the Bears' defense in its highlight 2001 season.
Couch completed 14-of-23 passes for 211 yards and two touchdowns but was charged with an interception when his pass in overtime was deflected by Bryan Robinson into the arms of Mike Brown, who returned it for a touchdown.
The Bears would need a revised deal from Couch, whose contract calls for $6.2 million, $7.6 million and $8 million over the next three seasons.
One issue at this point becomes cost. Do the Bears want to secure a quarterback like Couch or Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart now in exchange for a draft choice -- few expect the Browns to get more than a mid-level pick for Couch -- and beat the crowd? Or do they hope to get the price down -- both in terms of trade value and salary -- once the free-agent market opens later this month?
"We'll definitely have an order [of preference]," Jauron said. "We know we won't be the only competitors in the field for these guys."