Sunday, February 16, 2003

NFL Notebook

Bears might pursue free agent QB

Enquirer news services

Quarterback is the Chicago Bears' most obvious need. With the fourth pick in the NFL draft, taking a QB is the most obvious strategy.But Bears general manager Jerry Angelo isn't so sure.

"I'm committed to wanting to get a quarterback," he said. "Is it with the fourth pick of the draft? I'm not going to commit to that."

The convergence of need and opportunity would seem to make this a no-brainer April26 decision for Angelo, especially with at least two quarterbacks of fine repute - USC's Carson Palmer and Marshall's Byron Leftwich - on the draft board.

But Angelo sounds like he already has talked himself out of that route, at least as a first option. By the draft, the Bears will have signed at least one free agent quarterback, which significantly could change draft need. Trading down to add picks in a draft with only one so-called "can't-miss" prospect, Michigan State receiver Charles Rogers, probably would be Angelo's ideal circumstance.

Several veteran quarterbacks are likely to be available. Here are the top three possibilities for the Bears.

1. Jake Delhomme, New Orleans (two career starts). Least experienced but most upside of any free agent if he can be convinced Chicago has more upside than, say, the Baltimore Ravens. "He's ready to be handed a job," said an AFC personnel man.

2. Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh (46). Failure in Detroit isn't necessarily a disqualifier. Wants another shot at starting. Got hurt often but threw more touchdown passes than interceptions, which is more than Jake Plummer can say.

3. Plummer, Arizona (82). Winner of the Ugly Contest. The so-called most appealing, or at least most famous, of an average lot. Also the most expensive. Would demand to start.

LIONS: Team president Matt Millen will be asked to explain to NFL officials whether he adhered to the league's guidelines on interviewing minority candidates in the process that led to hiring Steve Mariucci as coach.

Millen will be called to a special meeting in New York early next month.

The Lions have drawn criticism from such people as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and attorney Johnnie Cochran for interviewing only Mariucci after Millen fired Marty Mornhinweg on Jan.27.

Mariucci was hired Feb.4.

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NFL Notebook: Bears might pursue free agent QB

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