A couple weeks ago, when the Denver Broncos called and offered wide receiver Ashley Lelie in exchange for tailback Thomas Jones in a proposed one-for-one swap of equally disenchanted veterans, Chicago Bears management quickly dismissed the deal.
But with their wide receiver corps depleted by training camp injuries, the Bears might be reconsidering the possibility of acquiring Lelie, who boycotted the entire Denver offseason conditioning program and has stayed away from camp despite a fine of $14,000 per day. And while Chicago still won't trade Jones, in part because his strained hamstring and shoulder injury to Cedric Benson have muddied their tailback situation, the Bears might be willing to part with another veteran.
Like former first-round defensive lineman Michael Haynes.
Published reports indicated that the Bears recently offered a fourth-round draft choice for Lelie, but that the Broncos are holding out for more, with several other potential suitors interested in the AWOL wideout. But adding a player to the trade mix like Haynes, a first-round pick from Penn State in the 2003 draft and a player who seems to have fallen out of favor with Chicago coaches, might get the Broncos' interest.
League sources said that the Bears might be willing to deal Haynes as part of a package to acquire Lelie.
Denver may no longer need to acquire a tailback, having seemingly unearthed another gem at the position, with coach Mike Shanahan this week elevating undrafted free agent Mike Bell to the top of the depth chart. On the other hand, another veteran defensive lineman might look good to the Broncos, who on Saturday lost starting tackle Gerard Warren for 2-4 weeks with a dislocated left big toe.
Certainly, the Bears' situation at wide receiver, while not yet dire, could prompt general manager Jerry Angelo to view Lelie in a better light than he did a few weeks ago.
Veteran starter Muhsin Muhammad is nursing groin and wrist injuries. The player projected early in camp to join Muhammad in the starting lineup, Bernard Berrian, has a hip injury. Mark Bradley, for whom the Chicago coaches have great hope as a deep threat, is still not fully recovered from 2005 surgery on his right knee. Airese Currie is still rehabilitating from recent arthroscopic knee surgery.
While all of the injured players probably will be back on the field soon, and should be ready for the start of the regular season, their combined absences are slowing the progress of a Bears passing attack that ranked 31st in the league in 2005, and which must get better for Chicago to be a viable Super Bowl threat in 2006.
Angelo neither confirmed nor denied interest in Lelie, a player the Broncos have been attempting to trade for much of the offseason.
"I've always said we'll explore things and look at any position," Angelo said. "I'll leave it at that."
Haynes primarily played end for his first three years in the NFL, but the Bears moved him inside to tackle about halfway through last season, and that's where he has aligned in camp. Although he lacks tackle-type size, Haynes, 25, might be able to fit into the Denver scheme, with its emphasis on quickness. Even with some injuries on the Chicago defensive line, he is no lock to make the Bears' roster.
In 43 games, but only four starts, Haynes has 61 tackles, 5½ sacks, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles. Buried on the depth chart in 2005, as the Bears saw several younger players contribute to the front four unit, Haynes had careers lows in games played (11), tackles (nine) and sacks (1½).
It is believed that Haynes would welcome the opportunity for a fresh start and that Chicago officials are hoping he plays well early in the preseason, to perhaps enhance his trade value.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com.