The Chicago Bears joined the Miami Dolphins and probably a few more teams before the official beginning of free agency. The Bears cut veteran wide receiver Muhsin Muhammed, offensive tackle Fred Miller, and defensive tackle Darwin Walker. The major significance will be on the Bears salary cap, which opens up $15.6 million in open space to sign new talent.
Suddenly the chances of bringing in difference makers like running Michael Turner and right guard Alan Faneca seems much more likely. The Bears don’t seem to be in any hurry to bring back guard Ruben Brown and Faneca is regarded as one of the top guards in the league. Locking up Faneca long term would open up the door for the Bears to use their first round pick on an offensive tackle, which I have been lobbying for since mid-season.
My biggest disappointment is the Bears did not make more of an effort to get Moose the last 66 receiving yards he needed to reach 10,000 receiving yards for his career. In a season that fizzled, it would have been nice to have a special event at Soldier Field to honor a great receiver. Instead, Moose will have to enjoy his career milestone in a different uniform.
The sudden cuts come because many NFL players have their first paycheck come in March. Moose was owed a $500,000 roster bonus in March, another $500,000 to Miller, and an unreal $5.2 million to a largely ineffective Walker. I hate to see Moose leave but when you look at the numbers the roster cuts eliminates over paid players that opens up cap room to sign younger, more productive players.
The sudden surge in cap room addresses several questions that will be answered in the coming weeks. Will the Bears use the franchise tag on Bernard Berrian or attempt to lock him up in a long term contract? Some football analysts feel Berrian is just as over-hyped as Moose but I have never seen an analyst take a ball deep and to the end zone the way Berrian does. Will the Bears grab Michael Turner off free agency and sign him to a huge deal to lock up the top free agent running back? Will the Bears do the same to Alan Faneca? Will the Bears look at free agent wide receivers or are they that confident that Devin Hester can remember his routes without Moose explaining the play while leaving the huddle? Will the Bears address any of their safety concerns in free agency or wait for the draft? Even if the Bears offer Rex Grossman a contract, will he want to return after all the criticism? If he does re-sign, will Brian Griese be gone?
The next couple months are going to be a big determination of how the Bears want to rebuilt a Super Bowl contender.
A couple questions have already been answered. My suggestion of signing back Marty Booker didn’t seem to have much effect on Halas Hall and they don’t appear to have any interest of bringing back another aging wide receiver. The Bears also showed their confidence in Alex Brown and need at defensive end by signing a two-year extension to his contract, keeping him in Chicago until 2011.