Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Santonio Holmes experiment is officially over after the Bears released the veteran wide receiver this afternoon. The Bears signed Holmes off the street shortly after an injury to 2nd-year WR Marquess Wilson back in August. In the preseason Holmes showed flashes of the talent and elusiveness that made him one of the most dangerous receivers in the game early in his career with the Steelers, but it didn’t translate to any production on the field for the Bears once the regular season started. In 9 games (2 starts), Holmes had just 8 receptions for 67 yards and no touchdowns.
Holmes did contribute as the Bears primary punt returner but only averaged 5.6 yards per punt return which was the 36th ranked average in the league for players with at least 5 returns. If you take away Holmes best return of the season (22 yards) his average drops to just 3.5 ypr which is the 3rd worst mark in the NFL. There were also rumors that Holmes didn’t know the playbook and he has never been considered a positive locker room presence. His release from the Bears could mean the end of Holmes’ career which included a Super Bowl MVP in 2008 and a league leading 18.1 yards per reception in 2007.
On the bright side the release of Holmes could mean that 2nd year WR Marquess Wilson is ready to be activated from the injured reserve / designated to return list and could return to practice this week. Wilson had only 2 catches for 13 yards last season but spent the offseason working out with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery and was getting positive reviews from the coaching staff before his preseason injury. The release of Holmes could also mean more playing team at WR for speedy Chris Williams who had a 73-yard TD reception in the preseason before injuring his hamstring and a 101-yard kick return TD last Sunday. With the Bears playoff hopes a long-shot, they might as well see what they have in youngsters Wilson and Williams instead of giving snaps to an over-the-hill Holmes.
In a somewhat related move the Bears signed rookie WR Rashad Lawrence to the practice squad. Lawrence caught 31 passes for 463 yards and a TD for Northwestern last season. He is considered a sure-handed possession receiver with decent speed (4.49), athleticism (39″ vertical), and the toughness to make catches over the middle but also has short arms (30.5″), limited special teams experience and raw route-running skills. The Bears released LB Terrell Manning from the practice squad to make room for Lawrence.