Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Moose is Loose
If you didn't already hear the news, Muhsin Muhammad was released yesterday. This clears the Bears of nearly $4 million dollars that Moose would have gotten by staying with the team through 2010. This is, however, only half the story. If Moose were a "clubhouse cancer" or "me-first" type player, I would understand the move. Likewise, if Moose were on a team filled with younger players that could outshine him, it would also be logical to move an older player.
The problem is, none of these things are true.
Moose was one of the lone defenders of Grossman during his struggles, and took the work ethic of the receiving corps to new heights. He took most of the blame for any loss upon himself, and finished 2005 and 2006 as the team's leading WR (Berrian took those honors in 2007, but with the offense as dismal as it was, that's nothing to cheer about). Not only was Moose a solid player amid a mess of inconsistencies, but there really isn't anyone else on the squad who can overtake him as the WR1 or WR2 on the depth chart (and they don't want to risk running Hester every play, so don't even try telling me that).
The real reason, I believe, is to better allocate his salary (much like the cut of Fred Miller) into one of three places:
#1. Re-signing Lance Briggs. This is the correct move, as Briggs proved last year that he can be everything Urlacher is and more. With Urlacher having the dreaded neck surgery, Briggs will be more valuable than ever. Give him every penny because, hey, he's earned it. This also allows the Bears to use the unrestricted free agent tag on Berrian (more on that here), netting them some return instead of just letting him walk.
#2. Re-signing Bernard Berrian. While not the best move, it would certainly explain the willingness to part with Moose so hastily. The Bears could then bring in Marty Booker on the cheap, and have a similarly potent 1-2 WR corps for half the price of Moose and Berrian. This, of course, allows Briggs to walk -- not my favorite resolution.
#3. Letting both walk and using the money on something else entirely. Very possible. The Bears have a few players that are now on the chopping block because of money (Griese and Darwin Walker just to name a few), and have expressed interest in bringing back players such as Grossman. It's very possible that a lot of players get shiny new restructured contracts, and the Bears sign only Marty Booker just to fill the gap Moose left.
However this turns out, I think the Bears may have gone into "double edged sword" territory. As much as I won't miss Moose dropping the easy catches (above) or his slowing routes, I will miss his work ethic and consistency.
Here's hoping this one doesn't come back to bite us in the ass...