Chicago Bears: Chester Taylor

Bears free agency: good and bad

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
Tim Jennings
Position: Cornerback
Contract: Third contract with Bears -- four years, $22.4 million
Years of service with Bears: 2010-present

Recap: The Bears viewed Jennings as a placeholder when they initially signed him to a two-year deal in 2010 after he played the first four years of his NFL career in Indianapolis. Three contracts later, Jennings is a two-time Pro Bowl selection and considered one of the defense's top performers. In four years in Chicago, Jennings has 287 tackles, 16 interceptions, 45 pass breakups and five forced fumbles in 58 starts. Jennings led the NFL with nine interceptions in 2012, tied for the second most in Bears' single-season history. Not bad for a player that began 2010 as the No. 3 cornerback on the roster behind Charles Tillman and Zack Bowman.

Chester Taylor
Position: Running back
Contract: Four years, $12.5 million
Year of service with Bears: 2010

Recap: Taylor had a successful eight-year run in Baltimore and Minnesota. He even rushed for 1,216 yards in 2006 for the Vikings. But Taylor only averaged 2.4 yards per carry on 112 attempts (267 yards) in 2010. While Matt Forte flourished in the backfield en route to another 1,000 season (1,069 yards), Taylor never seemed to find a groove. Instead of paying Taylor's salary in 2011, the Bears released him. He played one more season for the Arizona Cardinals before leaving the league. Taylor's signing began a steak of bad No. 2 running backs behind Forte on the depth chart.

Sam Hurd's impact on Jerry Angelo

December, 16, 2011

Via, I heard most of the brief news conference Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo held Friday to announce the inevitable and highly warranted decision to waive receiver Sam Hurd. What caught my ear more than anything, however, was Angelo's snappy response when asked if this episode will impact his future with the organization.

"Whistling Dixie," is what it sounded like Angelo said. In other words, you're in fantasy land.

I wonder, however, how Hurd's arrest will weigh on a lifelong football man who never imagined that the acquisition of a No. 5 receiver and special teams contributor would blow up into one of the most embarrassing moments in recent franchise history. By all accounts, Hurd was a well-respected member of the Dallas Cowboys for five seasons and there were few, if any, people around the NFL who would have suspected him of operating a drug distribution ring that undercover federal investigators busted Wednesday night in Chicago.

Angelo downplayed reports this month that he might retire after the season. There are times when sports franchises and private businesses alike oust their top executives at times of extreme crisis, but I don't think this qualifies. If the Bears fire Angelo because he signed a veteran NFL player with no prior history who was later revealed to be a drug dealer, well, that would be a tough blow.

Angelo said Friday that there were "no facts" and "no flags" that "anyone can present tangibly" that would suggest the Bears should have been aware of Hurd's alleged secret life. "We do our homework," Angelo said. "We do our due diligence and we did everything we could possibly do given the information that we can accumulate."

But when you think back just over the past year or so, you recall Angelo explaining a bizarre miscommunication that left tailback Chester Taylor believing he had been released when in fact he was expected at practice. You think of Angelo denying any wrongdoing when a draft-day trade with the Baltimore Ravens broke down without the Ravens realizing it.

Angelo is 62. He has two years remaining on his contract, but you wonder if the Hurd episode is enough to push him over the edge and at least consider retirement. His brief but fierce defense Friday suggested it won't. But perhaps he was the one whistling "Dixie" on that one.

Starter money for Brandon Meriweather

September, 8, 2011
Contract numbers for NFL players are often misleading, creating more confusion than enlightenment. Occasionally, however, they tell us more than a team has admitted about current plans and the likely future of a given player.

The contract of new Chicago Bears safety Brandon Meriweather is a prime case in point. We outlined a number of possible explanations for Meriweather's arrival last weekend. But as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune points out, Meriweather signed a one-year contract that will pay him like a starting player. He received a $1 million signing bonus, has a $2.25 million base salary and is now the Bears' highest-paid safety.

Meriweather's $3.25 million in total compensation is decent market value for a safety with two Pro Bowls on his résumé. It's not the type of money teams typically pay for a player they expect to spend 16 games as a backup and special-teams contributor, even if it's a team like the Bears with a significant salary cap surplus.

A wise guy would note the Bears have committed significant money to part-time players before. Last year, for example, they paid running back Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna a combined $13 million.

In this case, I see no need for sarcasm. The Bears are expected to start safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright in Sunday's season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but the finances behind Meriweather's arrival suggest change is on the horizon.

Hardly Taylor-made

September, 2, 2011

CHICAGO -- If this was really Chester Taylor's last game in a Bears uniform, he went out like he came in, 2 1/2 yards at a time.

Read the full story.

Five Things We Learned: Bears-Browns

September, 2, 2011

CHICAGO -- Here are five things we learned following the Chicago Bears' 24-14 victory over the Cleveland Browns:

[+] EnlargeCaleb Hanie
Jerry Lai/US PresswireCaleb Hanie completed 7-of-10 passes for 83 yards with a touchdown and a 128.3 QB rating against the Browns.
1. Caleb Hanie is a legit No. 2 QB: The Bears' backup quarterback debate was one of the silliest of the summer. Hanie is a Sunday player, or in this case a Thursday night player. He might not always look great in practice, but he almost always turns it on during games, like he did against Cleveland to the tune of a 128.3 QB rating. For whatever reason, the coaches (Mike Martz in particular) have been ultra-critical of Hanie during camp, almost to the point of being borderline over the top with their comments. Leading the Bears on two scoring drives in two possessions should prove to Martz that Hanie deserves to be the unquestioned No. 2 quarterback. Rookie Nathan Enderle has potential but isn't NFL ready. After watching the preseason finale, even Martz has to admit Hanie is the obvious choice to replace Jay Cutler in an emergency situation.

2. Calling Chester Taylor back to facility a good move: Ironic that only a few days after veteran Chester Taylor thought he was cut and left Halas Hall (only to later return), Bears running back Kahlil Bell suffered a right ankle injury in the second quarter. This comes on the heels of No. 2 rusher Marion Barber missing the contest with a bad calf which raises the question: Should the Bears consider keeping Taylor after all? It might not be a bad idea, especially if either Bell or Barber is questionable for the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons. Although Taylor averaged only 2.4 yards per carry last season, he's still a good blocker, an above average receiver and has plenty of experience (33 career starts). Robert Hughes opened a few eyes in the final exhibition game and deserves at least practice squad consideration. This just goes to show that anything can happen in the NFL. What a crazy league.

3. Depth at safety is a concern: The Bears were already a bit thin at safety, but injuries to Craig Steltz (hip) and Chris Conte (head) raise a big red flag heading into the regular season. Rookie Winston Venable made a strong push to make the 53-man roster, but he delivered a vicious blow and was flagged for unnecessary roughness in the second half. The play will no doubt be reviewed by the league, so let's hope Venable doesn't face any further discipline. Given how often the Bears have made changes at safety under Lovie Smith, the injuries to Steltz and Conte (both had solid training camps) comes at a terrible time for the defense, and for special teams coordinator Dave Toub. Steltz and Conte are expected to be contributors on special teams, so if they are forced to miss any time in the regular season, it would hurt the team in a variety of ways.

[+] EnlargeDane Sanzenbacher
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhDan Sanzenbacher had four catches for 50 yards against the Browns on Thursday.
4. A few rookies might have solidified roster spots: Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher probably already made the team before Thursday night, but his play on offense (four catches for 50 yards) and in the return game (65-yard punt return touchdown called back due to a holding penalty) should limit the suspense heading into the final cuts. Defensive ends Mario Addison and Nick Reed should be proud of their efforts, although Addison probably gets the nod at the third defensive end spot because of his athleticism. Keeping Venable around makes sense because of his strong preseason and the health concern at safety, and Kyle Adams looks to be in good shape at the fullback/H-back role. However, it's unclear what the Bears will do at linebacker. Dom DeCicco has a chance to earn one of the final slots, but the team could still look to go in a different direction or sign a veteran or two when players begin to get released.

5. Roy Williams needs the "fireworks" to start going off: Raise your hand if you were a little surprised Williams was given the night off. It's not a huge deal, but I felt the receiver could have benefitted by playing at least a series and perhaps catching a pass or two. Johnny Knox certainly got better Thursday night. He made a beautiful touchdown grab between two defenders on a well thrown ball by Hanie in the first quarter. The Bears decision to sit Williams is meaningless if the veteran comes out next weekend and performs well against Atlanta. However, if he is slow coming out of the gate, you could make an argument the Bears wasted an opportunity to build the veteran's confidence after a mediocre preseason.

Taylor back at practice with Bears

August, 30, 2011

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chester Taylor was back practicing with the Chicago Bears on Tuesday, a day after he left the team's headquarters thinking he had been cut.

Read the entire story.

Jim Basquil and Michael C. Wright talk at Bears camp about Chester Taylor's roster spot, the latest injury updates, the competition at wide receiver and Lance Briggs' salary increase request.

Another blunder by bumbling Bears

August, 29, 2011
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- It is certainly possible that Chester Taylor misunderstood Lovie Smith.

Taylor has never been cut from a team before, and thus it is conceivable Smith’s direct and honest comments to the running back Monday morning could have been interpreted incorrectly.

But when these things happen to the Chicago Bears -- mostly because these things always seem to happen to the Bears and not to other teams -- it is taken as one more piece of evidence in Exhibit A: Organization is a dysfunctional embarrassment.

Read the entire column.

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears running back Chester Taylor was on his way back to Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, hours after coaches told him he was no longer in the team's plans.

Taylor's agent Ken Sarnoff tweeted: "Here's a first for me - the Bears just called me and said they have NOT released Chester. He did talk with Lovie though... misunderstanding?"

Read the entire story.

Five things we learned: Bears-Titans

August, 28, 2011
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Here are five things we learned following the Tennessee Titans' 14-13 victory over the Chicago Bears:

1. The offensive line keeps improving: Don't assume every issue on the offensive line has been solved after two respectable performances in the span of less than a week. However, even to the untrained eye, it's easy to spot the improvement since the preseason opener against Buffalo. Both the pass protection (Jay Cutler sacked zero times) and run blocking (Matt Forte rushed for 74 yards) were solid in Nashville, an encouraging sign with the regular-season opener only a few weeks away. Maybe the most memorable offensive line moment of the night came when right guard Lance Louis pulled around the left side and led a Forte run to the outside. Louis moved so well it looked like he almost outran Forte on the play. If the line can run block well all year, and just give Cutler average time to throw the ball, the Bears offense could be much better than it was in 2010.

[+] EnlargeEarl Bennett
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesBears receiver Earl Bennett caught six passes for 89 yards on Saturday against the Titans.
2. Earl Bennett is the Bears’ top receiver: This really shouldn't come as surprise. If the Bears need a big reception, the ball is going to Bennett. He runs the best routes, has the best hands and is the most quarterback-friendly wideout on the roster. Bennett doesn't fool Cutler. They've known each other since college, and Bennett has just gotten better over the years. Right now, Bennett is entering the final year of his contract. Understandably, Forte's quest for an extension has received all the attention, but if Bennett produces as expected in the regular season, he needs to be next up on the Bears’ new contract list.

3. Where was Chester Taylor?: Marion Barber left the game in the first half with a calf injury and Chester Taylor still didn't see the field? Really? What are Bears fans supposed to think about Taylor's status on the roster when Robert Hughes carries the ball two times against the Titans. Give Kahlil Bell credit, he made the most of his opportunites, but with Barber banged up, hanging on to Taylor might not be a bad idea. But given the tone of Taylor's postgame remarks, he seems fed up with the situation here in Chicago. If Taylor is buried that deep on the depth chart and the Bears don't want him, they might as well cut him now.

4. Roy Williams has work to do: Cutler really didn't give Williams a ringing endorsement following the game. But with the starters not expected to play much in the preseason finale Thursday versus the Cleveland Browns, that was probably the most we'll see of Williams until the regular season begins. Williams has mentioned the Sept. 11 date against the Atlanta Falcons numerous times since signing with the Bears, so he probably deserves a shot to start the year. However, if the "fireworks" don't go off in a few weeks, the Bears could easily pull the trigger and make a switch. The quarterback/wide receiver chemistry is important, and so far, it doesn't look like Cutler and Williams are close to making beautiful music together on the football field.

5. Amobi Okoye is generating pressure: He might be the only guy reaching the quarterback, but it's been a solid preseason for Okoye at the three technique defensive tackle spot. Granted, Okoye played much of the game Saturday night opposite second stringers, but he made an impact with a sack and two tackles for a loss. Defensive tackle is shaping up to be a strength with Okoye, Henry Melton and the vastly underrated Matt Toeaina. When the Bears get Anthony Adams back from a calf injury and if rookie Stephen Paea can step up and contribute, the push from the interior of the defensive line is going to make life on the ends much easier.

Taylor unsure why he didn't face Titans

August, 27, 2011
[+] EnlargeKahlil Bell
Don McPeak/US PresswireLovie Smith said the reason Chester Taylor didn't play was the team wanted to take a better look at Kahlil Bell.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Chester Taylor benefitted from the NFL's business side in 2010, pulling in $7 million, but on Saturday the running back received what he considers a sobering dose of it.

"That's how the business is, I guess," Taylor said. "I don't know what's going on."

Just minutes after the club returned to the locker room after its pregame warmup for Saturday's matchup with the Titans, Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer informed Taylor he'd be standing on the sidelines for the club's 14-13 loss at LP Field, instead of playing.

Bears coach Lovie Smith explained after the game that Taylor's lack of repetitions came as a result of the team's desire to take a more extensive look at third-year running back Kahlil Bell.

"We wanted to take a look at someone else tonight, in particular, Kahlil Bell," Smith said. "Kahlil hadn't gotten an opportunity to play much. We wanted to take a good look at him, [and] we were able to. I think he did a good job of taking advantage of the carries he got."

Truthfully, Bell has received plenty of opportunities to run the ball throughout the preseason; 28 to be exact. New acquisition Marion Barber, who strained his left calf after running once for 2 yards against the Titans, has run the ball 21 times this preseason.

Taylor, meanwhile, has carried the ball just six times.

"Coach came to me before the game and just said I wasn't playing," Taylor said. "He didn't give me any reason or nothing. So I don't know if it's because of my play or not. It can't be from the competition because it's hard to get three carries in a game while somebody else is getting 14, and you're trying to compare that [to evaluate the running back competition]. So I don't know what it's from."

Taylor signed a four-year, $12 million contract last offseason that included $7 million guaranteed to serve as a complementary back to starter Matt Forte. Although Taylor averaged 2.4 yards per attempt in 2010, the team spoke highly in the offseason of the running back's contributions that didn't necessarily show up on the stat sheets.

Taylor played just six snaps against the New York Giants on Monday night, but offensive coordinator Mike Martz said recently that "Chester is having a heck of a camp."

It's worth pondering whether the team plans to pay Taylor $1.25 million in base salary as a backup with players such as Barber and Bell waiting in the wings. Bell represents a younger and cheaper option, considering he's set to make $525,000 in base salary in 2011. After receiving a $500,000 signing bonus to join the team on Aug. 1, Barber will receive an additional $2 million in base salary for 2011.

"I'm disappointed that I didn't play. I expected to play today," Taylor said. "I practice all week, and they didn't give me a heads up or anything. If it comes to them [making a decision to cut me], so be it. I know this is a business. It is what it is."

Q&A: Angelo talks free agency

July, 31, 2011
BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Instead of taking small snippets from longer conversations and putting them into one article, we figured you’d like to know all of what Bears general manager Jerry Angelo had to say on Sunday, when he addressed the media for the first time at training camp.

During a 20-minute conversation with reporters, Angelo addressed the club’s wild wide through free agency, the decision to trade tight end Greg Olsen, and how negotiations with stalwart center Olin Kreutz imploded, in part because of the fast pace of an unprecedented time in NFL history.

Here are the goods.

[+] EnlargeJerry Angelo
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhBears GM Jerry Angelo, right, with Lovie Smith, and his staff have signed 48 players in a four-day span.
Angelo’s opening remarks:Good, well, you know this is really an unprecedented time, as we all know given the dynamic that all 32 teams are going through. We had a lot of time to prepare for this, but there’s no preparation that you could do in this window of time that we were given to do all the things that we’ve done. We’ve signed 48 players thus far in a four-day span. I first want to congratulate our staff because I really feel they did a great job. I’m talking about our college staff, our pro staff, Tim Ruskell, directing our personnel department, and the work that Cliff Stein has done throughout this process. I can’t even explain or describe, he’s just been unbelievable because all the things we were able to do, we were competing with somebody. There were no layups here. Everything came with a lot of recruitment, coordination with our personnel people, and our coaches. I want to make that very clear.

Every decision that we made, we feel very good about the roster. Now, it’s about team-building, galvanizing. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the offseason to do that. Normally that’s when you do your team-building, that’s when that intangible, the camaraderie comes. The good thing for us, we do have a good nucleus. We were able to bring back Corey Graham, Anthony Adams, Nick Roach. We do believe in continuity, but we also believe in competition. That’s very, very important. I find in this business the curse to success is complacency, and we’ve seen that firsthand here in Chicago. I feel that the players we brought in here are going to create very good competition. We’re obviously gonna have a roster change. We believe it’s going to be for the good. How that all comes together, how fast that comes together, time will tell.

Obviously the real disappointing news comes with the loss of Olin Kreutz. I first want to say from my personal experience of being with Olin through most of his career, he embodies what a football player is. I have the highest respect for him. The reason that I’m in this business and why we’re all in this business is because of players like Olin Kreutz. Great legacy, certainly very, very disappointing that he chose not to accept our final offer. His decision, he thought about it, we did the best we could do given that we had a lot to do and felt that we gave him a fair offer. He chose to go in another direction. I told him that if he thought long and hard on it, and I know he did … I was hoping that he may change his mind. His representation, in particular Mark Bartlestein, did a great job. Mark and I had a lot of dialogue. Obviously we differed in some areas and how we see “fair.” Fair sometimes is a nebulous word. Very, very, sad, very disappointing, but I know this in our sport, it’s [not] about one thing. It’s not about any one player. It’s not about me. It’s about the team.

I told Olin, I told his agent, if we can’t get this done in a certain timeframe, then we need to move on because it is about the team. We can’t lose other options. We talked to a potential player yesterday in the morning. He was very interested. We waited to get back with him in the afternoon [and] two more teams are now in it, and the price has already gone up. It’s very, very difficult. So it was a line we had to walk. We had to make a decision. As tough of a decision as it is, you know, we have to move on as a football team. Again, a great player, a sad day for the Chicago Bears, for all of us. We again wish Olin but the best, he and his family. In saying that, I’ll open it up for questions:

Question: Do you worry about how this might affect the locker room since players have come out and said they wanted Kreutz back?
Answer: It just tells you how revered he was, and you can put me first in line on that. He’s done a lot for this football team, but there comes a time where there’s going to be closure. Nobody lives forever. Nobody goes on forever. That’s just the nature of the business. Whenever that is -- whether it’s next year or the year after that -- there’s going to be this moment. This is the time.

Q: Are reports accurate about the sides being only $500,000 apart?
A: It was accurate. Again, we negotiated in good faith. We wanted Olin back. They saw it differently, and I have to respect that and obviously, they have to respect our position. It’s not about one person. There are a lot of moving parts. It’s a big jigsaw puzzle and how everything fits. You have to put value on each piece and we did. We have to do our best. You’re not going to win them all. They’re not going to all go the way you want. Is it a going to be a loss? Yeah, it’s going to be a loss. It’s going to be a temporary loss, but we have to regroup. We’re bringing in Chris Spencer to come in here and compete for that starting center spot. Our coaches are going to determine that -- in particular coach [Mike] Tice -- and get those five best players on the field as soon as we can. I’m concerned about that. As I’ve always said, making sure we get the same five on the field as soon as we can, particularly with no offseason, that’s our challenge with our offensive line as much as anything.”

Q: You talked earlier about having to speed up the timetable to make a decision with Kreutz so the team wouldn’t miss out on other players. Can you explain that?
A: There were several players, in particular [Spencer], and things were moving at it was a little bit of a dormant period. Now, things have picked up. As things pick up, the price of business picks up as well. We feel good about it, and we’re anxious to get everybody on the field and practicing, particularly on Thursday. It’s a good time, though, for the young players to get to showcase themselves because most of them we have never seen until this weekend.

Olin Kreutz
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAfter failing to come to a contract agreement with the Bears, Olin Kreutz is pondering retirement.
Q: How do you place a value on a player’s intangibles such as leadership?
A: To me, leadership starts with paying the price. That’s what leadership means. And I think we’ve got a locker room of guys who are willing to pay the price. That’s leadership. Leadership isn’t talk. Leadership is action. Olin Kreutz was a warrior. He led based on his actions. Rashied Davis was a warrior. It’s about their reactions, not their words. We’ve got a good group of leaders. I told you last year [that] the greatest compliment I could have given our team last year [was] their character. It was a good football team. I’ve been with better football teams, but the things that they went through and achieved [were] based on the character of the football team. Certainly, Olin was a part of that, but we have a good nucleus. We have a challenge ahead of us. We’ve got a lot of new players. We have 48 new Bears. A good handful of them are going to make our 53-man roster. So, hey, it’s a fun time. It’s a challenge. It’s a chase. This is what you wake up for. We’re excited about the future of the Bears this year. [When] we see everybody take the field on Thursday, obviously our biggest fear is injury, particularly for the young players because we don’t have any experience like we would have gotten in the offseason. A little soft tissue injury, he’s out two weeks. Well, that window closes on him. That’s probably going to happen, but all 31 teams are in that boat.”

Q: What did you like about Spencer?
A: Not many centers are out there. He’s still in the prime of his career. He’s 29. Two years, probably he had about a good 30-some starts. So good experience. No. 1 draft pick. He’s got some good things. Did a lot of tape on him. I like his strength. Very good run-blocker. We like the traits that he brings. You’re going to like him. He’s the antithesis of Olin. He’s not as outgoing, but a good person, a good work ethic. But hey, he’s competing for a starting job. I’m not saying that there’s any … there’s no entitlement here. We all know that. Very few players have that luxury. Chris is going to have to come in here and compete and earn his way.

Q: Doesn’t $500,000 seem like a small amount to lose a player like Kreutz?
A: It goes beyond that. There’s more to it than just the dollar sign. Again, it’s a big puzzle. And you just can’t focus on one piece. It doesn’t work that way. It has to come together. And we have a lot of things happening at a very fast pace. We didn’t have two months to draw things out, to be patient. We have to move now. I don’t have a crystal ball now. I have to deal with reality, and I have to think about what? No. 1, the team. It’s about the team. This is what we’re built on: team. And ultimately that’s mine and coach [Lovie] Smith’s responsibility.

Q: Are you worried about a divide between the front office and the coaching staff?
A: No. I resent the fact that something was written that said there is a divide and regardless of what anybody says, that’s not true. That’s a lie. And it’s fabricated, and I resented it when I read that. That, to me, was dirty pool. We talk about everything. Do we agree on everything? Absolutely not. You don’t agree on everything with your wife. How am I going to agree with 18 coaches and 15 scouts? It doesn’t work that way. But at the end of the day we’ve got to make a decision, and we all agree on one thing: Once we make a decision we’re all for it. We’re going to make it work. That’s what teams do.

So, we talked through it. Very difficult. Things were said. We weighed them. We did the best. We had an offer. We bumped our offer. We did the very best we could. So now we’re going to let the chips fall where they may and we’re going to move forward.

Q: What’s the timetable for signing Matt Forte to a new deal?
A: Things are starting to settle down. Once Cliff gets the numbers back in order again. I told Matt personally, certainly talked to his agent and said our intent. He called me in the summer, and I wouldn’t give him anything definitive. I have my thoughts, but I’m very measured when I talk about players’ contracts, particularly extensions. And we have a pretty good track record of doing it. And I told him I can’t give you any timetable. That’s not possible, so I’m not going to tell you that. He didn’t like hearing it. But that’s the way things go sometimes. When we talked this summer, these past weeks, I told him now our intent is to do that. That’s a strong word. When I say intent, then we’re motivated to do something. The timetable is yet to be determined. Just be patient. Take care of your job as you already have and continue to do and we’re going to do our part. But again, it’s a negotiation. You’ve got to find that common ground. That part of it will be a challenge. You’re not talking about a UFA (unrestricted free agent), where there’s an open market, you bid. These extensions are much tougher, because agents normally look at the UFA market to set their counts. But he’s not a UFA. And that’s the challenge. We’ve got a pretty good track record. Cliff’s the best. I trust he. [Adisa] Bakari, Matt’s agent, we’ve dealt with him. He’s a very good agent. So I feel optimistic. But again, we’ll just let that play itself out.

[+] EnlargeMarion Barber
Thomas Campbell/US PresswireMarion Barber, who played at Minnesota, is one of those "Midwest players" Jerry Angelo loves.
Q: What’s Marion Barber’s role? Can you keep all three running backs?
A: It’s plausible. But again, it’s competition. We’ve got a good football player at what I consider a good value. That’s what it’s about. The thing I like about some of the players we have, in particular Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston -- they could have had more money at other places. I like players who like to bet on themselves. When you pay a player a lot of money to get him, you’re betting on him. But these players are betting on themselves. I respect that about them. It tells you a little bit about how they feel about our situation and how they feel about themselves.

Marion the same way, [he is a ] Big Ten player, and we’ve got a good contingent of Big Ten players. We like Midwest football players. [Tight end] Matt Spaeth another one, wanted to get back this way. Again it’s about competition. Best players play. We don’t base our evaluations on resumes. Resumes are how we evaluate them to get here. But once they’re here it’s up to them and the coaches make those decisions.

Q: Are there any concerns about continuity along the offensive line?
A: Come on? We’re not putting our heads in the sand. It’s going to be. But, there’s going to be growing pains. We’re going to see things we didn’t see. There is some continuity from the experience that some of the players had, and hopefully we’ll see them take a step. But it’s hard to predict. That’s why we play the game. We’ll see.

Q: There were trade rumors on Greg Olsen last year. Was this the time to move on from him?
A: You know, he came at me hard last year. I understood it. I told him I’d think about it. Greg’s a great kid, works his tail off. I said, ‘I don’t see that being in our best interests’ [when Olsen asked for a trade]. I said, ‘Again, it’s about the team.’ And I said that’s going to hurt our football team. I said, ‘You’re going to have to suck it up, do your job. You’ve got a contract. We paid you well for your services. He’s a professional, he took the high road. I respect that. Saying that, this year was different. We’re not really looking for Kellen Winslow, we’re looking for Mike Ditka. And so, the tight ends we have now, really fit more of the profile we want for our offense. It’s no more than that. And we got some good compensation. They got a heck of a tight end. [Panthers general manager] Marty Hurney is a good friend of mine. And Marty’s is just happier than heck to get him. Greg’s in a good spot. Hey, we hope he’s a Pro Bowler, and he just has a great career. We really wish him the best.

Q: To be clear, this was more about Olsen’s style and fit in the offense, right?
A: We just didn’t feel we were going to be able to make that kind of investment. I said, ‘Greg, the intent was not to extend you.’ He didn’t like to hear that, no more than I liked to say it. But hey, it is what it is. I hate that term, but I’ve been using it a lot.

Q: Will you add more offensive linemen?
A: Hey, it’s tough. These offensive linemen are tough to find. We’ve got a good nucleus of young guys with traits we look for, but they’ve got to come together. We can’t just run up and down the starting line, get a guy with a few games under his belt, and think that’s the answer. They’ve got to come together. We like our young players. We need to develop some of them. How are you going to develop them if you don’t play them? And if you don’t play them, then how do they know you believe in them? It’s a catch 22. We brought in an experienced center, who is in the prime of his career. That’s the best we could do. Everybody has an opinion: ‘They need this, they need that.’ Well, tell me who you want. Who should we look at? Give me names. Don’t tell me about our problems. Give me solutions. I’m in the solution business, not identifying the problems. You guys do a great job of identifying our problems. How about a few solutions.

(A reporter says, “Olin Kreutz”).

Q: Before making a decision how much do you consider how the rest of the team will react?
A: Hey, I do. But they didn’t hire me to be loved. They hired me to make decisions based on what’s in the best interests of the team. That’s what it’s about, people. Come on? This isn’t a wake. We’re sad, but nobody died. We wish him the best. He had a great career. Long after I’m forgotten, he’s going to be long remembered, as well he should be.

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Until told otherwise, Chester Taylor plans to be on the Chicago Bears roster in 2011.

[+] EnlargeChester Taylor
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireChester Taylor, a key free agent pickup for the Bears in 2010, could be on the chopping block with Marion Barber's arrival.

With Matt Forte entrenched atop the Bears depth chart at running back, the team added veteran Marion Barber to the mix, agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with the former Dallas Cowboys rusher Saturday.

That move raised questions as to whether the Bears backfield was big enough for Forte, Barber and Taylor, who inked a four-year deal with the Bears prior to the 2010 season.

Taylor, however, claims he has not been told by the team they intend to release or trade him.

"No. No. Never heard anything about it," Taylor said on Sunday morning.

"I don't wonder anything, I just feel like they just added more depth in the backfield. Me playing as many years, I know it's hard having a good backfield throughout the season, so you got to have depth in the backfield. Any running back can go down at any given time. I believe he can help us more than he can hurt us. He did a lot for Dallas, hopefully he can bring it here too."

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo wouldn't rule out keeping all three rushers, but stopped short of assuring Taylor a spot on the final 53-man roster.

"It's plausible [to keep all three on the roster], but it's competition," Angelo said on Sunday. "You know we got a good football player at what I consider a good value.

"[Barber] is a Big Ten player. We got a good contingency of Big Ten players. We like Midwest football players ... he wanted to get back this way. Again, it's about competition. Best players play, we don't base our evaluations on resumes. Resumes are how we evaluate them to get here, but once they're here, now it's up to them and the coaches to make those decisions."

Barber spent the last six seasons with the Cowboys, running for 4,358 yards and 47 touchdowns -- sixth in the NFL during that span. He added 1,280 yards receiving. Barber ran for only 113 yards in 13 games during his final year with the Cowboys.

He was officially released by the Cowboys this week along with former Pro Bowl receiver Roy Williams, who joined the Bears on Friday.

"He's a big back, he can help us out on goal line and short yardage as well," Taylor said. "[He can] just come up here and bring us that toughness we need. Hopefully help us throughout the season when me and Matt [Forte] wear down or something like that."

Taylor averaged 2.4 yards per carry during the 2010 regular season in 112 rushing attempts.

The question now becomes, with Barber in the mix, is there enough room for all three in the crowded Bears backfield?

"I don't know, we'll see," Bears running backs coach Tim Spencer said. "But I like the three. As a coach, I'm feeling pretty good."

Bust debate: Five more to consider

June, 29, 2011
There are still three full months left in the season (and three seasons left on his contract), but there is no denying Adam Dunn has been a free agent bust for the White Sox so far. Dunn made our list of the biggest free agent busts in Chicago history, and you can vote for your own lists of busts.

Many of the busts on our list are easy. But a glance around Chicago sports today brings up several debatable cases with money and expectations playing major roles in determining whether they are busts. Here's a look at a few:

  • Alfonso Soriano, Cubs OF: Does Soriano's albatross of a contract make him a bust? Signed to an eight-year, $136 million contract before the 2007 season, Soriano was productive in his first two seasons, and he carried the Cubs to the playoffs in 2007 with 14 homers in September in the first of two straight trips to the postseason. But he has been a disappointment the past three years, in and out of the lineup with injuries and playing shoddy defense in left field. Since making the All-Star team in his first two seasons with the Cubs, Soriano has averaged .253 with 19 home runs and 56 RBIs. And the Cubs are stuck with Soriano for another three seasons (he will be 38 years old when his contract is up).

  • Kosuke Fukudome, Cubs OF: Is Fukudome a disappointment if he was making $1.5 million as a fourth outfielder rather than $12 million a season starter? The Cubs won the bidding for Fukudome when he came over from Japan in 2008 and gave him a four-year, $48 million deal. Aside from a standout first half of 2008 when he made the NL All-Star team, Fukudome has been an average player. He is a .338 career hitter in April, but is a .261 lifetime hitter with little power and he has never driven in more than 58 runs in a season.

  • Alex Rios, White Sox OF: The White Sox claimed Rios -- and his $70 million contract -- off waivers in 2009, and he struggled mightily, batting .199. He rebounded in 2010, batting .284 with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs with 34 stolen bases. But he is back to his 2009 form, batting .221 with 6 homers and 20 RBIs this season.

  • Chester Taylor, Bears RB: Signed to a four-year, $12.5 million contract (with $7 million guaranteed), Taylor was brought in to give the Bears a 1-2 punch in the backfield with Matt Forte in Mike Martz's system. A former 1,000-yard rusher, Taylor complemented Adrian Peterson well with the Vikings, averaging 44 catches and almost 400 receiving yards in his final two seasons in Minnesota. But Taylor never found his place in the Bears' offense last season, averaging 2.4 yards a carry and 20 receptions.

  • Carlos Boozer, Bulls F: The Bulls' biggest free-agent signing last summer, Boozer missed 23 games with injuries, but when he played, he produced in the regular season, averaging 17.5 points and 9.6 rebounds. Then came the playoffs. Hampered by a turf toe injury, Boozer averaged 12.6 points on 43 percent shooting and was a major defensive liability. He was roundly booed and sat on the bench late in games in favor of Taj Gibson. Boozer helped the Bulls to the best record in the NBA, but his struggles in the playoffs have to be a concern for the Bulls, who are tied to Boozer for four more years.
  • Uncertain cap adds to complexities

    February, 8, 2011
    PM ET

    CHICAGO -- Halas Hall remained quiet in terms of transactions Monday, the first day the Chicago Bears and the rest of the NFL could start releasing players.

    Given there's a bit of a timetable to rid rosters of undesirables around the league (once the current collective bargaining agreement expires on March 4, league business ceases without a new deal in place), Chicago's relative inactivity would seem interesting considering it's believed to be pondering parting ways with a couple of players for reasons ranging from lack of production to high salaries, or in some cases both.

    But that's not all that's under consideration for the Bears in the current climate of labor uncertainty.

    [+] EnlargeTommie Harris
    AP Photo/Morry GashTommie Harris is due a $2.5 million bonus before June 1.

    With $104.9 million committed to players currently on the roster for 2011, the Bears are one of 20 teams around the league with more than $100 million already devoted to players for the upcoming season -- assuming there is one -- and the numbers don't even count toward the soon-to-come salary cap for free agents, franchise players (there's still disagreement between the league and union about whether the tags will even be applicable) or rookies.

    It's still unknown what the cap for 2011 will be once a new CBA is reached. In 2007, the salary cap was $109 million, and increased to $116 million for 2008, and $128 million for 2009, the last capped season. The Bears allocated a reported $131.9 million in the uncapped 2010 season.

    But based on the salary-cap increases of the past three capped seasons, the Bears likely won't find themselves in danger of going over the new cap once there's a new CBA. That doesn't mean the team is operating without taking the salary cap into consideration when planning for the future though.

    Although the Bears have held preliminary discussions with representatives for running back Matt Forte on a contract extension, several of the team's players who are free agents still haven't even heard from the organization in recent days about possible returns, according to multiple NFL and team sources.

    In addition to working out a lucrative extension for Forte and possibly safety Chris Harris, the team still has to find ways to bring back key veteran free-agent starters such as defensive tackle Anthony Adams, center Olin Kreutz and safety Danieal Manning while determining whether to bring back high-priced players such as defensive tackle Tommie Harris and running back Chester Taylor, or key contributors like special-teams ace Corey Graham and restricted free-agent quarterback Caleb Hanie.

    Tommie Harris has two years remaining on a four-year, $40 million extension and is due a $2.5 million bonus before June 1. Taylor, meanwhile, is reportedly on the chopping block after receiving $7 million last season as part of a four-year, $12.5 million contract signed last March to be the backup to Forte.

    It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility for Taylor to be on the way out, but a league source said the running back is expected to remain a Bear.

    Besides that, the $7 million for Taylor is already spent, which begs the question: What type of production did the team expect from a backup? The fact he's scheduled to make $1.25 million in base salary in 2011 and $25,000 in a workout bonus would also make the decision to release him somewhat of a head scratcher if there's not a capable -- and cheaper -- alternative waiting in the wings.

    Harris told "The Afternoon Saloon" on ESPN 1000 at the Super Bowl that "no one from the organization has talked to me about making any decisions. This is a time where the less you say is better."

    Part of that stems from the widespread uncertainty for both the players and the organization.

    The Bears have 48 players under contract, and it's difficult to fill out a roster by signing their own free agents, outside free agents, and draft picks while trying to maneuver within the unknown parameters of a yet-to-be-reached CBA that will include a salary cap, and possibly two additional games in 2011.

    "Business as usual," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said at the end of the season. "Like everybody else, we've just got to plan accurately."