- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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The revelation made by Tampa Bay veteran tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. on Monday that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are looking to trade or release him could lead the Chicago Bears to perform their due diligence regarding the player.
Winslow told “The Opening Drive” on Sirius XM NFL Radio the Buccaneers informed him of their intentions to trade or release him. The Bears reportedly participated in trade talks with the Buccaneers for his services prior to free agency, "but they didn't take the bait."
"(I) got the call on Saturday (from the Buccaneers) that they’re looking for somebody else,” Winslow said. “(Coach Greg Schiano was) kind of upset that I wasn’t there working out with the team in the offseason and then the first week of OTAS. But look, I’ve been there the last three years, and I’ve had a successful career so far. You just don’t get rid of one of your best players because of that. He said he’d help me out with the trade. It’s kind of shocking, but that’s what it is.”
Reached earlier Monday, Winslow’s agent Drew Rosenhaus declined comment.
An eight-year veteran, Winslow possesses immense physical talent that would seemingly make his acquisition by the Bears a no-brainer. After joining the Bucs in 2009 through a trade with the Cleveland Browns, Winslow has averaged 73 catches for 792 yards and four touchdowns.
However, recurring knee issues -- which have made him unable to practice consistently over the years -- likely raised concerns for the Bears and diminish Winslow’s value, along with the tight end’s current sizable salary. Winslow’s contract pays him base salaries of $3.3 million, $4.5 million and $5.5 million over the next three seasons.
So Winslow would likely have to agree to restructure his contract to make a trade with Chicago work. That means there’s a good chance the Bears would simply -- and smartly -- just wait for the Buccaneers to release Winslow.
It’s also important to note that Bears coach Lovie Smith on multiple occasions has expressed confidence in current starter Kellen Davis (also represented by Rosenhaus), not to mention the club also added to the position through the draft with fourth-rounder Evan Rodriguez.
Interestingly, the Bears traded away the player -- Greg Olsen -- who might have been the best fit for what new offensive coordinator Mike Tice would like to do schematically. The Bears secured a pair of draft picks in a trade with the Carolina Panthers for Olsen.
At the time of the trade (which former general manager Jerry Angelo said Olsen actually requested) it was believed the tight end wasn’t an ideal fit for the system employed by former coordinator Mike Martz.
Now that Tice is directing the offense, the Bears seek a legitimate “F” tight end capable of posing matchup problems for defenses in the passing game, and Winslow certainly fits that description. Considering Winslow likely will be released, Chicago’s chances of landing him -- provided the club is interested -- will hinge on whether it is willing to outbid other potential suitors.
If there’s considerable demand for Winslow’s services on the open market (which isn’t likely), the Bears -- still looking to sign franchise-tagged running back Matt Forte -- could be somewhat limited by their dwindling cap space.