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Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Why did the Bears sign Eric Weems?

By Kevin Seifert

Let's catch up on the fast-moving Chicago Bears, who have curiously signed a kick returner while also adding a third veteran quarterback in the past few hours.

Veteran Eric Weems is technically a receiver, but he caught a grand total of 24 passes in four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons. He has returned 113 kickoffs and 77 punts over that stretch, however, and it's worth wondering why a team with Devin Hester on its roster felt compelled to sign a veteran kick returner.

There are a few theories making the rounds, most of which are pretty innocent. One is the Bears aren't counting on the immediate return of receiver Johnny Knox, who shared kickoff return duties with Hester last season before suffering a serious back injury.

Another is that Weems is simply an all-around good special-teams player, having made 55 career special-teams tackles in addition to his return duties. It's also worth noting Weems originally joined the Falcons in 2007, when current Bears general manager Phil Emery was the Falcons' director of college scouting.

But we should also note that Hester's contract originally called for a $10 million roster bonus this season. I don't know the details of when it must be paid out or how, but that's a steep total for any player, let alone one who is primarily a returner — even if he is the best returner in NFL history.

I have heard nothing to suggest Hester's future with the Bears is in doubt. I just think it's worth considering every possibility when a relatively prominent player is signed to a similar position as an established incumbent.

In addition to Weems, the Bears also announced the return of veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who presumably will compete with Nathan Enderle for their No. 3 job. Jason Campbell signed a one-year contract Tuesday to back up starter Jay Cutler. It's not often that a team has two veterans behind a veteran starter, but I'm not going to get too worked up about it if McCown ends up the Bears' No. 3, considering the quarterback problems the Bears encountered last year.

Finally, the Bears are hosting former Minnesota Vikings guard Anthony Herrera on a visit. Herrera, who was released over the weekend, joined the Vikings in 2004 when Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice was the head coach. Herrera can also play center.