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Friday, March 5, 2010
Manumaleuna could help Martz use Olsen

By Kevin Seifert

While we have a spare second, let's take a moment to examine what the arrival of tight end Brandon Manumaleuna will mean -- and not mean -- for Chicago.

Manumaleuna led St. Louis tight ends in receptions for three seasons when Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz was the Rams head coach. Over that period, however, he caught a total of 57 passes. So none of us should view Manumaleuna as a big-time receiving threat. He's a nearly 300-pound blocking tight end who is a good fit in a scheme that routinely asks tight ends to pass block against defensive ends.

Given his strengths and limitations, it seems more likely that Manumaleuna will challenge veteran Desmond Clark for playing time rather than starter Greg Olsen.

Does that mean Clark, a longtime locker room staple, is on the way out? Not necessarily. As Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com points out, he is due a roster bonus of $475,000 on Friday. If Clark were going to be released, you would think it would have come before now. (Then again, what's $475,000 to a team prepared to drop 10 times that money on free agency this year?)

The bigger question is whether there is any reason to believe Manumaleuna is a candidate to replace Olsen as the Bears' primary tight end. I'll repeat what we've discussed before: In previous incarnations of Martz's offense, that might have been the case. But Martz quite simply must find a way to incorporate Olsen's unique skills into his scheme.

Manumaleuna actually could help with that by handling the traditional roles of a Martz tight end. That would free up Olsen to be used in the innovative and creative ways that Martz presumably is already working on.