Source: Bears, Caleb Hanie part ways

Updated: March 13, 2012, 7:37 PM ET
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears will not bring back Caleb Hanie to back up Jay Cutler, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Bears head coach Lovie Smith admitted last month the club needs to formulate a better plan at the backup quarterback position heading into the 2012 regular season.

Hanie, an unrestricted free agent, will be free to sign with any NFL team when free agency begins on March 13.

"Each year you learn something," Smith said last month. "We thought we had a better plan at quarterback. I knew how valuable Jay was to us and that won't change, but we do need to get ourselves in a better position at that backup quarterback position.

"There are a lot of options out there. This is an attractive place for a quarterback, and we're going to look at people."

Hanie started four games last year after Jay Cutler suffered a fractured thumb in the Bears victory over San Diego on November 20. The Bears lost all four of those games as Hanie threw nine interceptions to just three touchdown passes. Veteran Josh McCown, also an unrestricted free agent, replaced Hanie as the Bears starting quarterback for the final two weeks of the season against Green Bay and Minnesota.

McCown impressed the Bears' coaching staff last season and is considered a strong candidate to be re-signed, perhaps as the No. 3 quarterback. That would allow the Bears to pursue a more high-profile No. 2 quarterback in free agency, such as Kyle Orton, who might strongly consider returning to Chicago in a reserve role if he fails to land a starting job somewhere else in the league. Orton, however, would probably require a hefty contract by backup quarterback standards. After Orton asked the Denver Broncos to be released last season, the Bears tried to claim the quarterback off waivers, but Orton was eventually awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Jeff Dickerson covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.

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