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The Chicago Bears won't be major players in free agency when it comes to the top-tier receivers on the market, but sources say the team has a legitimate interest in New York Jets receiver Brad Smith.
A fourth-round pick in 2006 and former quarterback at Missouri, Smith caught just four passes last season for 44 yards with no touchdowns, and rushed for 299 yards on 38 attempts. Those numbers might not immediately resonate, but it's likely the Bears are drawn to Smith's 6-foot-2, 212-pound frame, versatility and the fact he represents an explosive value option who could take some of the attention off playmakers such as Devin Hester and Matt Forte.
Throughout his five-year career, Smith has contributed at several positions on offense and in the return game. In addition to catching 64 passes over his career, he's averaged 7.8 yards per carry (98 attempts) and completed four-of-seven passes for 51 yards and a touchdown.
As a return man, Smith has averaged 26.6 yards on 74 kickoff returns.
Smith signed a restricted free-agent tender with the Jets last March worth $1.76 million, and is seeking a multiyear deal in free agency. There's a good chance Smith's value has increased somewhat given the proposed rule in the labor settlement that makes all third quarterbacks active on game day.
The new rule would mean that Smith could serve as the Bears' third quarterback, while still contributing in a normal capacity on offense and in the return game, which basically would give the team an extra roster spot.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.