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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Bears shuffle tight ends

By Michael C. Wright
ESPNChicago.com

The Chicago Bears shuffled tight ends Thursday with Brandon Manumaleuna out and Matt Spaeth coming in.

The Bears released Manumaleuna, announcing that he failed his physical. Manumaleuna was due a $1 million roster bonus and a $100,000 workout bonus. He would have had to be on the Bears roster at 4 p.m. on Friday to earn the roster bonus.

The Bears also traded Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers for a pick and a player, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The NFL Network, meanwhile, reported that the Bears had agreed to a deal with the former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Spaeth.

He became just the second player to strike a deal with the team, which also agreed to terms with former Jacksonville punter Adam Podlesh.

Financial terms of Spaeth's agreement were not disclosed.

A third-round pick of the Steelers in 2007, Spaeth (6-7, 270 pounds) played in 14 games with 13 starts, and was used primarily as the club's blocking tight end in double tight-end sets. In the passing game, Spaeth contributed nine catches for 80 yards and a touchdown.

He fits the mold of Manumaleuna, who was signed during free agency last season to be used primarily as a blocker.

A favorite of offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who prefers tight ends who block first and catch passes second, Manumaleuna was plagued by nagging knee injuries and got off to a slow start last season. Team sources said last year the tight end reported to the team's offseason programs out of shape.

A 10-year veteran, Manumaleuna played all 16 games last season, starting in 13.

As far as the $100,000 workout bonus is concerned, he'll still leave the team with a $50,000 parting gift because the new CBA stipulates a player owed between $50,000 and $100,000 but waived before the Saturday deadline receives $50,000.

Spaeth, meanwhile, has started in 39 career games, posting 36 career catches for 275 yards and five touchdowns.

The team's free-agent acquisitions can't officially sign until Friday, and won't be eligible to practice until Aug. 4.

Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.