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CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears have released former first-round pick offensive lineman Chris Williams and re-signed cornerback Zack Bowman to a one-year contract, the team announced on Tuesday.
Williams started 38 games over five seasons after the Bears selected him with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft. Williams bounced around the offensive line where he spent time at left tackle, right tackle and left guard. The veteran began the 2012 preseason in competition for the Bears' starting left tackle position but ultimately lost out to current starter J'Marcus Webb. Williams had been a healthy inactive the last two games against Dallas and Jacksonville leading up to his release.
With Williams no longer in the picture, starting right tackle Gabe Carimi is now the only former first-round pick taken in the Jerry Angelo era remaining on the roster. Angelo was let go as general manager after last season.
Missing on Williams hurt the Bears because they were in such dire need of young talent on the offensive line after the veteran crew who paved the way for back-to-back division titles in 2005 and 2006 began to reach the end of their professional careers. Angelo didn't focus on the offensive line in the draft as the team had great success plucking seasoned linemen in free agency such as Ruben Brown, John Tait, Fred Miller and Roberto Garza to put around star center Olin Kreutz.
But eventually, it was time to replace most of those players, and Williams was supposed to be the first block in the rebuilding process.
Now, Jonathan Scott is the unquestioned swing tackle for the Bears moving forward.
As for the return of Bowman, the Bears likely brought him back to help on special teams as the club deals with a couple of injuries to core performers Sherrick McManis (hip) and Blake Costanzo (thumb). The odds of Bowman competing for any time at cornerback seems remote at best, given the great seasons turned in by Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman, not to mention the depth provided at the position by Kelvin Hayden, but Bowman is a good special teamer and could help in the short term.
Bowman left the Bears in free agency after he made 16 starts at cornerback from 2008-11. A former fifth-round draft choice, Bowman led the team with six interceptions in 2009 but fell out of the starting lineup early the next season.
The Bears also terminated the practice squad contract of defensive end Aston Whiteside.