In my humble opinion? Yes, he has. That is, of course, contingent on the Bears staying healthy at certain key offensive and special teams positions for the rest of the season.
But, having said that, one way or the other, all signs point to tight end Desmond Clark walking away from the Chicago Bears in 2011. Before I get into the reasons why, and my reason for brining this up now, let's take brief look at how Dez wound up in Chicago in the first place, and just what he's meant to the Bears:
The former 6th round draft pick by the Denver Broncos in 1999 first landed in Chicago in 2003. He had some great seasons with the Bears, including a 2005 year that landed him a spot as a Pro Bowl alternate. He went on to follow that season up by helping the Bears get to an NFC Championship and a trip to the Super Bowl with 626 yards on 45 catches and 6 touchdowns. He had a 13.9 yard per catch average and a 13% touchdown rate that season.
In February of 2008, Dez inked a three-year, $6.5 million deal with the Bears. The contract included a $2 million signing bonus. $1 million, including a $475,000 roster bonus + $25,000 workout bonus is due to Clark this year. But, his contract expires at the end of the 2010 season.
So why wouldn't the Bears re-sign such a key veteran? Money, mostly. Even if Dez were to re-sign for the NFL minimum in 2011, an 11 year veteran like Clark would be due at least $860,000. But, that's assuming there's even football in 2011.
If a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is not executed and there is no football next year, Dez could be waiting on a contract until 2012. He'd be 35-years-old after an entire year away from the game. That's probably a tough scenario to come back from, especially when you spent the better half of your 2010 season inactive on game day.
Ok, forget the CBA for a moment. Assuming there is football in 2011, what's $860,000 to the Bears? Well, actually it's a lot. Consider that after the 2006 Super Bowl run, the Bears locked up money in contract extensions to Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Devin Hester.
Three years later, the Bears inked quarterback Jay Cutler for $30 million which is good through 2011. This off season, the Bears handed Julius Peppers a piece of paper worth $42 million in guaranteed money (up to $91 mil in total). Not to mention the contracts given out to Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna.
That $860K I referenced is starting to sound like a lot of money for a 34 year old TE who you've already determined should be inactive on game day now isn't it? The Bears will have no choice but to think more with their pocket books in 2011.
But, going back to Brandon Manumaleuna for a second, and also why I'm even having this discussion right now, is the fact that the Bears' win over the Eagles was not only a statement game to the national audience but also to the local audience. For the first time this season, I found myself complimenting the Bears' tandem tight ends.
Olsen has played pretty well for most of the season but he looked energized and rejuvenated on Sunday afternoon. He looks to be embracing his new found role in the Martz offense. Even the utter disappointment that had been Brandon Manumaleuna has finally started playing better as of late. It's all culminated into an "ah ha!" moment, in which I realized the likelihood that the Bears may no longer need good ol' Dez.
Don't get me wrong, I still think Dez could be a very good player for this team and his presence adds significant depth to the roster. They'll need him should the Bears find themselves among the multitude of NFL teams suffering from the injury bug before all is said and done. But, given his age and what the Bears would have to pay him, they'll likely let him walk away and into question mark that is 2011 free agency.
Clark's last game for the Bears was in week three of this season against the Green Bay Packers. Clark had one reception for 12 yards and a dropped TD pass. His career numbers as a Bear: 2,639 yards, 10.9 yards per reception and 18 TDs. He has only five fumbles in eight years as a Bear. He played 106 games in the blue and orange.
Dez is very active in the community, he's always been accessible to the fans and he founded 88wayz, a non-for-profit organization providing football camps in to low income children with hopes of giving back to his community, but also to show young people that they can do anything they put their minds to.
As much I would like to see the Bears find a way to keep Dez around, I just don't think it's in the cards.
Since we're on the topic anyways, here's a list of potential 2011 Bears free agents:
DT Anthony Adams, WR Devin Aromashodu, S Josh Bullocks, QB Todd Collins, WR Rashied Davis, CB Corey Graham, QB Caleb Hanie, OLB Brian Iwuh, C Olin Kreutz, LS Patrick Mannelly, S Danieal Manning, P Brad Maynard, OLB Nick Roach, OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa, DT Matt Toeaina, ILB Rod Wilson, RB Garrett Wolfe.