The Bears made several roster moves today, the most significant being the release of DT Tommie Harris. They also terminated the contracts of linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and offensive lineman Kevin Shaffer.
The Harris release comes as somewhat of a surprise since Lovie Smith just said at the NFL Combine that the defensive tackle fit into the team's plans for 2011.
But I guess he didn't fit into GM Jerry Angelo's plans.
Harris, once a Pro Bowl player, has declined significantly over the past three years.
While his performance was certainly a major factor in the decision, there was also a financial motive. Harris was due a $2.5 million roster bonus in June. That, coupled with his salary, had Harris set to make approximately $5 million in 2011.
"I kind of knew. It's nothing personal," Harris told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I want to thank the McCaskeys. I want to tell my fans I love them, and I'm going to miss the city and my teammates. I think it's one of the best locker rooms in the NFL."
Hillenmeyer, who spent the 2010 season on injured reserve with complications due to multiple concussions, says he saw the move coming. In an email to the Chicago Tribune, Hillenmeyer said that he has yet to find a doctor who believes it's a good idea for him to continue playing professional football.
Schaefer, a nine year veteran, started just two games for the Bears in 2010.
While the Bears signed Matt Toeaina to a three year extension in December, and are reportedly working on one for unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Anthony Adams, the release of Harris could signal a desire to draft a defensive tackle in the first or second round.
As for Harris, I'm sure he will latch on with another team. Just not at the same price tag. For his part, he sounds confident.
"I think my best football is ahead of me," Harris told the Sun-Times. "I haven't hit my prime yet. I didn't start feeling good until the end of the season."
Count the Bears as one team that hopes this is not true.
You can view the Bears full press release here.