The NFL offseason is about to kick into high gear. The race to sign the big name free agent begins on March 11th. Teams will be fueling up the team planes, rolling out the red carpets, and making their best offers to that big name player, all in the hope that they are not only going to overspend for the particular services of a player, but that the decisions each GM makes will be the one that gets their team to the Super Bowl.
Players too are looking to cash in on that big pay day, knowing that the one thing that makes the NFL different from other sports leagues is that none of the contracts are guaranteed, and the old saying of, what the NFL actually stands for is “not for long”. The players are looking for a number of things from which team is close to getting to the super bowl, to how their particular skills fit into the individual scheme of the team.
But, before the frenzy and excitement of free agent signing day, comes the difficult days of cutting the fat. Throughout the league over the past week players have been restructuring contracts, singing their franchise tags, and in some cases, have become “cap casualties” and been released outright. This year is no different, with some big, possibly Hall of Fame players being released. From Mike Vick in Philadelphia, to Champ Bailey in Denver to Devin Hester in Chicago, these players illustrate that the NFL is truly a league with very little loyalty. Where staying under the salary cap is the bottom line. Players are used to this process, as it is part of the game, even though they have given their all to the teams for a number of years, teams are always looking to go younger and cheaper.
As far as the Bears are concerned, the release of Hester is not at all surprising. At the age of 31, he is getting up in age for a player who possibly will want $3 to $4 million per year to essentially be a special team’s player. For Chicago, it is a required evil, on one hand the Bears are saying good bye to a dynamic player who in an instant could single handedly have a game changing punt or kick return, a player who played 8 seasons in Chicago and is currently tied for the all-time lead in returns. Hester was one of the four players on the Bears roster from last year that was also on the 2007 Super Bowl team. Along with Charles “Peanut” Tillman who is a free agent will be playing in a different color jersey at the start of the 2014 season, thus, leaving Linebacker Lance Briggs (whose contract expires after the 2014 season) and Patrick Mannelly (who has 2 years left on his deal) as the 2 remaining players from that 2007 NFC Champion team. Slowly but surely, it is the dawn of a new era at Halas Hall.