Bears Move Quickly to Nab Muhammad

For the second straight year the Bears have jumped full throttle into free agency. Four days before the signing period officially starts, the team took care of their biggest need by signing two-time Pro Bowl WR Muhsin Muhammad to a six-year deal worth $30 million.

Muhammad had been on the market less than 12 hours before agreeing to a deal with the Bears. The Panthers cut him on Friday because he was due a roster bonus of $10 million on March 1st. Salary cap implications were the only reason Carolina made the move and tried to restructure his deal in order to retain Muhammad.

The Bears acted quickly to sign nine-year veteran once he became available. Because he was a vested veteran, which is a player with 4 or more years accrued in the league, he was able to sign with another team before the start of the signing period on March 2nd.

The contract includes a $12 million in guaranteed money with $16 million coming in the first three years.

At the end of the season GM Jerry Angelo said he didn't see the Bears being active in free agency and his tune hadn't changed as recently as Friday.

"We do not want to set a new marketplace," Angelo said Friday. "We did that with John Tait. We were driven. We had to get a quality tackle in here and we did what we had to do. We don't have that drivenness (or drive) this year at any position."

While Angelo put up the front publicly, the Bears were desperate to add a legitimate threat in the passing game. The absence of Marty Booker was obvious as the unit accounted for 111 receptions for 1,561 yards with just three TD catches.

The six-foot-2, 217-pound, Muhammad is coming off his best season in the NFL when he was named to the Pro Bowl. He caught 93 balls and led NFL receivers in yardage (1,405) and touchdowns (16).

"He was right at the top of our list," Angelo said. "He's a Pro Bowl receiver. His accomplishments speak for themselves. He certainly fit a need."

As many as five other teams were interested in Muhammad, but the Bears aggressive pursuit proved to be the difference.

"I think that they were very interested in me and I wanted to go to a team that wanted to feature me and promote me and I could be a big part of the offense," Muhammad said of why he chose the Bears. "

Muhammad, who will turn 32 by the start of next season, admitted the money obviously played a role in coming to a team that had the worst passing offense in the NFL and is coming off a 5-11 season.

"Let's not be fools. I think they definitely came with a very nice offer that I felt like I didn't want to refuse," Muhammad said.

There were some off the field concerns. During a routine traffic stop, Muhammad was arrested for carrying a concealed guy and simple possession of marijuana in January 2002. He received one year of unsupervised probation and was ordered to pay a $150 fine after pleading guilty.

While he was a student at Michigan State, he was pulled over for having a broken mirror in September 1993. Police reported finding a loaded .38-caliber gun in the glove compartment.

That arrest came only months after Muhammad was placed on probation for possession of marijuana. He spent 90 days in jail for violating his probation.

"That was the past and we were comfortable with it," Angelo said. "We feel that he made a mistake. He learned from it. And we feel real good about his character."

The former second round draft choice in the 1996 draft has 578 career receptions for 7,751 yards, 44 touchdowns and an average of 13.4 yards per catch. He led the NFC in receptions in 1999 and 2000 with 96 and 102 catches respectively.

The Bears will still pursue a veteran quarterback in free agency.

"Ideally, you would like to get all your needs addressed in free agency. Ideally. We all know that is not realistic," Angelo said. "If you come away with one, I am not greedy. If you come away with two that is a job well done."

Bear Report Top Stories