McQuarters Sent Packing

Lake Forest - For the second straight day the Bears released a member of the team that had been with the organization for five years. This time around, R.W. McQuarters got his walking papers.

R.W. McQuarters' $3.05 million base salary was the biggest reason for the move. He projected as the fourth cornerback at a position with depth and would have also returned punts.

Although the Bears would have preferred to get something for McQuarters, the market for a player that had been rumored to be on the block was minimal.

"After exploring trade opportunities with R.W., we felt it was in everyone's best interest to release him at this time, General Manager Jerry Angelo said.

The depth in the secondary made McQuarters expendable. Charles Tillman and Jerry Azumah have locked up starting jobs before June.

However, the development of a 2004 fourth round pick is what allowed the Bears to feel comfortable enough to release McQuarters.

As a rookie, Nathan Vasher led the team with five interceptions despite playing only about a quarter of the defensive snaps.

Behind the top three, the Bears are now vulnerable to injury. Alfonso Marshall is next in line for a chance to play, but he's coming off a major knee injury and might not be ready to practice until training camp.

Still, it's a gamble Angelo is willing to take.

"There's always risks to anything when you make moves," Angelo said a day before releasing McQuarters. "So I'm not going to sit here and tell you that we know for sure. We don't know for sure but we feel good. We know what we're doing, why we're doing it and obviously we have to feel good about those young guys and obviously the guys we have."

The Bears acquired McQuarters in 2000 from San Francisco in exchange for a future sixth round pick. While he started 47 of 72 games during his five-year stint in Chicago, the bulk of his 20 starts over the past two seasons were due to injury.

As a Bear he had 295 tackles, 9 interceptions, while averaging 10.6 yards per punt return. He scored five times, three on defense and two on punt returns. He leaves as the franchise's fourth-leading punt returner in terms of yardage with 983 yards on 93 attempts.

The Bears may not only turn to Vasher to fill the hole left by McQuarters in the secondary, but also in the return game. He averaged 14.0 yards per punt return in college, including two touchdowns.

Bernard Berrian and Bobby Wade are also being considered for the role, yet it is Vasher that's the most dynamic once he has the ball in his hands.

"Nathan is still working on his ball reads, but he's got good hands," said special teams coach Dave Toub. "He just needs to work on getting in better position to catch the football. Once he catches the ball though, he's really good at making people miss."


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