Christmas in June

The June 1 cut date at the end of business Wednesday is always an intriguing time, as teams look to spread out the salary-cap ramifications of released big-buck veterans. However, there are already some solid veterans still on the market, including one the Bears have interest in.

The June 1 cut date at the end of business Wednesday is always an intriguing time, as teams look to spread out the salary-cap ramifications of released big-buck veterans. However, there are already some solid veterans still on the market, including one the Bears have interest in.

As teams become more adept at handling the salary cap, there are fewer valuable free agents that become available each June 1 — the date teams can let players go and absorb the salary cap hit over two seasons instead of one.

But there are already several intriguing veterans on the market to help pick up the intrigue level this year. Former All-Pro cornerback Ty Law was let go by the Patriots as he recovers from a foot injury, former Pro Bowl linebacker Peter Boulware by the Ravens as he recovers from knee and toe injuries, and seven-year underachieving offensive tackle L.J. Shelton was jettisoned by Arizona.

The Bears freed up about $1 million in cap space by cutting R.W. McQuarters and Paul Edinger last week.

The Bears have kept on eye on Shelton the entire off-season. Originally he was considered to fill the vacancy at left tackle, but the acquisition of Fred Miller allowed John Tait to take the role.

At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds Shelton has the size to play guard, which is a position the Bears would like to upgrade.

Terrence Metcalf and Roberto Garza are currently the top options on the roster and are expected to compete for the job in training camp.

Shelton has as many as four teams currently interested in his services, including the Kansas City Chiefs, who are so strapped for cash they would have to release or rework a current contract to sign anyone.

When asked who the Chiefs might be looking at post-June 1, Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said, "For anybody who wants to play for free. We've spent all our money."

Law and Boulware are the sexiest names on the market.

The Lions have flirted with Law over the past month and remain interested in bolstering their secondary. They will have to face serious competition to lure Law to Detroit.

Both he and Boulware could end up in Cleveland, where new Browns coach Romeo Crennel has expressed an interest. The Browns desperately need to upgrade their defense as they make the switch to a 3-4, and Law and/or Boulware would provide that if they sign and can stay healthy.

Law played for Crennel, the former Patriots defensive coordinator.

"Ty knows how I feel about him and I don't think there's any question how he feels about me," Crennel said. "His injury situation is one that has to be resolved."

Boulware, meanwhile, would provide the pass-rushing outside linebacker that is so essential to a successful 3-4.

"He has experience in the 3-4 so he's familiar with the system," Crennel said. "Plus he's been productive in the NFL, particularly in the pass rush. If you think he'd be a good fit on the field and in the locker room, you go ahead and make that move. I think he could bring a proven dimension. He'd be a plus."


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