One Less Option Available

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten would have looked great in a Bear uniform, but he will not be an option for the Bears in free agency next month.

As a third round pick in 2003, Witten signed a four-year deal, which could be voided down to three, making him a restricted free agent for 2006. After catching 188 balls for 2,084 yards with 13 touchdowns in his first three years he reached incentives that allowed him to do just that in search of a raise.

However, the Cowboys also had the right to buy back an option in the contract for that fourth year. So for just $10 (that is not a misprint - literally $10), the Cowboys replaced the fourth year on his contract by issuing Witten a first-round, restricted free agency tender, which is at $1.57 million.

No team is going to be willing to give up a first round draft pick for Witten, while having to dish out a hefty contract. He's locked down for another year.

There's still a chance a starting caliber tight end will hit the open market. The Denver Broncos have to decide whether or not to pickup the $1.5 million option on Jeb Putzier by March 1st or let him become an unrestricted free agent.

The San Francisco 49ers are said to have interest in Putzier, who has 73 receptions for 1,053 and two touchdowns over the past two seasons. Depending on the price tag, the Bears could also join the bidding.

After Putzier the talent available in free agency drops dramatically. Scout.com rankings have the New York Jets' Chris Baker as the top tight end available. He has just 52 career receptions in four years and has never caught more than 18 passes in a season. It appeared he was ready for career year in 2005 before going on injured reserve halfway through the season with a broken ankle.

Done Deal
The Bears are expected to officially announce the hiring of Ron English as defensive backs coach sometime this week. He will become the third different man to coach the position for the Bears in as many years. He will replace Perry Fewell, who left the Bears last week to become the defensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills.

English has coached the same position the last three years for the Michigan Wolverines. Between five different stops, he's spent 12 years coaching in the college ranks.


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