Clock Running on Restricted Market

The deadline to sign a restricted free agent is Friday, which gives the Bears two days to make a decision on whether or not to extend an offer sheet CB Ricky Manning Jr.

The restricted free agent from Carolina would fill the nickel back role in Chicago. In three years in the league, Manning has never missed game and has also started 26 contests with nine career interceptions.

When Manning visited Halas Hall last week, the Bears delayed making an offer when an extension for LB Lance Briggs looked to be in the works. When talks with agent Drew Rosenhaus broke off, the Bears turned their attention to presenting Manning an offer that would make it difficult for Carolina to match.

A Panthers source said the team would not match any offer. Carolina reportedly only has about $4 million of cap space, the bulk of which is going toward their rookie pool. The team also re-signed Reggie Howard this off-season and he's expected to handle the nickel duties.

Carolina would have seven days to match the Bears offer or receive Chicago's third round pick as compensation because Manning was tendered at the lowest level of $712,000.

Adding the 5-foot-8, 185-pound Manning would move cornerback down the Bears list of draft needs. However, it would also leave the team with just two selections on the first day of the draft for the second straight year.

With the April 21st deadline for signing RFAs approaching, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer has received little attention on the open market. There were reports the New Orleans Saints had shown some interest, but an offer sheet has yet to be extended.

Like Manning, Hillenmeyer was given a one-year tender at $712,000. While the Bears are likely to match any offer, if Hillenmeyer landed with another team Chicago wouldn't receive draft pick compensation. He came into the league as a fifth round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 2003 and was eventually claimed off waivers by the Bears.


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