Down to Five

The NFL is truly a game of constant change. Jerry Azumah's retirement coupled with trading Mike Green this off-season leaves just five members from the 2001 NFC Central champions still on the roster. See who they are and what player is the next most likely to go.

  • Patrick Mannelly is often overlooked and underrated because he's a long snapper. However, he's among the best in the game and is the active leader in games played with the Bears at 125.

  • Olin Kreutz is a five-time Pro Bowl center and leader of the offense. On most teams the quarterbacks takes the role, but the instability at the position has made Kreutz the unquestioned king of the locker room. He has two years left on his current deal and will likely get an extension at some point.

  • Brian Urlacher is on his way to a Hall of Fame career. Before the age of 28, he has gone to five Pro Bowls and won Defensive Player of the Year honors. The fact is, he should be coming into the prime of his career and the talent around him should help ease the pressure. He's signed through 2011 and the odds are in favor of him retiring a Bear.

  • Mike Brown has battled injuries the past two seasons, but the Bears record with him (10-4) over that stretch compared to without him (6-12) tells the story. Although he aging faster than some players, he still has enough in the tank to be a playmaker for the defense. If his doesn't prove he can stay on the field this season, Brown is a potential salary cap causality down the road. He's currently signed through 2008.

  • Brad Maynard joined the team as a free agent in 2001. Despite the difficult kicking conditions, he has been one of the most reliable punters in the game since coming to Chicago. However, last season he struggled with his distance and hang time.

    Of the group, Maynard is the mostly likely candidate to be the next player to leave town. Thanks to an extension last off-season he's under contract through 20010 with base salaries of $775,000, $875,000, $925,000, $1.03 million and $1.27 million. A hefty amount for any punter, especially one who struggled down the stretch last season.

    The Bears have been openly critical of Maynard and signed Joel Stelly to compete with him in training camp. If the undrafted free agent out of Louisiana-Monroe can out kicks Maynard, the numbers will dictate the veteran will be the odd man out.


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