The Monsters of the Midway said goodbye to starting receiver Muhsin Muhammad back on Feb. 18, a cost-cutting move that opened the door for talented fourth-year pro Mark Bradley to finally see some regular playing time.
Muhammad signed a two-year contract Wednesday with Carolina, where he spent the first nine years of his career after being selected by the Panthers in the second round of the 1996 NFL Draft from Michigan State. During his three seasons in Chicago, Muhammad caught 164 passes for 2,183 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the team in receiving in both `05 and `06, but his 40 receptions this past season marked his lowest total since 1997.
"Moose from day one urged me to do my best to return him to the Panthers," said agent Joel Segal to ESPN.com.
JC's Take: Muhammad is a player in decline and will soon be 35 years old, so it was time to turn the page and add some explosiveness to the receiving corps.
The loss of Muhammad will be much easier to sustain if GM Jerry Angelo brings back Bernard Berrian, although he'll become an unrestricted free agent for the first time Friday and should command interest from several teams. But if both Muhammad and Berrian end up departing, then the Bears will have to find two new starting wideouts and don't appear to have the personnel in house to withstand such a mass exodus. Bradley is gifted but inconsistent, Devin Hester is still learning the nuances of the position, and Mike Hass is yet to make his first NFL catch after spending 15 of 16 games this past season on the inactive list.
Quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton signed contracts of their own this past week and will battle it out in training camp for No. 1, although their job will be much tougher if they don't have any dependable pass-catchers on the outside.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.