Ayanbadejo On His Way to Baltimore

The Chicago Bears continue to suffer defections in free agency, as Brendon Ayanbadejo is giving up stuffed pizza for crab cakes. The Pro Bowl special-teams ace signed a four-year deal Thursday with the Ravens, even though it appeared Ayanbadejo preferred to stay in the Windy City.

The Monsters of the Midway had the best special teams in the NFL this past season according to a system implemented by The Dallas Morning News, and reserve linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo was a big reason why.

Voted to the Pro Bowl each of the last two seasons as a special-teams player, Ayanbadejo doesn't contribute on defense but is simply sensational on the coverage units. Baltimore recognized his unique ability Thursday, signing him to a free-agent contract worth $4.925 million over four years. Ayanbadejo made no bones about wanting to be the highest-paid special-teamer in the league, but Bears GM Jerry Angelo refused to get into a bidding war and pulled his original offer off the table earlier this week.

During his three seasons in Chicago, the former UCLA Bruin accumulated 73 tackles and logged one start at linebacker.

JC's Take: Ayanbadejo became a very popular player in the Windy City because of his reckless abandon on special teams, but let's just keep everything in perspective here – return man Devin Hester is why this unit was ranked No. 1.

While Ayanbadejo served as a team captain for the first time in 2007 and seemed to be in on every tackle on punts and kickoffs, he's far from irreplaceable. The Bears have four other reserve linebackers who have all played pretty well on special teams when called upon: Jamar Williams, Rod Wilson, Darrell McClover, and Nick Roach. Since Lance Briggs has been re-signed and Williams is once again a man without a starting job on defense, perhaps he could slide into Ayanbadejo's role as the proverbial coverage ace.

Bears fans shouldn't be overly worried because special-teams coach Dave Toub still has plenty of playmakers to work with, including defensive lineman Israel Idonije, running back Adrian Peterson, and cornerback Corey Graham.

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.

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