The Bears released cornerback R.W. McQuarters today, one of several players that Scout.com identified as being possible release candidates late last week. McQuarters became expendable as he fell to the #4 option at cornerback for the Bears. Jerry Azumah and Charles Tillman are entrenched as starters in Chicago, and Nathan Vasher has become the third cornerback. With McQuarters due to earn a $3.05 million base salary for the Bears in 2005, he clearly was overpriced for his role as a back-up corner, and his release was only a matter of time. The move has some risk for the Bears as Azumah is an unrestricted free agent after the season is over, and backup CB Alonzo Marshall is coming back from injury.
McQuarters is commonly viewed as a disappointment for a first-round pick (1998, San Francisco), although his performance improved after he was dealt to the Bears in 2000 for a draft pick. He appears to be on the downside of his career at 28 years of age.
The upside with McQuarters is that he remains a capable cornerback, who could potentially move into a role as a nickel back. In addition, he now has experience atnickel back as well as a free safety after being tried at those positions by the Bears. In 2004, McQuarters started the last four games at free safety for the Bears.
In addition, McQuarters is a sometimes-electrifying punt returner. His final stats for the 2004 season show that he ran back one punt and one interception for touchdowns. Even as he moves into the latter part of his career, McQuarters has big-play ability.
On the downside, McQuarters might be a little too small to be a successful safety, as he weighs 10-20 points less than a typical safety at 195 and, according to Bear Report, has trouble wrapping up receivers. In addition, now that he can choose his next destination, it should be noted that McQuarters prefers playing cornerback.
ANALYSIS: FIT WITH THE BROWNS
We don't feel that McQuarters is likely to be a solid fit with the Browns unless he price drops to the level where the team is risking little by taking a look at him. The Bears were unable to swing even a late second-day draft pick in exchange for McQuarters, as NFL clubs were not willing to take him at his old salary, and speculation abounded that he would be set free by the Bears in any event.
With Gary Baxter and Daylon McCutcheon, the team appears to be set at both starting cornerback positions. There is some young, if untested, talent at safety with Brodney Pool, Sean Jones, and Chris Crocker. The opportunity to use McQuarters would likely come at the nickel or at backup cornerback in case of injury. Michael Lehan and special-teams whiz Leigh Bodden back up Baxter and McCutcheon and are solid, if unspectacular, cornerbacks.
It is our feeling that any interest in McQuarters by the Browns would only occur if he is unable to find a team and the Browns become concerned about the depth in the secondary. At the present time, however, the Browns are likely to be more concerned with the depth in the front seven, and that is there we suspect they will focus their attention.