That seemed to be the impression given Monday when the Chicago Bears had one of the more embarrassing moments of the preseason. With Tuesday's cutdown deadline to get rosters to 80 players for the final preseason game, teams spent Monday getting rid of players that they knew weren't going to be part of the equation.
Word got out Monday morning that Chester Taylor would be among the first five players released by the Bears. Taylor's agent, Ken Sarnoff, tweeted that Bears head coach Lovie Smith had informed Taylor that he was going to be released. If anyone would be privy to such conversations, Taylor's agent would likely be second only to his wife on having that information being confirmed as accurate.
However, when the Bears submitted their early list of players to be released Monday, Taylor wasn't on it. Marion Barber, who supplanted Taylor as the No. 2 guy on the Bears running back depth chart behind Matt Forte, suffered a calf injury in Saturday's game. While it isn't considered serious, the Bears appeared to organizationally blink in what has become a stare-down with the economic bottom line.
When free agency began in March 2010, the Bears were bent on making a huge splash. The Vikings were within a play of the Super Bowl and the Packers were the up-and-coming team some were pointing at as being a team to watch closely in 2010. The Bears needed to do something big to steal some thunder. They did, signing Julius Peppers and Taylor in the first hours of free agency – holding the first major press conference of free agency and getting fans of the Bears drinking the Kool-Aid in earnest. Peppers panned out. Taylor did not.
The fact the team is even considering releasing Taylor seems strange, given that he was handed $6 million last year as an incentive to sign and his salary for 2011 is a scant $1.25 million – not that much in terms of NFL salary cap posturing.
The move of Taylor to the Bears was a double-whammy of bad for both teams. The Vikings drafted Toby Gerhart in part to be a replacement for Taylor. While he can replace Adrian Peterson as a first- and second-down back, he's not a naturally gifted third-down receiving back and blocker – a dual-purpose role Taylor played to perfection for the Vikings. In Mike Martz's offense, which in many ways seems to be drawn up by the disapproving father-in-law of the quarterback, being a blocker means nothing. Asked to be a Marshall Faulk clone, Taylor posted his worst career season by far – averaging just 2.4 yards a carry (the lowest total for more than 100 carries in the history of the modern era of the NFL). The Vikings so missed him that they cut a check to the UFL farm system for Lorenzo Booker, who more accurately filled the void left by Taylor.
Seeing as he was only expected to get paid $1.25 million this year, the Vikings might be able to afford him with some salary maneuvering. The question is whether they want to add an aging running back during a time when Leslie Frazier appears dedicated to making the roster younger.
Although the offense is different from the one he left in 2010, it can't be any worse than absorbing the Manifesto de Martz. If he hits the free-agent open market, he will likely get more than $1.25 million or a deal loaded with incentives. But until the Bears front office decides what it's going to do, he remains a member of the division rivals that groomed such champions as Leslie Frazier and Mike Singletary.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.