PHOENIX — This isn’t the first time the Bears have replaced a Pro Bowler with a no-name.
The last time, it actually worked.
“There are different things that get said — a guy like Matt Forte leaves the Bears,” coach John Fox said Thursday night at the NFL owners meetings. “You make decisions based on that leap of faith. And it’ll be no different in this sense.”
Last year, the Bears replaced their star running back with fifth-round pick Jordan Howard, who earned a Pro Bowl berth in his rookie year.
When Alshon Jeffery signed with the Eagles on a one-year deal earlier this month though, the Bears signed less-intriguing options for new quarterback Mike Glennon to target: the Steelers’ Markus Wheaton and the Titans’ Kendall Wright.
“I wish Alshon nothing but the best,” Fox said, speaking for the first time since he left. “I never had any issues. I’m talking about just our relationship. It’s a business and sometimes it comes down to opportunity — and even contracts in some instances.”
Replacing a star didn’t work so well in previous instances — the Bears went a year without a quality in-line tight end after trading Martellus Bennett, though they signed Dion Sims this offseason. Receiver Brandon Marshall was replaced by first-round pick Kevin White, who has been limited to four games in two seasons because of injuries.
Fox said the Bears had good grades on Wheaton, whose two-year, $11 million deal “was a good value for what we think his ability is.” Wright is a low-risk deal, and returning receiver Cam Meredith, Fox said, has grown.
”He had opportunities even in his rookie season and he got more opportunities this year and he took advantage of them,” Fox said. “When you really look at it, he was probably our best receiver (last) year.”
Their growth won’t matter unless Glennon develops the way the Bears hope.
Fox befriended Glennon’s N.C. State coach when he coached the Panthers, and discussed the possibility of trading for him with GM Ryan Pace in recent years.
“In Mike’s case, he’s been steady, he’s been consistent — he just hasn’t had a lot of opportunity,” Fox said. “But everybody that I’ve known that’s been around him — both in college football and pro football, people that I respect and know pretty well — feel really good about him moving forward.”