We interrupt this quarterback search—the Bears have already begun looking for their starter in 2008, right—to ring in the New Year with an issue of a different kind.
The Bears need to make a decision on what to do with veteran safety Mike Brown. The former Pro Bowl selection is signed through this next season, but it’s unknown if the organization has reached a decision on how to proceed with him after he appeared in just the season opener when he tore the ACL in his left knee.
The team captain has appeared in only 21 games over the last four seasons, missing a whopping 43. This, after not missing a game during the first four seasons of his career. It is believed Brown, who will be 30 when next season begins, desires to continue playing. He’s been knocked out in recent years by a torn Lisfranc ligament in his foot and a torn Achilles tendon. All different injuries.
``I think you have to look at the player,’’ coach Lovie Smith said Monday. ``Grant Hill was banged up for a lot of years and in the end, right now he is a player who is playing in the [NBA], he’s healthy and being very productive. Mike has had different injuries, but it hasn’t been the same one. I think you get to a point where you fix a lot of things and you should have a pretty good player. Hopefully that will be the case with Mike.
``Mike Brown, the entire time he has been here, the only thing that has stopped him from being a good football player consistently has been injuries. A healthy Mike Brown? Of course, we would love to have him.’’
Money really is not the issue. Brown earned $2.44 million this season and is on the books for the same next year. The Bears considered going to him to re-do the deal this past offseason, and they would have guaranteed that amount had he stayed healthy. Coming off the Super Bowl appearance everyone was feeling good, and the decision was made not to ask him to take a pay cut in the event he was injured again.
The Bears can approach him about restructuring the deal to give them a little protection in the event he's hurt again, but in the big picture of the salary cap, we're not talking about much here. Brown could always tell the team to go fly a kite if he was asked to take a pay cut, too.
The decision comes down to whether or not the organization believes he can help it achieve goals in 2008, or if it is time to make a clean break and move forward regardless of how he's revered as a person and leader.
If the coach’s opinion matters, and you bet Smith has strong input in personnel decisions, the Bears may take one more shot with Brown next season. One thing is certain, they will have more depth in place in the event injuries strike again.
Happy New Year to all readers and thanks for the input during the season. We’ll keep this rolling throughout the offseason.