Even after he was gone, Bears general manager Jerry Angelo occasionally referred to him as ``our Marty Booker.’’
That spoke to the level of affection Angelo and many in the organization had for Booker, who was dealt to the Miami Dolphins weeks before the start of the 2004 season for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye.
The Bears can take a shot at bringing Booker back to the Bears after the Dolphins made him one of nine cuts by new team president Bill Parcells on Monday. Also released were quarterback Trent Green and defensive tackle Keith Traylor, another ex-Bear.
Booker, a third-round pick by the Bears in 1999, represented the Bears in the Pro Bowl following the 2002 season. He’s the only Bears wide receiver to make the trip to Hawaii in the last 36 years since Dick Gordon in 1972.
He will turn 32 in July and is coming off a 50-catch season in which he had 556 yards and one touchdown. It’s difficult to really judge the performance of any offensive players as Miami was so dreadful this past year. Booker, who was due to make $4.3 million in this coming season in the final year of his deal, had his best season with the Dolphins in 2006 when he made 55 receptions for 747 yards and scored six touchdowns.
When the trade happened, Booker was devastated. He didn’t enjoy his new surroundings in Miami at first but came around. While he’s no longer the player he was when he caught a franchise-record 100 passes in 2001, Booker has some value. Given the fact that the free-agent market is largely barren—Bernard Berrian is the top receiver headed to free agency Feb. 29—Booker could get to pick and choose in searching for his new home.
The Bears are still in the midst of organizational meetings to chart their plans for free agency. If Berrian departs, they’re going to need to replace him. There’s also no guarantee Muhsin Muhammad will return. He’s due to make $1.6 million in 2008 and will carry a salary-cap figure of nearly $3.31 million. If the Arizona Cardinals lose Bryant Johnson in free agency, another decent option expected to be on the open market, Booker could head there where he is close with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, the former Bears’ receivers coach.