Jimmy Kennedy stands in a class by himself.
The veteran defensive tackle is the only player in the league who has more than four years service and has rights that can be controlled by his former team.
The Bears have the right of first refusal to match any contract Kennedy signs with one of the 31 other clubs. It was a clause the Bears had written into the contract when they signed Kennedy Dec. 11. The former first-round draft pick of the St. Louis Rams had been on the street since being cut at the beginning of September by the Denver Broncos. Bears coach Lovie Smith was the defensive coordinator of the Rams when they chose Kennedy, and he reported to the Bears at 6-4, 320 pounds, in much better shape than he was in St. Louis.
With the interior of the line decimated by injuries, Kennedy appeared in the final three games and performed relatively well. It’s not known if Kennedy is in the Bears’ plans moving forward, but he could be in a situation where they bring him back for the minimum-salary benefit.
The Bears will not receive compensation should another club sign Kennedy and they decline to match the contract. The rules for engagement for the contract are similar to what happens with restricted free agents, meaning the Bears would have a week to determine if they want to match a deal.
These uncommon clauses get put into deals sometimes when players do not want to sign more than one-year contracts. Kennedy had been available because he had refused a two-year contract with Buffalo, among other teams.