The Bears decided to release veteran safety Chris Harris yesterday. In his second stint with the Bears, Harris was a veteran in the secondary putting up solid numbers. Last season he reeled in five interceptions and made 70 tackles, while being named second team All-Pro for the first time in his career.
This season on the other hand was not the same. In three games this year, Harris posted only eight tackles and looked lost while being beaten badly on two big touchdowns. The first came in Week Five against the Lions, where Calvin Johnson beat Harris and teammate Brandon Meriweather for a 73-yard touchdown catch. Last week, Harris was beat by Bucs receiver Dezmon Briscoe for a 24-yard touchdown.
Harris has always been a fan favorite and a great teammate, but the production just was not there this season. He demanded a trade during the trade deadline two weeks ago after he was benched. He got the surprise start after Major Wright injured his hip last week and now he is no longer with the team. He claims he wanted to retire a Bear and that is very believable, but it just seems like the Bears are happier with the other players they currently have.
He appeared in 44 games with 39 starts with the Bears, recording 234 tackles, 10 interceptions, three fumble recoveries and four tackles-for-losses. Harris had a base salary of $1.095 million this year with a $500,000 roster bonus, the Bears will be on the hook for that number, unless another team decides to pick him up.
Who will step up?
With Harris out of the mix, Major Wright moves back into the lineup at strong safety across from Chris Conte. Brandon Meriweather will likely see some time in the rotation as well. Special teamers Craig Steltz and Anthony Walters will be active on gamedays as well. The Bears seem fine with the fact that Wright and Conte will have six combined starts, when the Bears travel to Philadelphia to face the Eagles on Monday Night Football.
It will be interesting to see if Bears coach Lovie Smith made the right choice. Harris did not seem like the same player physically, but mentally he is still very smart. They could have kept him around to coach up those younger guys like Wright and Conte. Perhaps Harris wanted a situation where he could start. Rumors are already around that Minnesota and Jacksonville are interested in his services.
The Bears could look bad in this situation if the secondary falls apart, only time will tell.