Not long after the 2000 season, the Bears were forced to cut solid — if unspectacular — wide receiver Bobby Engram because his salary of $1 million was deemed too much for a No. 3 wideout, which he was behind Marty Booker and Marcus Robinson. Plus they had used a third-round draft choice on Dez White, who was cheaper and faster.
The money and the names have changed, but not the roster and salary cap realities. On a depth chart topped by Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, and with a promising draft choice (Marquess Wilson) and recently-signed Dominek Hixon in the pipeline, Earl Bennett at $2.45 million has became an expensive luxury as a No. 3 receiver. He was released Tuesday after being asked to take, and presumably refusing, a second pay cut in as many offseasons.
ESPNChicago first reported word of the expected exit by the Bears’ 2008 third-round teammate and former Vanderbilt teammate of quarterback Jay Cutler.
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Bennett’s pay trim last offseason came with provisions for him to restore the lost pay by reaching certain receiving targets. But Bennett managed just 32 receptions and four touchdowns, which was the highest single-season TD production of his career and third-highest reception total after 54 in 2009 and 46 in 2010.
His 32 catches were less than half the total belonging to tight end Martellus Bennett (65), who emerged as an every -down receiver, and Earl Bennett’s average per catch was a lowly 7.6 yards, vs. a previous career-low of 12.2 yards.