The Bears-related frenzy surrounding every wide receiver with even a faint football Q factor runs a bit amok much of the time. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss would be two.
Now comes Hines Ward, being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers. And while CSNChicago.com generally prefers to stay away from personnel endorsements beyond reporting relevant information, Ward is worth more than a casual look, particularly as part of a coordinated plan at wide receiver.
The Steelers have Mike Wallace as their clear choice as franchise receiver, with good reason, although they are not expected to protect him with a franchise tag by next Monday, according to ESPNs Adam Schefter.
But Ward was let go despite the option of taking a pay cut, according to a report from longtime Steelers scribe Ed Bouchette at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The math of the situation is that Ward now can be had for the price of 925,000, the minimum for a 10-year veteran (Ward has played 14 years), of which only 540,000 counts against a teams cap.
I do feel I have more football left in me and I am looking forward to playing in the NFL again, this season, Ward said as part of a statement he and his attorneymanager released.
It is truly the end of an era in Pittsburgh, where Ward won Super Bowls and caught 1,000 passes, 46 passes even last season when he was demoted below Wallace, Antonio Brown and one-year-signee Jerricho Cotchery.
Ward turns 36 in a week but he was mentored by and remains friends with Bears receivers coach Darryl Drake. He is a proven leader and role model as a professional. At even the veteran minimum, not an insignificant amount, Ward would step in as a clear step up as the No. 3 receiver after Earl Bennett and a free agent (or draft choice) to be named later.
The Bears would not be getting the Hines Ward who as a Super Bowl MVP or four-time Pro Bowl selection. They would, however, be getting a veteran with huge intangible benefits and something still left, if his 46 catches as a part-timer in 2011 are any indication.