How Earl Bennett became a victim with the Bears

How Earl Bennett became a victim with the Bears
March 19, 2014, 12:45 pm
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The next time a player under contract holds out from training camp, preseason or whatever, take a moment before denouncing the malcontent with, “But he’s got a contract!”

And think of Earl Bennett.

[RELATED: Bears release receiver Earl Bennett]

Brian Urlacher raised a point a few offseasons ago when he was back-and-forth’ing with the Bears over what would end up being a very nice contract extension, the one that ran through 2012 paying him $8 million. Urlacher had brought up the same point when criticism was flowing toward Lance Briggs during the latter’s own contract taffy pull with the Bears.

Urlacher’s point, for those who railed against a player with a contract holding out: Nobody thinks twice about raising the same ruckus toward a team that threatens to cut a player if he won’t agree to a pay cut. When is the last time a player like Bennett, who had a respectable 32 catches and 4 touchdowns (more on his 32 than Matt Forte (3) had from his 74 catches), was cut and someone challenged, “But he has a contract?”

Bennett was something of a “victim” here. He was a starting wideout, then the Bears traded for Brandon Marshall drafted Alshon Jeffery and free-agent’ed Martellus Bennett. Earl was the same dependable guy but suddenly the $2.45 million they’d agreed on was too much?

[MORE: Bears staying busy as free agency continues]

The simple reality is that this is just how the system is set up. NFL salaries aren’t routinely guaranteed. That’s why the signing bonus matters; it’s guaranteed. So are some roster bonuses. It’s just the way the business is.

But what if Alshon Jeffery holds out this training camp? A second-round pick who’s due $754,000 — and who produced a Pro Bowl season in 2013 for $597,000. Obviously Jeffery won’t hold out, and there are rules regarding rookie contracts. But teams sometimes get incredible values from players outplaying their contracts and it doesn’t smoothly translate into a merit bonus (the cap does make that hard to do sometimes).

So when an over-performing player holds out, yes, he’s got a contract. But he had a contract when the team cut him, too.