It seemed like no matter what Thomas Jones did in a Chicago Bears uniform, it was not going to be good enough.
Jones wanted out and asked GM Jerry Angelo for a trade around the time of the NFL Combine, and that's exactly what happened on Monday. The Bears dealt Jones and their second-round pick (No. 63 overall) in next month's draft to the New York Jets in exchange for their second-round pick (No. 37 overall). Jones will most likely go to the Big Apple as the starter ahead of Leon Washington and Cedric Houston, while the Bears will elevate Cedric Benson to the top of their depth chart.
Despite the fact that he led the team in rushing for three straight years and became the first Bears runner to post back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns since Neal Anderson in 1989-90, Jones was on his way out of town the day Angelo selected Benson No. 4 overall in the 2005 draft. Jones signed a four-year, $10 million in 2004 and turned out to be a major bargain, but Benson's contract guarantees him $17 million. Even with Jones running well and turning into a team leader in the locker room, Bears brass simply had to get more out of their investment in Benson.
Essentially, Angelo rid himself of another potential Jones-Benson debate next season and moved up 26 spots in the second round in the process.
On the surface, this trade appears to make a lot of sense for both teams. The Bears get to see what they have in Benson while adding value to a second-round pick they can use to plug some other holes. The Jets get a proven commodity to help a rushing attack that struggled for a good portion of last season, plus they still own two picks in the second round (No. 59 and the recently acquired No. 63).
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Jones led the Bears with 1,210 yards rushing in 2006 and was the only productive member of the offense in Super Bowl XLI with 112 yards on 15 carries. He became a fan favorite in Chicago and certainly outplayed the financials of the contract he signed back in 2004, but Angelo was never going to reward him with a lucrative extension. Jones ends his Bears career with 3,493 yards in three seasons, good enough for fifth-most in franchise history.
Benson has been vocal at times about wanting to be the primary ball-carrier, and he will finally get the opportunity in 2007. He rushed for only 272 yards in nine games as a rookie, but he came on strong with 647 yards and six touchdowns backing up Jones last season and at times looked to be the better back. While Jones is a cutback specialist, Benson has a bulldozing style and sometimes dishes out more punishment than he takes.
The Bears have more pressing needs to address and now own the 31st and 37th selections in next month's draft. Depth at safety has got to be a priority after another season-ending injury to Mike Brown, plus backups Todd Johnson and Cameron Worrell are currently free agents. They also need to get younger on the offensive line as four of five starters will be over 30 by next season, and another receiving threat at tight end makes sense after the team chose not to tender a contact offer to third-stringer Gabe Reid.
Adrian Peterson is the only other tailback on the roster. He has averaged an impressive 4.7 yards per carry in 61 career games, but his biggest contributions have come on special teams. Whether through free agency or the draft, the Bears will now be in the market for another backup.
Be careful what you wish for, Cedric.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.