Gilmore First Free Agent to Leave

TE John Gilmore (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has put a priority on bringing back his own free agents, but he's already lost of them them to the open market. Backup tight end John Gilmore is headed to the Sunshine State as the newest member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Although transportation delays have postponed his official meeting with the team until Saturday, former Chicago tight end John Gilmore is expected to sign a three-year free agent contract with the Buccaneers.

In six years with the Bears, Gilmore caught 21 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns – including two against the Lions in Week 2 of 2006. A durable player, he's suited up for at least 15 games in each of his last five seasons. Gilmore is also a contributor on special teams, registering five tackles this past season.

A reliable extra tight end in short-yardage and goal-line situations, Gilmore is an excellent blocker and will catch the occasional play-action pass.

JC's Take: Gilmore apparently wanted to stay in the Windy City and talked to GM Jerry Angelo about a new contract, but he didn't like what he heard at Halas Hall and was pleasantly surprised at how much attention he got on the open market.

Since Desmond Clark was recently rewarded with a two-year contract extension and Greg Olsen is coming off a solid rookie campaign, the best Gilmore could hope for with the Bears was a return to the No. 3 role. But in Tampa Bay, he'll likely be the primary backup behind starter Alex Smith. Fontel Mines spent the majority of 2007 on the practice squad, although he was a wide receiver in college and isn't good enough of a blocker to replace Gilmore in those aforementioned short-yardage and goal-line formations just yet.

Saying goodbye to Gilmore doesn't hurt as much as it would to lose the likes of Bernard Berrian or Lance Briggs, although the fact that he apparently got a lowball offer to stay isn't an encouraging start to the free agency period for Bears fans.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.

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