I’m going to miss A.B. I write this with confidence that the Bears will ultimately part ways with defensive end Alex Brown, whether by trading him or releasing him.
Brown has been one of my favorite Bears over the duration of his career in Chicago and I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet him at an auto show in February 2004, just weeks after the Bears hired Lovie Smith to replace Dick Jauron.
Asked if he thought the Bears could record double-digit wins that season after going 4-12 in 2002 and 7-9 in 2003, Brown said without a hint of doubt, “We expect to win them all.” The Bears, of course, went 5-11 that fall and finished at the bottom of the NFC North standings, but Brown’s willingness to say what he feels is what I’ve always most admired about the man.
My fondness for Brown is what initially led to my surprise when I read Friday that the Bears were shopping Brown for potential trade partners. As the initial shock wore off, it was easy to see why the Bears are looking to part ways with him. After spending over $100 million in free agency in one day and picking up one of the best defensive ends in the league, shedding Brown’s $5 million salary — which is about one-quarter of Julius Peppers’ contract this fall — is looking like an attractive option to the McCaskeys.
In addition to financial reasons, the Bears have finally decided to cease the constant movement from end to tackle and back again of versatile defensive lineman Israel Idonije and keep him at end this season (now, if only they did the same with Danieal Manning, they’d be in good shape… but that’s another story). Smith and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli feel good about the progress that Mark Anderson has made so he will round out the three-man rotation at end, which leaves Brown out in the cold.
It’s clear to even the most ardent Alex Brown fans that getting rid of him makes good business sense for the Bears. Although there may not be much of a market for the soon-to-be 31-year-old defensive end, it’s always possible the Bears could land some kind of draft pick, something they could use to help rebuild their secondary or offensive line.
However, sometimes business clashes with football and this is one of those cases.
Although not a spectacular player and despite having never recorded more than seven sacks in a season, Brown still has been the most consistent defensive end on the Bears’ roster during his time with the team, and maybe the third-most consistent player on the defense, next to the two linebackers that play behind him. His lowest sack total was 2.5, which he recorded in his rookie season while starting just 9 games. He’s always posted consistent numbers which means the Bears never had to worry what kind of production they’d get from him.
One other thing that’s never been questioned is Brown’s effort, dedication and leadership. Brown has always found ways to make plays or at least affect the outcome of certain plays with a constant motor and putting himself in the right position. He’s also contributed on special teams with a few blocked field goals over the years. And throughout the Bears’ ups and downs over the past eight seasons, Brown would consistently speak with reporters and give his honest assessment of the team’s performance.
Trusting Idonije and Anderson to complement Peppers might be a stretch at this point. Idonije has never been a full-time starter and Anderson, who was promoted to starter ahead of Brown immediately following the Super Bowl season, has shown inconsistency throughout his career and has often been downright erratic on certain plays.
But, sometimes, such as when the Bears shelled out as much money as they did on the first day of free agency, business trumps football.
It’s just disappointing it might happen to a quality player — and person — like Brown.
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