The vast majority of the players who's contracts are up for the Bears are unrestricted free agents, but there are two who are restricted. One of those is backup quarterback Caleb Hanie.
The Bears seemed to be comfortable enough with Hanie under the Ron Turner led offense, but with Mad Mike bringing his Martzfense in, they decided they needed the ever-tangible "veteran experience", and they made a hard run at Todd Collins. This pushed Hanie to the third quarterback position, which may have cost the Bears greatly as his first big-game action ended up in the fourth quarter of a close NFC Championship game against the rival from the north, the Green Bay Packers.
Caleb Hanie has his own thoughts on the subject, as reported by David Haugh:
"You think about fourth-and-4, if I had just pumped that ball into Earl (Bennett),'' Hanie said. "Or on (B.J.) Raji's (interception return for a touchdown) if I would have taken just three steps instead of five steps, would he have just missed it. Or if I had gotten reps on that play, I would have maybe progressed over to Devin (Hester). But that's how it goes sometimes.''
Caleb seems to realize that he needed the reps. What did he have to say about being demoted?
"It's a touchy subject to answer,'' Hanie said. "I was told (the demotion to No. 3) happened in practice during the (off) week. Not that I did bad but that Todd maybe ran things more efficiently. I think the experience factor had a lot to do with it.''
Nevermind that Collins' "experience" largely involved not playing. Let's take a look at the pluses and minuses for Hanie:
-Familiarity with offense and organization. Seems to have respect and solidarity of his teammates behind him.
-Well adjusted, understands role.
-Good arm, but lacks Cutler's arm strength (like most of the rest of the league)
-Makes some good throws, but sometimes forces throws that his arm can't quite back up.
-Primarily a drop back passer, though his athleticism can help bail him out. If the offensive line is bad again,, could become a problem later in a season for him.
And now, John 'Moon' Mullin's (@csnMoonMullin) take, exclusively for WCG:
A mystery of the 2010 season was Hanie slipping below Todd Collins on the depth chart. Hanie has limitations but performed well whenever he was given opportunities, usually after Collins disasters. He nearly brought the Bears through in the NFC Championship game but for a late interception and has earned the respect and confidence of teammates, a critical element for a quarterback. Looking ahead: A restricted free agent who will get a high tender offer and the Bears are likely to match any reasonable offer.
The Bears should most definitely attempt to retain Caleb Hanie, and likely will need to place a fairly high tender, perhaps a second round pick, to keep him here. They've proven that finding a veteran isn't necessarily the answer, and there's not likely to be anyone available to bring in who's going to be more qualified at this point than Hanie. While Caleb may want to start, he's not likely to automatically get the bid anywhere.
Here's the post that started it all. The Expiring Contracts of the Chicago Bears.
View our other articles regarding 2011 Free Agency here.