Special teams has been a constant source of excellence when it comes to the Bears. From Devin Hester, Danieal Manning and Johnny Knox's brilliant returns to special teams stop artists like Brendon Ayanbadejo, Tim Shaw and Corey Graham, Dave Toub's unit has been consistently ranked among the top in the NFL. However, Brad Biggs points out that the Bears might have some work to do once the CBA is finally hammered out. More on this after the jump.
According to Biggs, with the non-tendering of DaHamsta favorite Garrett Wolfe, five of the team's top six special teams tacklers are set to hit the unrestricted free-agent market - and if the CBA as expected allows players with four years of NFL service to be unrestricted free agents, Corey Graham will join that list.
Corey Graham 25 total tackles, 25 solos, 0 assists
Garrett Wolfe 18 TT, 12 solos, 6 assists
Brian Iwuh 18 TT, 10 solos, 8 assists
Rashied Davis 16 TT, 8 solos, 8 assists
Rod Wilson 11 TT, 6 solos, 5 assists
Josh Bullocks 10 TT, 7 solos, 3 assists
It's not like they're core players when it comes to the team's offense and defense, but according to Lovie, it's a core group to winning football.
"When you say he’s not a starter, are you talking offense or defense starter?" Bears coach Lovie Smith said of Graham. "We look at that a little bit different. We have more than that. Special teams, that’s a starting group that we have. Corey Graham is a starter as I see it. He’s one of our core players that’s helped us win football games each year. And we look at even offense and defense. There are 11 guys. But we say the third receiver, maybe the second tight end. There are a lot of different positions. It’s more than just 11 on both sides of the ball."
If the Bears lose a player like Graham in a situation similar to when Brendon Ayanbadejo bolted town because he wanted to play more on the defensive side of the ball, I'm not too worried. We worried about who we would find to take over as the special teams ace when Ayanbadejo left town, and Tim Shaw was signed and became that guy. When he left, Graham filled in. If there's one thing I'm confident in, the Bears will have special teams back operating as business as usual.