NFL free agency has changed through the years. Some form of it has been around since 1947, but the first player to change teams didn't happen until 1962. Unrestricted free agency as we know it today started before the 1993 season, but there were still a few players that changed teams sporadically between those years.
Today's question in our Chicago Bears 30 Day Challenge can be taken one of two ways...
Day 19: Who is the Free Agent that got away?
You can either take it as; Which player did it seem like the Bears were close to signing, only to see him never come to Chicago? Or, you can take it like I'm interpreting it; Which player did the Bears have, but lose to another team.
Back in 1987 the Chicago Bears were coming off their 4th straight NFC Central Division crown and they had one of the best defenses in the NFL. Most of Chicago's legendary 1985 defense was still playing together at that time, and even though the team had yet to make another trip to the Super Bowl, they were still one of the best teams in the league.
One of my favorite players on those great defenses was outside linebacker Wilber Marshall. He didn't play much as a rookie in 1984, but from 1985-1987 Marshall was one of the most ferocious defenders in the game. In those three seasons he racked up 16.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 5 fumble recoveries and 9 interceptions.
His 52 yard fumble return for a touchdown in the NFC Championship game is one of the most iconic plays in the history of the franchise.
But after the 1987 season Marshall decided to sign with the Washington Redskins. Back in those days the Bears were permitted to match the Redskins' offer, which was $6 million for 5 years, but since they declined matching Washington they had to give the Bears their next two 1st round draft picks.
Even though Chicago received two 1st rounders, I was still pissed that Marshall was going to the Redskins. The previous two season it was Washington that knocked the Bears out of the playoffs and now they were getting one of Chicago best defenders.
The notion that the McKaskeys were cheap was very real back then and losing Marshall only strengthened their tightwad reputation.
Now it's your turn, in your opinion, who is the free agent that got away?
For more on Wilber Marshall, check out these articles from our Bears History Section
Taking a Look in the Bears History Book: Wilber Marshall, Part 1
Taking a Look in the Bears History Book: Wilber Marshall, Part 2
And just in case you've missed any, here are all of our challenges so far:
Day 1: Earliest Chicago Bears Memory
Day 2: Favorite Bears Memory
Day 3: All Time favorite Bears Wide Receiver
Day 4: Favorite Place to Watch the Bears
Day 5: Least Favorite Bear of All Time
Day 6: All Time favorite Bears quarterback
Day 7: If the Bears could retire one more number...
Day 8: All Time Favorite Bears Running Back
Day 9: All Time Favorite Bears Tight End
Day 10: If you could take 1 historical Bear...
Day 11: All Time Favorite Bears Special Teamer
Day 12: All Time favorite Chicago Bears coach
Day 13: Most hated opposing player of all time
Day 14: Most hated opposing coach of all time
Day 15: Most Respected Opposing Player of All Time
Day 16: Favorite current Chicago Bears player
Day 17: Favorite Bears' team of All Time
Day 18: All Time favorite Bears linebacker