Bears don’t hand out franchise tag

Written By By PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter Posted: 03/03/2014, 03:58pm

The Bears, unsurprisingly, did not hand out a franchise tag by Monday’s 3 p.m. deadline.

What was once considered an option for quarterback Jay Cutler proved moot when the quarterback signed a contract in January. Last year’s tagged player, Henry Melton, was not a consideration, either, as he recovers from a torn knee.

Movement throughout the league, though, might bring the Bears’ offseason targets into clearer focus. Neither safety Jairus Byrd (Bills) or the T.J. Ward (Browns) were given the tag; they will both become free agents unless they sign a deal before March 11.

The Bears could pursue either, though Byrd’s salary demand might price the Bears out of the market. Ward could still re-sign with the Browns this week, though the Browns are reportedly interested in Byrd.

One potential edge rusher target, the Redskins’ Brian Orakpo, was signed to a franchise tag Monday and will stay in Washington. Friday, the Panthers tagged Greg Hardy, removing the best edge rusher from the free agent pool.

As the Seahawks said at the NFL Combine, defensive lineman Michael Bennett was not tagged. His brother, Bears tight end Martellus, has been lobbying Michael to consider Chicago when free agency launches March 11.

The Bengals didn’t tag Michael Johnson, either, giving the Bears another pass-rusher to examine. He had 11 ½ sacks in 2012 but only 3 ½ last year; however, at 27, he represents what the Bears are looking for — production at a relatively young age.

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