Marty Booker checked in on Tuesday, a day after the Miami Dolphins let him go. Hes upbeat about being a free agent even though he was due to earn $4.3 million in the final year of the $28 million, seven-year contract he signed with the Bears in June 2002.
“I cleaned it up, he said. “And thats hard to do these days, to make it to the back end of your contract. Im gracious for having done that.
Here is what Booker had to say:
Q: You knew you would probably be released, but with the Dolphins making you free now is it actually a good thing that you get to pick your next employer?
Booker: Thats the good part about this and then also, the free-agent market for receivers is not big like it has been the last couple years. That is so big [Im free to sign now] because I get to sit down, pick and choose, weigh out everything and see which team gives me the best opportunity. Im not locked into `I have to be with this team. Ive got a jump on the game.
Q: Is part of you bummed about being cut?
Booker: Its time to move on. I still feel I have a lot of years left in me. It is what it is, you know? I dont think I got a fair opportunity the whole time I was down here. But thats what happened.
Q: Lay it out for me, is your preference to return to the Bears?
Booker: You know what, at this point I just want a job. Like I said, whatever opportunity is right for me. If what theyre talking about and what Im talking about is on the same page, Im all for it. The thing is I get a chance to sit down and see what other teams are saying too. If the offer presents itself and is right, Ill be back there.
Q: Who else is in the mix this early in the game?
Booker: I have had QUITE A FEW teams call me already. My agent [Raymond Brothers] has pinpointed a few things for me, but Im just sitting back and relaxing at this point.
Q: Youll be 32 in July. How much football do you have left in you?
Booker: I still have plenty of really good years left in me. Ive been saved down here for four years. I feel great. It wasnt like I was doing all that stuff I was doing in Chicago. Half the time I was down here sitting back and watching.
Q: At least you didnt have to adjust to a stable quarterback situation. That wasnt anything new for you. Was that the most frustrating part of your run with the Dolphins?
Booker: Me and quarterback situations, we go all the way back, man. Its probably 20*** different starting quarterbacks Ive played with since Ive been in the league. Its crazy. When I was here for the most part we had Chris [Chambers] and he was always the go-to guy. Whatever came down they were going to feed the ball to him. I would get a third down here and there, and then it was “youre good. Sometimes I was getting one, maybe two balls a game.
Q: This past season had to be particularly frustrating given the teams plight. How did you handle the 1-15 season?
Booker: Ill tell you what, it was hard to crack a smile much. It was very frustrating. I pretty much knew from a personal standpoint I was getting near the end of my contract, the money was what it was, and my time was going to come up. Any time you get a new coaching staff, theyre going to bring back who they want and go with their guys. I knew my days were numbered here and I did the best I could to hang in there.
Q: You were devastated when the Bears traded you for Adewale Ogunleye. If youre willing to return here, is it fair to say there are no hard feelings?
Booker: I took it hard, real hard, when I got traded. You know, I had just signed that nice contract and I didnt expect to be out of there like that. I hold no grudges against anybody. You cant do that in this business ever, you cant go bite the hand that fed you. Everything comes full circle and I was never going to trash those guys. I need a job. Thats an opportunity there.
The dizzying pace in which the Bears changed quarterbacks when Booker was with them — the team changed the starting QB 23 times in his five seasons — only continued when he joined the Dolphins.
Booker’s math was just off when he estimated he has played with 20 different starting quarterbacks. The actual figure is 16.
Here’s the list: