The Bears cut outside linebacker Sam Acho on Tuesday, freeing up another $2.1 million before the start of free agency next week.
Acho, 30, started 25 games in four seasons with the Bears. He was considered a solid run defender — he never posted more than three sacks — and was a special-teams stalwart. But when the Bears traded for Khalil Mack and signed Aaron Lynch, Acho became their fourth outside linebacker. He tore a chest muscle in Week 4 against the Buccaneers and was put on injured reserve.
‘‘To my teammates: thank you for the memories,’’ Acho wrote in a statement. ‘‘To the fans: thank you for your passion. To my friends: thank you for having my back. To my family: thank you for believing in me.’’
The Bears had about $13.6 million available before cutting Acho. They created more than half that space by cutting tight end Dion Sims last month and reworking guard Kyle Long’s contract last week.
Free agency begins with the start of the league season next Wednesday. The Bears will look for a starting safety and a nickel cornerback, but they also will seek pass-rushing depth behind Leonard Floyd, who is entering the fourth year of his five-year rookie contract, and Mack, the highest-paid defender in NFL history.
Acho was respected in the Bears’ locker room and around the league for his charity work. He helped organize the Bears’ social-justice committee, which also featured quarterbacks Mitch Trubisky and Chase Daniel, defensive end Akiem Hicks, tight end Trey Burton and four front-office members, last year. With donations from players and matching funds from the team and the league, the Bears were able to donate $813,850 to five local groups.
When his agent was negotiating Acho’s two-year contract last March, Acho and Bears chairman George McCaskey joined a local church group in touring the Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola and discussed prison reform. He and McCaskey grew close during his tenure with the Bears.
As vice president of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee, Acho also was outspoken about how the league handled the national-anthem controversy.