The Chicago Bears continue to add depth on offense with the signing of veteran wide receiver Josh Morgan. General manager Phil Emery has made it very clear that his number one priority this off-season is to attack the holes on the defensive side of the football, and attempt to reshape this Bears defense after an historically poor showing in 2013. After all, offensively the Bears were fantastic last season under first year head coach Marc Trestman. They finished second in scoring in the NFL, trailing only Peyton Manning and the AFC champion Denver Broncos, who shattered the all-time record for points scored with 606. However, that being said, in a league where injuries are constantly dashing the hopes of would-be Super Bowl contenders, it never hurts to have as much depth as possible. Which is exactly what veteran Josh Morgan brings to the table. So, on Monday afternoon, Phil Emery went out and signed the former 49ers and Redskins wide receiver to a one-year deal.
When Chicago released Earl Bennett in March, following the wide receiver’s refusal to take a pay cut, they didn’t lose a superstar. However, they did lose a very dependable veteran player, who had developed into a very trusted underneath target for quarterback Jay Cutler. Bennett’s relationship with Cutler goes all the way back to college, when the two played together as a quarterback and wide receiver tandem at Vanderbilt University. Earl Bennett may not be able to play with the likes of Brandon Marshall or Alshon Jeffery. However, the importance of his role in this Bears offense that last five seasons was undeniable. The consensus at the time was, and still may be that the Bears coaching staff felt that 2013 seventh round draft pick Marquess Wilson had impressed enough in a limited-role, and was ready to take the next step in Trestman’s offensive system, as the full-time slot receiver. That may just be what ends up happening in the upcoming season. However, in Josh Morgan the Bears now have a safety-net, so to speak. A wide receiver with several years of starting experience, and a very comparable player to that of Earl Bennett in size, build, playing style, and even in the numbers the two have posted in their careers.
In Earl Bennett’s five full seasons as a receiver in Chicago, Bennett played in 79 games. He posted a respectable 185 receptions for 2,277 yards, while notching 12 touchdowns. In the meantime, Morgan has played six seasons in both San Francisco and Washington, playing in 78 games, while posting 199 receptions for 2488 yards, and scoring 11 touchdowns.
Another concern surrounding the Earl Bennett departure, was his ability to return punts. With Devin Hester now out of the picture in Chicago, all of the sudden that becomes a much needed commodity for the Bears. Filling in for Hester in 2009, while the “Windy City Flyer” was attempting to make a go at it as a full-time wide receiver for the Bears, Bennett did a very good job as the Bears punt return man, when he was called upon do so. He returned 15 punts for 143 yards, a 9.9 yard average, and also returned one punt for a touchdown in a late-season game at Baltimore.
Coincidentally, this is another area where Morgan can help fill the void left by Bennett’s release. Morgan returned 8 punts for 59 yards last season in Washington, and also notched 12 kick returns for 239 yards. So, he may not be anywhere near the next coming of Devin Hester, but the point is that short of going out and finding a way to clone Earl Bennett himself. Phil Emery found about as identical of a player as he possibly could to potentially fill the void left by the departed free-agent wide receiver. While also adding depth to their offense and competition to a position that the Bears already thrive at.
The Chicago Bears deal with Josh Morgan is reportedly for one-year, and the financial details on the contract have not yet been disclosed. The Bears also inked wide receiver Dominik Hixon to a one-year deal back when free-agency first got underway in March. When training camp gets underway this summer, Hixon and Morgan could be in direct competition with one another for both a spot on the roster as a wide receiver, and for the job as the team’s punt returner.
In turn, the signing of Josh Morgan not only adds depth to an already outstanding looking offense, it also creates some camp competition come this August for the Bears.
Commentary by Richard Glenn