The Bears Monday released three veterans, including former pro-bowler Tommie Harris, from the roster.
Harris was once a key piece of the Bears defense, notching eight sacks in 2007 even though he didn't start every game. But his tenure in Chicago turned sour in recent years.
This season, he was benched for "production reasons" during the Bears' first game against the Packers. Matt Toeaina filled in well and had a much lower price tag than Harris. Though Harris had a good post-season -- he notched 1.5 sacks against Seahawks -- it wasn't enough. His large contract and lack of production were enough reason for the Bears to let him go.
Hillenmeyer won Bears fans over as a smart player who could easily fill in at linebacker for Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. That skill was invaluable in 2009, when Urlacher hurt his wrist. Hillenmeyer started for the remainder of the season and made 90 tackles. But he was placed on the injured reserve in 2010 because of post-concussion problems. Even though he didn't play, Hillenmeyer has stayed active in the NFL Players' Association, and was one of the players' representatives during last week's negotiations in Washington, D.C.
Shaffer, a nine-year league veteran, spent two seasons in Chicago at right tackle, starting seven games in 2009 and 2010. But with the bigger and younger J'Marcus Webb emerging as a reliable lineman, Shaffer became expendable.
Harris and Hillenmeyer have both been Bears for their entire career, and are known as fan-friendly. It's a shame to see them go, but it's the painful reality of the salary-capped NFL.