If Tanner Gentry’s cut stands as the biggest Saturday surprise, the Chicago Bears informing defensive end Jaye Howard his contract will be terminated might be a close second.
Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reports the Bears will part ways with the defensive end, whose nagging hip was reportedly feeling better. Unfortunately for Howard, it might have been too little, too late for him to secure a roster spot. The Bears signed Howard this spring in an attempt to bulk up along the defensive line. Akiem Hicks was a breakout performer at defensive end in 2016, but didn’t get much help on the other side from Mitch Unrein, Jonathan Bullard, and others.
Howard’s one-year “prove it” deal was an intriguing one from a Bears perspective because they were acquiring a player who was a reliable starter with the Kansas City Chiefs before injuries led to his departure this offseason. The Bears simply didn’t have enough of those types of players last year, and Howard projected to provide a marginal upgrade, as well as depth at a position that lacked it in 2016.
However, the Bears parting ways with Howard could be seen as a sign the Bears like what they have seen out of defensive ends Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard. Both Robertson-Harris and Bullard are younger than Howard, who will turn 29 in December. Despite being sidelined with a glute injury, Bullard showed major strides in his development and looked to be a better player than the one who struggled to find his footing as a rookie in 2016.
Meanwhile, Robertson-Harris has transformed his body and looks the part of a starting caliber defensive lineman. Added to the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2016, Robertson-Harris spent the last year evolving and adjusting to a new position. It’s only preseason, but his patience paid off in the form of five tackles, two sacks, and a blocked punt. He definitely caught our eye with his standout performances.
Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio might have created something out of a diamond in the rough with Robertson-Harris, which possibly put Howard on the chopping block.