When Dez Bryant signed with the New Orleans Saints yesterday, it sure looked like one of those “rich get richer” situations, but it turns out there’ may be more to the story:
Why Dez now? #Saints HC Sean Payton says Cam Meredith will be headed to IR soon to get a cleanup scope on his knee. Been dealing with swelling. Not bad news expects full recovery but move to come
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) November 8, 2018
NFL Network reporter Jane Slater shares that Saints receiver Cameron Meredith will be placed on injured reserve, as he undergoes another knee surgery. It’s a tough break for the former Meredith, who, a little more than a year ago, was slated to be the Bears’ No. 1 receiver when an ACL injury in the third preseason game against the Titans ended his season before it started.
But we get make things more interesting than that. If you recall, the Bears had an opportunity to bring Meredith back into the fold last offseason. As an un-restricted free agent, the Bears placed a low-round tender on Meredith, which essentially served as an invitation for Meredith to visit teams like the Saints, Colts, and Ravens in order to get a feel for his market. Eventually, the Saints signed Meredith to an offer sheet … which was not matched by the Bears.
GM Ryan Pace’s decision opened up the Bears to a wave of criticism and what was a fair line of questioning. Why didn’t the Bears place a second-round tender on Meredith? Because a team signing Meredith away would have required draft pick compensation. Why didn’t the Bears match the Saints’ modest offer sheet? And, most importantly, what are the Bears going to do now about their newly created hole at wide receiver?
As it turns out, there were reasonable answers to all those questions. No team would have signed Meredith to an offer sheet had a second-round tender been offered, which would have limited opportunities for the restricted free agent to test his market – which is an opportunity that was given to Kyle Fuller earlier in the offseason by way of the transition tag.
As for not matching the offer sheet and what the backup plan was, it seems as if the Bears had an answer for that, too. On top of saving a few million in salary cap space (the Bears are up against it right now, as is) Meredith’s departure paved the way for the Bears to trade back into the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft and select Anthony Miller. So far, so good for that highly touted draft pick. And, of course, the Bears had already added to their pass-catching depth with Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, and, to a lesser extent, Trey Burton. In any case, the decision was justifiable back then, and is perhaps even more so now.
Check it: Even before the injury news, Meredith was starting to see a decline in playing time:
So far it looks like the Bears made the correct call on Cam Meredith. The Saints signed Dez Bryant and here’s Meredith’s snap count 👇 pic.twitter.com/XDxSA3lSGM
— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeO670) November 7, 2018
Meredith was viewed as “way ahead of schedule” in his return back in May and didn’t have any setbacks when training camp started in July. But when he missed a chunk of training camp recovering from his injury and started the first two games of the season in the inactive list, that probably should’ve been a sign that things weren’t accelerating as rapidly as once believed.
Obviously, we’ll never know how things would have played out in Chicago, but still … it’s not looking good for him right now.
In hindsight, the Bears probably made the right decision in not retaining Meredith. But that’s not going to stop us from hoping for a speedy recovery for a local product and ex-Bear who deserves better than to have his career torpedoed due to a pair of untimely knee injuries.