Starter money for Brandon Meriweather

Contract numbers for NFL players are often misleading, creating more confusion than enlightenment. Occasionally, however, they tell us more than a team has admitted about current plans and the likely future of a given player.

The contract of new Chicago Bears safety Brandon Meriweather is a prime case in point. We outlined a number of possible explanations for Meriweather's arrival last weekend. But as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune points out, Meriweather signed a one-year contract that will pay him like a starting player. He received a $1 million signing bonus, has a $2.25 million base salary and is now the Bears' highest-paid safety.

Meriweather's $3.25 million in total compensation is decent market value for a safety with two Pro Bowls on his résumé. It's not the type of money teams typically pay for a player they expect to spend 16 games as a backup and special-teams contributor, even if it's a team like the Bears with a significant salary cap surplus.

A wise guy would note the Bears have committed significant money to part-time players before. Last year, for example, they paid running back Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna a combined $13 million.

In this case, I see no need for sarcasm. The Bears are expected to start safeties Chris Harris and Major Wright in Sunday's season opener against the Atlanta Falcons, but the finances behind Meriweather's arrival suggest change is on the horizon.