Money ruled in Bell release, not play

NEWARK, N.J. -- Former Chicago Bears running back Kahlil Bell didn’t fall far behind Armando Allen or Lorenzo Booker on the depth chart. He simply cost more ($1.26 million) than what the team was willing to pay for a No. 3 running back not likely to contribute much on offense this season.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Bell balked at taking a $560,000 pay cut, which basically facilitated his exit.

But make no mistake, Bell probably fits the mold of what the Bears would need at the position if starter Matt Forte or primary backup Michael Bush suffered injuries, more so than Allen or Booker. Bell possesses the ability to run between the tackles, is elusive in space, and has skills as a blocker, in addition to an ability to contribute on special teams and as a receiver out of the backfield.

Simply stated, he’s more well-rounded (and proven with the Bears) than Allen and Booker.

But it’s always about the money. Always.

Bell received his $1.26 million tender less than two weeks before the Bears signed Bush to a four-year contract worth $14 million, which included a $4 million signing bonus and close to $7 million guaranteed. Then, the Bears signed Forte to a four-year deal worth $31.4 million with $17.1 million guaranteed, that includes a $4 million signing bonus, $800,000 base salary and a $5 million roster bonus.

That’s too much money invested in the running back position. So Bell, who is talented enough to contribute to another team in 2012, became an easy target. The Bears finished the 2011 season with four running backs -- Allen, Bell, Marion Barber, and Tyler Clutts -- on the active roster with Forte on the injured reserve.

So it appears the Bears could decide to keep both Allen and Booker, who combined would be cheaper to keep than Bell. But that would mean the club would have to part ways with Clutts, a fullback who hasn’t been used much throughout the preseason with the team opting many times to use tight ends in the backfield as lead backs. Allen and Booker add a speed/slasher dimension for the Bears at running back.

But Booker appears to be more dangerous on special teams, where last week against the Washington Redskins, he escaped six defenders early in a kickoff return for a 105-yard touchdown.

An undrafted free agent in 2009 out of UCLA, Bell played 20 games for the Bears with three starts in 2011 in relief of Forte. Bell rushed for 240 yards in those three starts in 2011, including a career-high 121 in Week 16 at Green Bay.

Athletically, Bell has proven he can play in the NFL. Economically, he couldn’t do it for the Bears.