Bears release TE Spaeth

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears have released veteran tight end Matt Spaeth.

Spaeth had a $500,000 roster bonus due on Thursday and was scheduled to count $1,958,334 against the Bears' 2013 salary cap. The Bears will still carry $333,334 worth of dead money but the decision to part company with Spaeth opens up $1.625 million of salary cap space.

Spaeth had the reputation as one of the best all-around blockers on the Bears during this two-year stint in Chicago. Before signing with the Bears, Spaeth had a productive run with the Pittsburgh Steelers where he helped the franchise reach two Super Bowls. A return to Pittsburgh for Spaeth is not out the question, according to a league source.

But the Bears were looking to shed some salary after landing tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod in the opening hours of free agency. Spaeth and fellow tight end Kellen Davis were obvious candidates to be released after Bennett received a sizeable four-year contract.

While Bennett is the unquestioned starter at tight end, the team envisions a larger role for 2012 fourth-round draft choice Evan Rodriguez, who spent his rookie season lining up at fullback. Rodriguez is expected to get an opportunity to be used more as a downfield threat in the passing game next season.