Corey Graham signs with Ravens; Marion Barber retires
BY MARK POTASH firstname.lastname@example.org March 23, 2012 8:58PM
Marion Barber, who had his best and worst day as a Bear against the Broncos, retired on Friday. | John Leyba~AP
Updated: April 25, 2012 8:11AM
As expected, the Bears will move on without Pro Bowl special-teams ace Corey Graham and running back Marion Barber.
Both players left on their own terms Friday. Graham, an unrestricted free agent, signed a two-year contract with the Baltimore Ravens. Barber, 28, who had one year left on a two-year, $4 million contract, retired.
The Bears valued Graham’s contribution on special teams — he led them in special-teams tackles with 22 last year and 25 in 2010 — but were only going to bring him back at their price. After making the Pro Bowl and getting three interceptions as a nickel back late in the season, it was clear he was looking for more than the Bears would offer — not just in terms of money but also an opportunity to play on defense.
Anticipating they would not be able to sign Graham, 26, the Bears signed linebacker Blake Costanzo early in free agency. Costanzo, who will turn 28 in April, was the 49ers’ second-leading special-teams tackler with 17 last season. He also forced a fumble and recovered one in the 49ers’ 36-32 playoff victory over the New Orleans Saints in January.
Barber’s future was in doubt after the Bears signed running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million contract Thursday. Barber, who played his first six seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, rushed for 422 yards on 114 carries (3.7 yards per carry) in 2011.
‘‘I want to thank everyone who gave me the opportunity to play, and I’m very thankful to have had the chance to suit up for two of the NFL’s most storied organizations,’’ Barber told chicagobears.com. ‘‘I want to thank everyone who helped me become a better player.’’
After missing the first three games of the regular season with a calf injury, Barber led the Bears with six touchdowns. But his best moment turned into his worst. With Matt Forte out with a knee injury, Barber rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries against the Denver Broncos. But he committed two gaffes that cost the Bears the game. He ran out of bounds to stop the clock late in the fourth quarter and give the Broncos a chance to tie in regulation, then he fumbled in field-goal range in overtime, leading to Matt Prater’s 51-yard field goal that gave the Broncos a 13-10 victory.