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Bears release WR Muhammad; sign DE Brown to extension

Associated Press

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Bears released former Pro Bowl wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad on Monday, cutting the veteran after three seasons.

Chicago also gave defensive end Alex Brown a two-year contract extension, declined a $5.2 million option on defensive tackle Darwin Walker, and released veteran offensive tackle Fred Miller.

"Anytime a guy of Moose's stature is released, it's a surprise," said agent Joel Segal, who represents both Muhammad and Brown. "It's good timing for Moose because it's on the cusp of free agency. It gives him time to sign with another team."

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He called Brown's deal a "win-win for both sides."

Muhammad spent his first nine seasons with the Carolina Panthers and made two Pro Bowls, but was released in February 2005 after setting career highs with 1,405 yards receiving and 16 touchdowns. He immediately signed a six-year contract with the Bears, but his numbers dropped dramatically in Chicago.

He caught 40 passes for 570 yards and three touchdowns as the Bears went 7-9 last season, and given his age -- he turns 35 in May -- the move wasn't shocking. The timing was a bit curious, though, given that leading receiver Bernard Berrian is considered one of the top free agents.

Segal said there has been no contact with other teams, but "I'm sure my phone will start ringing tonight."

Muhammad's best season with the Bears was in 2006, when had 863 yards and five touchdowns while helping the Bears reach the Super Bowl. That was an improvement over his first season in Chicago (750 yards and four touchdowns), but nothing like his final year with the Panthers. In 12 seasons, Muhammad has 742 receptions for 9,934 yards and 56 touchdowns.

Brown, who had two years left on his contract, wasn't thrilled when the coaches handed Mark Anderson the starting job at right defensive end in training camp. Brown wound up with 58 tackles and 4 1/2 sacks last season after 71 and seven in 2006. Anderson struggled against the run, and injuries and poor execution left a once-dominant defense vulnerable.

The Bears believed they landed a solid replacement for Tank Johnson when they acquired Walker from the Buffalo Bills. He signed a five-year, $25-million contract two days after the trade, but knee and elbow problems limited him to 33 tackles and one sack in 11 games.

Agent Albert Irby said the injuries were "just nagging types of things" and his client is fine.

"It's the Bears' choice," he said. "It's the way the business goes. That's their decision."

Miller started 46 games in three seasons with the Bears and has started 160 of his last 161 overall. A 12-year veteran, he started in Super Bowls with Chicago and the St. Louis Rams.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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