Why would the Bears trade Ted Washington? Two years ago, during a 13-3 season, Washington was a force in the middle of a run defense that ranked second in the NFL while earning his fourth Pro Bowl berth.
Last year, he missed all but two games with a broken left fibula and torn ligament in his left foot. With Washington out, the Bears struggled defensively and finished 3-13.
When the Bears moved Bryan Robinson from end to tackle, they had three veteran players vying for time at two spots with Washington and the mammoth Keith Traylor also in the mix. Additionally, the Bears were looking to give reps to young draft picks Ian Scott and Tron LaFavor as well as veteran Alfonso Boone.
Washington, at 35 years old, was the one squeezed out as the Bears look to develop some younger talent on the line. According to Bears General Manager Jerry Anegelo, Washington is healthy and ready to play.
"Ted's still a good football player," Angelo said on ChicagoBears.com. "We recognize that; obviously New England does too. It was just a matter of looking at our personnel – both our veterans and young players – and we just felt this was the best thing for us and that's why we did what we did."
Washington has one year left on his contract and will be paid $1.65 million on 2003, meaning the deal was not cap prohibitive for either team. The Bears have already accounted for his camp figure including any bonus he received upon signing with the team in 2001. The Patriots are only on the hook for his 2003 salary.
Washington's health doesn't seem to be a concern even given the seriousness of the injury that forced him to miss 14 games last season, breaking a streak of 119 consecutive games played.
"Ted didn't miss practice [this summer], which is a testament to not only his durability, but also his character," Angelo said. [An injury problem] wasn't in the equation when we did this.
"Ted's obviously a true vet and he's played a lot of years. Naturally there's going to be some wear and tear. He's not the same player he was five or six years ago – that's a given – but he's still a good football player."
The move was not shocking when considering the unsteadiness, or inexperience, the Patriots had at nose tackle. Jarvis Green is trying to learn the position. Rick Lyle was winging it based on his veteran savvy and experience in Bill Belichick's system and the rest of the players – Ken Kocher and rookies Dan Klecko and Ethan Kelley – have never played a down in the NFL.
Washington anchored Buffalo's 3-4 defense for six seasons from 1995-2000 before moving on to Chicago. If ready to go, the massive 6-5, 375-pounder should be able to clog up the middle of the defense and occupy blockers. He is certainly difficult for offensive linemen to move off the ball and changes the complexion of the Patriots interior defense.