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Bears, Patriots each lighter in the secondary after surprise cuts

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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For teams facing the Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles in their next games, the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears, respectively, seem to have very cavalier attitudes about the status of their starting secondaries. Following the news that the Bears released veteran safety Chris Harris on Thursday, now comes the news that just two days before they're set to take on the Steelers at Heinz Field, the Pats have released cornerback Leigh Bodden.

That decision is especially startling given the injury status of cornerback Ras-I Dowling, who missed Thursday's practice with a hip injury.

Bodden, who signed a four-year, $22 million contract with the Pats before the 2010 season, was considered one of the league's most underrated cornerbacks during his time with the Cleveland Browns from 2003 through 2007, but he had a fairly disastrous season with the Detroit Lions during their 0-16 season in 2008 (as did everyone else in Detroit). When New England got a great season out of him in 2009, the financial outlay was made. But Bodden missed the entire 2010 season with a shoulder injury, and he was demoted to nickel corner in 2011 in favor of the rookie Dowling.

Earlier in the season, Bill Belichick also waived cornerback Darius Butler, which is a pretty good indication of just how happy he's been with his pass defense. The Pats currently rank 30th in Football Outsiders' pass defense metrics, which speaks partially to bad coverage and partially to an unimpressive pass rush.

"I would like to first confirm that Leigh Bodden has been released by the New England Patriots," Bodden's agent, Alvin Keels said. "He's enjoyed this time in New England, but after meeting with coach (Bill) Belichick this morning both parties agreed it was time to move on. Leigh still has a strong desire to play football and welcomes his next opportunity to compete for a Super Bowl. Leigh is totally healthy and can contribute right away."

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Bodden was unhappy with his new role, which placed him in the same boat as the Bears' Harris, who had made a trade request of general manager Jerry Angelo before the deadline. The Bears granted that request, but Harris' liabilities in coverage preempted other teams from taking the plunge.

After Chicago's Week 6 loss to the Detroit Lions, Angelo made the move to bench Harris and safety Brandon Meriweather (another Patriots secondary castoff) in favor of youngsters Major Wright and Chris Conte. Harris had been limited by a hamstring injury.

At least the Bears have an extra week to get their youngsters up to speed before they take on the Eagles' passing attack and tremendous run game — they're on a bye and won't see action again until Monday, November 7.

We're not sure how Bodden is taking his new "independent" status, but Harris — one of the NFL's most astute players when it comes to social media — had a sense of humor about the whole thing. This was one of the first things he tweeted out after the release:

This has turned out to be one hell of a bye week! I feel like Craig on #Friday.........Fired on my day off LOL

And then, this:

Wow I'm now trending on twitter. All it took was for me to get released........Mama I made it

It's a hard go for Harris, but we're sure he'll land on his feet.

UPDATE: He's done just that! Multiple reports indicate that Harris has been signed by the Detroit Lions. So, Harris' recent career progression went a little something like this: Bears bench Chris Harris after their loss to the Lions. Bears cut Chris Harris. Lions sign Chris Harris. Logic fail? Bears.

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