Bears agree to 5-year deal with Podlesh


CHICAGO (AP) - The Chicago Bears have agreed to a five-year contract with punter Adam Podlesh that makes him one of the highest-paid players at his position.

The deal, first reported by ESPN, was confirmed by agent Richard Rosa on Thursday. He would not reveal terms, but did say it puts Podlesh in the top five among punters.

Podlesh, who turns 28 next month, spent four years in Jacksonville and will replace Brad Maynard, whose contract expired after a 10-year run in Chicago. Podlesh was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his salivary gland in 2009 but was a Pro Bowl alternate last season, averaging 43.8 yards per punt and landing 26 (45.6 percent) inside the 20-yard line.

Rosa said Chicago was "an easy sell" and praised special teams coordinator Dave Toub and special teams assistant Kevin O'Dea.

"The opportunity to place for a storied franchise, their commitment to special teams - that was huge for him," he said. "The special teams coaches, they did a great job talking him through it, what their game plan is and how they see him progressing as a player through the five years. It really set the tone for him. It really made it an easy decision for him because of that level of commitment. He's very excited."

The NFL Network reported Thursday that Chicago has agreed to a contract with Pittsburgh Steelers free agent tight end Matt Spaeth. He would replace Brandon Manumaleuna, who was released after he failed his physical.

If there was an area where the Bears appeared to be set, tight end certainly appeared to be one. Instead, they're doing some rearranging amid widespread speculation that Greg Olsen could be dealt.

Olsen has been rumored to be available in the past because of the perception that pass-catching tight ends don't fit in offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme. Last year, he had his lowest totals in receptions (41) and yards (404) since he was a rookie in 2007, but he tied for the team lead with five touchdown catches.

Manumaleuna played for Martz in St. Louis and signed a five-year deal last summer, but the move didn't really work out. A knee problem limited him early on, and his weight was an issue.

The 6-foot-7, 270-pound Spaeth is cut from a similar mold as Manumaleuna. He's known more for his blocking, an area where the Bears could use help.

Spaeth has never caught more than 17 passes in a season and had nine receptions for 80 yards in 14 games last year - his fourth with the Steelers. His agent, Neil Cornrich, did not return messages seeking comment.

Veteran free agents can sign Friday and participate in team meetings, but they can't practice until Aug. 4. The Bears open camp in Bourbonnais, Ill., on Friday and start practicing on Saturday

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