Chicago Bears Get Creative To Replace Evan Rodriguez

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Chicago Bears Get Creative To Replace Evan Rodriguez
Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The Bears had enough when it came to Evan Rodriguez—releasing him on Monday, first reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune—and they gave themselves options in replacing him.

Last week, I wrote about the Bears' lack of options in replacing Rodriguez. On Monday, they signed one player at his position, but it was the other moves they made that could have just as big of an impact.

The Bears signed Tony Fiammetta, who replaces Rodriguez as the only fullback on their roster.

Like Rodriguez, Fiammetta was a fourth-round pick. He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers in 2009.

He is considered more of a true fullback, but has athletic skills similar to those of Rodriguez.

According to the times on NFL Draft Scout, Fiammetta is a slower, running a 4.58 to Rodriguez's 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. Fiammetta was faster in both the 20- and 10-yard dashes, but Rodriguez tested out better in agility drills.

He was actually graded better than Rodriguez by some coming out of the draft.

J. Meric/Getty Images

Scouts Inc. (subscription required) listed Fiammetta as the top-rated fullback in 2009 with a grade of 54. Rodriguez was the ninth-rated tight end, receiving a grade of 41 from Scouts Inc. (subscription required).

While he may bring similar athletic skills, the thing that really set Rodriguez apart was his ability to use those skills in the passing game. 

In the only two seasons he has been active, Fiammetta has caught a total of eight passes for 73 yards. Scouts Inc. (subscription required) rated his receiving skills as "average."

Rodriguez didn't get much of a chance to use his receiving skills last year. One would have expected the Bears to take advantage of his ability under new coach Marc Trestman.

Over the years, Fiammetta has had numerous injury issues and hasn't been overly productive when he was on the field.

In 2010, he graded out positively on Pro Football Focus (subscription required), although he wasn't outstanding in any area. He barely graded out positively in run-blocking, which is supposed to be his biggest strength.

The next year was disastrous for the Syracuse alum. 

The Panthers released him and he signed on with the Cowboys. In 227 snaps, he received a grade of negative-5.8, including negative-three as a run-blocker on PFF (subscription required).

By comparison, Rodriguez received a positive-2.0 and a 2.8 in run-blocking from PFF (subscription required).

Fiammetta was released by the Cowboys and signed with the Patriots, but did not play a down for them in 2012. The Patriots released him in late April.

While there's little doubt that Fiammetta has potential, he's has yet to show it. It's hard to say he alone is an upgrade over Rodriguez. 

If the Bears can get Fiammetta to reach his potential, it could be a great signing, but they've prepared themselves in case they can't.

While Fiammetta may be the player who replaces Rodriguez in terms of position, the Bears deepened their receiving core by bringing back Devin Aromashodu. That move will give them more options in terms of the formations they can run.

While with the Bears in 2009 and 2010, Aromashodu provided a few highlight plays, including a game-winner against the Vikings 

While Aromashodu never quite became the star Bears fans were hoping for, he did catch 26 passes while playing for the Vikings in 2011. Not terrible considering their quarterbacking situation and the fact that they're a run first team.

His total dropped to 11 catches last year, but he averaged 16.5 yards per catch.

He probably won't start for the Bears, but he provides them with good depth. 

As I outlined in last week's story, part of the problem with releasing Rodriguez wasn't just finding a replacement at his position, but finding ways to use more formations. 

With almost no depth at wide receiver or tight end, the Bears didn't have a lot of flexibility in terms of what they did with their formations.

By bringing in a veteran like Aromashodu, the Bears have someone they know can step in and play, should they suffer an injury. 

With this signing, I would expect the Bears to use more three-wide receiver sets than I previously thought. They'll also have the option of going four-wide. I expect Aromashodu to compete with Marquess Wilson for playing time with Eric Weems and Devin Hester battling on special teams.

It's hard to say that adding a journeyman fullback and wide receiver have made the Bears a better team.  Ultimately, the Bears decided on cutting Rodriguez. Two arrests in one offseason is simply unacceptable. While he still has immense talent, the Bears have moved on.

Finding a way to replace Rodriguez wasn't easy. If it was, it wouldn't have taken so long. However, the Bears got creative and they no longer have to worry about his problems off the field.

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