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Bears Ink Bucs' Castoff

Brad Culpepper, the eight-year veteran defensive tackle released by Tampa Bay on Monday, signed a two-year contract with the Chicago Bears on Wednesday.

"I'm in my ninth year and I've got four to five more left," Culpepper said. "I want to stick my roots in the ground and go to a good team."

Culpepper considered offers from Cincinnati and Philadelphia, where he might have been given a starting job. But he decided on Chicago, where he will back up Mike Wells and Jim Flanigan.

"If I evolve into being a starter, that's great," Culpepper said. "If I stay a third guy, fine. You've got to have a number of guys who can rotate and play."

Terms of the Bears' contract were not disclosed. But Culpepper was scheduled to make $850,000 this season with the Buccaneers.

"If they (Bucs) had asked me to take a pay cut to be a backup, I don't think I would have," Culpepper said. "They saved me the hassle and didn't ask.

Culpepper, 6-foot-1 and 270 pounds, started 61 games the past four years. In 1998, he led one of the league's top defenses in sacks with nine.

He had 23 1/2 sacks while playing the last three seasons next to Warren Sapp. Six of those sacks came last season, when he also had 72 tackles

To make room on the roster, the Bears placed rookie cornerback Reggie Austin on injured reserve because of a sore heel.

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