This is an especially tough cut from a fan and personal standpoint. After suffering a severe back injury against the Seattle Seahawks in late 2011, Knox had been slowly but surely working to return to the team.
The problem was perhaps that he was coming along too slow. In a Sun-Times piece from this past December, Knox admitted he "wasn't quite there physically," and given that we were a year removed from his initial injury, that had to worry the team.
In fact, some beat writers like Michael Wright of ESPNChicago.com are unsure he will ever play again.
Michael C. Wright @mikecwright
Johnny Knox no longer a Bear. I doubt he ever plays again.2013-2-12 15:50:19
This had to have been a tough cut for the Bears, and it may not go over incredibly well with Knox's former teammates. As in the Sun-Times piece linked above, they respected his dedication to coming back as well as his hard work in general.
Knox was productive in his time as a Bear, as a returner in his rookie season as well in the role of a secondary receiver as someone who Jay Cutler could trust to catch most of what was thrown his way.
There certainly were issues finding a wide receiver to pair with Brandon Marshall in 2012, as rookie Alshon Jeffery was battling injuries, Earl Bennett was inconsistent (and hurt as well) and Devin Hester was underwhelming.
However, in the end, the team feels good about Jeffery and knows it can rely on Bennett. The only question mark could be how the Bears view Hester, but releasing Knox could be a sign they still believe he could be a salvageable project.
Of course, it comes back to where Knox is regarding his recovery as well, and as I said before, that he is still not close to playing has to be a concern—and makes him expendable so the team can retain—and draft—other players to fill his spot.
As a franchise, this was likely a tough decision—though at least in terms of the coaching staff, easier for having less ties to Knox.
However, given how long it has been since he's seen the field—and how long it looks like it might be until he's able to—this was the right financial and roster move for the team at this time.
Even if it wasn't the end to the story we all wanted.