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Chicago Bears Put All Eggs In The NFL Draft Basket

Posted by sportsmaven on March 9, 2009

The Chicago Bears ended the 2008 season with a 9-7 record, just missing the playoffs.  Bears coach Lovie Smith held his year-end press conference, announcing that the Bears are very close to being a playoff team, a fact that has been challenged heavily amongst many others who have an opinion on the Bears.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have also been incredibly inactive in the 2009 free agent market.  That inactivity has most common fans up in arms, while most NFL analysts scratching their heads.  The fact is that the Bears are over $30 million dollars under the salary cap and have more holes than the Titanic.  While there are very good reasons to stay on the sidelines in light of this year’s free agent crop (this year’s free agents are ridiculously over-valued), it is mystifying that Bears GM Jerry Angelo doesn’t even seem to be attempting to talk to any free agents, short of the signings of Carolina Panthers OT Frank Omiyale and re-signing backup RB Kevin Jones.

The end result of non-activity is exteme pressure for the Bears to hit a home-run in this year’s draft, an area that Jerry Angelo has struggles somewhat in his 8 years in Chicago.

Windy City Gridiron wrote a very nice article on Angelo’s performance compared to what they considered the best draft team, the San Diego Chargers, and the worst, the Detroit Lions.  They looked at a four year period, from 2002-2006.  The results weren’t surprising to me.

To quote the final analysis:

My Analysis: Angelo is a mixture of good and bad. He is horribly bad in the first 2 rounds–he is almost as bad as Matt Millen in the first 2 rounds, and Millen is the joke of the NFL. However, in the third and fourth rounds, Angelo compares favorably to AJ Smith, regarded as one of the best drafters in the league.

I think that the early rounds typically give you your high end talent, and the middle rounds tend to give you your quality depth. Perhaps that’s the reason the Bears always seem to have a deep team without enough top end talent to succeed in the playoffs.

I think for a team that supposedly is built through the draft, Angelo needs to do a much better job in the first 2 rounds. Otherwise, he’s going to need to make up for his early round draft failures with premium free agents.

After reading tomas21’s commentary, I have to say that I couldn’t agree more with his assessment.  It also brings up another question.  Why does Jerry Angelo put so much stock in the NFL Draft when history has proven that he is one of the worst draft performers from rounds 1-3?  To give credit where credit is due, Angelo is one of the NFL’s best from rounds 4-7, but looking at the needs the Bears have, it is clear, all positions aside, the Bears lack impact playmakers.  They have major holes at WR, FS, DL, and OL too.  Angelo may have addressed OL with the Omiyale pickup and the offer to OT John St. Clair.  He certainly did solidify the RB position by the Jones signing (now all OC Ron Turner has to do is use Jones).  WR and FS remain huge holes, with WR a position of strength in this year’s draft (the Bears need more than one WR), and S, a position of weakness.

I believe that the Bears have done a remarkable job building the bottom half of their roster with very solid depth.  The Bears needs are with the top half, specifically their lack of playmakers.  Successful teams like the New England Patriots build with the draft and then find the missing few pieces through careful moves in free agency.  The actions of the Chicago Bears (rebuilding through draft mode) clearly don’t match the words that Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith are saying (we’re close, so lets fill holes with free agents).  And now, all eyes turn to the April 25-26th NFL Draft, which once again, is of landmark importance in experiencing yet another year of the Angelo-Smith regime.

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