One way of financially constructing a team is to spend heavily on one side of the ball and draft the other.
Jerry Angelo had a general payroll structure that said a team could pay major money to one quarterback, one running back, two offensive linemen, typically one wide receiver, one cornerback, one pass rusher and so forth. Salary cap realities limit the amount of heavy money that can go into one position or position group.
The Bears have gone in the direction of the Angelo model, not entirely surprising given Phil Emery serving on Angelo’s Chicago staff for a number of years.
But the template only works with right free agents and right draft choices. The 2005-06 teams were successful despite needing to go free agency for wide receiver (Muhsin Muhammed), running back (Thomas Jones) and four offensive linemen in free agency (Ruben Brown, Roberto Garza, Fred Miller, John Tait) plus pay heavily for the fifth (Olin Kreutz) because draft choices worked on defense (Lance Briggs, Alex Brown, Mike Brown, Chris Harris, Tommie Harris, Tank Johnson, Danieal Manning, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Brian Urlacher).
If the Bears now can manage on defense what they have with the current offensive line, they will have a structure bordering on the ideal.
The contracts for free agents Jermon Bushrod last offseason and Matt Slauson this one work cap-wise because the other side of the line – guard Kyle Long, tackle Jordan Mills – are draft choices. The remaining piece is center Roberto Garza, expected to be back on a very manageable one-year contract.
“Feel very good about the development of our O-line,” Emery said. “We’re going in the right direction. There have been four new members of that starting unit. They have worked together extremely. They are gelling. They have made a lot of progress.”
Garza was one of the chief reasons they worked together and “I’ve let Roberto know that I was proud of his season and obviously we will work through it, but we would like him back,” Emery said.