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Despite salary cap space, Angelo insists Bears have plan for success

BOURBONNAIS IL - JULY 30:  General manager Jerry Angelo Chicago Bears (R) talks with Brian Urlacher #54 during summer

BOURBONNAIS, IL - JULY 30: General manager Jerry Angelo of the Chicago Bears (R) talks with Brian Urlacher #54 during a summer training camp practice at Olivet Nazarene University on July 30, 2011 in Bourbonnais, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\120120855.jpg

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:28AM

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — There’s one point general manager Jerry Angelo wants to make clear: The Bears always have a plan.

So despite having $30 million in salary-cap space, the Bears weren’t among the more active and aggressive teams at the start of free agency last month. They didn’t want to overspend in a buyer’s market.

‘‘Whatever we do, we want to do it with a plan,’’ Angelo told the Sun-Times recently. ‘‘It’s not that we just frivolously go out and collect talent. Everyone we brought in here, we have a plan for. .  .  . And it’s not like we have a $20 bill burning a hole in our pocket to spend.’’

Angelo still has about $19 million in cap space, although the Bears aren’t obligated to spend all of that to bump up against the 2011 salary cap of $120 million.

The Bears intended to have less money left. They came up short in their pursuit of offensive tackle
Willie Colon from the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Angelo insisted the Bears are pleased with the offensive linemen they have on their roster. He did hedge just a bit, though.

Asked whether the Bears are done addressing that unit, Angelo said, ‘‘We would revisit it if we don’t like what we see.’’

It’s unclear how Angelo and his coaching and scouting staffs feel after Saturday, when Bears quarterbacks were sacked nine times in a 10-3 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field.

The Catch-22

Heading into free agency, the Bears wanted to add a bigger
receiver and bolster their offensive line. That plan included re-signing center Olin Kreutz.

The Bears also wanted Colon, who has started at right tackle and has the potential to be a Pro Bowl-caliber guard. Colon, 28, had started every game for the Steelers for the previous three seasons. And
while the Bears offered him $3 million more, Colon gave the Steelers a hometown discount and signed a five-year, $29 million contract, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

While he didn’t deny being interested in Colon, Angelo also made it clear the Bears weren’t desperate to land him. The only player in recent memory the Bears locked in on was defensive end Julius Peppers, whom they made the highest-paid defensive end in the league last year.

‘‘What you want to do is create options,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘You don’t want to get yourself pigeonholed and, if it doesn’t work, the bottom falls out. If you don’t get Package A, it doesn’t mean Package B won’t be a good package.’’

So other than signing Chris Spencer to a two-year, $6 million contact, the Bears haven’t pursued any offensive linemen, even though a number of credible ones are still available.

Bryant McKinnie, Nick Kaczur, Mario Henderson, Max Starks, Flozell Adams, Mark Tauscher and Langston Walker are among the tackles available, and free-agent guards Leonard Davis, Brian Waters, Vince Manuwai, Shawn Andrews and Reggie Wells are still out there.

Angelo said the Bears wouldn’t close the door on signing another veteran on the offensive line, but he indicated they want to give some of their younger players a chance.

‘‘At some point, you have to let these young guys develop,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘You bring in [a veteran], and he takes reps away from Lance Louis. So you know what? This young guy is on the shelf again. At some point, you have to believe in his traits, and then you have to let it play itself out.

‘‘You can’t just continue to grab Band-Aids because the guys you have are unknown.’’

Moving forward

Angelo, though, was pleased that the Bears were able to attract and sign some former lottery picks,
including receiver Roy Williams,
defensive tackle Amobi Okoye and defensive end Vernon Gholston.

The Bears also signed punter Adam Podlesh, receiver Sam Hurd and running back Marion Barber in free agency and re-signed linebacker Nick Roach, cornerback
Corey Graham and defensive tackle Anthony Adams.

And while he acknowledges there are quality players still out there, Angelo reiterated that the Bears have a plan.

‘‘I’m a greed for talent, but you can’t be a glut,’’ Angelo said. ‘‘Now you have them all, but you have to let them sort themselves out. That’s why we said [that] the players we bring in, there has to be a plan. Can they make the team?

‘‘We like our football team. We added some players — with a plan — and we feel good about it coming together.’’

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