In the era of free agency, it’s difficult for franchises to keep more than about 15 core players locked up. Simple math related to the salary cap dictates that. So, teams have to make difficult decisions about what players they should keep from year to year, even proven key starters. As general manager Jerry Angelo pointed out before, prior to the cap the Dallas Cowboys began their run in the early 1990’s with about 30-35 core players. Owner Jerry Jones dipped into his wallet and made it happen.
So, there’s a good deal of roster turnover from year to year, and sometimes you can’t always keep your own players as you would like. The Bears certainly wish linebacker Rosevelt Colvin had never left. But that hasn’t been part of the problem for the Bears in terms of developing—and keeping—their own offensive talent. As a supplement to the column in today’s edition, we look at how the Bears have only three starters in tonight’s game at Green Bay that were drafted by the organization—center Olin Kreutz, running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Kreutz was a third-round pick in 1998, four drafts before Angelo came on board from Tampa Bay. Angelo has presided over the last six Bears’ drafts.
An in-depth look:
Before we go further, it needs to be pointed out that Angelo’s drafts have produced defensive stars all over the place. He’s hit in every round, not just with high picks for players like tackle Tommie Harris. Safety Kevin Payne, a fifth-round pick this year, looks to have a bright future after he returns from a broken arm next season. Cornerback Trumaine McBride, a seventh-round pick, has quickly asserted himself. Then there are others like Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Nathan Vasher, Danieal Manning, Mark Anderson, Alex Brown, etc.
On offense, homegrown help has not been there. The Bears, of course, began the season with four drafted players in the starting offensive lineup. That was before the benching of quarterback Rex Grossman. Now, only one other team—Detroit—has three offensive starters that were a product of Lions’ drafts. That number will go to four when receiver Calvin Johnson, the No. 2 pick in April, cracks the lineup. Three other teams began the season with four starters on offense that were a product of their own drafts—Kansas City, Oakland and Washington.
In a study of Week 1 starters for every franchise, it was determined Tennessee had the most—nine. The only two Titans not drafted by the front office were center Kevin Mawae and receiver Justin Gage, the ex-Bear.
A breakdown of offensive starters for every franchise that were drafted from within (according to Week 1 gamebooks):
8—Cincinnati, Green Bay, Indianapolis, N.Y. Jets, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco
7—Arizona, Baltimore, Carolina, Denver, Jacksonville, New England, St. Louis
6—Buffalo, Minnesota, New Orleans, Seattle
5—Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Houston, Miami, N.Y. Giants, San Diego, Tampa Bay
4—BEARS, Kansas City, Oakland, Washington