You get a sense right about now how productive the Bears’ system of signing draft picks from the second round on down to four-year deals really is.
The Bears started with safety Todd Johnson, a four-round pick in 2003. When he agreed to a four-year contract, they told the remainder of their draft picks from that class that it was their policy to do that.
General manager Jerry Angelo and cap guru Cliff Stein have been successful every year since.
It means higher signing bonuses for the players because they are not doing three-year contracts. And it prevents them from becoming restricted free agents after three years. To compensate for that, the contracts have escalators built into the fourth year of the contracts.
Now, it didn’t make linebacker Lance Briggs or cornerback Nathan Vasher real happy. But the players’ only true recourse is to hold out, which really isn’t a recourse at all.
So, while the Tennessee Titans tendered qualifying offers to seven players this week and the Pittsburgh Steelers tendered four, the Bears do not have to worry so much about other teams swooping in and trying to sign their players away. They have just two—wide receiver Rashied Davis and safety Brandon McGowan—RFA’s who were tendered offers on Wednesday. Both were undrafted, Davis coming over from the Arena League and McGowan first visiting on a tryout basis.
So, while the brain trust at Halas Hall prepares for free agency in five hours and the concerns over keeping Briggs, wide receiver Bernard Berrian and special teamer Brendon Ayanbadejo, they don’t have to worry like some clubs about a host of RFA’s.