Chicago Sun-Times

30 days to Camp: The issues facing the Bears; studying committed cash

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Welcome to our countdown to training camp.

The Bears will report to Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., in 29 days. The beginning of the 2009 season and the first training camp practice is 30 days away.

We've been away for a little bit--some of the vacation was of the unpaid variety and not by choice--but we're back. We'll cover all the angles here every day leading up to the most anticipated camp we've seen in nine years. Yes, we're saying there is more buzz about camp this summer than two years ago when the Bears were coming off their appearance in Super Bowl XLI. If you can imagine it, we'll probably tackle it right here in the next 30 days, starting with a poll. Go ahead and weigh in on what the most critical issue facing the Bears is heading to camp. We'll assess the options in the poll next week. We'll also visit with a Four Down Territory next week, so fire away with your questions.

Now to the voting station.

Time for a look at some interesting numbers that Jason La Canfora, new to, came up with. He took a look at the real dollar figures in the NFL over the last five seasons. Not the salary cap but committed cash, the actual amount of money teams paid players. We all know teams can spend well above and beyond the cap each season when large bonus payments (spread over multiple seasons) come into play. Right here, La Canfora breaks it down and has the Bears 21st in the league in spending at $495.57 million from 2004 through 2008. That is more than $70 million less than the biggest spender on the list--Jerry Jones.

Here is now the NFC North breaks down:

5. Minnesota $526.87 million

15. Detroit $505.04 million

21. Bears $495.57 million

30. Green Bay $457.16 million

La Canfora takes the next step here and breaks down the cost of each victory for every team. How many wins did they get from 2004 to 2008? Basically, how well did they spend? It's probably not surprising that New England and Indianapolis top the list. San Diego and Pittsburgh follow. The Bears come in ninth, spending $11.01 million for each of 45 victories during that span. Interestingly, they're third in the NFC behind only the New York Giants and Philadelphia.

Here is how the NFC North breaks down:

9. Bears $495.57 million, 45 wins, $11.01 million

10. Green Bay $457.16 million, 41 wins, $11.15 million

18. Minnesota $526.87 million, 41 wins, $12.85 million

31. Detroit $505.04 million, 21 wins, $24.04 million

It should not come as a surprise that the Bears are in the bottom half of the league in spending, even during the five-year period which coincides with the arrival of Lovie Smith as head coach in 2004. The Bears revamped the roster to fit his needs but many of the key players on the roster today were already in place--linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive end Alex Brown, defensive tackle Tommie Harris (was drafted that year) and center Olin Kreutz. All of those players have received lucrative contracts since then but it's always easier to spend money on your own than spend in free agency. When the Bears have ventured into free agency, they've been pretty successful and they hope that trend continues with Frank Omiyale and some street free agents starting with left tackle Orlando Pace and strong-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.

No team below the Bears in spending has won a Super Bowl in the last five seasons.

Here are where the Super Bowl champs rank in spending over the period La Canfora breaks down:

Super Bowl XLIII Pittsburgh--8th, $516.69 million spent

Super Bowl XLII New York Giants--19th, $497.63 million spent

Super Bowl XLI Indianapolis--4th, $532.77 million spent

Super Bowl XL Pittsburgh--8th, $516.69 million spent

Super Bowl XXXIX New England--10th, $513.31 million spent

These are some fun numbers to look at as we get back in the swing of things. We'll have some more interesting numbers to look at on Thursday, and remember we'll break down the poll next week. It's good to be back.

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Looks like we need to spend more.

Good to have you back! You were missed dearly. Don't be a stranger! ;)

Glad to have you back, Brad. Sorry that you had to take furlough days ... it's tough all over.

There is something new posted. Thanks Brad!

Keep the posts coming Bradford! I have been dying here @work without them!!

Well first the vacation thing. That's tough and glad to have you back. I was hoping you were off somewhere where it is appropriate to order drinks with green stuff on the bottom of the glass and umbrellas on the top.

If you want to start an un-official poll of who is "essential" around the office, I often access the CST website using my direct bookmark on "Inside the Bears" by Brad Biggs and then navigate in from there.

As far as the "real money" spent by teams, it is revealing. Except for the Colts at #4, you can call it the Futility Bowl. Pre-2004 when Jerry Jones built through the draft, he won championships. When he started trying to win immediately by overpaying free agents, he spent a lot of money without much to show for it. I'm glad the Bears are mid-pack on that list.

Angelo has had hit and misses at drafting but has built an offensive line that got us to the superbowl through free-agents, This time with Orlando Pace and good health all the way through we should win the superbowl (on paper).

Actually, there should have been a 6th concern: Will know-it-all Bears fan Creighton stop being such a coward and do what he said he would? For those unfamiliar with the situation, here's what we're talking about:

By Creighton on March 25, 2009 11:48 PM
"In fact I am so sure that Angelo will not get him [Cutler] that if he does, I will be outside Soilder Field in a hot pink panties that say spank me, singing the Crackers Happy birthday to me while holding up a sign that reads Brando rules and I suck."

Oh and he did give the date...
"First home game and I will also paint myself Orange and Blue and get a tattoo thats says Angelo is the man on my forehead."

Of course, to see Creighton go through with his promise would mean seeing an overweight, cheeto-munching, beer-gulping sports fan slob in highly revealing attire. So really nobody wins. However, it is always fun to see some idiot embarass himself in public, n'est pas?

Oh and Creighton, enough posting under "Anonymous" or "Brando Schrute" or "Kevin Bumstead." Nobody's fooled since you consistently misspell the exact same words and write with an absolute conviction that you are 100& correct all the time. Stop being such a little wuss, come out of hiding and do what you said you would.

Man up, Creighton.

Brad: We miss you when you are gone, day in and day out no news about the Bears then you come back and life is good again, Bears news!

My biggest question for the upcoming season is

The Bears seemed poised to make a run at the division and who knows maybe even the SuperBowl. The most significant question is how would the Bears think that they could go far into the playoffs with essentially no proven veteran wide receiver. The pressure of the season is significant enough but to enter the playoffs (should they get there) with no proven vet receiver seems like a pipe dream. Should a proven vet Wr become available after cuts etc. it seems that the Bears really should look at finding a veteran possession receiver to move the chains. Even if a trade is necessary, it must happen for the Bears to seriously challenge for the Superbowl.

Question: Which wide receivers do you anticipate may be available either through trade or obtained after cuts? And which positions on the Bears are so stocked that the Bears may be cutting players simply due to the numbers that may make other teams, therefore could those potential cut players be used as trade bait to obtain a decent NFL proven vet wide receiver?

Brad your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

What difference a couple of years makes! Last night I watched a replay of the NFC Championship game from couple of years ago vs. New Orleans and cringed at the sight of Benson and Grossman in the backfield. Now we have Forte, Cutler (and Pace). Are you kidding me! I'm dying to see these guys in action. The offense is fine, I don't care if my grandma is catching the ball.

So I'm with Dahli on this one. As long as our defense performs half like their supposed to (and I think they will) Da Bears are going to be a force to be reckoned with this year.

Good to have you back Brad. I need my daily Bears fix.

Hey Mateo, what's your Grandma's 40 time?

Seriously guys, what WR out there do we think would help? Plax is probably missing the entire season. Marvin is too old & doesn't fit our need & honestly we don't fit his need. Brandon Marshall isn't getting traded. Boldin isn't getting traded.

Our best bet is to wait for the 1st cuts of camp & see what shakes out.

Dacamase: "Hey Mateo, what's your Grandma's 40 time?"

Well to be fair she is a 6'4 256 pound hairy-ass gorilla that runs the 40 in 4.5 seconds and drives a mack truck. (That better not be obscure) ...

As far as the upcoming season I think there is going to be a huge buzz around camp this year. My fiancee's family lives in Bradley and Olivet is quite literally right down the road. I'll be in Phoenix when camp starts but will be looking to get up there and watch some practices.

Personally I think that first home preseason game is going to have a playoff feel to it. I know it means nothing but any Bear fan worth their salt (and with the money of course) is going to want to SEE if Jay Cutler is the real deal. Those first couple of possessions should be pretty electric.

With that said, I'd feel more comfortable with a veteran wideout in the mix right now. Then again, we say that every year and the best JA has given us was "Moose" so maybe we're not as bad off as it seems. Still, keeping an eye on Brandon Marshall and the Plax situation cannot be dismissed. I am not delusional enough to think we're poised for a Super Bowl run this year, so taking the time to find the right WR is ok with me. We're going to have Cutler - hopefully - for the next 10 years so saying our window is NOW (especially when our D was well below-average last year and suspect this season) is disingenuous. I do not think a Wild Card or Division Title is out of the question though especially in this division.

It should be a fun year.

I've been saying all along that while we're all obsessing about receivers, the defense will be the real issue. If it improves a lot over the past two seasons, the Bears are a legit Super Bowl contender, veteran receiver or not. If it does not improve significantly, the farthest the Bears will go is the first round of the playoffs, even if they get Plaxico Burress (who would almost certainly do more harm than good) AND Anquan Boldin.

The Bears have chosen to address their defensive problems by making coaching changes. I don't believe for a second this will work for several reasons: First, I don't believe in Lovie Smith's system for reasons I've stated before. Second, Tommie Harris is the anchor player on the line and his knee seems to be shot. Third, they have no one who's shown that he can consistently apply QB pressure.

As a Bear fan I really hope I'm wrong. I'm very excited about the upcoming season but am trying not to be overly optimistic, though I"m having a hard time. Let's face it, we haven't had a really good QB in most of our lifetimes except McMahon, and he was always injured. And McMahon didn't have Cutler's arm. It's getting hard to sleep at night and it's months before the season starts, even with my strong reservations about the defense. Anyone else having this problem?

Welcome back Brad! Hell yeah hard to sleep when you can invision a bears team with a pro bowl quarterback that is still young. This is a totaly different style of football that we haven't seen at all. I can't imagine the bears as a passing team in November and December. Can't stop wondering what type of rushing yards payton would have put up with a passing quarterback!

creighton dude, man-up/brando is unfortunately CORRECT. Why are you still trying to dodge from what you said you would do? This #6 concern is the most important one and not enough people are realizing just how entertaining seeing you actually FOLLOW THROUGH ON YOUR PROMISE might be. Just stick a hat out for people to stick loose change in and it could be financially rewarding for you. Seeing you post w/out your name is getting annoying...although the office ripoff is worth a couple of laughs. "I am a number 2, haha"

wow sounds like another dark and depressing day for da coach. just cant help transmitting the negative feelings from your sad sad life onto other people can you.

@Wrigley Field Bear

"It's getting hard to sleep at night and it's months before the season starts, even with my strong reservations about the defense. Anyone else having this problem?"

I would literaly chop some of my fingers off with an axe...if it meant that the Bears' season would start tomorrow.

Ok just because angelo got Jay Cutler dosent mean a darn thing.He has NO recievers "So far" anyway.And a struggling Defense,and an idoit for an offensive CO-Ord.SO when the prove me wrong i wont b so skeptical...if they prove me wrong.Dont get me wrong i love my bears and will always root for them,but i dont like the McCaskey family thier cheap.And i Dont like ron turner either.OH BYE THE WAY HI
BRAD GLAD TO SEE U BAK BUDDY>>>KUDOSOh and "It's Time to Man up " thats hilarious!!!

Coach, dude, just a suggestion man to man.

Based on experience with this crowd, stop and consider before posting comments about 6'-4" hairy-assed gorillas and one's fiance in the same message. Up to you.

gobearsgo: "wow sounds like another dark and depressing day for da coach. just cant help transmitting the negative feelings from your sad sad life onto other people can you."

Let's see ... quoted the movie "Dazed and Confused" ribbing Mateo and Dacamese ... Talked about going out west and to training camp with my fiancee ... And said I was looking forward to the season. Yup, it's a sad, sad life indeed. It's funny, but with Brad's triumphant return, people asking questions and looking forward to the season ... you're only comment or concern is about something I posted? Hmmm, maybe that "dark and depressing day" is really just something psychologists call "projection". I'll let you figure that one out there ok champ!

Wrigley fiedl Bear:

I may be wrong but I do not think the defense is going to be the achilles heal of this Bears team. Lets look at where the Bears D stands at the moment.

Lovie has now taken on the D calling plays, it is his strength and should help as compared to last years fiasco. Marinelli is coaching the line, which is also an improvement over last year. The experts suggest that Marinelli will help the line and the young players, he will not put up with laziness and the line will improve over last years pathetic effort because Marinelli will help it improve.

Now to the players and positions.

D line is in place with two new rookies added to it, one at DT and one at DE. Ogunleye and Anderson are going to improve simply because as free agents next year they will have to so that they can command more money (sad but true). Alex Brown is motivated and has been the best on the line for two years running, he is solid. The DT is of concern with Tommie Harris and his knee is a concern but I think Tommie's problem is more head related than physical ailments. I believe that Marinelli will get Tommie back on track, Harrison Dvorcek and Adams will fill in nicely, with the rookies a wildcarda and Indonije a good fill in at DT or DE.

The linebackers are solid. Granted Urlacher is a little long in the tooth but he is still top 5-10 in the NFL, Briggs is top 5-10 on the weakside and Piso is good, could be very good racking up huge numbers of tackles on a bad St.Louis Team. The linebacker backups are also solid with a couple maybe able to start for other teams, the new rookie from Ohio State may be very good as well. The coverage by the linebackers will be better this year and stopping the run will not be a weakness.

The defensive backs also are stronger, the corners are very solid with Peanut and Vasher and the new rookie is supposed to be special. Bowman and McBride are very solid as well and are adequate if injury should occur. Manning is good as a nickel and Graham could be solid as Free Safety with Payne also solid a Strong saftey. The backups are adequate with Steltz more of Strong safety and the New Orleans free safety is serviceable and maybe better than in the past given he was playing on very poor defenses with the Saints.

Defensive Predictions:

Overall defense top 5.
Against the run top 5.
Against the pass top 10.
Top 10 in sacks
Top 5 in turnovers

Wrigley Field Bear, have faith the Bears D will be very good and with special teams should be the strength of the team. I am only really concerned with the WR's and getting Cutler's rhythm and timing in the offense, which may take until mid season until it comes into form. A solid NFL proven vet wide receiver would help show leadership for a very young and wet behind the ears group of wide receivers.

By mid year the Bears must be at least 5-3 to contend if they are 4-4 it could be an ugly year. My belief is that they will finish 11-5 and win the division.


If the Bear defense plays at the level you predict, the Bears will be AT LEAST 12-6. You think a major improvement like you predict will only improve them by two games with the addition of Cutler, Pace, and Omilyale? The Bears are already a much better team on paper than they were last season WITHOUT the defense improving.

As a Bear fan I certainly hope you're right, but for the reasons I stated I don't see the defense improving that much if at all. Another problem is that in Lovie Smith's defense, QB pressure must start with the under tackle (Harris). If he doesn't get back to his old form, the whole thing falls apart, which is just one of the many reasons I hate this style of defense.

BTW, looking forward to seeing you at Ricky's in September. Don't forget to wear your colors.

Good to have you back Brad...was sorely missing my Biggs Bears provide the best Bears coverage...period.

Wrigley field Bear:

I will make it to Rickey's one of the weekends this year. I just moved to Palm Desert this week but make it back to the bay area at least once a month. I look forward to buying you a beer when I get back up there during the season.

Rickey's is a fun and wild place, packed with Raider fans. I have had some great times in there.

Take care.

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 1, 2009 6:06 AM.

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