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 NFL.com, 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.