Speaking in regard to the Bears' recent free agent signings, Angelo said he likes to sign players who "bet on themselves." He also spoke a little about Greg Olsen.
Below is the meat and potatoes of of the former (emphasis mine):
General manager Jerry Angelo talks about "football character" from time to time, and it has nothing to do with citizenship and a lot to do with professionalism and an approach to the game. He thinks the Bears have found that in all four of their former first-round picks who signed as free agents: wide receiver Roy Williams, defensive end Vernon Gholston, defensive lineman Amobi Okoye and center/guard Chris Spencer.
It’s a situation where these players need the Bears as much, or maybe more, than the Bears need them.
"We got a good football player at what I consider a good value," Angelo said of running back Marion Barber, signed to a $5 million, two-year contract. "You know the thing I like about some of the players we have, in particular Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston, they could have had more money at other places. I like players that like to bet on themselves.
"When you pay a player a lot of money to get them, you’re betting on him. These players are betting on themselves. I respect that about them. It tells you a little about how they feel about our situation and how they feel about themselves."
While, in theory, there's nothing wrong with liking a player who is willing to "bet on himself," so to speak, I found this quote painfully fascinating. You know why? Because it signifies that the Bears were the low bid in multiple situations for the free agents they signed. Do you know what that means? Well, by my estimate, it means they were likely the low bid for multiple free agents they didn't sign. And that's incredibly troubling.
Football, for all the talk of "passion" and "love of the game," is a big money sport. And while character matters, we should not begrudge these athletes for chasing a paycheck. Careers are short, and the money is oh-so rarely guaranteed.
On July 20, ESPN projected NFC North team cap space, and as you can blatantly see, the Bears have a lot of money to spend. Compared to the rest of the division, they're light years ahead in available money. While I'm encouraged guys like Roy Williams and Vernon Gholston chose the Bears over other teams because they saw Chicago as a better fir for their respective skills, I'm very discouraged to see the Bears cheaping out in regards to these guys (and, most likely, other guys). But in a lot of ways, it's par for the course for this typically stingy organization. Last summer excluded, of course.
Bottom line: the Bears have yet to land a big name free agent. It's mostly been a collection of draft busts, change-of-scenery types and general "redemption" guys. Players like that can be unexpected surprises (if they do, you know, pan out), but you shouldn't be banking on anyone like that if you're looking to win the Super Bowl. And make no mistake, the window is now. As pointed out by my colleague Ricky O'Donnell, the Bears have a defense primarily of stars that are 30+. And while Jay Cutler still has youth on his side, he doesn't exactly have sure things surrounding him on the offensive side of the ball.
I'm not going to rush to judgement on the Bears off-season -- it's still early. But color me confused with what we've seen so far. Instead of splashes or headlines, we've seen lackluster signings. And these have come in conjunction with the team's biggest "headlines" of the off-season: (1) unwillingness to pony up for Olin Kreutz and (2) the trade of former first rounder Greg Olsen.
Which brings me to my next grievance: Angelo's Greg Olsen/Mike Ditka quote.
"We're really not looking for Kellen Winslow; we're looking for Mike Ditka," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said Sunday. "The tight ends that we have now really fit more of the profile we want in the offense. It's no more than that."
No hyperbole: one of the worst Bears-related things I've ever seen. Are you crazy, Jerry? Is this to say you're pimping some sort of run-first, hard-nosed, cliched offense that the Bears don't actually have? Last I checked, the Bears have one of the worst offensive lines in the league, paired with QB who, for all of his faults, is a proven slinger. Olsen and Cutler could have -- should have -- been a potent passing connection. Exhibit A: this 58-yard touchdown pass in a playoff game.
Whether you liked Olsen's production over the last few years or not -- he was certainly polarizing -- it's unarguable Olsen had a base level of talent, and the Bears failed to utilize it in the passing game with any type of stable frequency. And in instances like that, you can't blame the "system." Good organizations get the most of the players they *do* have on the team. You don't make excuses. This Angelo/Ditka quote is guaranteed to be a Chicago sports radio wet dream because it panders to the antiquated '85 Bears culture that this city absolutely loves to suffocate the modern teams with. It's doing more harm than good at this point. The past is important, and fans should be proud of that title, but in a lot of ways, it's time to let that go. The 2011 Bears are a vastly different team. And forgive me for wanting "Kellen Winslow" over "Mike Ditka" this time around. Heresy be damned. I just don't think it's too crazy to want a player who is, you know, actually conducive to the way franchise QB Jay Cutler plays the game. We did build this damn team around him.
So yeah, Jerry, I'm a little pissed. But you have more time to figure this out and get the pieces in place. And there are still guys out there. So take some of your money and spend it wisely. And while you're at it, try to maybe pay a guy or two. Not everyone wants to "bet on themselves" when real money is actually an option.
And stop pissing off other teams. That's just bad business.