If and when there is a free-agency period, the Bears won't make the kind of splash they did last year.
Signing Julius Peppers to a six-year deal that could be worth as much as $91 million was a difference-making maneuver, but it isn't something any team can afford every year.
"It's a difficult thing to do," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "You don't want to come out every year having to spend big chunks of money on one player. That's not the goal.
"We determined that was a unique situation, and that was really an aberration of free agency. We thought he was a special player, obviously he was a fit, he was a need, and we felt like that was the right thing."
Until a new CBA is in place, teams won't know what the salary cap will be.
"We have to hypothesize and we have on certain cap numbers," Angelo said, and we have to do our scenarios and we have our budget that we operate within. We have to have 'guesstimations' on that."
The Bears landed the biggest fish in the free-agent pond last year in Peppers. But expectations should be scaled back this time around.
"Can we get the big fish (again)?" Angelo said. "I don't know. I haven't seen the bait yet, and until I know how much bait we can put on the hook, I don't know that we can get the big fish. That's going to be determined once we have a clear understanding of where the cap is."
Some teams justify spending big bucks in free agency on one big-ticket player in the belief that they are just one difference-maker away from getting to the Super Bowl. Angelo doesn't buy that philosophy, he doesn't feel the Bears are in that category, and he doesn't believe the solution is that simple.
"We're not one player away," he said. "I have seen teams do that. I have been part of teams that have done that. That hit or miss rarely hits, so we don't want to get into that mindset.
"When we do things, there's got to be a plan in place. We need to get better at (multiple) positions. We need to upgrade, create more competition, and then we've got to come together as a team."
T/G Chris Williams
Since he was drafted in the first round in 2008, Chris Williams has started 11 games at right tackle, seven at left tackle and the last 11 of the 2010 season at left guard.
Where his future with the Bears lies is still unclear.
"We have a few options, a few directions we can go," coach Lovie Smith said. "We don't have to make those decisions right now. We just know that Chris is a part of our future, and once we lock him in to a position, maybe (it's) the one he's in right now. (Offensive line coach) Mike Tice did a super job molding an offensive line this past year, and I'm anxious to see exactly where we end up playing him."
To Re-sign or Not to Re-sign
Arguably the most important of the Bears' unrestricted free agents is 13-year veteran center Olin Kreutz.
"I believe in him," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's the anchor of our team, our team leader. So he's very important to what we do. I know he's without a contract right now, but I think Olin knows that he's wanted and that's not really even a question."
Four-year veteran cornerback Corey Graham, another potential unrestricted free agent, has started just one game in the previous two seasons. But he had 25 solo tackles on special teams last season, more than twice as many as Garrett Wolfe, who was second with 12.
"When you say he's not a starter, we look at that a little bit differently," coach Lovie Smith said. "Special teams, that's a starting group that we have. Corey Graham is a starter as I see it. He's one of our core players that's helped us win football games each year."
Quote to Note
"There's no question about Jay's toughness or anything like that. For guys to even challenge that or question that (they) don't know what they're talking about, don't know him. He's as tough as any quarterback in the league." -- Coach Lovie Smith on the continuing question of QB Jay Cutler's toughness.
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