Rewarding their own

Bears general manager Jerry Angelo has been criticized heavily since joining the team nearly two years ago. However, Angelo's projection of what talent to keep and whom he deemed expendable will ultimately decide his success or failure.

When the Bears signed Brian Urlacher to a nine-year deal that meant the team has 11 starters whose contracts are intact through the next three seasons: Marty Booker, Olin Kreutz, Desmond Clark, Rex Tucker, David Terrell (in three-wide starting set), Marc Colombo, Bryan Robinson, Urlacher, Warrick Holdman, R.W. McQuarters and Jerry Azumah.

The club can control defensive end Alex Brown through 2005 and first-round pick Michael Haynes' will likely sign a five-year deal. Depending on what happens in the contract negotiations with Mike Brown the Bears could have eight defensive starters locked up for three seasons.

If you include special teams the Bears have Paul Edinger and Brad Maynard tied up for the next three seasons, which gives them 13 of 24 starters signed through 2005.

All of this means the core of the team will be around at least through 2005, but Angelo's judge of talent will have to be precise for that fact to mean something.

At that time there will be a whole new set of questions to answer including Rex Grossman's readiness to lead the offense, but all the planning could be for not if the team doesn't have instant success in 2003. Another losing season will likely see Dick Jauron fired and Angelo could be looking for a new job if the team finishes as bad as they did last year.

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