Taking Care of Their Own

Lake Forest - GM Jerry Angelo has always believed in rewarding players that have performed well for the organization. Over the past four years that has often meant an early payday for younger players before they hit the open market. On Friday the team dished out a two-year extension to special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo. That's not the only deal the team would like to get done. Read exclusive comments from Angelo.

Ayanbadejo was acquired in a training camp deal with Miami for TE John Owens and a conditional draft pick. Although he's a role player, Ayanbadejo's the latest example of the Bears tying up a player before he reaches free agency. In recent years extensions have been given to numerous players including Brian Urlacher, Alex Brown, Jerry Azumah.

With a talented defense, several members of the unit are in line for raise. The leading candidates for long-term deals are defensive tackle Ian Scott and linebacker Lance Briggs.

"Certainly we would like to do that," Angelo said.

There is give and take between the team and player when an extension is signed. The organization takes a risk that the player will continue to develop and improve without getting injured. Conversely the player is giving up the chance to have teams bid for his services on the open market, which could drive up the asking price.

The salary cap limits the number of high priced players that can be on a roster. Azumah's contract will expire after this season. Unless the team can bring him back at a hometown discount, there's a good chance he'll be suiting up for another team next season.

"We have a good nucleus of what I think is some good young players and we would like to keep them all," Angelo said. "Realistically that's going to be hard to do."

The key is being able to evaluate what players are essential to success and who can be replaced with a younger cheaper option.

Everyone points to Angelo letting Tony Parrish go following the 2001 season. While Angelo admits he would have preferred to keep Parrish, the team had nearly half of the 22 starters from the 13-3 division champion team due to hit free agency.

Re-signing Parrish would have likely meant money that was eventually allocated to Mike Brown would have gone. Mike Green was projected as a player ready to claim a starting role, which initially eased the worry of losing Parrish. Obviously hindsight is 20-20.

When a team wins players will also become in demand. Everyone has been quick to scoop up veterans from New England, but there's also a reason the Patriots have won three of the last four Super Bowls while letting some bigger names go.

"It's the system and you just have to understand that it is the system and you have to work within it," Angelo said. "Everybody has to make these decisions and it tells me we're doing a good job when you have to make tough decisions."

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