Bears Leading the Way

The majority of the draft picks to sign league wide have been inked by the Bears. The team philosophy has been evident in the past, but the increased aggression appears to be a result of a lesson learned.

As of Monday, only five out of 255 draft picks had signed with their respective clubs. After agreeing to terms with DE Mark Anderson, G Tyler Reed and FB J.D. Runnels, the Bears were responsible for sixty percent of the total contracts.

The concerted effort to get deals done early could be a result of what happened with Cedric Benson last year. The fourth overall pick out of Texas had a 36-day contract impasse with the club, which saw him miss all of training camp and the preseason.

Benson's absence impacted rookie learning curve and he's still trying to catch-up. Without a first round pick this year the negotiations should run smoother.

However, even before discussions with Benson took a wrong turn, the Bears were busy tying up the rest of the 2005 class. Second round pick WR Mark Bradley became the first day selection to sign throughout the entire league.

So far, the last three members of the 2006 draft class have deals. The team still has to make progress with second-round picks S Danieal Manning (42nd overall) and CB Devin Hester (57th overall), third-round selection DT Dusty Dvoracek (73rd overall) and fourth-round pick LB Jamar Williams (120th overall).

Under the new collective bargaining agreement teams can no longer sign rookies selected past the first round to more than a four-year deal. Before the new CBA, teams could sign rookies up to six seasons. But because of the shorter years on deals, that means teams can't stretch out the signing bonuses as far as before which means the bonuses for selections past the first round will be smaller this season.

In the past, general manager Jerry Angelo has fought to get his picks to sign longer deals but that will no longer be an option. The reason Lance Briggs didn't hit the restricted free agent market this off-season is because he agreed to a four-year rookie deal. Now the Bears are in the middle of a tough contract situation, as Briggs wants to be paid now instead of waiting another season.

Although the Bears can't lockup their young talent for as long as they have in the past, getting the business out of the way early is wise. It puts rookies in a better position to succeed with their focus solely on football matters. Plus, goodwill now could mean friendlier talks when it's time to renegotiate.

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