Long-term Approach

LAKE FOREST _ Bears general manager Jerry Angelo continued cementing together a division championship team Monday by locking in guard Rex Tucker and defensive tackle Alfonso Boone to long-term contracts.

``Part of our plan is we want to build something that is going to last,'' Angelo said.

Tucker signed a seven-year contract worth about $21 million and Boone a five-year deal for $4.125 million

Tucker was a restricted free agent tendered at $1.227 million for this year and would have become an unrestricted free agent next March. His 2002 pact was torn up and his new contract runs through 2008.

``We always want to try to reward our own first,'' Angelo said.

The message Angelo is trying to communicate was not lost on Tucker.

``That's what you work for,'' Tucker said. ''For them to do this for me, to make me a part of this team, now all that's left up to me is to get out on the field and do it and show they made the right choice.

'My whole mentality is to go do what I do. Knowing that Olin is signed through that amount of time and I'll be signed through that amount of time, it's great. And Robo (Bernard Robertson) is only in his second year and the possibility of him being around, there's a good chance it's a great thing. You can't replace playing with guys for a long period of time.''

Salary cap restraints will make signing linebacker Rosevelt Colvin to a new deal before free agency starts next year will be difficult now.

"We're not going to be in a position to do anything with Rosevelt immediately,'' Angelo said of the cap situation.

Even if Colvin enters unrestricted free agency, the Bears could pursue him.

``It was brought to my attention that we went through this same exercise with Olin Kreutz,'' Angelo said. ''It's something we've had success with doing.''

The humble, soft-spoken, Tucker was not talking about throwing money around on anything frivolous.

'It's a complete blessing for our family,'' Tucker said. ''I've got a 20-month-old daughter and another one on the way. For this to happen, I can't believe it. It's something I couldn't have even dreamt of.''

Boone's signing was a projection of sorts. Angelo thinks Boone can develop into a player like Ted Washington or Keith Traylor. Those two will be in the final years of their contracts in 2003.

'It's a little similar to what we did with Jerry Azumah,'' Angelo said, recalling how they projected a reserve player as a long-term contributor.

'We liked the player, we liked the person, we feel he has a lot of upside.''

Boone came to the Bears at the end of the 2000 season. He was signed off Detroit's practice squad and played in 11 games last year.

"It's always good to be wanted,'' Boone said. ''There's a lot of peace of mind.''

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