Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I've been meaning to circle back on a topic that arose during our award-winning SportsNation chat Monday afternoon. Here is the relevant exchange:
Glenn (Lex,Ky): Why hasn't more been made of Pat Kirwin's comment on Tuesday, that Jerry Angelo wasn't allowed to spend the money he believed was crucial for the success of the team?
Kevin Seifert: Yeah, I saw that and referenced it. I know Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times tried to interview Kirwan about it to flesh out his sourcing and information, and Kirwan declined comment. I'm not saying the story is untrue, but there hasn't yet been any direct evidence that Angelo has his hands tied. He has made two signings, Frank Omiyale and Kevin Jones. He hasn't done much else, but there could be any number of reasons why. This might be a story that takes some time to flesh out.
To review, Pat Kirwan is a well-connected former NFL executive who now writes for NFL.com and has a talk show on NFL Sirius Radio. On March 4, he strongly hinted that Angelo had confided that he didn't have the cash he needed to jump into the mix for a high-profile free agent. (Check here for the full quote, courtesy the Sun-Times.)
Kirwan turned down the Sun-Times' interview request, and Angelo declined comment. Thus far in free agency, the Bears have signed Omiyale to a four-year contract that pays him $6.3 million in the first year alone. Last Friday, they re-signed tailback Kevin Jones to a two-year, $3.5 million deal.
That's not exactly the biggest splash of Angelo's offseason career, but the reality is it's not even the lowest total of free-agent money spent in the NFC North. (See Thompson, Ted.)
What's more, Bears president Ted Phillips said in plain terms last month that despite a downturn in revenues, Angelo's player payroll budget would not be reduced. Phillips suggested the cash budget would be similar to the NFL's salary-cap number, which at the time was expected to be $123 million. (It eventually was set at $127 million.)
But there is one mitigating factor here. What if Angelo exhausted his 2009 player budget during a three-month spending spree last year? Between April and July, the Bears signed four players -- linebacker Lance Briggs, defensive tackle Tommie Harris, linebacker Brian Urlacher and receiver/kick returner Devin Hester -- to multiyear extensions that included anywhere from $32 million to $42 million in guarantees, depending on how you read the contracts.
That's a hefty cash outlay no matter which way you look at it. There is always a give and take when it comes to NFL team-building. Few teams spend lavishly on both their own players and outside free agents at the same time. The Bears have committed to their own.