The Bears have plenty of off-season needs, and plenty of players to evaluate and potentially discard as they figure out how they're going to build their next success. Football team-building is incredibly reliant on sound draft strategy. That's the first key. But the second is making the most of the free agent dollars you spend -- finding deals where other teams don't see value -- and maximizing those signings as much as possible.
The question Lovie Smith had to answer today (courtesy of the Sun-Times) was just that: Will the Bears still sign free agents? Or will the economy, which seems to keep getting worse, prevent the Bears from spending the cash they need to lure their targets? Lovie's answer? He's not worried.
''Maybe, eventually it might, but I don't see [the recession] affecting us a whole lot in the foreseeable future,'' Smith said. ''If the [salary] cap allows it, I'm sure we can do it.' ''That has always been there,'' Smith said. ''We normally do what we need to do to put us in position to win.''
That last quote is in relation to the cash NFL teams usually have to spend up-front in signing bonuses. Without that money -- which isn't the same as the NFL's actual salary cap, which keeps teams on an even keel -- it's difficult to offer much of an attractive package to free agents. Why, for example, would Terrell Suggs move from Baltimore to Chicago if the deals are the same? (Unless he really likes lake effect snow, in which case, come on down.) The cash is what sets the Bears and other teams apart. It's their trump card.
So it's good to hear Lovie feeling comfortable about spending money. Fiscal responsiblity is all well and good, but, at least in a competitive sense, this would be a bad time for the Bears to start limiting their options.