On Saturday, the Tribune's David Haugh -- a plugged-in Bears writer if ever there were one -- delivered a warning shot to Bears fans everywhere. "Brace yourselves," he wrote, for the notion that the Bears' signing of Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach will be their biggest and most important free agent signing of the offseason:
But in doubting the Bears would be big players in free agency and admitting they have more holes on the roster now than in several seasons, the general manager kept reinforcing the main theme of his off-season recovery plan. "I'm counting on the fact we're going to do a better job of coaching and that in itself is going to make us a better football team, irrelevant of what player personnel we infuse on our football team this year," Angelo said.
More than ever, Angelo is admitting that the Bears aren't going to do much in free agency this year. The reasoning behind that is they don't want to be imprudent, signing players to crippling deals. Instead they want to focus on development. That's actually admirable. A good NFL team is constructed as a balance of those two impulses, and usually that balance requires young developing players acquired through the draft. The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers say hi.
But for a team that's had such sporadic success drafting, occasionally, a free agent or two is needed. No NFL draft could fill the Bears' gaping holes at nearly every position. They need to get better quickly. And in an NFL when things can go from bad to championship in the course of one offseason, the organization needs to at least consider, you know, signing a player or two.
We know we're preaching to the choir, but there's one more Angelo quote worth a quick rebuttal:
"Does [wide receiver] need to be addressed at free agency? Not necessarily," Angelo said. "We tried to do that last year [signing Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker] and it didn't really work out the way we liked. ... Our play starts with our lines. I don't want to get so focused on the receiver position."
A few things are wrong with this. First of all, Angelo was the one who freaked out and claimed he had to address the quarterback position. Why is wide receiver so different? Second of all, all free agent signings are not created equal, Jerry! Just because you signed two demonstrably bad wide receivers -- effing Brandon Lloyd and Marty Booker -- doesn't mean that signing a demonstrably good one -- T.J. Houshmandzadeh -- is necessary a bad idea. This is not complicated stuff, man. This is basically common sense. Don't sign bad players. If your evaluation methods are trustworthy, it really is that simple.
Anyway, Angelo, and by proxy Haugh, seem to be preparing us for the fact that the Bears are officially scared of signing a free agent. Excellent. We just can't wait to watch the 2008 Bears again in 2009. It was so much fun the first time around.
Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger hunkered down in Lincoln Park. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, MOUTHPIECE Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com.