So yesterday, the tenure of Jerry Angelo came to an end (don't know if you heard or not). While his tenure was marked by occasionally inept drafting, a fixation on defensive linemen, and a mixed bag of free agency moves, he also was not as awful of a GM as he was often made out to be. TJ has already given his snapshot of the Angelo Era, but I'll elect to look for more positives. So today, we're going to look at what I think are the top ten moves of the Jerry Angelo Era.
The Bears are a franchise with a long history of inept-to-somewhat-average quarterback play (in case you don't have access to a TV). When a quarterback makes it to his first Pro Bowl in his fourth season and suddenly becomes available on the market, it's not an opportunity that comes along often, and the Bears jumped on it. Jay Cutler gave the Bears a player with the potential to become a franchise quarterback, and the fifth-round pick turned into Johnny Knox, the Bears' most productive receiver since joining the team.
2) Bears Draft Tommie Harris 14th Overall
Why so high? Because Harris was the perfect draft pick, the perfect player the defensive system needed at the perfect time - he was a three-time Pro-Bowler that was a cornerstone on one of the best defenses in the NFL. Yes, he was an injury risk, but every player has some flaws to them, and while an injury risk is a higher one, his production was worth it - 28.5 sacks out of the three-tech, and 16 in his three Pro-Bowl years, is nothing to sneeze at. And swiping the snap has to score points somehow.
3) Bears Draft Matt Forte
The Bears spent a second round pick on the running back out of Tulane to take over the backup role, only to immediately step into the starter's role when Cedric Benson was unceremoniously dumped from the roster. He's been a yards-from-scrimmage machine since entering the league, and the Bears' most productive player since he was drafted.
4) Bears Draft Devin Hester
This I've wrestled with. On the one hand, Hester is the greatest returner of all time, the trendsetter for drafting specialized return men all across the league. On the other, he's a converted cornerback and returner turned insistent-number-one receiver turned toy receiver that just can't do both roles adequately. I want to put him higher. I'd put him at number 2 if I could, but his limitations to the building of the team and on the field don't win him any points, so I have to put him here.
5) Bears Sign John Tait
The Bears needed some offensive line help in 2004, and signed Kansas City tackle John Tait to fill the void. Tait played right tackle in 2004 before switching to the blindside in 2005, helping (along with Ruben Brown) to make the line one of the stronger lines in the NFL.
6) Bears Sign Julius Peppers
By signing Peppers, the Bears gained the premiere defensive end in the NFL. The only downsides are that his teammates have not picked up the slack when he gets double teamed, and that while we love big free agent names, they're counted on to perform, and don't quite offer the same bang-for-the-buck a lesser tier free agent could.
7) Bears Draft Lance Briggs
Not sure how much I have to say about this one. The Bears picked up Briggs in the third round, and he's done nothing but produce on the field. Well, except ask for money. But he's done that while performing too, so it all works.
8) Bears Sign Thomas Jones
Jones was a former first round pick, a small, powerful runner who had disappointed in his Arizona tenure, coming to Chicago for a change of scenery. For three years, he took over as the premiere weapon on the Bears, having his first two thousand-yard seasons and a 56-catch in the 2004 season. He currently is sixth in Bears' history in rushing yardage.
9) Bears Trade Marty Booker for Adewale Ogunleye
Marty Booker is the Bears' last 1000-yard receiver, and at trade time, a fifth-year receiver coming off a disappointing 2003 campaign following back-to-back 1000-yard seasons. Adewale Ogunleye was a Pro Bowl defensive end in 2003 coming into the prime of his career and a fifteen-sack season. When Angelo pulled the trigger on this move, it brought in a bookend to Alex Brown and a strong pass-rusher that picked up 10 sacks in 2005 and 9 sacks in 2007. Booker never recorded another 750-yard season the remainder of his career, topping out at 747 with 6 touchdowns in 2006 catching passes from Joey Harrington, Daunte Culpepper and Cleo Lemon.
10) Bears Draft Kyle Orton
For two reasons. One, because pressed into duty, while his stats were not there, at all, he tread water enough for the Bears to win games, and two, because his 2008 season enabled the Bears to trade him to pick up Jay Cutler. Being a valuable enough trade piece earns him a place on this list.
Any moves you guys feel like I'm missing? Sound off!