Roster Building: The Bears are Building to Sustain Success


The Bears have found some pretty good players on one-year deals in free agency, but the real long-term success of the team will be built behind those players.

While the title of this article seems a bit presumptuous (trust me, even I think so after typing it), the goal of any team in sports is the shiny trophy at the end of the season - and preferably, lots and lots of shiny trophies. (Sorry, after 2010 and not wanting to refer to the shiny silver thing the Blackhawks won by name until it was won, it's kind of stuck. Yes, I was an SCH member.)

The biggest challenge that any general manager has, though, is operating within cap constraints to get proven NFL talent in free agency (which usually involves paying more) and balancing it with cheaper, younger, more untested talent through the draft.

So with that in mind, consider all the one-year deals the Bears have signed in 2012. The Bears added two players with longer-term deals in Jermon Bushrod and Martellus Bennett, but two linebackers are on one year deals, a guard, a defensive back... There are a lot of stopgap players with those one-year deals. That being said, that's a good thing for the future.

One year deals only impact one year - this year. Next year, that player's spot is in the exact same position as this year, only that spot had a serviceable player for the year and now hopefully there's a younger player ready to step in.

This year in the draft, the Bears will add currently six players in the draft. Next year, they'll add another seven (assuming no draft picks change hands). Between today and the start of the 2014 season, the Bears will add 13 new players in the draft. Not every player in the draft makes the team, of course - just ask last year's Greg McCoy and Isaiah Frey (albeit Frey spent 2012 on the practice squad) - and the draft isn't unique to one team; every team picks in the draft. But the key is finding contributors in bunches.

Rosters are meant to turn over. Players get older, players enter and leave their physical primes, and sometimes to retain good players you have to pay more. The key is when those players take their leave and who's ready behind them.

It's not a unique formula to the Bears, nor to football. A franchise's long-term success is only as great as its development - developing young players gives cheaper, better players, in any sport. When a team can't develop, it spends. And when a a team can't spend and can't develop, it's bad - when a team spends and can't develop, it's a flash in the pan.

What the Bears are doing is simple - pay for bigger parts, patch in stopgaps as necessary, and draft talent behind to be ready to go when the veterans are done. Not every free agent market will be as depressed as this one is, so in future years, players will cost more - but maybe one year is all the Bears' younger players will need.

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