Good teams build their roster from within; they draft players and develop them into starters and contributors and then they can reward them with contract extensions, and usually they are more likely to be team-friendly that way.
For the Bears this hasn't always been the case. Whether it was inept drafting or failure to develop talent, the Bears as an organization have had to rely on high-priced free agents or trades in order to fill the larger holes on the roster and boost the team.
While good teams do add free agents (The Patriots with Darrelle Revis or the Packers with Julius Peppers), they usually do it to add to a core of their own players when they are looking for something to put them over the top in a quest for a championship. The Bears have had to do it out of necessity.
General manager Phil Emery has gotten better in the drafting department, just last year two of his draft picks (Kyle Long and Alshon Jeffery) were voted to the Pro-Bowl.
While Jerry Angelo had some draft hits, the youngest player he draft to be voted to a Pro-Bowl was Matt Forte (2008 pick). Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman made Pro-Bowls in recent years (2011 and 2012, their last, respectively) but they were in their ninth and tenth years by that point.
When Marc Trestman was brought in, Emery said that he believed that Trestman was a teacher and along with his staff, would help develop the players that Emery brought in.
And in a lot of cases, it's happened. Alshon Jeffery blossomed under Trestman and new receivers coach Mike Groh, Kyle Long was a rookie Pro-Bowler under the tutelage of Aaron Kromer and is quickly becoming one of the elite guards in the league. Jon Hoke, a Lovie Smith holdover, has helped Kyle Fuller adjust to the pros. Matt Forte got back to the Pro-Bowl after missing a season.
Say what you will about the wins and losses but this regime has helped harvest some young talent for the Bears and now, with four games left to go in a disappointing season, it's time to see which other young players might be worth keeping.
Young players like Cornelius Washington, Christian Jones and Al Louis-Jean have seen increased playing time due to injuries, but that needs to continue now to see if they are developing into players that can compete for starting roles next season.
That goes for players like Demontre Hurst and Jon Bostic, two players that have struggled at times this season. The coaching staff needs to see if they are trending in the right direction or if linebacker and nickel back are going to be added to the offseason priority list (if they aren't there already). Brock Vereen is another guy who has been pressed into play and some analysts seem split on whether he can develop into a contributor or if he'll be destined to special teams/back up duty his whole career.
On the defensive line, other than Washington, let's see what David Bass has to offer.
If the players play poorly and allow big plays, so what? The defense is already playing poorly and the playoff race is over.
The Bears know what they have in an Alshon Jeffery, but let's see them rotate in Marquess Wilson more and spell Forte with Ka'Deem Carey more often, and maybe even more in Senorise Perry on offense a bit.
This is already happening a bit, as over the last two or three games Washington has seen an increase in snaps as well as rookie DTs Will Sutton and Ego Ferguson. Sutton played 52 snaps against Detroit and has been seeing more playing time than second-rounder Ferguson, but it's time for the Bears to see what they have in both these guys and get them more than the 20 or 30 some snaps they are usually seeing.
Charles Leno has played in place of Eben Britton as the extra tackle in max-protect; the offensive staff should keep that going as well.
Throw these rookies out there and see what they have; it's time to see if the Bears are developing their own talent and, if they blow it up, who should stick.
Which young players are you excited about? Whom do you think should see more playing time?