The fact that the Bears were able to secure Stewart without having to shell out big money is a major success. The two-year deal worth $5 million didn’t absorb the team’s salary cap surplus. Currently, the Bears are approximately $5 million under the salary cap.
GM Jerry Angelo has stated several times that he prefers to reward his own instead of dishing out money in the free agent market. The re-signing of R.W. McQuarters, Bryan Robinson and Jerry Azumah came from that idea. While his decisions on which players to reward can be questioned, Angelo has generally stuck with that philosophy.
Bears fans worst nightmare would be to see Brian Urlacher sign with another club. Well, the Bears management is planning ahead, so that doesn’t become a reality. With linebackers Ray Lewis and Keith Brooking signing multimillion-dollar deals within the last year it’s time for the Bears to ante up.
Urlacher won’t become a free agent until after the 2004 season, but a deal would likely be done well before that time. Although, Urlacher’s agent, Steve Kauffman, and the team aren’t actively negotiating there is a sense the two sides will meet in the coming months.
Mike Brown, who is a year away from being a free agent, will also be a top candidate for a long-term extension. The safety has led the team in interceptions the last two seasons and is considered a leader on the defense.
If the Bears can tie up their two youngest stars on defense and add a third with the fourth pick in April’s draft the team could be a contender for years to come.