My Question: After the 2008 season ended, you said that you believed in Kyle Orton and liked some of the things he did, but you needed to see more before anointing him the long-term solution at the position. You also indicated that the Bears were fixated on getting the quarterback position stabilized. With all that in mind, why are the Bears seemingly not interested in pursuing a veteran in free agency or via a trade?
Angelo: When you talk about bringing in a quarterback, that requires a few things that we have to keep in mind. If you bring him in now, you’re bringing in a veteran to compete to start. We’ve done that. Really we did that last year with Kyle [Orton] and Rex [Grossman], so we had co-starters. That creates a competition, which was the right thing to do last year given our situation. But it takes away reps from the starting quarterback because you’re dividing those and certainly it does for the backup quarterbacks as well.
Given the players that potentially could be out there, we thought that Kyle was as good or better given our situation. To bring in somebody to compete to start to me was running up and down the starting line and really was hurting Kyle’s progress. We had our meetings and we felt very good about the players we have presently—obviously Kyle, talking about Caleb Hanie’s continued development, and we like what we saw in Brett Basanez from college and when he was with Carolina in the preseason.
Now is that to say that we couldn’t look for a veteran after the draft? That’s a possibility. We haven’t ruled that out. To do it then, that veteran would have had a chance to see what his value is, and it might be a little bit more palatable for him to come in and compete for a backup job versus if you sign him now.
In terms of a trade, trades are very difficult to do. I know there was a lot of talk about Matt Cassel. The real problem with the Matt Cassel trade from my perspective was the contract. He had signed his franchise tag, which was approximately $15 million, so that means that in the ’09 season he has a $15 million guaranteed contract in hand. To do something now in terms of a new contract, that’s going to be an exorbitant amount of money, which is fine if you know for sure he’s the guy. It’s a little bit easier for Kansas City and Denver to feel good about him because they were with him (new Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli and new Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels worked with Cassel in New England). But to bring somebody in and say he is the guy and pay him an exorbitant amount of money given that he’s guaranteed $15 million in ’09, that’s why most teams were cautious about going forward. It wasn’t the draft compensation. It was the contract that people were focusing on.
He did a nice job [in 2008]. But let’s not forget who he was with. He was with the New England Patriots; a pretty good football team with a good supporting cast and a great system. Is that guy going to be the same guy in another system with different personnel around him? It’s hard to say. He did a fine job, so there were rewards with him. But there was great risk as well.
My Question: Why haven’t the Bears tried to sign any of this year’s big-name free agents such as wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh or safety Brian Dawkins, both of whom are productive veterans who seemingly would provide major upgrades?
Angelo: Houshmandzadeh is a fine receiver. Would we have entertained him? Yes, but we wanted to see what his marketplace was. In this case, we felt like [what he received from the Seahawks] was an exorbitant amount of money. Remember, he was a No. 2 in Cincinnati. That’s not to say that what Seattle did wasn’t right for them; their situation is different in my mind than ours. They had an inordinate amount of injuries with receivers and they felt like they needed to get somebody that was established and healthy.
A lot of teams would have liked to have had Houshmandzadeh. But he’s going to be 32 in ’09 and the price that you’re paying for that receiver we felt was very high. You have to look at economics when you look at players. Who doesn’t want Houshmandzadeh? But you have to look at the economics: What are the implications to the cap going forward and what does that prevent us from doing in other areas within our team and/or in free agency?
With Brian Dawkins, he’s 35 years old. He’s a great player, but Philadelphia put a limit on what they were going to pay him and they know him the best. You have to understand that it’s not just, “Do you want the player?” Certainly there are players out there, but at what cost? And what does that cost do to your salary cap and to other things you may want to do internally and/or in free agency. You have to be patient as you go through this process. It’s not a matter of not wanting to spend the money. The cap is how you want to allocate the money. When we look at a player, we have to put a value on that player, and then we have to stay disciplined to stay within those parameters. With 14 players being franchised, it makes free agency less attractive, and the players that do get out in free agency are making an exorbitant amount of money because it’s a supply and demand business.
My Question: How much of a priority is upgrading the wide receiver position either in free agency or the draft?
Angelo: Naturally, we’re going to look at that real hard, in all likelihood in the draft. We’re not looking for backup wide receivers. What we want are potentially starting wide receivers. We have a nucleus of receivers that we feel good about in terms of twos, threes, fours and fives, and if we carried six, a sixth receiver. Part of that ties into special teams. What we’re looking at is the top of the wide receiver position. Where does that come from? It comes with a premium receiver in free agency if there’s one out there and/or in the draft. Yes, it’s a position that we are looking at.
interview from chicagobears.com