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Salary cap: How did the Bears get here?

A few thoughts from me on my package about the Chicago Bears salary cap health. Yes, they are not in optimal position.

But, truth be told, the Bears really couldn’t avoid the situation.

After advancing to Super Bowl XLI during the 2006 NFL season, the Bears had every reason to lock up the likes of Brian Urlacher, Tommie Harris, Lance Briggs and the team’s two cornerbacks, as well as the dynamic and multi-faceted Devin Hester.

Those defensive players were key to a unit that ranked first in the NFL with 44 take-aways and fifth overall.

Yet since then, regardless of the reasons, only Briggs has continued to produce at an elite level.

The league executives I spoke to both told me that general manager Jerry Angelo and chief contract negotiator Cliff Stein have done a solid job with the deals they’ve doled out. While the numbers for some of these players are high, they were market-value contracts that were necessary to retain them.

Believe me, general managers and contract negotiators aren’t afraid to rip their colleagues for bad deals that ultimately hurt everyone, such as the seven-year, $50.5 million contract the Oakland Raiders handed — literally handed! — underachieving defensive tackle Tommy Kelly in 2008. That deal included $18 million in guarantees, or about $1 million for each of his sacks in six NFL seasons.

The Bears are in a tough spot, and it’s easy to second-guess them now, after three consecutive seasons out of the playoffs.

But imagine the uproar had the Bears NOT re-signed the likes of Tommie Harris, Brian Urlacher, Devin Hester and Lance Briggs.