Biggs: Bears president says free agent budget not affected

The pending uncapped year for the NFL and the threat of a lockout in 2011 has not altered the plans of the Chicago Bears in free agency.

That is what the club’s president Ted Phillips said this afternoon when addressing a hike in ticket prices that will affect 75 percent of the seats at Soldier Field.

“Every year, since I’ve been here, whether there has been a salary cap or no salary cap, we have always had a competitive budget,” Phillips said. “We always budget what we can spend on players. We set a budget for this year as well. It really has nothing to do with the lockout. It’s just what we feel the situation warrants each and every year we take a look at it.

“Honestly, it didn’t play a big role other than the fact that we’re not going to be one of those handful of teams sometimes that just goes hog wild in free agency. I think you guys know our strategy has always been kind of balanced in free agency and work through the draft and every other area to try to add players to the team. It’s not all about free agency. I think the reality that teams’ success, at least in the NFL, is not based on how much money you spend in free agency.”

The Bears traditionally have not been big spenders in free agency, but there is some thought that with general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith facing a win-or-else mandate this year that the team will work aggressively to fill some needs in free agency. Defensive end Julius Peppers could fill what is a gaping hole on the line as the Bears lack a dependable pass rusher.

“We can’t talk about individual players. I can tell you we are in the midst of putting the finishing touches on what our plan is,” Phillips said. “We’ll go from there. Come March 5, we’ll see what situation we pursue and not.

“Whether it is a capped or an uncapped year, I think the budget we have set will be very competitive. I feel good that whatever we want to do as part of our plan, you know you’ve got to compete with 31 other clubs, so assuming we can win the battles that we want to win, I think we will be able to improve our team in free agency, counting on the draft too. We have always been pretty good in the past at acquiring players later on that end up having an impact.”

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