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posted: 9/3/2013 8:49 PM

Bears' plan is to develop homegrown talent

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  • Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is one of 28 original Bears on the roster, joining the team as a 2012 draft pick.

      Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is one of 28 original Bears on the roster, joining the team as a 2012 draft pick.
    Patrick Kunzer | Staff Photographer

 
 

Bears general manager Phil Emery believes the best way to build a championship team is by developing homegrown talent, and this year's roster includes all six 2013 draft picks plus three undrafted rookies.

But of the 53 players on the roster only 28 originally were signed by the Bears and, in that category, they lag behind the two teams that finished ahead of them in the NFC North -- the Packers and the Vikings.

Of the players on Green Bay's 53-man roster, a whopping 42 are original Packers. Of Minnesota's 53, 39 are original Vikings. Detroit's roster includes 27 original Lions.

The Packers have won at least 10 games and been to the playoffs in each of the previous four seasons and are the consensus favorites again in the NFC North.

The Vikings have double-digit wins and playoff appearances in three of the past five seasons, although they bottomed out briefly in 2011 with a 3-13 record on the heels of a 6-10 finish in 2010.

The Bears have not won fewer than seven games in any of the previous eight years, but they've made the playoffs just once in the past six seasons, losing out on a tiebreaker last season despite 10 wins.

Emery's predecessor, Jerry Angelo, believed the same philosophy of building from within, but the Bears whiffed on too many first-round draft picks for the formula to work.

But it has clearly worked for the Packers, and Emery believes it will work for the Bears.

"It helps you in several ways," he said. "It helps you manage the cap (because) it gives you flexibility, so that when you do need a dynamic player to help you fill in, you're able to go and get them.

"It also gives your team a homegrown flavor for your fans, and it also allows those players to be together longer and to improve together and to play together as a team for a longer period of time and with more consistency."

In addition to the nine rookies on this year's roster, five players came aboard last year as original Bears: draft picks Shea McClellin, Alshon Jeffery and Isaiah Frey, plus undrafted signees Joe Anderson and James Brown.

That represents exactly half of the 28 original Bears on the 53-man roster, a trend Emery is determined to maintain. And that puts the pressure on him and his scouting department to evaluate and acquire college talent.

"In terms of continuing to improve our roster and to be in a position to win championships consistently, we need to retain more of our own players," Emery said. "We need to have more years like we had this year in terms of having a high number of picks and college free agents on the roster. We need to have that consistently.

"I need to do a better job of finding ways to gain more picks on draft day, and we need to do a better job as a college staff in our recruitment and retention of high-quality college free agents."

Emery cannot afford drafts like the Bears had from 2009-11.

Of the 20 players selected in those three drafts, only five remain with the team: Henry Melton (2009), Major Wright and Corey Wootton (2010) and Stephen Paea and Chris Conte (2011).

In fairness to Angelo, two first-rounders and a third-rounder during that dry spell went to the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler.

No such excuse exists for the four drafts from 2004-07. The only talent still in Chicago from those 30 players selected is return specialist Devin Hester.

"What we want to do is consistently hit on our college picks," Emery said. "We need to have more years like this year to continue to build this roster and consistently be in a spot where we can win championships."

•Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.

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