Bears Give Lovie Smith His Contract

Wednesday, February 28th 2007, 9:17 pm
By: News On 6

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) _ The Chicago Bears signed coach Lovie Smith to a four-year contract extension through the 2011 season Wednesday night. They also announced that they signed general manager Jerry Angelo to a contract extension through the 2013 season.

The team will hold a news conference Thursday, and had no further comment Wednesday night.

Smith, the 2005 NFL coach of the year, led the Bears to a 15-4 record and their first NFC championship in more than two decades last season before they lost 29-17 to Indianapolis in the Super Bowl.

He had had one year remaining on a deal that paid him $1.35 million in 2006, making him the lowest paid coach in the NFL. Smith was scheduled to make $1.45 million this season in the final year of his initial four-year deal.

The new deal comes one week after Smith's agent said the two sides were so far apart that he expected Smith to leave after the 2007 season.

``We're not close, we're not encouraged and based on where talks have gone recently, Lovie will be a free agent after next season,'' Frank Bauer said at the time. ``It would take an unforeseen breakthrough for this to get done. And we are being more than reasonable in the market.''

Figures for Smith's new deal were not immediately available, but reports said he was seeking close to $5 million a season and the Bears had upped their initial offer to around $4 million per season.

Smith met Wednesday with team president Ted Phillips. The signing of Angelo and Smith is the latest development in a whirlwind offseason for the Bears, less than a month since the Super Bowl.

Angelo, initially hired on June 12, 2001, is credited with stocking the Bears with a mix of veterans and young players. Chicago returned 22 players who started at some point last season, and through the draft added key rookies such as defensive end Mark Anderson, who had 12 sacks, and Devin Hester, who set an NFL record with six kick returns for touchdowns.

Angelo previously had his contract extended through 2008 on Dec. 29, 2003, the day Dick Jauron was fired as Bears coach.

Already this offseason, the Bears decided not to give a new contract to defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, who had interviewed for eight head coaching vacancies the last two years. Rivera was hired by the Chargers to be their linebackers coach.

Quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson left to accept the same position in Dallas and the Bears have announced defensive line coach Don Johnson and assistant offensive line coach Harold Goodwin would not return.

Smith promoted Bob Babich from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator and hired Hardy Nickerson to coach linebackers and Brick Haley to coach the defensive line.

Chicago also designated Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs as its franchise player.