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Old 02-28-2007, 10:02 PM   #1
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Default Smith and Bears Reach Deal

Bears coach Smith, GM Angelo ink contract extensions
By John Clayton

Lovie Smith had enough.

The stories about his contract negotiations with the Chicago Bears kept getting worse by the day. A proud man and loyal employee, Smith decided Wednesday morning that this was the day he wanted to end the speculation of his future. He told his agent, Frank Bauer, to get a deal done Wednesday and he ended up with a great one.

Smith agreed to a four-year, $22 million extension that will keep him with the Bears through the 2011 season. He will keep the $1.45 million salary he was scheduled to make this season. The team shifted around some other money, but in the end, Smith, who took the Bears to the Super Bowl, joined the elite $5 million club of head coaches.

The team also signed general manager Jerry Angelo to a contract extension through the 2013 season.

For two months, Smith couldn't escape the talk about his contract. He was the league's lowest paid head coach at $1.35 million a year. Five assistants had left the staff. The Bears were being criticized. Smith was getting frustrated.

It was time to lock up a deal. Bears president Ted Phillips spent all day negotiating with the Bears and came to a fair compromise. Smith wanted market value, which was the $5 million range. That's what Tony Dungy, John Fox and others were making. With a good team in place to make at least two more runs at the Super Bowl, Smith wanted to move forward.

Last week at the combine in Indianapolis, Smith expressed optimism a deal would be wrapped up soon. Wednesday was the day and now the story that lingered so long had a happy ending.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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