NFL Network reporter Albert Breer is reporting that the Bears have met with the agents for free agent middle linebacker Brian Urlacher in Indianapolis, and while they have coined the negotiations as "preliminary," the report concludes that the Bears have "made it clear" they want No. 54 back.
But do they really? And if so, at what price?
Conspiracy theorists, listen up: While this news might unquestionably signal true interest on the Bears’ part, there are those who feel it is simply damage control. It's feasible that Emery is only trying to placate Urlacher fans by making it appear they are doing everything to resign the face of the franchise. That way, when they can't come to an agreement, Bears fans can't complain that they didn't do everything possible to re-sign the man.
But if that's the case, I feel it is unnecessary. I believe that most intelligent Bears fans understand that, 1) Urlacher is coming off a serious injury; and 2) he is turning 35 in May, so he is nearing the end of his brilliant career and is no longer the player he once was.
Yet this kind of reasoning is plausible, given that Trestman is new to the scene, and Emery has been GM only one year, so perhaps they don't want die-hard Urlacher fans to be disappointed. But whether their interest is genuine or not, one thing would appear to be certain: if they do want Urlacher back, it will be at their price.
There is no need to break the bank re-signing their middle linebacker. In fact, the Bears really don't have the salary cap space to do so even if they wanted to. Sure, capologist Cliff Stein can work his magic, but they need to put aside about $8M to re-sign Henry Melton. And there are other Bears—such as Nick Roach—Chicago would like to retain. Not to mention that there may be some free agents out there they want to approach, so it's not as if the budget is unlimited for Urlacher.
And for his part, even Urlacher himself recognizes this. "When you look at my age and everything, it's going to be hard to not give them a discount," Urlacher said on "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on WMVP-AM, according to the Chicago Tribune. "I'm not going to make what I was making in the past, how about that? Does that make sense? That's fair."
But the term "discount" is relative. What Urlacher feels he deserves and what the Bears want to pay could be night and day. So maybe they've made the news of the negotiations public in order to call Urlacher's bluff, lowballing him on a contract offer. And if he doesn't accept it, they can say they did all they could to sign their longtime star.
Look, I admit that there is no reason not to take the Bears at their word. Still, there is a value they have in mind and that number has to come close to matching what Urlacher wants for there to be a deal.
Regardless of motive, it makes sense for the Bears to at least try and get a deal done. Roach is a decent player, but he is likely never going to be an above average player. Plus, the hiring of Mel Tucker and his willingness to stay with the same defense would seem to indicate that Urlacher's knowledge and experience would be welcome for at least another year.
The news is encouraging, but remember, talk is cheap. Football players are expensive.
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