The Chicago Bears did not reach an agreement with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher on Tuesday, officially making him a free agent for the first time in his career. As of today, Urlacher is no longer a Bear.
That’s not to say he won’t return in 2013, but there appears to be no immediate sense of urgency from Phil Emery’s camp toward getting a deal done. According to multiple reports, Urlacher’s agent has submitted terms of a new deal to the Bears and is now awaiting a response.
According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, Urlacher received interest from several teams during the league’s legal tampering period over the weekend—one of them being the Dallas Cowboys—and is likely to receive more now that the new league year and Free Agency have officially begun.
“Where this ends up, we’ll work through with Brian,” Bears GM Phil Emery told the media from the Combine. “That will be a private matter. When we come to a resolution, we’ll let you know. Just know he’ll never be slighted. I have too much respect for him.”
Emery at least makes it clear that the Bears have no intention of simply dismissing No. 54. But Fox Sports’Jay Glazer said on air Tuesday that he believed Urlacher would not return to Chicago in 2013 (paraphrase). Those comments may imply more than passive speculation if you understand the relationship between Urlacher and Glazer—the two are very close friends.
In 2008, when Brian Urlacher was in heated contract negations with the Bears, Glazer also offered comment, saying, “[Brian] doesn’t know whether the situation will resolve itself or not.” It’s probably not fair to make assumptions, but one sure can speculate whether or not Urlacher is not using his pal Glazer to stir the metaphorical negotiating pot.
But just because the Bears have yet to complete a deal with Urlacher does not mean one is not on the horizon. The fact of the matter is that it would not have been in Phil Emery’s interest to ink a deal prior to Free Agency unless Urlacher was a must-return player. Given his inability to stay healthy last season and a slow decline in play, for the first time ever, the question of Urlacher’s essentiality to this team is in legitimate question.
Since teams must be under the salary cap at the start of the league year, which began on Tuesday at 3:00 P.M. CST, it made more sense to enter Free Agency with as much cap space as possible to make the deals that would put the team in the best position to win moving forward. The Bears made those moves, signing TE Martelus Bennett and OT Jermon Bushrod.
They can now turn more attention back toward Urlacher and other in-house free agents, although it could turn out to be too late for some. But that’s only to be expected. The game in the NFL is always a priority game and always a win-now game.
Urlacher’s value to this team as a locker room leader and the proverbial face of the franchise is not lost on Emery, but the question is how far apart the number value Emery places on the intangibles is from Urlacher’s. The tape speaks for itself on the other score.
“I was here when [Urlacher] was drafted,” Emery said from the Scouting Combine “I do have a connection that way. I was in those discussions when we took Brian Urlacher. I have tremendous respect for [him]. Whether he’s here for an extended number of years or whether this is the end of his career as a player for the Bears. He will always be respected.”
As of today, his career with the Bears has been severed. I, for one, hope it hasn’t already come to an end.
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