The Chicago Bears have a list of Hall of Fame players who have played at the middle linebacker position. Names like Mike Singletary, who won a Super Bowl in 1985, and Dick Butkus, who some believe is the greatest defensive player to ever play the game. Brian Urlacher exemplified exactly what the Bears wanted at their most prized position on defense for 13 seasons.
Urlacher was drafted in 2000 out of New Mexico University and immediately made an impact by winning the Rookie of the Year award. He was strong, quick, athletic, and he had unmatched closing speed. He was the fearless leader of the defense much like Singletary and Butkus before him. He managed to reach a Super Bowl in 2006 and won Defensive Player of the Year in 2005.
Urlacher was the recognizable centerpiece in the middle of a strong defense, and he made all the plays. Now, the Bears organization has decided to part ways with the 34 year-old veteran after failing to agree to terms on a new deal. The Bears offered Urlacher a one-year, $2 million dollar contract. Urlacher was looking for a two-year deal in the $3-4 million dollar range.
The career of an all-time great Bear ended over a couple million dollars.
What's next for Urlacher?
He will not have a lot of options immediately. The suitors out there are few and far between and won't offer him the type of money he wants. Urlacher might be forced into retirement at this point, which would be a shame considering he probably has another good year of football left in him.
Potential suitors begin with the Minnesota Vikings, who just lost their starting MLB Jasper Brinkley to the Arizona Cardinals. The Vikings play in a base 4-3 defense, and Urlacher could fit right in at the middle linebacker position.
The Dallas Cowboys have also expressed minimal interest in Urlacher, who could help straighten out an inconsistent defense. The Cowboys already have a stud at MLB in Sean Lee, which would essentially put Urlacher in a back-up position, which I don't see him doing in 2013.
Urlacher will have to re-evaluate himself and decide on whether or not he's worth the money he's asking for. He has had durability issues since 2009 with injuries, and showed a severe lack of speed in 2012.
What's next for the Chicago Bears at MLB?
It's been 13 long seasons with Urlacher at MLB, and now the Bears are tasked with finding his replacement as well as a strong-side linebacker after Nick Roach departed to Oakland. They will most likely pursue at least one LB in free agency and one in the Draft. Considering the talent on the market currently, Bears could potentially be better at that position in 2013.
As for now, the starters at MLB and SAM would be Blake Costanzo and JT Thomas who have played almost all of their careers as backups. With the move away from Urlacher, the LB position has turned from a want to a need.
The top free agent linebackers on the market currently start with Packers’ LB Brad Jones, who played significant time last season at MLB in place of Desmond Bishop. Jones is only 27 and is only looking for around $4 million. Other considerations could be Chase Blackburn from the Giants or Bradie James and/or Tim Dobbins from the Houston Texans.
In the Draft, the Bears have options. Luckily for them this year has a good crop of talented ILBs who would be able to start right away for the Bears in 2013. Two of my personal favorites are the two Georgia standouts in Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones, who could potentially fall to the Bears. Arthur Brown, Kevin Minter and the infamous Manti T'eo have also been brought up as potential candidates for the Bears at the 20th pick.
In any case, Chicago will have a fresh crop of linebackers next year, aside from Lance Briggs. Brian Urlacher will most definitely leave a void, but the Bears can improve through the Draft and Free Agency.
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