We pay attention to the Trib's unscientific polls here at the Peanut Gallery, and this latest one addresses the sensitive situation of Brian Urlacher. I voted that I would miss him and to my surprise, 2 out of 3 out of 6000 Bears fans voted that they would also miss Brian Urlacher. I figured it would be closer to 50-50.
There were only 4 real comments on the Brad Briggs' story about the Urlacher situation, and all 4 said they should bring him back, though 2 of them said at a reduced price, and that's something I think everyone can agree on. Urlacher made $8MM last year and not even Brian Urlacher is expecting anything similar for the next year or 2 before he retires. How much less he is going to get is probably not something everyone agrees upon, which could send Urlacher out the door. If that's the case, he's had a great run as a Bear, putting together what I believe should be a Hall of Fame career. He was one of the game's top linebackers for a good 10 years, won a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005 as the NFL's top defender, and was a finalist in 2006 as well. His play during the "They are who we thought they were game," was one for the ages (and the wikipedia entry for it is pretty darn good as well). including ripping the ball from Edgerrin James to set up Peanut Tillman's return for a touchdown.
Everyone can agree that Urlacher is not the same player he once was, but the question at hand is if he's still useful. I've heard fellow fans describe his efforts last year as "painful" following his MCL sprain, while Phil Emery noted that Urlacher got better as the season went on. I didn't really watch a lot of games closely enough last year to give my own scouting report, but what I can tell you is that he was very productive in the 12 games he did play. He was challenging for the team lead in tackles, had a bunch of tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and an interception return for a touchdown. I've also heard comments that "he made a lot of those tackles down the field" but why wasn't a safety or someone making those tackles instead of a slow linebacker? If you're nearly the team leader in tackles despite playing only 12 games, that's productive. I don't think the Bears can easily find another guy who would be similarly productive. Some liked Nick Roach better, but why not keep both of them? Not that keeping Roach, a UFA, is a given. I think if you can sign Brian Urlacher to a reasonable deal, you bring him back.
The most concerning thing I've heard is that Urlacher is kind of ready to retire, saying it would be "Buh-Bye" if the Bears won the Superbowl. Add to that, even if he's fully into the game, it's hard to believe he has even 3 years left in him at this point. But it really depends upon the alternative. Bears have a lot of other needs in the draft, needing to draft a starting linebacker is a tall order. Any other free agent type will probably cost no less than Urlacher, and is there anyone out there who would be considered a significant upgrade? I think you keep him if you can keep him but this year and next is all that can be expected, and I'd be hard-pressed to pay as much as $5MM per, and he might want more than that to bother with it all. Still, I don't think Urlacher gets $5MM per year out of any NFL team, so he might be willing to come to the Bears for $4MM or something more reasonable.
Adding on to what we learned in the past couple of weeks, the "Bears Fan GM" would keep Urlacher but get rid of Hester.