Reports of an agreement on a longterm contract extension for Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs generated quite a stir Monday evening, more than anyone saw at Halas Hall earlier in the day.
Always entertaining and often on-the-money Web site profootballtalk.com reported Briggs had come to an agreement with the Bears before correcting itself an hour later. Briggs’ agent Drew Rosenhaus was involved all day in the funeral of Sean Taylor, the Washington Redskins’ safety who was his client. The Bears spent the day picking up the pieces from a come-from-ahead loss to the New York Giants that effectively ended their playoff hopes.
Briggs is playing on a one-year tender worth $7.206 million per the franchise tag. He will become an unrestricted free agent following this season provided he participates in 75 percent of the defensive snaps. A minor hamstring injury kept him out of 1 1/2 games earlier, so provided he’s on the field for 1 1/2 of the final four games, he should hit the mark.
Rules of the franchise tag prevent Briggs from signing a new contract during the season, but it does not stop Rosenhaus and the organization from negotiating all they want and even reaching an accord. Rosenhaus and his brother Jason Rosenhaus last visited Halas Hall on Nov. 14, but it was an impromptu visit scheduled by them at the last minute, one of their clients said. The brothers were provided room to meet with the seven clients on the Bears at the facility and engaged in only cursory discussions with management.
One league source, who has close ties to the player, has been emphatic since September that Briggs and the club will reach an agreement on a longterm extension, something neither party is opposed to.
“I’d love to be here,’’ Briggs said in October when he broke a long media boycott. “I’ve always wanted to be here. Regardless of what I’ve said, I’ve always wanted to be here. Unfortunately that was something that was decided over the offseason, that I wasn’t in the long-term plans. Like I said, that stuff’s in the past.
“[Returning for 2008 and beyond] is not up to me. You’re asking the wrong person. You’ve got to go upstairs.”
General manager Jerry Angelo remains open to the idea this season after virtually closing the book on Briggs longterm when negotiations broke down in April 2006.
“We’ll just wait until that time presents itself and then we’ll make our decisions,’’ Angelo said of making a deal, comments that also came in October during his bye week briefing.
Briggs started the season strong, and had a monster 19-tackle effort in the Oct. 7 upset at Green Bay, but has not done a lot to distinguish himself over the last month. He’s been listed sporadically on the injury report with a knee issue. Of course, securing Briggs longterm may be a higher priority now with middle linebacker Brian Urlacher suffering from a chronic arthritic back condition.
Per league rules, Briggs can sign a new contract with the Bears the day after the regular season ends. Otherwise, he would go to the free-agent market on March 1 where he would be one of the top available players. The league source is confident it will not go that far. This much is known with four games remaining—there is no deal in place for Briggs at this point, and no substantive talks with Rosenhaus have been held. That’s not to say it will not happen at some point.