The Bears have never had issue with the performance Lance Briggs has provided on the field. Ultimately, it’s why general manager Jerry Angelo said at the combine that he did not have a problem investing in the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker long term as a core player after he earned more than $7.2 million last season with the franchise tag.
Briggs has been a model of durability, going through the first four seasons of his career without missing a game before hamstring issues sidelined him for 2 1/2 games in 2007. He’s a perfect fit on the weak side in Lovie Smith’s Tampa Two scheme and after signing him to a $36 million, six-year contract, the Bears view him as a fixture for seasons to come.
But they’ve also protected themselves in the future. Briggs’ $3.3 million roster bonus for 2010—the final roster bonus in the deal—does not come due until June 10 of that year. That’s three months after most roster bonuses are paid at or near the start of the league year in March. What it means is the Bears will be able to decide whether or not they want to stay on the hook for the contract, or if they want to cut ties. The key is they will have time to make that decision after free agency and the draft have taken place.
Briggs is going to be well paid in the first two seasons. He will collect $8.805 million this year and $6.1 million in 2009. But after that, if Angelo decides for whatever reason he doesn’t want to go forward, he can get out of the deal with minimal impact against the salary cap because the contract included a signing bonus of $4 million. The bulk of the bonus money is contained in three roster bonuses totaling $11.8 million. Those first two roster bonuses are payable in March, the first last month, and the next in March 2009.