Chicago Sun-Times

Offseason program about who's not there: Urlacher, Briggs absent

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What to do now?

The momentum the Bears had around the combine when they whipped through contracts for quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, defensive end Alex Brown and tight end Desmond Clark is gone. Long gone.

The man team president Ted Phillips called the “face” of the organization wants more money with four years remaining on his contract. It’s a delicate situation for middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, a former defensive player of the year award winner, made more awkward by the six-time Pro Bowler suggesting he could retire with neck and back ailments. Inside the Bears co-worker Mike Mulligan details the entire situation.

Proving an injury would allow him to keep the $13 million in bonus money he collected after signing his nine-year, $56.65 million extension in 2003. It would prevent him from playing again too. His agents have also dropped the idea that he be allowed to explore a trade. Urlacher has stayed away from the voluntary offseason program which is two weeks old, and has made it known he is willing to pass on mandatory activities otherwise known as minicamp and training camp.

Urlacher contends he has outperformed the extension he signed with two years remaining on his rookie deal. Brown just got an extension with two years remaining on his contract. And in Urlacher’s defense, the salary cap has shot up 54 percent to more than $116 million since ’03. He’d like his slice of the pie to reflect that. Back injuries may have affected his play last year, but it didn’t show at the end of the season. He’s the most marketable athlete in the city and has been for years. The Bears do not want this to turn ugly, but they also don’t want to cave and begin a dangerous precedent.

Thing is, Urlacher isn’t the only linebacker with lofty credentials skipping the offseason program that began April 7. With the ink just dry on Lance Briggs’ $36 million, six-year contract, he’s been a no-show for the first two weeks of the voluntary workouts. That’s cost him a $250,000 workout bonus included in the contract. (Urlacher is missing out on a smaller $50,000 workout bonus.) Briggs’ absence is less easily explained. Sources outside the team suggest he could be unhappy with his deal.

Briggs, who also boycotted voluntary offseason programs the last two years, came back to the Bears at their price after there was no action for him in free agency. His deal is a bargain compared to what the New York Jets paid Calvin Pace to come over from Arizona. Pace is a strong-side linebacker who can play with his hand down. Pass rushers receive a premium, but Pace is hardly as decorated as Briggs and at one point was viewed as a bust in Arizona more than a player worthy of a blockbuster deal.

Here’s a look at the two deals:

Briggs 6 years, $36 million, $13 million guaranteed (36 percent of total deal), $21.6 million payable in the first three years
Pace 6 years, $42 million, $22 million guaranteed (48 percent of total deal), $26 million payable in the first three years

Keep in mind, Briggs’ deal can essentially void to a two-year, $14.905 million contract if the Bears so desire. They delayed a $3.3 million roster bonus in 2010 until June 10, giving them ample time to weigh whether or not they want to go forward with him.

To top it off, Robbie Gould is also absent.

The Bears have talked with the kicker’s agent about an extension. He’s entering the final season of a four-year contract that has underpaid him following a Pro Bowl appearance and another season as a Pro Bowl alternate.

Then there’s Tommie Harris, who’s fixing to become the highest-paid defensive tackle in league history. The two sides figured they might be approaching a deal when the Rosenhaus brothers traveled to town in efforts to hammer out a contract last week, but those talks fell apart. Harris has continued to attend the offseason program, however.

Don’t forget, returner/receiver Devin Hester is angling for a pay day also.

Signing 11 draft picks could be a breeze for the club compared to working its way through this maze.

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I'm so tired of hearing about multi-millionaires whining about their poor pay. Do Briggs and Urlacher have any concept of the sacrifices a fan makes to pay for 1 ticket to 1 game? Given how poor the Bears defense was last year (28th), they should be happy to still have a job. It's painfully obvious that Briggs and Urlacher are just another in a long line of sports prima donnas - two whiny linebackers that should never be mentioned in the same sentence as Butkus and Singletary. Shut-up, quit your whining and play like winners!!! Go Bears...

Well, this sounds like the offseason is off to a great start.

Might be time to trade down.

Let's first clarify that these are voluntary sessions. Not like Lanec and Urlacher need to work on the playbook or understanding a new defensive scheme. I am not too concerned about them not being there, as Urlacher usually trains harder on his own than he does in the program.

But if Briggs is ticked about his contract, he has no one to blame but himself. It's not like he is like Urlacher, who is 4 years into a long-term contract. He is barely 2 months into a 6 year deal. If he makes a stink about it now, he needs to be suspended without pay, and banned from the facility. The Bears were prudent in the way they approached him and his contract, and the fact that no other team made any kind of strong offer to him should tell him what the market is for his services. He is a very good linebacker, but he isn't good enough to whine about a new contract before he collects his first game paycheck on it. And let's remember, Calvin Pace is a pass rusher, a converted Defensive end who plays in the 3-4. Those linebackers (Terrell Suggs, DeMarcus Ware, and many others like them) need to be considered a separate position. Lance Briggs is asked to play coverage and make tackles, where the OLBs in a 3-4 are asked to put QBs on their backs. Just like in baseball, where chicks dig the long ball, it's the sack guys who get the glory, and the cash. Calvin Pace has not been one of those guys up until last season, but that was his first season in the 3-4, so he shows great upside in that role. Briggs is what he is, and likely will not get significantly better as an OLB in the 4-3. If he were moved to a team that plays a 3-4, he would be moved inside.

Robbie Gould is puzzling, but he's a kicker, and they are a weird group to begin with.

But let's be sure to point out. We have arguably the best defensive tackle we have ever had, who has outplayed his ROOKIE contract by leaps and bounds, and deserves to be paid among the top 5 in the league at his position, yet he is at the workouts, lifting and bonding with his teammates. I can see Urlacher's point to get a conversion on his deal, and generate some new cash (he does have lots of legal bills lately...sorry, couldn't resist the shot), as he has been the best player on the team for the last 5 years. But none of the other guys have any excuse to miss these activities.

Devin Hester wants a new deal too, but he will be asking for WR money. Until he proves that he is capable of being a #2 receiver, he should not be given that kind of money. I think $3-4 million per year is about right for the game changing return man he is, and the developing receiver he is working on being. You give him a 2 year deal, and if he pans out as a WR, you look at Berrian-type money. I would call that fair. Anything else is ridiculous. There hasn't been anyone like Hester, and he does win games for us, but it isn't as a WR. He wins games as a special teamer, and while he should break the bank for that segment, he should not be treated like a great WR, until he becomes one. I, for one, have my doubts that he will ever be that good as a WR. If he doesn't have to read the defense and adjust his route, he will be ok, but I don't think he can be the type of WR that changes the route at the line of scrimmage.

This is not good for the Bears, and it will not be good for the the entire League either. The way these players are asking for more money every year is going to ruin the League, it`s as if they all want escalator clauses in their contracts, so that every year the value of the contract increases right along with the salary cap. I would like to know what happens when a player has a bad year, does he pay some of his money back? I think we all know the answer to that. I don`t like this type of unrest among players and owners, especially when the potential for a major labor dispute, and or strike are looming for the 2010 season. These players know when they sign their contract, that it is not going to be of the same value 2 years down the road, as it is when they sign it, so why do we have these types of situations?

Trade Urlacher for Chad Johnson.

I think the root issue here is Brian is getting very bad advice from his agent. Brian has never been the most intelligent guy in the toolbox and seems to be allowing his agent to push him in directions. The agent gets one pay day based on a percentage of contract renewal. And without an extension there's nothing to get paid for and of course no agent has made contract money off Urlacher since he signed.

The agent has no interest in Brian's bigger picture issue - image with fans, image around the league, legacy, etc. Brian's going to have to have someone point this out to him or his agent will put him in a position of winning the battle, but losing the war.

WTF did he do last year? Very Bad timing. Maybe he is over the hill already anyway. He should do great this year then ask for the money, You don't ask for more money after a bad stinkin year! That is the way the game has always been played - The year you go into FA you play your butt off and expect a bigger contract.

The Bears knew Brian would want more after Briggs got his so it's all expected in my opinion. They will rework and he will get more so as not to be embarrased by Briggs.
What Briggs is doing I feel is skipping Voluntary's

maybe they can trade urlacher for a top10 pick? anything that will get them mendenhall AND a 1st round OT would be great.

i agree if the owners start to cave in on these demands it will never end.. I know we all love "brian" but we sure could use some offensive help so a trade may work.. besides i think his best days are behind him..

Hey guys, do any of you besides Joe know what voluntary means? It means that it is your choice to show up or not. When players start missing MANDATORY sessions then you may have a case. Until then it's not that big of a deal. Everyone has been saying that Urlacher had a bad year. Some games it may have looked bad but in reality, Urlacher was the best defensive player for the bears. He led the team in tackles (123) and interceptions (5) and was third in sacks (5). If you guys get off his back maybe it will heal some.

Mulligan failed to mention that in his worst season to date Urlacher merchandise was the best seller in the NFL last year.

That means Urlacher has elevated his market value well beyond the norm. In the PGA that puts him at a Woods status, NBA a Garnett status, & MLB A-Rod status. That also means there is a strong $ value for the Bears if Urlacher retires as a Bear.

That's why I feel it's a no-brainer to consider a 2 yr extension with some guaranteed $.

Forget Briggs. He won't play a down beyond that current contract so he's stuck with it.

Punter's/Kickers are a dime a dozen. Even if they make the pro bowl. It's pointless to give them any more than you have to.

Hester has NO leverage because the Bears can slap him with the franchise tag when his contract is up. If he doesn't play his market value will plummet.

I don`t know how Angelo is going to handle this, but if I`m him, someone is going to get traded. I don`t really care at this point who it is, because when you`re coming off a 7-9 season and you`re whinning about your contract, then my first thought about you is, that you must be very arrogant, and self centered. If I am Angelo, I am going to start shopping somebody`s butt around the League, and hopefully a trade can be agreed on, so that one of our players can go to a team that is at least 8 years from a Super Bowl, if not more, that way they can see that letting an agent do all your thinking for you, is about the dumbest thing they can do.

bravo achilles08, finally someone who sees what i see.
for all the linebackers in the nfc who went to the pro bowl, i think only 1 had better numbers than urlacher. oh yeah, i really liked the get off his back comment!!! why shouldnt the players make more money? the prices for everything they sell keep going up, tickets, jerceys,etc. are you trying to say the owners should be the only ones who keep getting all the money? i guess its like any job in the world, you work the hardest you get paid the least.
pay the players what there worth!!!

Annomynous- Why would you pay players that don't even show up to represent the team? If I'm the Bears I award players for performance and loyaly...not for acting like babies. Lance Briggs is mad becuase he wanted more $. But he won't even show up to work out and collect $250k. Give me a break. He obviously doesn't need more money if he doesn't need a quarter mil. Wow!

In case nobody has noticed, these guys are being paid what they are worth, and after going 7-9, they are not even worth that. If ANY player thinks he is worth more than he is being paid, without first having been recognized by his peers for his performance on the field, then he needs to wake up, because there isn`t a person on this planet, that doesn`t feel they are worth more than they are making, not one, it`s just the way that it works. I would like my pay to up 30-40% every year also, but it`s not going to, and yes the owners should be making money, they are "the owners", and without them, there is NO team, period. I would personnally like to see Drew Rosenhaus on the next space shuttle, he is nothing but a Las Vegas loan shark, and he is bad for this league, and this sport.

Mike McCaskey, via Jerry Angelo, have brought this Uhrlacher situation on. The Bears are well under the salary cap but have been bystanders in the Free Agent market. They haven't done anything to make the team better. Not only do they have cap room, they have real dollars but refuse to spend them so, the players on the team have decided that if they are going to have to spend their careers on this loser team they should try to get the team to spend that money on them. The money is better in the player's pockets than Mike McCaskey's!

It seems to me that outside of the signing bonus a NFL contract is not guaranteed so the team does a long term deal with a player in order to not have to worry about signing him down the line, they provide the player with up front money in the case of a career ending injury giving that player financial security. Seems fair to me. What I don't understand is why would a player sign a "lifetime" contract in the first place? Brian had to know when he signed the "lifetime" contract that by the time it was up he would be retiring and not getting a new deal, also I would think he and his agents would have been able to forecast what 2008 money would be like and would have known Brian would no longer be getting paid top dollar by 2008. Wouldn't a player be better off signing a two year deal instead (Larry Fitzgerald) so they can get paid top dollar throughout their career? Help me out Brad, am I missing something or would Brian simply have to admit he made a mistake with that lifetime deal?

Another thought is if for example a player feels he is better than another player in the league who just got paid crazy money he has the right to go to his boss in the same season and demand a pay hike regardless of his contract situation...which is basically what is happening with all these demands, does this not equate to let's say arguably 20 wide receivers demanding more money then Bernard Berrian got this year? Are the Bears the only team having this problem or do all teams have 5 or 6 top notch performers doing this?

7-9 last year...last place in the division...27th in total offense...28th in total defense

After a season like that, these guys have the nerve to put their focus on winning aside right now?!? They may be voluntary workouts, but they're still building blocks to having a good 2008 season. Where's the focus on winning?

I never said that I was going to quit,'' Urlacher told the Tribune early Friday morning. ``That's just a gossip column. Reports like that is why I choose not to speak to the media.''

well looks like suntimes should actually TALK WITH URL FIRST NEXT TIME.. whole story wrong and pure conjecture

BRAD SAYS: The Sun-Times stands behind what it reported.

I got it...Trade Urlacher to the Patriots for the 7th overall and the Patriots 3rd rounder. Everyone is happy. Patriots get value for their pick and get to upgrade at their weakest position and the Bears can draft a stud D-tackle or Matt Ryan with the pick. Urlacher would do well in a 3-4 scheme because he can run so well in the flats.

I know this is far fetched...but it would be a nice way to keep the defense young and have more available money.

I think this is all getting blown out of proportion. To much tension form the upcoming draft floating around making fans edgy. First it really shouldn't bother anyone that Lach is using strong arm tactics, it's negotiation, both sides are doing it. Heck the owners have been doing it forever. Second what did Lach do last year? 123 Tackles, 5 sacks 5 int's, those are either the top numbers or among the top numbers at his position. So people shouldn't act like he did nothing. As for reporting to voluntary workouts, they didn't expect Lach to be there this year, Lovie even said so earlier this off season, because of his neck surgery he is on a different program. Also there Voluntary, if Lovie wants them to be manditroy he should actually have the stones to say it instead trying to play strange head games. It's voluntary but you have to be here, what the heck is that? If Lach is gone he is gone and if he is here well it's one more position we don't have to fill in the draft this year. Nobody is going to give the bears a first round pick for a 9 year vet coming off surgery, maybe a low forst rounder. Also I agree with people saying how much money has Lach brought the bears, from what I understand he has made them a nice little fortune from his jersey sales, so it's not like they can complain he doesn't bring in money.

As for Briggs, now that is insane, his contract is like a month old, and he is complaining. Get real, now this guy I would see about trading for a number one, we already got his back up, his contract is a steal and in a weak LB class he probably looks good. I think most teams got scared off by the whole Briggs gate. But to complain right after you sign a contract. The Bears are in a bit of a mess right now. Lach, Harris, Briggs, Hester. If the Bears where such a great organization none of this would be happening, didn't Angelo say if people don't want to be here he will get rid of them. Well it looks like Briggs and Lach don't want to be here so Mr. Hotair back up your words if you got the stones and get rid of them. I will say this the Bears look like clowns this offseason, I mean real bad, Briggs gate, Angelo and his good character bs, he brings back Briggs and Signs Lloyd, the WR mess, Deion talking about Hester, Lachs contract, Tommies Contract, Benson loosing a step, resigning Rex and Orton for a compitition Lloyd and his truth about the so called compitition, yep Halas hall is in rear form these days, I am sure the Bears will go 10-6 or better like a lot of fans say, either that or we are trying to compete with the Bangels for most disfunctional team in the nfl.

Tommie Harris - Sponsors/co-sponsors charitable organizations. Seeks to raise awareness on gun violence. Volunteers with USO spending time with the troops overseas. Dominant player at his position. Good guy, overall class act. Deserves the $ he's asking for.

Lance Briggs - Complained to anyone who would listen that he would never play for the Bears again. Months later crashes a lamborghini, presumably DUI, leaves the scene of the accident. Comes back to the Bears for franchise tag $$$$. Comes back again with tail between his legs after no other team cared for him in FA. Supposedly doesn't pay child support to girlfriend. Nothing close to the player Urlacher is.

Really, for Briggs to be pulling this S&*% is ridiculous. I was hoping he would be gone after 2007.

Creighton, don't be so down on our team pal. The Bengals are a mess, but before you link them to the Bears you have to go through teams like the Falcons, Dolphins, Raiders, 49ers...We definitely don't belong in that group. Thank Buddah.

Creighton, over at the other newspaper, a plurality of Bears fans picked this year's team to perform as well as 12-4. I guess we're gonna see one heck of a draft eh? LOL!

I really don`t care how many tackles a player has during the season, because it is such a subjective stat, that it depends on who`s counting them, week in and week out. The only stat that matters to me, and it is usually not tracked like tackles, is this: how many plays did the player make that actually changed the flow of the game in his teams favor, like stripping the ball, interception, sack the QB on third down, tackle the runner behind the line of scrimmage, these types of plays are the ones that really matter when it comes down to a players level of importance on a team, and his level of compensation. I would guess that most of you saw the Super Bowl, and that you also saw the Giants defensive line absolutely demolish everything in it`s path on the way to the Super Bowl, then you would agree that the Giants defensive line should be well compensated for their efforts. It is that type of play on the field that culminates in a trip to the Super Bowl, that warrants a player asking for more money on a contract he may have signed a year or two or three prior to winning the Championship, nothing else matters, it`s all about winning. When you win, you get paid.

This type ofr "crap" has happened every off-season for decades. The only difference is now there is more media exposure, and more money involved. In the end, Urlacher and Briggs will be there.
I must add that T. Harris has shown maturity, and class in not talking about his contract, and showing up for all workouts because he loves football. Amen to that type of player. Pay that guy first.
I will never feel sorry for anyone that makes more than 1 million dollars per year to play a game.

My idea for T. Harris is to rip up his current contract. Then, offer him a 6 year, 65 million dollar contract with 40 million guarenteed. Make sure to "front-load" the contract so he gets 40 million the first 3 years (14 million, 13 million, and 13 million). Then the last 3 years will be 8, 8, and 7 million. Those would be his 8th, 9th, and 10th years in the league. With the cap going up the next 2 seasons after this, there will still be plenty of room for more after this coming season.

I hope the Bears draft well (and get lucky), then they will be 10-6 next year. GO BEARS!!!

Angelo claims to of had an epiphany when it comes to drafting good character athletes. well, better late then never.urlacher looked healthy the last 4 games of the season and still has the speed to play. Tommy Harris played at 75% and was still a killer tackle who speared himself recklessly through the line. Briggs and Hillenmeyer are excellent coverage linebackers who shouldn't get paid like a Roosevelt Colvin. (pass rusher)With improved offensive line play we could be good again but did we keep up with the improvement in minnisota, green bay and detroit? NO! we need that caproom to add a chad johnson, not reward a last place team.

hey Briggs,

how many more sports cars are you planning to crash????

"Sources outside the team suggest he could be unhappy with his deal."

What kind of attributiion is that? Did the blogger's grandma say, "Briggs might be unhappy." Jesus, reporters can basically write anything under "anonymous" sources. A "source outside the team" could basically be anyone in the U.S. that isn't a bears employee.

Boy, that is great back-up. Briggs makes a ton of money and he doesn't work-out with the young guns. Big deal. Sun-times trying to stir stuff up and create a story (and deflect criticism of "golden boy" Urlacher).

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on April 18, 2008 12:06 AM.

Thursday tidbits: Bears complete circuit with OT's was the previous entry in this blog.

Head of the class? Hardly ... the all-time draft busts is the next entry in this blog.

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