Brian Urlacher has said he needs to take a stand in his crusade for a new contract.
Barring an unforeseen breakthrough between the six-time Pro Bowl linebacker and the Bears, we’ll get a better idea what that new contract is worth to Urlacher come Friday when the mandatory minicamp opens at Halas Hall.
If Urlacher boycotts the event—as he told our pal Mike Silver at Yahoo! Sports he was likely to do earlier this month—he puts in jeopardy a portion of the $13 million signing bonus he received in 2003. Urlacher, who turned 30 Sunday and has skipped the voluntary offseason workout program to date, could risk losing money in his bid to earn more money.
At issue would be signing bonus forfeiture language in Urlacher’s contract, a standard part of virtually all NFL contracts. If he’s in default on his contract—and missing a mandatory team activity would qualify—the Bears could choose to pursue a pro-rated portion of that signing bonus. Just five years into the $56.65 million, nine-year contract, at stake would be $5,777,777 (the remaining pro-rated portion of the signing bonus).
That’s more than the Bears have offered Urlacher in guaranteed money in an $18 million, one-year extension. (We’ve covered the details of the offer before—$5 million to sign, a $1 million escalator in each of the next four seasons triggered by 85 percent play time, and a $9 million base salary in the new year of 2012.)
That pro-rated portion might be enough to ensure Urlacher is present.
“I would bet I wouldn’t be there,” Urlacher told Silver May 13. “My agents and the team had some good dialogue early on, but nothing’s happened lately. It’s been almost two months since there’s been any action on their end, and it’s a waiting game right now.”
There have not been any developments since, so unless Urlacher has a change of heart, maybe he will push the envelope, the one stuffed with $5.77 million.
There’s precedent for this, too. The Denver Broncos went after wide receiver Ashley Lelie two summers ago when there was a chance he would be traded to the Bears. The Broncos won and when Lelie didn’t pay up, they took him to court. Lelie paid.
It’s no big deal if Urlacher is fined by the team for missing minicamp—that levy can total only about $8,165. Going after him for millions would be a different story.
Urlacher’s bet might have changed. Maybe he’ll show after all.