Chicago Sun-Times

Dollars and sense: Brian Urlacher's contract moving forward

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Any time a veteran player suffers an injury that wipes out virtually an entire season, and he's on the wrong side of 30, it's worth examining the financial impact moving forward.

No one is suggesting Brian Urlacher, who is 31, is in danger because of his salary. But the middle linebacker received a unique one-year contract extension last summer. I say unique because it's rare for a player to have one year tacked on to his contract when still has four years remaining on his current contract. That's what happened though, and it was a tense few months as Urlacher dug in his heels and the organization wondered exactly what path it was headed down with the face of the franchise.

In the end, Urlacher received an $18 million, one-year extension through 2012 with $6 million guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. Let's take a look at his remaining base salaries:

Age 31 2009 $5.625 million
Age 32 2010 $6.825 million
Age 33 2011 $8.025 million
Age 34 2012 $7.5 million

That's $27.975 million, including the pay he will receive this season. In today's NFL, that's in line with what elite veterans receive. Original negotiations for Urlacher last spring offered him the signing bonus, the $7.5 million in base pay for 2012, and then $1 million in the form of a likely to be earned bonus each season from 2008 through 2011. Urlacher just had to play in 85 percent of the defensive snaps each season to trigger the bonus. Negotiations dragged on, Urlacher threatened to miss minicamp (he didn't) and training camp. It didn't come to that as the team acquiesced in mid-July and simply tacked an extra $1 million on each season without a play-time provision. Urlacher was all smiles, the club was relieved and life moved on.

The Bears are unlikely to have a problem continuing with this contract if Urlacher returns to dominant form. He was not dominant the last two seasons when he battled back and neck ailments. Solid? Yes. Elite? No. The Bears cannot say they are missing a Pro Bowl linebacker because Urlacher has not been at that level since 2006. So, he will return next season at age 32 scheduled to earn $6.825 million. I am sure the Bears will do that without blinking. It's how Urlacher performs in 2010 that will determine what happens when the salary climbs over $8 million in 2011.

Knowing Urlacher, he will be in top shape when training camp opens next summer. He knows the challenges athletes face to remain in top form as they get older. He's found out about those challenges for three years running now. It's tough to stay put together because eventually freak injuries occur to everyone.

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12 Comments

I see a restructuring of his contract - downward, he restructured when he was in control now it's his turn as he has done nothing for 3 years incl. this year now, no hard feelings but turnaround is fair play. We have needed a new MLB for a couple years - we better start thinking of that.
Top shape? Thats great but he restructured then and now another restructure is best. We need to draft a Top MLB asap!

I agree with Randy. Also, I do not see losing Urlacher as that big a deal. He has not been all that great for some time, and though I disagreed a few years back when some were calling him the most overrated player in the league, I would have a harder time disagreeing at this point in time.

Being Brian Urlacher is one of my favorite bears players of all time and the face of the Bears franchise unfortunately he's on the tail end of his career and his injuries including bad back, and now wrist surgery show it. You can only play middle linebacker in the black & blue division for so long before your body gets beat up.

Now we are stuck and now have no trade value because of his injuries and age. I would have traded him for some picks or a vetern WR named Boldin. Better start looking for a new middle linebacker because that's the most important player on the Lovie D.

Sure it's logical to look at Urlacher's contract and it's long term financial implications, but who in the hell is going to replace Urlacher?

If there is a way to restructure Urlacher's contract moving forward, that's fine. But sucking it up and talking about replacing him is something completely different.

I don't care what level of production he has failed to attain the past two seasons, he is still a player that has to be accounted for on every play and he can still have a major impact on the overall success of the defense.

Watching the second half without Urlacher you could clearly see that Briggs isn't an elite player without Urlacher in there. The Packers were able to shift their focus onto Briggs, focus that normally would have been on Urlacher.

When this happened the Packers were able to enhance their ability to run the football, from there they set up that play action pass that led to the touchdown.

There were times where the Bears put nine men in the box to stop Ryan Grant (in the second half) and Grant still got solid chunks of positive yards.

Right now Urlacher is irreplaceable and the defense is going to suffer as a result.

Brian Urlacher will be fine next season. Its like Brad Biggs said, "freak injuries occur to everyone." Had Urlacher stayed healthy, he looked primed for another pro-bowl season. There is no need for Chicago to go out and use a high round draft pick on a middle linebacker this upcoming off-season. Also, Chicago doesn't even have a 1st rounder, good luck trying to get a 6-4 250lb backer that can run like a safety in the second round or lower, even if the 6-4 250lb backer is 32. Most linebacker can go till their in their mid 30's, which Urlacher will be at the end of his contract in three years. Urlacher will be fine for the next three seasons.

After the first round [as of right now] draft wise, theres not much out there middle linebacker wise. Without a 1st rounder, your not gonna get another Urlacher. One prospect that Chicago could land with their second rounder is Baylor's Joe Pawelek, the 6-3 236lb middle linebacker is a tackling machine who also plays well in coverage. But, he's no Urlacher. I can see using a 4th-5th rounder on a backup mike linebacker, but there is no need to waste a 2nd-3rd on a mike when you already have a good one in Urlacher, he'll be fine. It was a freak injury and the guy gets to rest up for an entire season and come back fresh.


I wouldn't use Chicago's 2nd rounder on a mike backer when you already have Urlacher. Chicago has other more pressing needs, like say...tackle. Chicago would be better off using their 2nd rounder on a prospect like Notre Dames Sam Young, the 6-8 330lb monster would look good in blue and orange flanking Chris Williams, just an opinion GO BEARS!!

Great points brettsky51

I agree with brettsky51. This defense will not be an elite defense without Urlacher in the middle, regardless of his slightly degraded stats, and you could see it in the 2nd half against GB. Our best hope for this season is a defense that plays inspired and well enough to give our offense a chance to take games over.

As far as contracts and age go, if Derrick Brooks, is being consider by some as a savior at 36, why would we not continue to look to #54 at age 32? Sure, draft a repacement, but let's not discuss #54 being not worth it because he's gonna be 32. Not to mention, the upside of this is that the rest of Urlacher's body will be spared abuse this year and he should come back pretty fresh next year. He'll be a year older, but in NFL years, his body won't be.

I THINK IT IS PRETTY SAFE TO SAY THAT THE BEARS WILL DRAFT A LINEBACKER IN THE 2010 DRAFT, AND ONE WITH A MARQUEE NAME!
FATHER TIME IS ONE GUY YOU CAN'T RUN FROM, ASK MIKE BROWN AND DUSTY D. THEY BOTH WERE RUN OUT OF TOWN, ONE IS IN KANSAS CITY AND ONE IS ON CRUTCHES!

Randy the draft is in April.

Kevin, you know who would look even better at RT instead of Williams. Anyone, he has not looked good. Or is your idea of a good OT a guy who lets Ends and ROLB fly past him to the QB? I agree we will not find another Urlacher in next years draft, but we do not need to replace him yet. We will in the next 3 years. But not right now. Kevin there are lots of players who need to be replaced on the Bears who are at the end of there careers. Kruetz, Pace, Omiyale(he is just so bad), we need WR's and at least 2 starting DB's. Goon is gone after this year and the Bears do not have another every down End, Brown will be 31 and has maybe 2-3 years left. What about Harris, he looks horrible? How long d oyou think Garza will play? He is in his 30's and late in his career. Also most rookies need to sit for a year behind a starter.

I have been telling you the talent on this team is getting older and older. The Bears are not a young team. The core of this team is Cutler, Forte, Hester and Olsen.

The question you should have. Is how come the talent keeps getting thinner on this team? The only thing the Bears need to do in future drafts is take the best player available. There are needs at almost every position. If it's a OG then its a OG, if it's a DE then it's a DE. The need help all over.

Creighton,

Glad to see you are back -- bad typing and spelling included. Some of these people have been stealing your name. Some points....

You wrote:
"I have been telling you the talent on this team is getting older and older. The Bears are not a young team. The core of this team is Cutler, Forte, Hester and Olsen."

You contradict yourself in this paragraph. Cutler is 26; Forte is 23; Hester is 26; and Olsen is 24. I think that is a young. And that is the core of this team offensively -- throw in Briggs (28); Manning (27) and Bowman -- IF he can stay healthy (24); and you have 7 core players all 28 or under.

Let's continue with your reasoning about the Bears being an old team...

I looked for some stats here is a story about the NO Saints who have the 2nd oldest roster. The Pats are the oldest.

http://blog.nola.com/saintsbeat/2009/07/new_orleans_saints_have_nfls_s.html

You spent the all of the post draft 2008 lecturing us on how Rashard Mendehall was better than Forte. Save your energy for the debut of your pink panties this Sunday. Time to "Man Up".

"When this happened the Packers were able to enhance their ability to run the football, from there they set up that play action pass that led to the touchdown."

I noticed this as well. Everyone was talking about how the D didn't miss a step when Urlacher on the pine, but suddenly, to me, it looked like there was a lot more open space in the middle when he went out. The Pack finally started running the ball.

Creighton, first off, wait till around november/december before you start saying Chicago's receivers and defensive backs need replacing, not after one game for corns sake. Remember we talked about player development? Earl Bennett is gonna be fine, a 7 catch game is pretty good for a first start, and thats going against some pretty good corners. Also, Hester doesn't look to bad either, he was one catch from a 100 yard game, and again, vs some pretty good corners. Yes, Knox looked lost on some play, but what do you expect from a guy who played at Abilene Christian just last season, give him time, and again Creighton, player development. Also, we haven't even seen what Devin Aromashodu can do, he's another one to watch out for when he comes back. I guarantee by next season, wide receiver won't be a problem, this team has a lot of potential at the position with players like Bennett, Hester, Knox, and Aromashodu. Give em time before saying they need replacing.

As for the defensive backs, again, wait a little before writing these guys off. Tillman still has a few more seasons left, he's only been in the league for 7 seasons. On the other side you have Bowman. Yes durability wise he's a question mark, but give him a season. Also, have you forgot about rookie D.J Moore. He's not ready to start this season, but give him a season before calling him a bust, this guy could surprise in one season. Creighton, again your riding off Chicago's young players before they have a chance to develop. I know you didn't call Moore a bust, but you did say Chicago needs some db's. You obviously forgot about Moore. Chicago's sat a strong safety long term wise with Afalava and Payne. Free safety could be a need area, but give Payne/Manning a chance, one fo them could surprise, it could be Manning.

Offensive line wise, give Omiyale a chance to get use to the position swap before saying he sucks. Yes Kreutz is close to the end, but Chicago has Beekman. As for an eventual replacement for Garza, rookie Lance Louis. As you can see Chicago does have some young talent to come in maybe in a season or two, give em time.

At defensive end, Ogunleye isn't necessarily gone after next season, if he can put together a double degit sack season Chicago will extend him. This will allow them to bring in a young end maybe in the next couple drafts to develop behind Ogunleye. As for Harris, have you already forgotten about Jarron Gilbert? Again, give em time.

Creighton, this team has some young talent on it, you can't seem to see it because you have no concept of the term player development. Creighton, to you, if a rookie/young player doesn't come out like Matt Forte did, you think he's a bust. PLAYER DEVELOPMENT The young talent is there on Chicago's roster Bennett, Hester, Knox, Bowman, Moore, Louis, Beekman, Gilbert, and even Armomshodu, give these player time, they'll surprise now GO BEARS!!

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on September 15, 2009 8:25 AM.

Why can't Urlacher return with a cast on his wrist this season? was the previous entry in this blog.

Another Lovie coaching friend fires on Cutler, Mora adds on too is the next entry in this blog.

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