With Matt Forte still disgruntled over contract issues, the Bears averted another possible offseason/training camp distraction by giving seven-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs a one-year extension through the 2014 season.
Briggs was scheduled to earn $3.75 million in 2012 and $6.25 million in 2013 in the final two years of a six-year, $36 million contract he signed in 2008. But after making the Pro Bowl in the first three years of that contract, he asked the Bears to renegotiate the deal and when Bears general manager Jerry Angelo declined that request he asked for a trade toward the end of training camp last year.
While obviously and publicly unhappy, Briggs had another excellent season in 2011, making the Pro Bowl for the seventh consecutive season. Briggs, who turned 31 in November, played all 16 games and led the Bears with 147 tackles (86 solo), with one interception, three pass-breakups and two forced fumbles.
Briggs is the fourth linebacker in Bears history to make seven consecutive Pro Bowls -- joining Hall of Famers Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.
''We're very excited for Lance and the Bears,'' general manager Phil Emery said in a statement released by the team. ''Lane has been a very valuable and productive member of our team, seven straight Pro Bowls is quite a record of success. This is a very positive step for our team in our efforts to win a championship.''
His stamina at 31 and with knee problems he overcame in 2011 bears watching, though. Briggs had nine or more tackles in seven of the Bears' first nine games last season. He had eight or fewer tackles in six of the last seven games. The lone double-digit tackle game in that span came in a 13-10 overtime loss against the Denver Broncos, when Briggs' tackle total went from nine in the press-box statistics to 15 upon review of the game film.
The Bears begin their offseason program Monday at Halas Hall. With Briggs getting an extension, Forte is expected to be the only player to not attend the volunteer workouts.