The agents for Brian Urlacher provided the Bears contract parameters for a new deal Thursday morning, according to a league source.
Earlier Thursday, Pro Football Talk reported that the Bears and Urlacher were "engaged in ongoing discussions" and Fox Chicago added in the evening that Urlacher's agents made an offer.
The key, of course, is how much the Bears are willing to pay Urlacher, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection who has played his entire career with the team.
Veteran defensive lineman Israel Idonije said Urlacher has to return.
"You start talking about our defense, Brian Urlacher is the quarterback of that defense. He is the linchpin in what drives us," Idonije said on The Score. "So when you start talking about getting the offense better and then maintaining defensive success, Brian Urlacher has to be a piece of that equation... You take him out of that situation, things just change.
"I think Brian is going to be back and he's a Chicago guy. He's really a big part of the team culture. When I listened to coach [Marc] Trestman talking about men of character, guys who are going to come in and work hard and really embody everything he envisions the team to be, I mean, at the top of that list is Brian. So I think they're going to look to really get him back and ultimately his heart is here. He wants to be here."
Last season, Urlacher was paid $8 million. He'll have to take a steep pay cut to continue his career with the Bears. The question is how much of a cut.
Urlacher has made it clear privately to the Bears and even publicly that he doesn't want to play anywhere else.
But the Bears offer will be important.
At the NFL Combine, I spoke to eight general managers, personnel executives and coaches if Urlacher had anything left. Only one definitively said he did not.
Urlacher's play improved last season, before a hamstring injury sidelined him. And because the Bears will continue with the 4-3 defense, Urlacher still has value to the defense, even if his athleticism has clearly declined.
Besides, what is the alternative?
The Bears don't have anyone on the roster, especially with Nick Roach also a free agent. And the free-agent class at interior linebacker isn't a rich one, other than Dannell Ellerbe, the Baltimore Raven who is expected to land an expensive contract. As for the draft, there are some options but are they ready to step in at a challenging position and start for a team with championship aspirations?