After he opened free agency with a splash for a second consecutive offseason, Bears general manager Phil Emery warned everyone that the club was "up against the cap" and that they hadn't come to a conclusion on re-signing Brian Urlacher.
So what could it be?
I reached out to six league sources, three agents and three league executives, to glean their insight on what type of deal may make sense for both sides. The Bears, for instance, have $5.45 million in salary cap space, and they likely want to bolster their depth at other positions in a clear buyer's market. They intentionally kept the cap numbers of left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett low and they need to set aside between $2 to $3 million for their rookie draft class, although they won't need to worry about that until they start to sign them.
Urlacher, meanwhile, certainly wants to get as much as he can, especially since he made $7.5 million last season, not to mention a $500,000 bonus.
But where is a happy middle ground?
There may not be.
Two sources said Urlacher would be fortunate to command a one-year, $2 million deal based on his 2012 season and the current market. But two others thought the best route may be a deal similar in structure - albeit cheaper - to the one the Washington Redskins gave to middle linebacker London Fletcher in April 2012. He signed a two-year, $10.75 million. Fletcher, 37, played all 16 games last season and finished with 139 tackles, three sacks, 11 passes defended and five interceptions. And while he's not as big a name as Urlacher, Fletcher, remarkably, has never missed a game in 15 NFL seasons.
Fletcher's deal included a $3.5 million signing bonus and guaranteed his 2012 base salary. Then, in 2013, his base salary was a whopping $5.5 million.
His cap number was $2.45 million for 2012.
So what would that mean for Urlacher, who turns 35 in May?
The Bears can inflate the second year of the deal to whatever number they want but it means virtually nothing. Let's say he gets a $2 million signing bonus, which is guaranteed, they can spread the cap hit over the duration of the deal. Meanwhile, the veteran minimum for a player with Urlacher's experience is $940,000. Between the proration and the base salary, the cap number is already pushing $2 million.
My guess is, the Bears want to keep his cap number close to that. For perspective, consider that Bennett's cap number is $1.9 million.
Another option for the Bears is a contingency roster bonus, which pays a player for each game he makes the 46-man roster.
Pay as you play, in essence.
But per game roster bonuses count against the cap as it's earned. Teams like to keep at least a few million in cap space to sign free agents during the season and possibly even extend the contracts of their own players.
Another option that wouldn't immediately count against the cap, though, are incentives such as playing time and making the Pro Bowl. Those would be pushed into next offseason, after all calculations and adjustments are factored in.
What they do with Urlacher is delicate for the Bears.
Emery called it an "ongoing process," while new coach Marc Trestman diplomatically called Urlacher a "very, very capable player."
"I'm excited about him being part of this football team, if that happens, certainly," Trestman said.
We'll soon see.
UPDATE: The Cincinnati Bengals signed middle linebacker Rey Maualuga to a two-year, $6.5 million contract that included $2.5 million guaranteed, according to the NFL Network.