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Time to reach into the mailbag one final time for the week. We'll get right to it.

Q: John Tait is entering the final year of his contract, John St. Clair is a free agent and Chris Williams didn't play as a rookie. The Bears can't think the offensive line is in good shape moving forward, can they? Tell me they're going to address this, please.

Fred W., Las Vegas

A: The Bears were one of only six teams this past season to have all five offensive linemen start 16 games, the first time the club has accomplished that since 2001. There were some key questions surrounding the line during training camp, ones that grew more pointed when Williams was lost for the first half of the season following back surgery. Terrence Metcalf was expected to start at left guard and then he was lost for the preseason after arthroscopic knee surgery. Through it all, the line stuck together and performed fairly well with St. Clair at left tackle on a permanent basis for the first time in his career. Take away two games against Jared Allen, and he was steady. Josh Beekman stepped in at left guard, Tait made the transition back to right tackle and Olin Kreutz and Roberto Garza were fixtures.

The combination of life's curveballs and some other work we'll get to later on has delayed us once again in getting to the mailbag until the second period of this Blackhawks game we were supposed to be attending tonight. Oh well. So, without any further delay, let's get to it.

Q: With Taylor Mays deciding to return to USC, the already shallow talent pool at safety may have just emptied out. Next to a pass rusher, which I think the Bears can address in Round 1, don't you think free safety is a huge need on this defense? Do you think the Bears will look to shore it up in free agency? Players like O.J. Atogwe or Jermaine Phillips would make a lot of sense for a porous last line of defense.

Dan, Wicker Park

A: It came as somewhat of a surprise that Mays is headed back to school. After talking with some scouts and agents, both were expecting him to come out after being a three-year starter for the Trojans. But one scout I spoke to specifically about Mays said he looked like Tarzan but didn't necessarily play like Ronnie Lott. He thought Mays needed to get better at tackling in the open field. Maybe that is something Mays will work on. For a look at underclassmen who have declared early, here's a relatively up-to-date list.

Lance Briggs is going to have to spring for some airfares if he wants to hang with his friends in Honolulu.

The Bears' weak-side linebacker was the team's only player chosen to the NFC Pro Bowl team, a source said. The league will release the official teams at 3 p.m.

Briggs, who has now been named to four consecutive Pro Bowls, leads the team in tackles with 122 and 73 solos and has three interceptions. He has been the most consistent player on defense all season.

The Bears had four players at the Pro Bowl last season and eight were selected after the 2006 season. The last time the franchise had only one player picked for the game was 2004 when center Olin Kreutz represented them.

Brian Urlacher recorded double-digit tackles for the first time in seven games in Thursday's 27-24 overtime victory over the New Orleans Saints.

After coaches' review of the game film, Urlacher was credited with 10 tackles, the same number he had in press box statistics following the game. It's the third time this season Urlacher has led the defense in tackles.

Some quick reactions from the Bears' 27-24 overtime victory as they ended the Saints' season for the third straight year:

*** If that was not the best game by middle linebacker Brian Urlacher this season, it was his best game in some time. Urlacher led the defense in tackles, according to press box statistics, with 10. It's the first time Urlacher has led the team in tackles since Week 4 when he tied with safety Kevin Payne at the top of the list with 10 against Philadelphia. It's also the first time he's been the outright leader in tackles for a game as he tied with Lance Briggs for top honors in the opener at Indianapolis.

Of course, numbers from this game are not official yet, but you didn't need to study the stat sheet to know he made an impact. Urlacher was solid in the run game which gave up a 42-yard touchdown to Pierre Thomas but still managed to limit the Saints to 3.7 yards per carry--119 yards on 32 rushes. Urlacher was also given credit for a pass defense.

"The No. 1 offense poses a big challenge,'' he said of the Saints. "They have the No. 1 quarterback in the NFL and they're running the ball better than they have in the past. It was a big challenge for us overall. We played better in the first half than we did in the second half but we made enough plays to win the game."

If the fan ballot is a good indication, the Bears will not be well represented at the Pro Bowl.

Returner Devin Hester was the only player to win fan balloting at his position.

The fan vote counts one-third in the selection process with the players and coaches each counting one-third. Teams voted earlier this week and the Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Tuesday. The game will be played at Aloha Stadium in Hawaii on Feb. 8.

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was second at inside linebacker with 276,508, trailing Washington's London Fletcher. Urlacher won the fan ballot last season but was not selected for the game, failing to finish in the top five after coaches and players weighed in.

Tommie Harris' fumble in the second quarter last Sunday proved to be more costly than originally thought.

Just ask Brian Urlacher, who was zapped by the NFL this week, fined $20,000 for abusive conduct toward a game official, a league spokesman said.

Urlacher drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after Harris had recovered Jerious Norwood's fumble at the Bears' 23-yard line and then inexplicably coughed the ball up, turning it back over to the Falcons. Replays showed Harris was attempting to lateral the ball to teammates. He claimed he was trying to get up and run with the ball.

The Bears called for a replay challenge, insisting Harris was down by contact, and lost. Urlacher said something to an official and was penalized. That moved the ball to the Bears' 12-yard line and helped lead to Jason Elam's 32-yard field goal that put Atlanta ahead 9-0.

There probably is not a current Bears player with a closer attachment to Brett Favre than Brian Urlacher. Few players have been around as long as Urlacher and the two have long held great respect for one another. Urlacher, as you can imagine anyone signing an $18 million, one-year extension, was in a chipper mood when he arrived tonight. Urlacher said he feels great and was grateful he could reach a resolution with the club on his bid for a new deal.

Among the things Urlacher discussed was Favre's situation, and his hope that No. 4 suits up for someone this season:

The new deal for Brian Urlacher, an $18 million, one-year extension, puts him in position to earn $40.6 million over the next five seasons.

Here is how the money breaks down:

And then there was one.

With Brian Urlacher agreeing to a reworked contract on Monday, the eve of training camp, all that's left to do for the Bears is sign first-round draft pick Chris Williams. It's expected Williams will be in camp on time, but there was never a guarantee things would be done for Urlacher.

By agreeing to terms with the face of the franchise on an $18 million, one-year extension, the Bears have taken a large step toward trying to build some harmony in the locker room after negotiations that were ugly at times this offseason. Urlacher will receive a $6 million signing bonus and has his base salary bumped up by $1 million each of the next four seasons. The $1 million bumps are not contingent on play time, which is how the club's original offer was structured.

Brian Urlacher will take part in the mandatory Bears’ minicamp this weekend after all.

The middle linebacker, according to an Internet report, will show up at Halas Hall after making strong statements suggesting he wouldn’t be seen earlier this month.

If Urlacher was going to find a resolution to his contract dispute, he wasn’t going to do it by staying away from the club. The Bears have a pretty straightforward policy of negotiating with players who are not present.

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).

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