Lance Briggs had no leverage last summer when he asked the Chicago Bears for a contract upgrade. As we discussed at the time, the midpoint of a market-level contract isn't typically a time when teams look to renegotiate.
Briggs had two choices when the Bears rejected his request. He could flip out and make himself into a yearlong distraction. Or he could buckle down and provide the Bears one more illustration of why he is a player worthy of further investment.
Briggs chose the latter, and I have to believe that decision at least partially explains why the Bears circled back and complied Wednesday with a new deal that settles Briggs' concerns for the foreseeable future. The numbers were not monumental -- Briggs got about a $2.5 million raise for 2012 and would earn $5.5 million in 2013, according to multiple reports -- and for the Bears it was a relatively cheap way to demonstrate loyalty to a cornerstone player who just wanted a little love.
"I'm grateful," Briggs said in a conference call with reporters. "I'm just very appreciative right now that the work has been recognized and that it got handled as fast as it did. … We all had a number in our head and they had the same number."
Briggs earned his seventh Pro Bowl honor in 2011, but just as impressive to me was the fact that he played in every Bears defensive snap from the beginning of the season to the end. Pushing through minor injuries is probably the best way for a player to demonstrate a commitment to the team. Briggs did his part, and as it turns out, all he was looking for was the most modest of rewards. If all it took was a few million dollars to placate a key player, it was a no-brainer for the Bears to comply.
Briggs was the first to admit that his contract was a unique situation, so this is not to suggest that Bears tailback Matt Forte would benefit from a similar strategy. It will take much more money to satisfy Forte than it did Briggs. And if Forte sits back and plays under his franchise tag in 2012, the Bears wouldn't be any more compelled to offer him the rich extension he is apparently seeking.
But in Briggs' case, at this moment, there was no real crisis, and neither side treated it as one after last summer's theatrics. And voila, here we are. As is the case in so many of these "issues," all's well that ends well.
Earlier: Briggs' contract was one of several Big Decisions facing NFC North teams this offseason.