- Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO – While the future of middle linebacker Brian Urlacher remains unknown, the Chicago Bears are expected to make a push to bring back unrestricted free agent linebacker Nick Roach, according to a league source.
While the Bears have not made Roach an official contract offer, the source said the club has expressed its desire to keep him in Chicago.
It's believed the Bears' current salary-cap situation prevented general manager Phil Emery from discussing specific contract numbers with some of the agents he met with at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Roach, a six-year NFL veteran with 59 career starts, has spent the majority of his Bears' career as the team's starting strongside linebacker, but he was forced to fill in for Urlacher at middle linebacker in the final four games last year. Roach, 27, finished sixth on the team in 2012 with 84 tackles and made a career-best 14 stops in the Bears' Dec. 23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Roach was originally signed by the San Diego Chargers in 2007 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Northwestern. The Bears lifted Roach off the Chargers' practice squad in late November of that year. Roach cracked the Bears' starting lineup for the first time in 2009 when he started nine games on the strong side, and with the exception of the 2010 campaign, the linebacker has been a mainstay on the defensive first team ever since.
The Bears inked Roach to a two-year, $4.5 million deal in 2011 that called for him to earn $1.815 million last season with a salary-cap number of $2.815 million.
Unrestricted free agents are free to negotiate and visit other NFL teams starting March 9, but cannot sign a contract until free agency officially begins on March 12 at 3 p.m. CT.
The Bears are expected to attempt to re-sign Nick Roach.