Thursday, April 12, 2012
Next up for Bears: Urlacher? Forte?
By Kevin Seifert
In the relief and euphoria of his long-awaited contract extension, linebacker Lance Briggs described the Chicago Bears' offseason as "a miracle" and one that "on paper" has put him on the Bears' best team since he arrived in 2003. So as long as we're talking about ideal scenarios, we should consider what could be next for the NFC North's most active team this offseason.
From a contract perspective, at least, the Bears have at least two significant issues to address. One is a resolution to their increasingly stark standoff with tailback Matt Forte. The other is the expiring contract of linebacker Brian Urlacher.
Forte has not signed his franchise tag tender of $7.74 million for 2012, and without an injury waiver he'll be ineligible to participate in offseason workouts. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this week that Forte won't sign anything until he agrees to a long-term contract extension, which makes it quite possible the Bears won't see him again for a while.
One way or the other, someone will have to budge if Forte is going to be on the field when training camp begins at the end of July. By most accounts, the sides aren't close.
"He knows what his value is, and I think we all know what his value is," Briggs said, adding that he supports Forte's current stance.
Urlacher, meanwhile, is in the final year of a deal the Bears upgraded and extended in the summer of 2008. He'll earn $7.5 million in base salary with an opportunity earn a $500,000 workout bonus. It's hard to imagine the Bears doing anything other than extending him until they deem him unfit to play, and so his situation becomes a matter of timing more than anything.
Will the Bears let Urlacher play out the season with the understanding he will get a new contract next winter? Or will they move to extend sometime in the next five months before the 2012 season begins? For obvious reasons, players prefer security rather than waiting, especially for someone like Urlacher, who has no desire to play elsewhere.
"I think the Bears will do right by him," Briggs said. "He's coming off a great year. Hopefully we can play until we're 49 years old, if that's possible."
Hey Lance, we're talking about the ideal scenario, not fantasy.