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CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said Wednesday that the team has approached linebacker Brian Urlacher about returning for a 14th season.
"As far as working it out, that's an ongoing process," Emery said.
The Chicago Tribune reported that Urlacher was talking to the Minnesota Vikings, although the story cited a source saying Minnesota thought Urlacher would stay with the Bears.
With limited salary-cap space in the wake of signing free-agent offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett on Tuesday, Emery said the Bears will take a slow and methodical approach to re-signing their own unrestricted free agents, including Urlacher.
Multiple reports said Urlacher submitted a contract proposal to the Bears last week, but no deal was struck before the official start of the league year on Tuesday, allowing Urlacher to test the open market for the first time.
"We're not going to comment on the process," Emery said. "I certainly understand that at the end of the day when the process is over, two things have happened: Either you have the player here or you don't have the player here and everybody in the NFL knows what the end contract was.
"Where it's important to me in terms of running the Chicago Bears is that the process remains private. I think that is where it's done best. I think that's where both parties can talk freely to one another and come to the best conclusion for the player and for the team."
Urlacher has said he likely will have to take a pay cut to return to the Bears. Although it's believed the Bears have yet to extend Urlacher an official contract offer, Emery sees no reason why the former NFL Defensive Player of the Year would feel slighted by the Bears.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler told "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN Chicago 1000 Wednesday that he would like Urlacher back, although Cutler admitted that the economics involved could prevent it.
"We're pretty much up against the cap a little bit, we'll see what happens," Cutler said. "It's hard to lose a guy like that on the field, off the field, just his presence, a Hall of Fame player. I think it's important, everyone kind of wants to get him back, it's business. It's a shame sometimes things come down to that.
"I've been with teams where you lose players like that, keystones, cornerstones of a franchise. It happens. Other guys have to step up. We've played some games in the past without him. His presence has kind of always been there. If it doesn't work out and we have to part ways with him, some other guys have to step up and we'll find some leaders along the way."
Besides Urlacher, the Bears have permitted other key free agents such as linebacker Nick Roach, guard Lance Louis, defensive end Israel Idonije, offensive tackle Jonathan Scott and defensive backs Kelvin Hayden and Zack Bowman to reach the open market without contracts.
The Bears have been content up to this point to let their own free agents shop around for offers. ESPNChicago.com reported Wednesday that Roach traveled to Oakland to visit the Raiders, while Bowman has drawn interest from at least two teams after his standout performance last season on special teams.
The Bears also have expressed a desire to keep Idonije, Louis, Scott and Hayden, although money could be an issue for a couple of the players. Idonije signed a one-year deal last offseason worth $2.5 million and it's unclear if the Bears want to pay the same amount to retain him.
"We are up against the cap so we are going to have to be very slow and methodical and make sure every decision that we make is going to be in the best interest of our team moving forward in terms of putting the best players on the field to win," Emery said. "It's going to have to be slow because every dollar is going to count against the cap and we are up tight against the cap.
"There isn't a lot of dollars. There is not a lot of room to wiggle."
The Bears did made cap space Wednesday, announcing they had released tight end Kellen Davis. Sources told ESPNChicago.com that defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and tight end Matt Spaeth also will be cut.