Brian Urlacher's contract is due to expire after this season. He's made it clear he wants to retire a Bear, and he's discussing his excitement about possibly being a free agent, something he's never been in his career.
Dan Pompei seems worried about the possibility of Urlacher leaving town and spending a year or two in another uniform in the mold of Olin Kreutz, Mike Ditka or Tom Thayer.
He included numerous other examples in his article, some legitimate, but these gave me some pause. And further, while once in a while Pompei does drop some good information, I think this time he's overreacting a little.
Let's start with this... He's talking about the same Olin Kreutz that was offered four million dollars, wanted four and a half, didn't get it, left and had to settle for half of that to only play for six weeks at a subpar level before retirement due to lost passion? The same Mike Ditka that was traded in the middle of his career for Jack Concannon in an attempt to fix the quarterback position and only had 30 receptions once since being traded? The same Tom Thayer who currently sits in the radio booth and only played three games in Miami in his final season?
The point isn't without validation - the Bears might have been prone to cutting ties at the end of careers, but I kind of find it funny the same franchise often tied with sentimentality ('85 Bears) and rewarding their own hasn't been too concerned with letting players finish out their careers in Chicago when they've become bad or are otherwise not a fit.
To kind of calm things down a little... The front office and Matt Forte haven't done themselves any favors with Forte not reaching a deal with the team at this point, let's not kid ourselves. But in regard to Urlacher's contract, I can't help but think that some of the panic here is pretty strongly driven by the lack of agreement with Forte. Contracts are just the business side of football, unfortunately, and sometimes where business and playing ability fail to intersect, things happen. Mike Brown was a good safety, but the Bears were sick of waiting for the next injury to happen.
So in the furor of business versus playing ability, Pompei has to agree that sometimes, this is just the way the business is, right?
But it is not easy for teams to deal with aging stars.
These players can become sacred cows in the locker room, cranky untouchables. If they are not what they once were, they can be difficult to coach and manage, let alone bench.
When they are in decline, they rarely see themselves as they are. They usually believe they should be paid as much or more than ever, despite the fact the team is getting less return. They can be astounded at their teams' lack of appreciation for them, and their status in the locker room can be turned against the overall cause.
Players don't often leave the game gracefully at the first hint that closing time may be near. They often wait so long they must be thrown out on the street.
None of this is true of Urlacher. Not now anyway.
No one knows where Urlacher will be physically one year from now at 35. You can understand why the Bears would take a wait-and-see approach on his contract.
So indeed, let's wait and see. If the Bears feel like Urlacher can contribute beyond 2012, he'll be back. I'm not worried just yet, especially given the pipeline currently behind him.