Brian Urlacher's been a Chicago Bear since the day he was drafted into the NFL. He wants to remain a Chicago Bear, even saying he'll take a pay cut:
"When you look at my age, it's going to be hard to not give them a discount," Urlacher said. "I'm not going to make what I was making in the past, how about that? Does that make sense? That's fair."
Marc Trestman knows Urlacher wants to be a Bear.
"I don't think there was any question that he loves Chicago and this is a place that he would like to be," Trestman said. "There was no question there. I'll leave it at that. I don't think it's any more than that. Coming in here as I have, I'm not as attuned to the entire situation, certainly the economics and all the things that go into it. That's the thing that is going to be a process between Brian and the organization as we move forward."
One problem, though. That sounds fairly non-committal, dontcha think?
That's pretty much the way it's gone since Lovie Smith got the sharp end of the axe at season's end, and with Urlacher getting older and looking less like his typical outstanding self on the field, the linebacker's position has been one of the main points of contention this season. Couple that with a balky knee that hampered him much of the year and took three procedures to get him in playing shape and the questions remain.
Urlacher doesn't look like a player that's done, I think. If he wanted to take a step down from his $7.5 million in base pay and $9.7 million in cap room, he could yet be a productive player while the Bears prepare for the future. That's the thing - Urlacher's presence doesn't hamper the Bears in drafting a high-round linebacker in April, it just means the draft pick wouldn't start at the middle immediately. The Bears currently have room to carry a linebacker, with Geno Hayes and Nick Roach both being free agents. The rest of the linebacking depth is currently in Blake Costanzo, Patrick Trahan, Dom DeCicco and J.T. Thomas, which, well... I'm not sure there's a starting strong-side in there, with one pretty much career special teamer and three younger players with minimal playing experience.
The decision's all about Urlacher's ability as a player - nothing more, nothing less. If you think he turns into Ray Lewis in the Super Bowl, well... I don't think that's the lasting image we want of Brian Urlacher. But if you think he can be productive for another year or two, you do the deal, twice, and don't look back.