Brian Urlacher is no longer a Chicago Bear, and part of the reason for the "low" contract offer was Marc Trestman's belief that he was no longer a three down player. Was Urlacher a liability in pass coverage in 2012? You may be surprised at the numbers.
Trestman indicated that he may be best utilized on first and second downs
There was no direct quote, so I'll wager to guess that Chicago head coach Marc Trestman answered a question about Urlacher being a two down linebacker with a yes, yeah, or head nod.
Was this part of the reason Urlacher was told to take it or leave it? The new coaching regime wanted one of the best pass coverage middle linebackers in the history of the NFL to come off the field in passing situations. If Urlacher plays somewhere in 2013, and if he's showing no ill effects of his injuries, they I doubt he'll come off the field on 3rd downs.
I didn't see many issues in pass coverage last year from Urlacher, what I saw was a player that struggled in fighting through the wash to make plays in the run game. I also saw a player that looked slower at times when he had to change direction. Getting depth to cover the middle third wasn't an issue.
We've used the premium content over at Pro Football Focus in the past, and the thing I like about their service is the lack of bias in their grades. Everyone is graded pretty much the same way. You may have some concerns with the grades they concluded, but they are consistent in what they do. PFF breaks down their grades and stats on multiple levels, so if we strictly look at how they graded Brian Urlacher in the passing game, we see a fairly good season from the 34 year old mike backer in 2012.
Among all inside linebackers Urlacher's pass coverage was a +6.7, 3rd best overall behind Patrick Willis (+9.1), and D'Qwell Jackson (+6.8). Quarterbacks throwing at his man to man coverage or near his zone coverage completed 69.4% of their passes (34-49), which at initial glance seems high, but among ILBs, it's actually the 11th best percentage. The Bears defense has been described as a bend, but don't break defense, designed to keep the receivers in front of the various zone coverages, and Urlacher's 6th best 8 yards per completion would support that.
He didn't allow a TD through the air against his coverage, one of just 10 ILBs that didn't allow a score, and his 5 passes defended was tied for 2nd best in the NFL. When looking at the QB rating from throwing into his coverage, he allowed a 5th best rating of 74.6.
Does this breakdown scream "two down linebacker" to you?
Earlier this week Comcast Sports John "Moon" Mullin looked at the PFF grades on a game by game basis, and he concluded that it should have made sense for the Bears to bring Urlacher back, because his season wasn't as poor as the overall PFF grades suggest.
Maybe now that the Bears have decided to go another direction, some more teams will show interest, but I don't see which teams would need him. The Minnesota Vikings flirtation with Urlacher seems over, as we haven't heard a peep from the Vikes in almost a week. The Rod Marinelli / Dallas Cowboys connection has fizzled out, it just makes no sense for them to sign #54 to play as a back up to current MLB Sean Lee.
I honestly don't know why Urlacher didn't take the Bears deal. He had an offer on the table, no other suitors, and he's expressed his passion to play in 2013. Maybe he felt slighted at the Bears for not upping the 1 year $2 million dollar deal, but with the team up against the cap, shouldn't the veteran player, that has been taken care of in the past, signed on to continue his career in Chicago? Here's "Moon" Mullin's take about the proposed deal from a couple days ago;
They (the Bears) will not get into a bidding war. If they were prepared to ramp up the money to keep him away from somewhere else, most of that already would have been on the table.
One other factor: Urlacher also owes something to the Bears. Having been associated with Brian since he came to the Bears in 2000, my assumption here is that while the NFL is a business and few understand that much better than Urlacher, there is a core sense of "fair" with the guy. Just as there is with Emery.
Did the Bears offer a fair deal?
Now it's time for Chicago to explore Plan B, and knowing Phil Emery, he's had a Plan B, C, D, and E in place for some time. They simply can't ignore the lack of a quality starter at both the Mike and the Sam backer positions. Moving forward, they'll have to sign a veteran and address a young LB in the draft.
Unless they do change plans with defensive end Shea McClellin.
I know, I know, I've been steadfast in shooting down anyone bringing up McClellin to LB talk, but when he was first drafted I envisioned him playing as a strong side linebacker, and putting his hand on the ground for passing situations. Losing both Urlacher and Nick Roach could give Trestman and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker a reason to think outside the box.