Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
The NFL is always a "business" when the player asks for a restructured deal while still under contract, but as their career winds down, they want "personal" feelings to be brought into the equation, so they can be paid on past accomplishments.
For the record, I believe that if Brian Urlacher plays in 2013, that he'll be closer to the Urlacher we all know, than the injury plagued, shadow of himself that we saw in 2012. Sure he's lost some speed through the years, but his intellect and experience makes up for that, maybe not entirely, but enough for him to get by.
This was the first off season that Brian Urlacher was ever without a contract. He was drafted in 2000, signed his first pro contract in July of that year for 5 years and $7.75 million, which was a very good deal at the time. The player taken one spot ahead of him, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, signed a 5 year deal for $8.66 million, and holdout WR Travis Taylor, taken 10th, one spot after Urlacher, signed a 5 year deal worth up to $10.9.
Back then there was no rookie wage scale, and players signed for what they could sign for. Wide outs generally received more than linebackers. That was the market then.
Flash forward to 2003, and it was clear that Urlacher was a special Pro Bowl type player, so the Bears re-did his contract to the tune of a 9 year, $56.7 million extension, another very good deal at the time. Eventually, even that hefty contract was deemed unworthy, so in 2008 the Bears gave him a 5 year contract worth $40.6 million. That would be his final contract with the Chicago Bears.
I can understand Urlacher being upset with, what he perceives to be a low ball offer of $2 million for '13, but the Bears ripped up his contract on two occasions and paid him handsomely for his services. He's currently on his media tour, telling everyone how he's been wronged by Phil Emery and the Bears organization, and he's showing a very sour grapes attitude about the whole thing.
The entire situation is starting to smell like the Olin Kreutz saga, and we all remember how that worked out.
Urlacher was quoted in the Chicago Sun Times saying, "Who knows? I may play for $2 million for someone else.", and he said, "It's closed.", when asked about a possible return to Chicago.
While it may be true that there wasn't much of a negotiation, it's also true that Urlacher didn't field any other offers during his time as a free agent. Some other team could come calling now that the Bears aren't considered the favorite, but we're yet to see that.
His people gave an initial offer, he was told to go test the market to see where he stood, and the reality was that he had no other serious suitors. There was no market for him. I think it would be a pathetic situation if the best Urlacher can find is a similar $2 million deal, and he signs it out of petty spite.
Pro athletes routinely ask for restructured deals before they hit free agency, otherwise they gripe to the media, they hold out, they become locker room distractions, or they suffer from made up injuries. When players are asking management for more cash they refer to the NFL as a "business", but when they get along in years, they want a contract that rewards them on a "personal" level.
The notion that the Chicago Bears owe Brian Urlacher for his years of service to the franchise is ludicrous. If anyone is in debt, it's Urlacher to the Bears for restructuring his contract on two separate occasions.
There have been instances where players have left money on the table because they wanted to stay in a city. There have been times when players left money on the table in order to give their team cap flexibility. It's unfortunate that this can't be one of those times. Number 54 should have retired a Bear.