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For the first time in league history, teams can start negotiating with agents (not the players themselves) before Free Agency begins. That means midnight. Tonight. Let's have an Open Thread to discuss.
As far as Chicago Bears players are concerned, one of the two biggest potential free agents has already been wrapped up, and the other is currently in discussions about a new contract.
First time All-Pro DT Henry Melton will sign his one year offer, keeping him a Bears uniform for another year, and giving his people and Bears people another year to figure out a long-term deal (LINK).
Soon-to-be 35 year old linebacker Brian Urlacher is set to become a free agent in a couple of days when the league year ends, but discussions are going on to perhaps give him another year or two in Chicago (LINK).
MORE: For a complete list of Chicago Bears free agents, CLICK HERE.
With legal tampering officially beginning at midnight tonight, we can expect some things to start leaking out shortly thereafter. Even though Free Agency doesn't begin until 4pm ET on Tuesday (which is when deals can officially be signed), the league got tired of the miraculous multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts that would be announced 30 seconds after the beginning of free agency, and opened up the window for negotiations between teams and agents to begin early.
Some of the top free agents for 2013 to keep an eye on:
CB: Aqib Talib, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie
We know that the Bears are sitting right at $4 million under the NFL salary cap, with Henry Melton's $8.45M franchise tag applying completely to 2013, but keep in mind one thing as it relates to the Bears and the unsung hero behind the contract negotiation curtain: Cliff Stein.
Stein has been with the team working in contracts and as legal counsel for over ten seasons now, and is a wizard when it comes to getting money where it needs to be. He'll be Phil Emery's best friend and greatest asset over the next two months.
My updated top 3 (realistic) FA acquisitions: Dustin Keller, Dashon Goldson, Wes Welker. Come on, Phil and Cliff, make that happen.
For more NFL Free Agency stuff as it relates to the Chicago Bears, click HERE.
There are a couple of great websites to bookmark:
As it goes, this is your Friday night Open Thread... Let the (legal) tampering begin!