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Brian Urlacher had a bad feeling about his future in Chicago over the past handful of weeks. So when the Bears stepped away from the negotiating table, he wasn’t completely surprised.
Indeed, unless that Bears were willing to bid against themselves, or Urlacher was willing to play for the Bears at a rate set by a non-existent market vs. a pay grade pegged to his range of $8 million over the past couple of seasons, his time with the team that drafted him No. 9 overall in 2000 was done. And he got that.
"I honestly can say I'm not shocked at this news at all,” Urlacher told CSNChicago.com colleague Jim Miller and FOXSports’ Alex Marvez on the latter’s Sirius XM NFL radio show Wednesday. “The way things have been going the last month, month and a half, I really saw it going this direction. I even told my agents that. So I really wasn't that shocked when this happened today."
On final approach
The end game began with a first proposal from Urlacher and agent Bill Johnson of $11 million over two years, which Urlacher acknowledged was a starting point. The Bears were not thinking in those terms for either years or cash.
The Bears did not come back with a counter offer for a couple of weeks and when they did it was for just one year, $2 million, with $1 million guaranteed. Urlacher’s rejoinder number was $3.5 million. The Bears didn’t move off their first, best and final offer.
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“It was never a negotiation,” Urlacher said. “It was an ultimatum, is what I felt like. ‘Sign this or don't play for us.’ I mean, I just don't feel like that was fair to me.”
Urlacher said he was willing to explore contract structures that included incentives. He had played 12 games last season and anything pegged to more than that number of appearances was a possibility.
"We tried that, too,” Urlacher told Miller. “We tried that and… they said, 'This is what we have. Take it or leave it.' And, obviously, I left it."
Not “their” guy
Phil Emery was a member of the Bears’ scouting staff when Urlacher was drafted in 2000. But Emery as general manager is in a different position vis’a’vis Urlacher than a scout was.
And Urlacher has played for two different Bears coaches – Dick Jauron, Lovie Smith. Both were from backgrounds on defense, where Marc Trestman was hired in part because of his background on offense.
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Urlacher had talked to Trestman but never met him.
“I love the organization,” Urlacher said. “I've always said good things about our organization and I always will. I loved playing for the Bears. I love the McCaskeys.
“But they brought in new management last year with a new GM [Emery]. I guess I wasn't one of his guys. I wasn't there very long with him, only a year. I had a tough year last year, just didn't play as well as I'd like to.
“And then they've got a new head coach. Lovie [Smith] goes 10-6 and they fire him. So just different things around there. And who even knows if… I still haven't met Marc Trestman. I would have wanted to meet him first before I did sign a deal with them."
Now that is not going to happen.