If you are even a little conflicted about the way the Brian Urlacher drama played out, here’s why:
Some years back on the Bears beat, I had occasion to chronicle the unfortunate exit of safety Shaun Gayle from the team, a situation where he had a solid basis for wanting X dollars from the Bears, and the Bears had equally solid reasons for only offering Y dollars. An excerpt from The Joys of Yiddish provided the perfect take on the situation, and it applies again now to Urlacher and the Bears:
Two men once were unable to resolve a disagreement and took it before the rabbi of Chelm, who agreed to hear each man privately in his chambers. The rabbi listened to the first man plead his side and declared, “You are right.” The man went away satisfied.
The second man came into the rabbi’s room and explained why he felt as he did. The rabbi listened, nodded, and said, “You are right.” The man went away satisfied.
The rabbi’s wife was sitting nearby and spoke after the second man had gone. “You have said the first man was right, and the second man was right. This cannot be.”
The rabbi listened to her, nodded, and said, “And you also are right.”
If you believe Urlacher was right in his contract stance with the Bears, you are right. If you believe the Bears were right in what they offered and stood by, you are right.
And if you think, no way that can be, you also are right.
Urlacher told CSNChicago.com colleague and former Bears quarterback Jim Miller and FOXSports’ Alex Marvez on Sirius XM radio that he was willing to take less than half of the $8 million he was paid in 2012 and approaching one-third of the $9 million he received for 2011.
He played increasingly better through 2012 after no training camp or preseason because of lingering effects from a season-ending knee injury in 2011. GM Phil Emery remarked that by the time of his season-ending hamstring injury in game 12, Urlacher was playing at a very solid level.
[MORE: Urlacher exit: Could it really have ended any other way?]
Urlacher said he wanted about $3.5 million for the season. Given his value to the defense and the fact that even missing four games he was still fourth on the team with tackles. Coach Marc Trestman said Urlacher was a player who could help the Bears win.
As far as what he wanted, he was right.
The Bears were willing to pony up just $2 million for one year. They weren’t willing to sweeten that, putting what they considered their best offer on the table. At some point a best offer becomes a “final” offer, or an “ultimatum,” as Urlacher termed it. All negotiations will eventually reach that point, however.
The Bears paid Urlacher $17 million over the past two seasons. The Baltimore Ravens gave Ray Lewis a bit more than half that in salary ($4.5 million in 2011, $4.95 million in 2012). The Bears also gave Urlacher that $8 million in 2012 as part of a contract extension given by Jerry Angelo when Urlacher still had several years remaining on his contract.
With Urlacher, the Bears’ defense allowed an average of 320 yards and 16.5 points through game 12. Seattle put 459 yards and two embarrassingly long drives to win that game in overtime. Without Urlacher, the Bears’ defense allowed 303 yards and 16.2 points per game.
With him the defense was very good. Without him the defense was very good.
As far as what the Bears wanted to pay Urlacher for one more Chicago season, they were right.
And if you think that can’t be, you also are right.