A deal getting done to retain franchise middle linebacker Brian Urlacher is not a foregone conclusion. But at a time when veterans like Charles Woodson in Green Bay and Bart Scott in New York are being released, the Bears do not appear ready to end the Chicago career of Urlacher just yet.
Indeed, GM Phil Emery said on Thursday that the team will talk with Urlacher and his agent about the contract situation of the 13-year veteran.
“The sense of urgency is just by the calendar,” said Emery. With unrestricted free agency starting March 12, “we’re going to sit down with his agents and talk through and eventually talk to Brian through it and see where we all come out with this.”
That does not ensure that that Urlacher will be in his customary spot for another season. The Bears paid Urlacher $7.5 million last season and their starting point this time will be considerably less than that for a veteran who began the season with one leg injury (knee) and ended it with another (hamstring).
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But the situation is delicate, in part because Urlacher is still arguably the second-best linebacker on the roster, is perhaps the ideal transition bridge for a new coaching staff wanting to retain the general defensive scheme, and is highly regarded inside and outside the organization.
“If people are feeling he is slighted, it certainly isn’t coming from me because I have great respect for Brian first as a player,” Emery said. “Where this ends up, we’ll work through with Brian. That will be a private matter. When we come to a resolution, we’ll let you know.
“Just know he’ll never be slighted. I have too much respect for him. I was here when he was drafted. I do have a connection that way. I was in those discussions when we took Brian Urlacher. I have tremendous respect for Brian Urlacher and he will never be slighted as a Bear, whether he’s here for an extended number of years or whether this is the end of his career as a player for the Bears. He will always be respected.”