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It’s always great talking football with our CSN contributor Matt Bowen, who was a sixth-round pick of the Rams in the same 2000 draft in which Brian Urlacher was selected ninth overall. He weighed in with us on the Bears deciding to part ways with their all-time leading tackler after offering a one-year, $2 million take-it-or-leave-it deal. That was just hours after Marc Trestman expressed interest in bringing the free agent back as a two-down player.
[RELATED: Bears and Brian Urlacher part ways]
“The biggest misconception we all have [during free agency] is, we look at the player, and not the future. Brian’s going to Canton. He’s a hall of famer. There’s not going to be another middle linebacker like him, maybe forever, when you talk about size and athletic ability," Bowen said. "But in free agency, you’re always paying for the future, not that past production. This is where that business aspect comes into play. What kind of player will they have next year? Are they going to have a player that’s worth $5 million, or a player worth what they wanted to offer? I think they finally just came to the conclusion that they’re not going to be able to meet on the money, this is the decision we’re going to make as a franchise and let him walk.”
Bowen believes just because the team is up against the salary cap and presented a bare-bones deal, it doesn’t mean the offer would’ve been better with more cap space.
“You have to understand there’s a new coach, a new defensive coordinator and things change when there’s a coaching change. I went through it in Washington when Steve Spurrier left and Joe Gibbs came in. We lost a lot of guys we thought could still play," he said. "But coaches come in, they make some hard, tough decisions working with the front office. I always said if the cap’s an issue, they can find a way to work around it. That’s why they pay those accountants big money, you find ways to make cap room. You cut some guys, you find guys you can restructure. I think this was purely a business decision, saying `This is the number we think you’re worth, Brian.’ Brian didn’t accept that number and they were prepared to move on.”
[RELATED: Contract negotiations doomed from the start?]
So what will the market bear for the former Bear?
“I think it’s going to be limited, just because of his age and because he was beat-up last season,” Bowen said. “He ended the season with a hamstring injury and people are going to question his knees. He’s going to have to go through a lot of physicals when he visits teams. I do expect there to be interest, not just the type of interest you see in a guy in his prime -- 26, 27, 28 years old. He’s going to have to wait for the market to thin out a bit, then see if he catch on somewhere.”
As we wrote a couple of days ago, more than week into free agency, there’s still plenty of experienced help out there as the Bears try to fill the vacancies at the Mike and Sam linebacker spots.
“You’re looking at guy like [ex-Dolphin and Cardinal] Karlos Dansby if you’re looking for a name. You can get these guys at bargain prices right now with the way of the new collective bargaining agreement. The top-tier guys get all the money, and the rest of the veterans are looking at one-, two-year deals. Either that, or through the draft, or maybe both," Bowen said. "Maybe you look at a guy at No. 20 and look at a guy like Alec Ogletree from Georgia. Or you wait until the second round or trade down and gain an extra pick. There are a lot of avenues they can go. The main thing is, the Bears are going to get younger and faster at the position. What they lose with Brian is the experience and leadership that’ll be hard to replicate next season.”