While the Bears made one huge decision on the defensive side of the ball Friday evening by placing the franchise tag on defensive tackle Henry Melton, longtime captain of the defense appears to have solidified his decision to return - somewhere - for a 14th NFL season.
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Brian Urlacher, who'll turn 35 in May, tweeted out Sunday afternoon: "Can't wait for the season to start - BU #gettingitdone" with an accompanying advertisement and picture of him doing an apparent workout in sand.
To this point, GM Phil Emery and the new Bears coaching staff have said they have yet to make a determination about Urlacher's future with the team, but their conversations have indicated Urlacher wants to return to the Bears. He's a free agent who made $7.5 million last season, when he was hampered at the start by an off-season and training camp full of knee problems that carried over from the 2011 season finale. By the time he suffered a season-ending hamstring injury in the Week 13 game against Seattle, he was leading the team in tackles with 88. That number wound up fourth on the club, and Urlacher still finished second on the season with seven tackles for loss.
If Urlacher returns, it'd probably have to be for somewhere in the neighborhood of half his salary from a year ago, and he figures to be of most value to the Bears on the open market. One possibility for another destination is Dallas, where Monte Kiffin (and ex-Bears Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli) are implemented the 4-3 so-called "Tampa 2" system Urlacher's worked in the past nine seasons. The Cowboys have already had a number of their players restructure contracts in order to create more room under the salary cap for the March 12th start of free agency.
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The Bears still need a handful of their veterans to do the same in order to make room in their own salary cap, which is just about filled up following the Melton move (accounting for $8.45 million) and the money that must be allocated for draft picks. Two of the prime candidates for restructuring are veterans who've played with Urlacher for many years - Charles Tillman and Julius Peppers.
So any thoughts of retirement now seem to be out of the equation for Urlacher, and we're on to the next questions: Do the Bears want him? At what price do they want him? Is that price worth it to Urlacher retiring as a Bear? Has an "understanding" between the two parties been made for that to happen? And if the two sides are ready to head their separate ways, which uniform will Urlacher be wearing next season, and who'll be playing linebacker alongside Lance Briggs?