Do Bears, Urlacher want to risk test of free agency?

Do Bears, Urlacher want to risk test of free agency?
January 29, 2013, 11:15 pm
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From his appearance Tuesday on WMVP-AM, the assumption is that Brian Urlacher’s first choice of team in 2013 is the one for which he has played his entire career: the Chicago Bears.

The franchise middle linebacker said that a drop from his previous pay grade would be “fair,” meaning he will not be offended if the Bears do not put together an offer down from his $7.5 million of his injury plagued 2012.

But how will that deal ultimately come together? Because Urlacher has the option of exploring free agency when it opens (officially) in mid March. And either the player or the Bears may be surprised one way or the other by what the market says Urlacher is worth.

If the league doesn’t come sniffing, the Bears won’t go bidding against themselves. If some team (Green Bay? Detroit? Minnesota?) put together a stunner, then the Bears have a dilemma.

ProFootballTalk.com’s Mike Florio checked in on Tuesday’s “Chicago Tribune Live” and predicted that Urlacher remains a Bear.

“Let’s be realistic about it,” Mike said. “Even though the defense is changing, Brian Urlacher means more to that organization than he does to any other team. He’s worth more to the Bears than he would be to another team.

“I think what the Bears do with him is what the Baltimore Ravens did with Ray Lewis four years ago. You let him go to the market and see what’s out there or, more important, what’s not out there. Then after he realizes there isn’t huge money from some other team, then Brian Urlacher comes back to Chicago, does a deal, doesn’t feel like he’s lowballed because he’s had the chance to go out and see what money is on the table.”

Here’s a problem for the Bears, however: Lewis went into the market as a 13-year veteran, less a player than in his prime but a centerpiece in the Baltimore defense. Urlacher is a 13-year veteran, etc. etc.

Several teams made overtures for Lewis. The Ravens went to a seven-year deal reportedly worth as much as $44 million, with $15 million guaranteed.

No one sees the Bears putting that kind of paper in front of Urlacher. But assuming GM Phil Emery, coach Marc Trestman and the new staff evaluate Urlacher as the best option in the middle, the interests of all may be served by avoiding Mike’s go-to-market scenario.