Brian Urlacher has been in the NFL for 12 years and he has never been a free agent. As Brian Urlacher enters the final season of his contract he hasn’t signed an extension with the only team he’s known, Chicago.
“I think (team president) Ted Phillips said when they had the owners meeting they’re gonna wait until the season is over; see what happens, how I play (before addressing the contract situation),” Urlacher said Friday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000. “It’s kind of exciting. I’ve never been a free agent. So if I can get to free agency we’ll see what happens. I no doubt want to finish my career here. There’s no doubt about that. But you bring in free agency and all that you just never know what’s gonna happen.”
The downside, Urlacher is 34 years old. You can’t hold it against the Bears to wait and see what kind of season he has and if he is on the beginning of an inevitable downward slope. In 2012 he’ll earn a base salary of $7.5 million and count for $9.7 million against the cap. Part of the Bears’ hesitance is that Urlacher is coming off a knee injury in the final game of the 2011 season. Urlacher suffered damage to the medial collateral and posterior collateral ligaments in his right knee and has only participated sparingly in the team’s OTA workouts so far. But Brian Urlacher is adamant he’ll be ready to go by the time the Bears kick off training camp in July for what will be his 13th season.
There might be a limited market for Urlacher’s services given his age going into next season. The lack of competition might allow the Bears to feel out what fair market value for him is and offer him a contract that’s competitive instead of overpaying him now. Urlacher, while expressing his interest in free agency and testing the waters repeated his desire to finish his career in Chicago.
“The Bears know I want to be here. I’ve told them that. I’ve said it publicly, and that’s not gonna change,” he said. “Whatever happens during the season or after the season, we’ll address it then. But they know I want to be here, and I think they want me here.”
While Urlacher remains hopeful that the Bears and himself will work out a deal, he said he was aware of the business side of the NFL and cited the recent departure of former teammate Olin Kreutz who was a solid player for the Bears, going to 6 Pro Bowls. Kreutz had turned down lucrative deals to stay in Chicago before, but the Bears offered him a contract that he and his team felt wasn’t a fair deal given his worth to the Bears.
“I understand the business side of where they’re coming from. We have a lot of young good players here that need to get paid as well. So I understand how that goes,” Urlacher said. “But like I said, at the same time I’ve never been a free agent. So you also bring that into play. (Longtime franchise fixture) Olin (Kreutz) got to free agency and it was a different offseason because we couldn’t be in the facility. We couldn’t talk. So it’s a little different now than his situation. But we’ll just see what happens.”
One thing is for sure, it’d be hard to picture Urlacher in a different uniform.