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Bears Thu Mar 21 2013

Bears Smartly Part Ways With Urlacher

Thumbnail image for GB bears icon.pngBrian Urlacher played as a combo safety/linebacker in college at the University of New Mexico. But when he was entering the draft back in 2000, the Bears saw him as a game changing middle linebacker.

And that he was. Urlacher was voted the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005, made eight Pro Bowl teams and five All-Pro squads during his 13 seasons in Chicago. That's a fantastic resume if you're angling for a bust in Canton. If you're looking for a job in the salary capped NFL though, all a team cares about is what you're going to do, instead of what you've already done.

Coming off a knee injury in the final game two years ago that he never fully recovered from, along with a hamstring injury that ended his 2012 campaign four games early, new head coach Marc Trestman said yesterday that Urlacher could be a first and second down player for the Bears. A far cry for the best linebacker of his generation not named Ray Lewis.

Along with that nugget of sound, we also learned the cash-strapped Bears offer to Urlacher was a one-year, $2 million deal with only half of it guaranteed (and the other half most likely incentivized by games played). Urlacher called it a "slap in the face" and a "low-ball offer."

He may have a point, but good football franchises simply don't care anymore. A one week PR battle is worth not overpaying someone past their prime. That's why Peyton Manning is playing in Denver now, and Ed Reed agreed to a deal in Houston. Both are Hall of Famers, and both are now playing for new teams after a decade of service because the franchises that drafted them needed to move on to younger, less expensive options to remain competitive.

For the Bears, they need to get younger on defense too, and the other veteran players they have right now are all better players than Urlacher at this point. Julius Peppers, Charles Tillman, and Lance Briggs, though not as good when comparing careers, are all more talented than Urlacher now -- mainly because of health.

Even though his performance has been sub-Urlacher standard the past couple seasons, his presence will be missed in the Bears locker room. Countless current and former Bears regard him as the best teammate you can have in the NFL. He defended them relentlessly, took them under his wing, helped make them better players and people, and more often than not, covered up their sins on the field with his own otherworldly skill set.

Father time can be hard on people -- especially football players. The majority of Bears fans see that the All Pro isn't that anymore. His diminished ability is apparent to everyone that watches, and there won't be many hard feelings if/when Urlacher signs elsewhere. It's not personal. It's strictly business.

Urlacher called it a lowball offer. I say it's more than fair for a well-past-his-prime 34-year old with no change of direction and poor run defense. If he doesn't want to face reality, that's fine. Thanks for all the great years, my man. Door's on your left.

 
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