When the Bears arrived at training camp before the season, one of the biggest questions was whether or not this was the last season Brian Urlacher would be in a Bears uniform. Both Urlacher and general manager Phil Emery refused to talk about the situation and vowed to leave all discussions of a contract until that upcoming offseason.
That upcoming offseason is now upon us and the question is as relevant as ever: will Brian Urlacher be back next season with the Bears or have we seen his days in Chicago come to an end.
The answer is still murky, but given how things have gone recently, and the foreshadowing we got back in late July/early August, it’s not looking good. Bears kicker Robbie Gould went on record in training camp in saying it would be a big risk to roll the dice and allow Urlacher to test free agent waters.
Urlacher himself had some very cryptic words around this time too, saying whatever happens, happens.
“I’ll be a free agent when the season is over and whatever happens, happens.” Urlacher said back in July. “From everything that Ted Phillips said, I’ll be a free agent when the season is over. It’s a business. That’s the risk you take. If you let a player get to free agency, then they can leave. That’s their (decision). They can leave if they want to. That’s how it goes.”
With both Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli both gone, and a new regime firmly in place, the incentive for Urlacher to stick around in Chicago is virtually non-existent. If he stays, he’ll likely remain a starter, but he’ll have to learn a new defense and could eventually be pushed out of a starting role. If he’s allowed to leave, he’ll propbably get more money than he would by staying in Chicago, and he’ll be much more appreciated wherever he goes.
That’s not to say the Bears don’t value Urlacher, he’s a modern Bears legend in a long line of legends. But he also wouldn’t be the first former franchise player to be pushed out if he over stays his welcome. No one ever thought Brett Favre and the Packers would divorce the way they did and even if that was foreseeable, the way Peyton Manning left Indianapolis blind sided everyone.
So there’s really two ways this can end: one being Urlacher stays and gets pushed out or he leaves and signs in a place like Minnesota, New England or Denver. If the Bears thought the drama within the organization would end once the Lovie Smith era was erased from the city and a new head coach was hired, they’ve got another thing coming.