It is way too early to fear the worst but Chicago Bears fans have a long history of watching franchise titans leave for other teams. Will Brian Urlacher do the same in free agency or worse will he get traded?
Jay Cutler and Matt Forte deals could force Urlacher to bargain
The last thing any fan in the Windy City wants if for the heart and soul of the Bears defense to leave. At 34 Brian Urlacher has reached eight Pro Bowls and sits in Hall of Fame conversations everywhere. While not old by most standards, the middle linebacker plays at a spot in football known for its physical punishment. He has reached an age where even the toughest players start to lose their edge. Some already think he's lost a step. True or not, Urlacher is still better than most at what he does and deserves a new contract to stay in Chicago. The problem isn't if the Bears want to keep him. They'd love nothing better. The real issue is whether they can free up enough money to meet his demands. Two other players will make that difficult in Jay Cutler and Matt Forte. The two key pieces of the Chicago Bears offense are both younger than Urlacher by at least five years. They represent the future and must take priority. The Bears defensive captain likely knows this, which could explain why he told reporters he was looking forward to testing free agency next year when his contract expires. Honest statement or subtle message? It's impossible to know. A bigger question is whether the Chicago front office will do the unthinkable and trade him before he ever reaches free agency.
Interest likes of Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins depends on 2012
No teams have shown direct interest in Urlacher yet but that will change as the season begins and no deal gets reached. Things would become even more interesting if the veteran linebacker has another good year that ends with a Pro Bowl. That would chalk up as number nine and make Urlacher a worth trade option despite his age. No shortage of teams could use his leadership and skill too. Teams like the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins are clear possible spots. Both have struggled in recent years and now play in divisions loaded with good to great quarterbacks. For Miami they think the key is in their pass rush but that's only part of the problem. Urlacher has kept the Chicago defense respected not from good pass rush but from smart play and solid tackling. When an MVP like Aaron Rodgers has respect for the man, there's a reason. Any team would gladly have him at the right price. The Bears know they must get younger on defense, and their best chance may rest with sacrificing their leader.
Brian Urlacher still runs the Chicago Bears even though Jay Cutler and Matt Forte hold the future. If things go well the veteran middle linebacker will retire in navy blue as he should. Then again NFL business comes first and should teams like the Oakland Raiders and Miami Dolphins make a high offer, refusing won't come easy.