Brian Urlacher put the ball squarely in the court of the Chicago Bears front office on Tuesday when he offered to take a “hometown discount” to return the Bears next season. Some might say that he hurt his leverage but I think this is exactly what the veteran linebacker wanted.
Part of being a good middle linebacker is to diagnose the play quickly and then react accordingly. That’s what the savvy veteran did when he appeared on the Waddle and Silvy Show and stated that he wants to return for his 14th season “for sure” and put the exclamation time with this gem:
“Chicago is my home. … Whether I play for the Bears or not, that’s my home,” Urlacher said Tuesday on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN Chicago 1000. “I want to be there and hopefully we can work something out, but if not I’ll go somewhere else.”
Urlacher knows his place in the world. He’s an aging superstar, coming off an injury plagued year where the most ardent supporters and skeptics alike could see he’s lost a step.
“When you look at my age, it’s going to be hard to not give them a discount,” Urlacher said. “I’m not going to make what I was making in the past, how about that? Does that make sense? That’s fair.”
His coach has been fired, taking with him the defensive scheme that helped harness his unique combination of size and speed and put them into perennial Pro Bowl performer. Urlacher knows that he’s become an expendable piece to the new-look Bears. They’ve hitched their wagon to Marc Trestman and the offense. His face will no longer be that of the franchise.
#54 also knows that he’s more valuable to the Bears than anywhere else. From a PR perspective, the Bears are already in a tenuous spot. They’ve hired an outside the box head coach out of the Canadian Football while getting rid of a 10-win coach who was here for nearly a decade. Change isn’t easy on teams and it’s especially not easy for fans.
If the Bears fall short of the playoffs again, the seat will start to get warm for Phil Emery. Could re-signing the popular Urlacher buy some equity with the fan base? Would Urlacher getting a swan song season help soften the blow of the major transition the Bears are undertaking? Yes and yes.
Some might argue that you pull the band aid off in one fell swoop. Rip it off and make it a clean break from the aging star. Trestman and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker get to be the hatchet men as the big wigs at Halas Hall insulate themselves from the certain groans from Bears nation.
I am fully aware that this is a business and the Bears should do what’s best for the team. I won’t shed any tears for Urlacher if the Bears are hoisting the Lombardi Trophy next season. But I think Urlacher has earned the right to play his way out of his job. Was he a step slow last season? Absolutely. Would a full offseason on a healthy knee benefit Urlacher and help him regain his previous form? Possibly.
The Bears front office cannot put all their eggs in the Urlacher basket; they need a succession plan for the heart of their defense, but bringing him back at a respectable salary would make sense for them and for Urlacher. If he’s offering a discount, give him the old Aaron Rodgers “discount double check” and make him an offer he can’t refuse.
What do you think? Should the Bears bring Urlacher back? If the Bears don’t at least make an offer, would you be upset? Do you think #54 has anything left in the tank?