A few months ago I wrote that the best way the Bears could lure free agents to Chicago would be to lock up their young talent to long-term contracts to show their commitment to winning. That includes, most notably, Tommie Harris and Devin Hester. Unforntunately I wrench with a very thick neck has been thrown into the Bears plans.
While attempting to undergo negotiations with Tommie and eventually Devin before the summer is over, Brian Urlacher has asked for a contract negotiation. You may remember that Urlacher signed a 9-year deal that at the time made him the highest paid defensive player in the league. With three very lucrative years left on his deal he feels he is due a new contract.
Last year Brian made $4 million total salary, not including a portion of the $13 million dollar signing bonus that is paid in portions over 9 years. Next season he stands to make $5 million total salary, not including signing bonus money. Ironically, the biggest pay days for his contract come in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, Brian will make $6.2 million total salary, portion of his signing bonus, and an additional roster bonus of $1.3 million. In 2011, Brian will make $7.4 million totaly salary, portion of his signing bonus, and another roster bonus of $1.6 million. Not too shabby for a guy with a bad back coming off neck surgery.
The contract with Urlacher still stands up as a very lucrative contract. In the 6 years since he signed the deal, it went from being the highest for a defensive player to being average for a player at his level. However, keep in mind it’s still average, he’s not a highly talented player forced to collect a minuscule pay check from his rookie contract.
Look at Tommie Harris, playing under a contract that paid him under $2 million total salary, not including his signing bonus portion. A player of his quality at defensive tackle is due a salary of $5 to $6 million a year. Yet Tommie hasn’t complained and has shown a professionalism that he will get paid what he deserves. Most of that confidence comes from him knowing he’s one of the best young stars at his position and will command a top contract. Either way, he has handled himself with dignity.
Devin Hester made a base salary of $360,000 and ended up with a total of about $1.2 million this past season. I can guarantee you that teams would be willing to pay Hester $360,000 a game to returns their kicks. The sensation will be due an extremely large pay raise and should be locked up long term. yet, as much noise as Hester has made on the field, he doesn’t make a peep off it. He knows that money will come his way and he is patiently waiting his turn.
When you evaluate the talent of the Bears young stars, you also must take into account their character. Harris and Hester create lots of trouble for opposing teams, and none for their own. They never get into trouble, stay out of the news, and go about their business. In the NFL, good character has become as important of a quality as a 40-yard dash time. Players can’t contribute to their team when they are sitting in a jail cell or banned from football.
If Urlacher really wants to be the team player he says he is, he needs to take a backseat to the young guns that are making his job easier. It’s no secret in the NFL that Urlacher relies on his speed and if offensive lineman come up to him, he has trouble shedding blocks. That’s why it is so important for him to have big defensive tackles in front of him to take double teams and let him roam the field. You would think that Urlacher would want to protect his star tackle as much as Lance Briggs. Urlacher was very vocal about the Bears signing Briggs, in what seemed like good team spirit. Now it seems like Urlacher needed a bench mark to show he needs a raise.
After this is over we will all go back to loving Urlacher as the face of this team. For now, I’m disappointed with his antics to get out of the remaining three years of a lucrative contract to get even more money from a team that has responsibilities to it’s young players. A real team player would want the Bears to sign Harris and Hester to long terms deals to ensure a winning franchise for years to come. Instead, the true colors of Urlacher have emerged.