Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 55 Days with Lance Briggs

Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
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Chicago Bears
Chicago Bears / Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Lance Briggs becomes elite off-ball Linebacker with Chicago Bears

The Bears finished the year prior with four wins, but the addition of Briggs, as well as fellow draftee Charles Tillman, helped the team reach a seven-win total in 2003. Briggs joined a defense that already included the likes of Alex Brown, Bryan Robinson, and Mike Brown, but perhaps no teammate is more important than Brian Urlacher. Alongside Urlacher, Briggs was a part of the best young linebacker duo in the NFL, and the Wildcat made his professional presence felt as early as his first season.

As a rookie, Briggs made starts in 13 of the team's games where he 78 total tackles, five of which were for a loss, and a forty-five-yard touchdown on his lone interception of the year. As a sophomore, Briggs had an even better season, logging over 120 total tackles and a 38-yard pick-six in 16 games.

As a Bear, this type of production would become the norm for Briggs moving forward, as even by his third season, he had turned into a Pro Bowler and an All-Pro player. In 2004, he even finished the season ranked sixth in the Defensive Player of the Year voting, logging two sacks, two interceptions, and 109 total tackles.

By 2006, Briggs had become a key part of one of the league's premier defenses, and the team was able to reach the Super Bowl, largely on the backs of the defensive players. The team would go on to lose the game, but Briggs' second straight Pro Bowl season was a large factor in how they got that far in the first place. Following the team's postseason run, Briggs was a free agent, and would eventually sign the franchise tag before 2007.

The contract negotiations during the summer went on for an extended period, with Briggs even requesting a trade at one point, but the team and linebacker were eventually able to agree to a new six-year contract for the All-Pro player. Over this contract, Briggs made five more Pro Bowls, as well as a second team All-Pro nod. The Bears as a unit were not able to replicate their regular season success from the 2006 season, but Briggs helped anchor one of the league's top defenses and solidified his tandem with Brian Urlacher as perhaps one of the best in NFL history.

In 2012, Briggs missed his first Pro Bowl in eight seasons despite finishing the season with 103 tackles and two interceptions. The season would also mark Briggs' final as a full-time healthy starter, and after playing in 16 games, he managed only 17 total games from 2013 to 2014. d