This may not have the same magnitude as when the Green Bay Packers decided not to bring back Brett Favre, but it should. Like Favre, Brian Urlacher wanted to end his career with the team he started with. Unfortunately for the Pro Bowl linebacker, he will not be playing in navy and orange next season.
The Chicago Bears organization appears to be the disloyal, dark-hearted side of the split, but is that really fair to assume after only reading a heartbroken Urlacher tweet?
According to Urlacher, the man who will undoubtedly be inducted into the Hall of Fame with 1,353 tackles, 41.5 sacks, and 21 interceptions in 13 seasons, says the Bears offered him an ultimatum. Instead of an official contract negotiation where Urlacher reportedly started at two years and $11.5 million dollars, the Bears responded with a one year, $2 million dollar take it or leave it offer. That offer is of course, far from the veteran minimum, so why is Urlacher publicly upset in a salary cap dominated business?
On ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show this past Thursday morning, Urlacher wanted it to be known that he understands $2 million dollars is a lot of money. He wanted everyone to know that after his years of service and the intense rehab he went through to play last season, that the offer still undervalued his worth to the team.
But obviously the Bears didn’t want to offer up $4 or $5 million dollars for an aging linebacker who’s production fell off last season. Especially after giving Urlacher a heavy five-year extension worth $40.6 million dollars and a $6 million dollar signing bonus back in 2008. This was after Urlacher had undergone neck surgery, so credit the Bears for keeping their legend happy even though they had a right to worry about his future. This went down as intense negotiation, that Urlacher won outright because of the Bears loyalty.
This past season, Urlacher’s final season in Chicago, he made over $7 million dollars for 68 tackles, 0 sacks, and 1 interception. Urlacher feels his offseason full of rehab is to blame, but he’s only getting older and can the Bears expect those stats to increase much in 2013? The answer is no, and that was shown by low balling Urlacher, who knew a pay cut was coming but not as large as the one offered.
Regardless, Urlacher has received over $100 million dollars from the Bears organization throughout his career. Money is far from an issue for him and his family, so his displeasure is solely out of pride. Whatever amount of money he receives from his next team won’t make or break his future economically, but in his mind and heart he’ll feel appreciated.
Bears fans and the organization should have no problem with that, just as Urlacher shouldn’t be so public about his departure. He is trying to take a few jabs at the Bears and put the stain on their shirt. But in fact, this is just a mutual break up. A mutual break up that should be a lot more peaceful than it is right now.
If Urlacher truly wanted to stay a Bear for life, he should’ve shown it by accepting the offer. He should’ve understood that in a cap driven league, the Bears didn’t find his service right now to be worth more than $2 million dollars.
But instead, Urlacher will go elsewhere for one, maybe two more seasons, and make only a few extra million dollars, which won’t heal the pain he will feel when he officially leaves Chicago.
Urlacher put a price on his love for his city, his team, and more importantly his fans.
It’s hard to back up a player who used a low million dollar number at the end of his rich, illustrious career to feel loved. The amount of love and respect he would’ve gotten in his final season after taking a huge pay cut would have be worth more than the extra dollars he will receive elsewhere. Urlacher may already know that, which explains him trying to take the attention off of himself.
Urlacher can talk about how much he will miss the city, the fans, and his teammates while suggesting the Bears ran him out of town. But in the end, it will be Urlacher who will realize his departure made a lot of his fans question his motives and love for the city of Chicago.