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Guess Who's Back?

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 3, 2008 4:00PM

2008_03_sports_briggs.jpgChicagoist hopes that IDOT has placed their orders for reinforced guard rails and extra sign posts because Lance Briggs will be remaining with the Bears after signing a 6-year, $36 million deal over the weekend.

Briggs' contract ends a year-long saga for the All Pro linebacker that included a rejected $33 million offer, the Bears applying their "franchise" tag to Briggs, which limited his free agency prospects, and his threats to hold out for the entire 2007 season because he was unhappy with the treatment from the Bears. He ended up signing the one-year contract stipulated by the terms of the "franchise" tag league rules, had a good season in '07 and looked ready to cash in elsewhere.

But after many interested teams looked toward more cost-effective options at linebacker, and the Bears increased their offer from previous ones, Briggs decided staying in Chicago was best.

Briggs's new deal is a big relief to Bears fans, who feared having a big hole in the defense to fill -- especially with the questionable health of Brian Urlacher. While the Bears' middle linebacker insists he'll be 100 percent come training camp, the combination of injuries he's suffered as well as his age mean his best days could be behind him.

While the Bears defense was able to keep its biggest free agent in the fold, the offense wasn't so lucky. Bernard Berrian, their top wide receiver, signed with the rival Minnesota Vikings on Saturday. Their offer was double what the Bears offered the wideout.

So why didn't the Bears use the franchise tag on Berrian this year, just as they did last year on Briggs? Sure, there was some ugliness between the two parties but the Bears ultimately kept their star. By losing their top deep threat without a fight, the Bears' passing game will be worse in 2008 than it was last season -- if that's possible. Newly signed quarterbacks Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton will be competing for the starting QB position. But to whom will they be trying to throw the ball? Jerry Angelo certainly has his work cut out for him in coming weeks.

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh