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Urlacher And The Bears Part Ways

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 21, 2013 3:20PM

After 13 illustrious years with the Bears, linebacker Brian Urlacher will apparently be seeking a new team in 2013. The team announced that the organization and the linebacker were going their separate ways on Wednesday afternoon, after Urlacher rejected a one year, $2 million contract offer. His camp had proposed an $11.5 million, two-year deal at the combine a couple weeks ago, but he was apparently ready to accept something in the range of $3 to 4 million.

The Bears made the decision sound mutual, but Urlacher appeared to disagree. He tweeted yesterday, "It was not a negotiation it was an ultimatum." Urlacher elaborated to the Tribune, "It wasn't even an offer, it was an ultimatum. I feel like I'm a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face." So much for that whole "Urlacher won't be slighted" promise made by GM Phil Emery just weeks ago.

With Urlacher set to become a free agent, the team's ownership, management and coaching staff had all made indications publicly that they wanted the face of the franchise to return. Urlacher was public in his desire to return, too.

Drafted ninth overall in the 2000 draft, Urlacher has been the heart and soul of the Bears' defense pretty much since his arrival in Chicago. An eight-time Pro-Bowler, Urlacher followed in the footsteps of great Bears middle linebackers like Bill George, Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary. He'll someday join them in Canton. In his thirteen years, Urlacher recorded 1037 solo tackles, 41.5 sacks, and 22 interceptions, while forcing 12 fumbles and recovering 16. Even as age and injury reduced his production on the field, Urlacher remained the undisputed leader of the Bears. Many suspect that may be harder to replace than his recent on-field play.

Although that will need to be addressed, too. Free agent linebacker Nick Roach signed with the Oakland Raiders, meaning the Bears have now lost two of their three starting linebackers from a year ago. And who will line up along side Lance Briggs in the middle of the Bears defense now? Will Trestman look to guys like Dom DeCicco and Blake Costanzo? Will they reconsider shifting last year's top draft pick Shea McClellin back to his college position? Or the Bears may be forced to spend their top draft pick on somebody like Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o.

There have been lots of changes to the Bears since they finished their 10-6 2012 season. Other than Trestman's replacement of Lovie Smith, the loss of Urlacher will be the most visible difference. If there's a noticeable slide-back by the team or defense, many are going to second guess the decision to part ways with Urlacher, especially if he continues to perform for some other team.