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In thinking about the Chicago Bears, I originally thought of five players for this presentation: Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers. Of the five, only Forte is a free agent coming into the 2012 season, and we can only assume that the Bears and Forte will work some kind of a deal out, whether it is long-term variety or a franchise tag deal.
Back in 2010, Peppers signed a six-year, $84-million contract. As soon as he signed that deal, he was placing tremendous pressure on himself to produce in Chicago and be a difference maker.
All Briggs does is keep going to Pro Bowls, playing solid football year-in and year-out. He is not happy with his contract, and he asked the Bears to work out a new deal for him. The fact that he is calling attention to himself places some internal and external pressure on him in 2012.
Urlacher wound up getting hurt toward the end of the 2011 season. He will be playing in the final year of his contract, as he becomes a free agent in 2013. Assuming that he wants to continue his career and that he would like to retire as a member of the Bears, Urlacher will have pressure to show that he is healthy again and has enough football left in him to warrant another contract extension.
From the injury he suffered in the NFC Championship game in 2010 to the season-ending injury he suffered in 2011, Cutler hasn't been able to stay healthy for the entire year. Some of that has to do with the Bears offensive line woes and the incredible pounding that Cutler is asked to face each year. Cutler has also been asked to direct an offense that offers Forte and little else, so there is constantly pressure from trying to produce as well as trying to avoid the pass rush.
Forte has been looking for a big raise and prefers to have a contract longer than one year, but we won't know how all of that shakes out for another month or so. Since Forte was the main weapon on the Bears offense in 2011, he will carry tremendous pressure to produce once again—not just to keep the Bears in games, but to justify whatever his new deal is.
As for my pick, I select Brian Urlacher. He is basically the face of the Bears organization, and for however many years he has left, he would like to have a Super Bowl ring of his own.