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Brian Urlacher watches the Chicago Bears take on the Arizona Cardinals
Brian Urlacher: Cut
After injuring his knee in the final game of the 2011 season, Urlacher returned in 2012 as a different player. The ability to move sideline to sideline had diminished and he appear a step or two slower than he had in the past. As weeks progressed he began to improve but a hamstring injury suffered against the Seattle Seahawks essentially ended his season. His contract his up but he will be 35 when next season begins. Many are not ready for the day to come, but 2013 may be the first year since 2000 that number 54 isn't starting for the Bears on opening day.
Lance Briggs: Keep
Often overshadowed by Urlacher, Briggs has continued to become one of the best 4-3 outside linebackers in football. He finished the season with 101 tackles, two forced fumbles, and two interceptions that he returned for touchdowns. He has a nose for the football and is one of the best tacklers in the league. As of late he has been one of the best players on this defense and if Urlacher is gone, he will have his chance to become the face of this defense.
Nick Roach: Keep
Typically a strongside linebacker, Roach was thrust in at middle linebacker following Urlacher's injury and performed well. He finished with 66 tackles and has improved in pass coverage. If Urlacher is gone, he will be strongly considered to replace him in the middle or he could return to his spot on the strong side.
Blake Costanzo: Keep
Brought in as a special teams ace, Costanzo found himself in the starting lineup at strongside linebacker after Roach's move to the middle and his replacement, Geno Hayes, getting injured. Costanzo played better than expected, but will likely be kept on for his special teams abilities.
Dom DeCicco: Keep
Cut during training camp because of an injury, DeCicco was brought back in early December and played mostly on special teams. A solid contributor in 2011 on special teams, he will likely again get the opportunity to play a role doing that and could fight for a backup linebacker spot.
Jerry Franklin: Cut
Plucked from the Dallas Cowboys practice squad on November 14th, Franklin was brought in for depth at linebacker and on special teams. He played in the final three games and came away with two tackles. Likely would only be back to compete for a spot on special teams.
Geno Hayes: Cut
Signed as depth for both the strongside and weakside linebacker positions, Hayes was placed in the starting lineup at strongside linebacker after the injury to Urlacher forced Roach to the inside. He struggled as a starter and was often out of position, particularly on a large run by Adrian Peterson on December 9th. Having signed a one-year deal prior to this season, he likely will not return.
J.T. Thomas: Keep
A solid contributor on special teams, Thomas played in a all 16 games this season, finishing with five tackles and a forced fumble. He played well in training camp and could be a dark horse candidate to move to the strongside linebacker position if Roach is named middle linebacker.