Brian Urlacher Rumors: Latest on Cowboys, Vikings and More for Free-Agent LB

Tyler ConwayFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2013

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30: Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears watches the action during the game against the  Detroit Lions at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Bears defeted the Lions 26-24.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

For the first time in 13 seasons, free-agent linebacker Brian Urlacher may not be wearing a Chicago Bears uniform when he sets foot on an NFL gridiron.

The eight-time Pro Bowler is currently on the free-agent market, where the aging middle linebacker walks into an assemblage that almost always frowns on paying tricenarians—especially at semi-cheap positions like middle linebacker. Last season even saw younger players like Stephen Tulloch and Barrett Ruud both languish on the market before inking underwhelming deals.

Of course, Tulloch and Ruud are not future Hall of Famers like Urlacher, nor do they have such a rich history with a single franchise. Most have expected Urlacher to ultimately re-sign with the Bears for that reason. But as we continue working our way through the free agency period, that possibility is looking lesser and lesser by the day.

Where else could Urlacher go? Here is a complete breakdown of all the latest news on Urlacher and his future destination.


Bears Don’t Have Urlacher High on Their List of Priorities?

Walking into the offseason, the Bears were one of many flush with needs and short on cash.

More than anything, it was clear Chicago needed an offensive tackle and solid tight end to appease Jay Cutler. Almost instantly, they got both. The team signed tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett to multi-year deals, locking up two key positions right away.

But with that, Chicago also put itself on the edge of the salary cap. And with that, the question changed from “when” Urlacher would return to the only professional home he’s known but “if.” Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver noted that there was no “prevailing sense of urgency” from the Bears to find an amenable agreement.

Even more disconcerting is that the team hasn’t even responded to Urlacher’s request for a two-year deal, per the Chicago Tribune’s Vaughn McClure.

Overall, it’s a strange radio silence that makes Chicago look unbecoming. It’s highly likely that the Bears have looked over their finances and know exactly how much they can give Urlacher and over what time frame, so why not keep the lines of communication wide open? Even general manager Phil Emery has been noticeably non-committal when talking to the media.

"That is an ongoing process, and we'll keep working through that process," Emery said (via the Bears’ official website). "As I said at the Combine [Feb. 21], once we work through that, everybody will know that decision."

Keeping silent and holding your cards tight stinks of New England Patriotism—and not in the good way.

Urlacher is a player who has meant a great deal to the franchise and will certainly see his number hanging from Soldier Field someday. By not even responding with a counter-offer, Chicago risks alienating Urlacher and forcing him to sign elsewhere. If that’s what the Bears want, then fine—but they should at least let Urlacher know what he’s working with.


Urlacher and the Vikings "Flirting" With One Another?

Expected to be among the league’s most active offseason teams, the Vikings have been just since the 2013 league year opened. They jettisoned star receiver Percy Harvin to the Seahawks for a Gosselin family’s worth of draft picks and brought in Matt Cassel to serve as Christian Ponder’s backup, per the Chicago Tribune.

What remains very unresolved is the team’s linebacker situation. Erin Henderson re-signed with the team on Tuesday, but the human sieve known as Jasper Brinkley remains needing replacement. Brinkley missed 21 tackles last season, per Pro Football Focus, and almost certainly won’t be asked back along with Henderson.

To replace Brinkley, it seems like Urlacher has emerged as a player worth “monitoring,” according to the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Mulligan:

Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher has been flirting with the enemy, specifically the NFC North division rival Vikings. A Vikings source confirmed talks with Urlacher's camp, but said the team was "monitoring" the situation and still believed Urlacher eventually would remain with the Bears.

It’s superficially blasphemous to picture Urlacher in a Vikings jersey. He’s spent much of his career trying to bring down Adrian Peterson.

But we all know the concept of a player truly hating a rival team is pure fallacy. For every Ray Lewis-type player who stays in the same city his entire career, there are 10 Johnny Damons playing for the Yankees and—gasp—Brett Favres playing for these Vikings.

While it would certainly look strange at first, eventually fans would get used to Urlacher playing in Minnesota. Vikings fans would instantly cool their decade-long hatred of the arch-rival linebacker and love him as one of their own—right up until he misses coverage, just like any other good fan. And Bears fans, of course, would root for Urlacher 14 weeks a year and despise him two.

It seems strange, but this isn’t a rare occurrence. Funny things happen when teams offer a few extra millions.


Cowboys Have “Mild Interest” in Urlacher?

If there is one never-changing fact about Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, it’s that he loves star power—even when it’s elderly by NFL standards. He’s brought countless players to Dallas who were once faces of other teams’ franchises and overall had middling success. We remember Deion Sanders’ greatness, but seriously, how ‘bout that Eddie George era, guys?

Even when bitten by players like George, Jones’ stance has never changed. He wants stars and championships in Dallas; nothing more, nothing less.

So while the Cowboys currently have a young stud in Sean Lee to man the middle in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 system, it’s no shock that the team has “mild interest” in Urlacher, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Michael Silver:

At least one other team is known to have at least mild interest in signing the eight-time Pro Bowl selection: the Dallas Cowboys. With the hiring of Monte Kiffin as the team's new defensive coordinator, Urlacher could remain in the ‘Tampa 2" scheme in which he's had so much success during his career.

The problem with Urlacher singing his swan song with the Cowboys—like in Chicago—is money. Dallas, hamstrung by a league-mandated salary cap penalty, began free agency with only $175,000 to spare, per ESPN’s Calvin Watkins. The Cowboys have made moves since to clear up space, but there still isn’t enough cash floating around for unnecessary expenditures—especially with draft picks still to sign in the coming months.

The Cowboys certainly have interest, but only at a low cost. And with both Urlacher and the Bears both wanting to keep their marriage together (for the kids!), it’s highly unlikely that he’ll ever get in a price range Dallas can compete with.

If Urlacher’s price ever reaches that basement level, he would almost certainly be within the cap-strapped Bears’ range as well.