Brian Urlacher has been a consummate leader and superstar during his 13 seasons with the Chicago Bears. But now, the two are parting ways, and a few franchises should jump at the chance to sign him.
As the Chicago Sun-Times’ Sean Jensen notes, the Bears offered Urlacher a one-year contract worth $2 million. The eight-time Pro Bowler felt the deal was unacceptable and has decided to seek offers to play for another team.
NFL.com’s Marc Sessler believes that Urlacher likely won’t get an offer as lucrative as the one the Bears put on the table, meaning teams around the league can cheaply fill a hole on the roster with one of the greatest players ever to line up at middle linebacker.
The Sporting News’ Clifton Brown reported that Urlacher’s agent has contacted the Arizona Cardinals, Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, but ESPN’s Tom Pelissero notes that the Vikings have since pulled back from signing him. Overall, reports on interested teams differ and there is no franchise seriously pursuing Urlacher right now.
But there are a few teams that should go after him to fill a hole on the roster, and at this point, Urlacher’s options appear to be limited. Here are the best possible fits for the Future Hall of Famer.
Urlacher missed four games this past season due to injury, and when he was on the field, he wasn’t all that impressive. Over a decade in the NFL has clearly taken a toll on his 34-year-old body.
But the Ravens dealt with a similar situation with Ray Lewis. He also wasn’t the same physical force as he was earlier in his career, but his leadership and experience were invaluable to the team both on and off the field.
There will be a void that needs to be filled both at middle linebacker and in the locker room in Baltimore now that Lewis has retired. Clifton Brown’s report notes that Urlacher is lukewarm at best about the prospects of joining the Ravens, but finding a spot on a contender may not be easy. If a team is willing to talk, he should be willing to listen.
While the team should start looking for young talent at the position, signing Urlacher to an inexpensive one-year deal would greatly benefit a defense going through a transition period.
The Bengals have a young defense with a few players, like Adam Jones and Vontaze Burfict, who have had maturity issues in the past.
Having a leader like Urlacher on the field would greatly benefit the defense, and Mike Zimmer’s 4-3 defense provides a more natural fit for the 34-year-old than Baltimore’s scheme.
When considering only on-field factors, there isn’t an abundance of teams for whom Urlacher would be an upgrade. But Rey Maualuga was frustratingly ineffective last season, and the former Bear could certainly perform better if he were to line up for Cincinnati.
The Bengals have the talent on both sides of the ball to make it to the postseason for the third year in a row. If Urlacher wants to be playing through January, Cincinnati should be one of the teams on his list of potential landing spots.
New York Giants
At this point in his career, Urlacher will surely want to go to a team that has a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl, and joining forces with a quarterback who has multiple rings would be a wise move.
In addition to Eli Manning, the Giants have talent on defense, but a hole at middle linebacker. Chase Blackburn has delivered some gutsy performances for the team over the years, but an upgrade is needed.
While Urlacher, like Blackburn, is not a long-term option, he would be an ideal linebacker to fill the role for a year or two while New York develops a young player to fill in once he retires.
Ultimately, Urlacher seems thoroughly displeased with the whole situation regarding free agency and his break up with the Bears. He will have a chip on his shoulder next season, and the Giants are one of several teams that should consider giving him a chance to prove his former employers wrong.