The Chicago Bears and Brian Urlacher may be prepared to split ways, but that doesn't mean that he's no longer of value to NFL teams. The eight-time Pro Bowler could still be an important piece for a few teams across the league.
The Bears organization announced on March 20 that the long-time leader of the defense wouldn't be back (h/t ProFootballTalk). According to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears offered their 13-year veteran a one-year deal worth up to $2 million.
Urlacher is well past his prime. At 34-years-old, he can't have too much left in the tank. However, he has displayed incredible leadership throughout his career and should still provide consistent production. Even though injuries held him out of four games last season, he racked up 68 tackles and two forced fumbles.
So which teams are in need of an experienced middle linebacker that can elevate a defense?
These organizations should be looking to dial up Urlacher's agent.
If Urlacher's main priority is to be on a contender to finish out his career, coming to Denver would be the ideal place to go.
It's also a great fit for the Broncos.
Urlacher is best suited to stay with a team that runs a 4-3. That's the alignment he's played in throughout his career and where his skill set is best served. The Broncos happen to be an elite defense that runs the 4-3 and could use a plug-and-play addition in the middle.
Last season, 37-year-old Keith Brooking manned the middle and played well. Now Urlacher could be the next savvy veteran to step in and play with Von Miller and Co.
The Broncos are in a position where they need to be looking to win now. That's the kind of team that would benefit most from Urlacher, and he would give the defense even more credibility going forward.
Marc Sessler of NFL.com reports that the Vikings are not interested in acquiring Urlacher for the $3.5-$4 million deal he is reportedly seeking. Perhaps they should re-think that stance.
Urlacher can't be happy that the club that he's been loyal to for all these years only offered him half of what he feels he's worth. That means that proving his old team wrong will be a huge motivational factor for him this season.
Nothing would prove a point more emphatically than signing with the Bears NFC North rival.
The Vikings were a surprise playoff team last year and will need to improve the defense if they want to go there once again. They can take the chance of going with a young player like Audie Cole or Tyrone McKenzie, but it would be better to have Urlacher start this season and mentor them for the future.
If the Vikings are serious about returning to the playoffs, adding a motivated Urlacher should be the first step.
The Bengals are in a prime position to make a return to the playoffs this season.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off of a down season and lost free agent wide receiver Mike Wallace. The Baltimore Ravens have lost a lot of talent this offseason and have plenty of questions heading into next season.
The Bengals roster will be mostly intact entering 2013. The addition of Urlacher would make them even more dangerous.
Cincinnati runs a 4-3 defense that would allow Urlacher to succeed. With him in the middle of the defense, the Bengals could keep Vontaze Burfict at outside linebacker where he found success last season and move Rey Maualuga to the outside after he struggled in the middle.
With Manny Lawson out of the picture, this would give the Bengals two promising outside linebackers that would benefit from Urlacher's veteran presence.