With the Brian Urlacher era likely over in Chicago and Lance Briggs on the wrong side of 30, it's time to take a look at who could be the Bears' next great linebacker.
With Briggs being the only returning player with significant experience from last year's team and two free agents signing one-year deals, the Bears figure to look to the draft, where they hope to find the next great player.
One thing to remember for the Bears is that general manager Phil Emery has been a firm believer in the theory that speed kills.
In his time as a scout with the Bears, Chiefs and Falcons, Emery's teams have drafted eight linebackers in the first four rounds. Six of those eight ran the 40-yard dash in under 4.7 seconds, the only exceptions being Rosevelt Colvin (taken in the fourth round in 1999) and Lance Briggs (taken in the third round in 2003). It's worth noting, however, that Emery was just an area scout for the Bears at that time and neither came from his area. According to his bio on the team's website, he was the Northeast scout in '98 and '99 then moved to the Southeast until 2004 when he was hired by Atlanta.
In his four seasons as director of college scouting for the Falcons, they drafted six linebackers. Only one of those—2008 fifth rounder Robert James—failed to run a time faster than 4.7 seconds.
While we have no real way of knowing who the next great Bears linebacker will be, it's safe to say he will be fast.
Here are some projections on who that person may be.