Brian Urlacher's Ultimatum: Why The Chicago Bears Should Pay Up

Andrew GoetzeContributor IApril 26, 2008

It's Draft Day in Chicago.  Do you know where your middle linebacker is?

In Arizona.  Waiting.  For Jerry Angelo to come to his senses.

You almost have to feel for the guy, right?  Angelo, I mean.  He's nearly gutted the team of productive starters in the name of fiscal responsibility.

His drafts usually don't produce any offensive talent, which is precisely what the Bears need these days.  And now, he's at odds with the most indispensable player on the Bears' roster.

So on a day when the Bears need help at a million positions with only a few draft picks (way to stockpile seventh rounders, Jer), the question remains:  Buckle to Urlacher's salary demands, or refuse to cave in to the Monster (of the Midway) the Bears created? 

Predictably, when asked recently whether the Bears should renegotiate Urlacher's contract, Angelo's response was:  "Are you saying Brian's special, and we should do something for Brian and the other 52 will understand?" 

Well, yes.   

Look, we all get what Angelo is trying to do.  There's no room for individuals.  The team comes first.  It takes 53 players working together to win, yada yada yada.  He's right, and it's a noble sentiment, and we all understand that. 

But Urlacher is not Chad Johnson or Terrell Owens, two self-proclaimed superstars who run their mouths in a vain effort to become the faces of their franchises.  No one would accuse the Bengals or Cowboys of building their identities around those two.  They just happen to talk the most.  And the loudest. 

Urlacher is The Man in Chicago.  The Bear of Bears.  The one definable explanation for the team's brief resurgence in the past few years.  Defense is an identity in Chicago, and Urlacher has been the face on the ID card for some time now.

The Bears painted themselves into this corner.  Having spent the better part of Urlacher's career labeling him as the latest "Monster of the Midway," the Bears made a conscious choice to put Urlacher on his pedestal.

All he's had to do was show up and dominate, which he has.  For Angelo to assume that the "other 52 guys" wouldn't understand a little special treatment for the team's star, well, come on now.  Like it or not, it's the way the sports world works, and the team's rank-and-file are certainly aware of that. 

Do you think John St. Clair, or Adam Archuleta, or anyone else for that matter is about to walk up and demand $7 million a year if the Bears renegotiate with Urlacher?  No.  For Angelo to assume the players don't know Urlacher's situation is different from their own is naive, or stupid, or both.

Perhaps realizing that, the Bears are now offering a Urlacher a $5 million bonus, with additional pay increases of $1 million per year for the next four years of his existing contract.  It's a start.

If Urlacher wants to avoid stepping over the line from "justified" to "pampered," he must now instruct his agent to reach a compromise.  He made his stand, and the Bears, after the predictable posturing, have reached out.

For Angelo's sake, he'd better hope an agreement happens soon.  With everything else the Bears have endured this off-season, and today being Draft Day, the guy could use some good news.