Brian Urlacher Announces NFL Retirement

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It is officially the end of an era. For 13 years Brian Urlacher has been the face of the Chicago Bears franchise. Throughout his extraordinary career he has bled only navy, orange and white and has been the one true “Monster of the Midway.” On Wednesday morning the eight-time Pro Bowl linebacker announced his retirement from the NFL.

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Urlacher had been testing the waters of free agency this year after the Bears could not reach an agreement with the star linebacker. When it came down to his NFL future, he said, “Although I could continue playing, I’m not sure I would bring a level of performance or passion that’s up to my standards. When considering this, along with the fact that I could retire after 13-year career wearing only one jersey for such a storied franchise, my decision became pretty clear.”

He went on to say, “I will miss my teammates, my coaches, and the great Bears fans. I’m proud to say that I gave all of you everything I had every time I took the field. I will miss the great game, but I leave with no regrets.”

Urlacher SprintHere’s a little breakdown of some of his accomplishments:

  • 2000 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Winner
  • 2005 Defensive Player of the Year Winner
  • First-Team All-Pro 2001, 2002, 2005, 2006
  • Pro Bowl Appearances: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011
  • 2012 Ed Block Courage Award (given to those who showed a commitment to sportsmanship and courage)

As a selfish Urlacher lover, I’m honestly happy I don’t have to see him suit up in another jersey next season, but this isn’t the ideal way to send off a future hall-of-famer.

It is unclear what the next steps will be for #54. Will we see him on NFL network or CSN Chicago providing commentary? Will he be a part of the Bears organization in some capacity, possibly as a coach? Or will he head back to his roots of New Mexico and enjoy his retired life sipping on cold beer and playing some golf? Whatever he chooses, he deserves the best.

Urlacher, you are a class act. Chicago fans everywhere thank you for giving us something to cheer about these past 13 years. You will be missed!

Matt Forte Slapped with Bears Franchise Tag

The Bears will have their Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte in a Chicago uniform for the 2012 season, but he’s doing it Phil Emery’s way. Last Friday, the Bears placed their franchise tag on Forte, he now joins Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees in the “Franchise tag club”. This one-year agreement will pay Forte $7.7 million for this season — a $7.1 million raise from his 2011 salary.

Forte was reportedly offered a deal that guaranteed roughly $14 million, but as the first Bears running back to go to the Pro Bowl since Neal Anderson (if you don’t remember it’s because it was in 1991) most would assume he was looking for something closer to the five-year, $43 million contract with $21 million guaranteed that Carolina gave DeAngelo Williams.

“Matt is an important part of our football team and we chose to utilize the franchise tag to ensure he remains a Bear,” Bears general manager Emery said. “We believe in Matt as a player and a person. Our intention is to continue to work to find common ground and keep Matt as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2012 and beyond.”

So this move locks down Forte for a year, but does this make the Bears seem cheap? Will this decision be perceived as the organization not wanting to pay their star what he deserves? Will this prevent high profile free-agents from wanting to sign with the Bears? Chicago really needs a wide receiver. They have roughly $17.3 million in salary-cap room remaining if Forte signs the offer. The question is, how are the Bears going to use it?

Side Note — For those of you like me, you understand the majority of football, but when things like “franchise tags” get thrown around you immediately think of something like a luggage tag – here’s a little “Franchise Tag 101”.

Definition: The option given to each NFL team to lock up an important player for one year, whose contract is set to expire, without signing him to a long-term contract. Each team gets the option of one franchise tag, and the deadline to use it this season is Monday, March 5 (today).

The Bottom Line: it has everything to do with the NFL’s salary cap. Teams ultimately want to squeeze as many good players under the salary cap as possible. There are two ways to do this: sign a player to a long-term deal spreading his salary out over many years OR assign the franchise tag. Rarely do teams have enough room under the salary cap to offer every one of their good players a nice extended contract, so assigning the franchise tag guarantees the team a crucial player without having to take a long-term hit against the budget. The free-agent signing season then essentially begins at the franchise tag deadline. After franchise tags are assigned, other teams know which players are available or unavailable. This tag allows the players the opportunity to prove themselves for a longer-term deal. Common examples are players who are valuable, but might be risky to sign for the long haul– because of age, injury issues, or off-field problems. Players can sign franchise tenders from March 13 through the 10th week of the regular season and can sign multi-year extensions at any point through July 16.

The franchise tag used to be reserved for players that teams really wanted to commit to, said ESPN business analyst Andrew Brandt on ESPN Radio Friday. “It used to be for true franchise players. Now it’s every team looking at who’s their best free agent that year, and that’s why we’re going to see so many tags. It’s a huge management weapon.”

Changes:  This year because of the new CBA, you saw many more franchise tags placed around the league. “Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, the franchise tender was equal to the average salaries of the five highest paid players at the franchise player’s position. Under the new CBA, it’s a more complex formula that consists of dividing the old franchise tender figures from 2006-10 by the sum of the salary cap from 2007-11, and then multiplying the resulting percentage by the 2012 salary cap,” states chicagobears.com.

Feel free to chat up “franchise tags” with the men in your life ladies 🙂

Probowlin Bears

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Despite the disappointing outcome this season, five Chicago Bears will be making their way to the Pro Bowl in Honolulu. I guess it wasn’t all bad; we’ll go with “bittersweet.”

After many impressive seasons with the Bears, veteran cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman has been voted to his first Pro Bowl. Middle linebacker Brain Urlacher, outside linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte, and special teams rock-star Corey Graham will also represent the Bears this year. This is the largest group of players the Bears have sent to a Pro Bowl since 2006 (when they made their run to the Superbowl).

This will be Urlacher’s eighth visit to the Pro Bowl, tying Dick Butkus, Doug Atkins and Bill George for the third most visits in franchise history behind only Mike Singletary and Walter Payton (all of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame). Soon enough we may see a bronze bust of Urlacher (and that large thick neck of his) forever enshrined in Canton. Briggs will be attending his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl, leading the team with 140 tackles. Along with Tillman, Forte and Graham are Pro Bowl newbies. Defensive end Julius Peppers and return specialist Devin Hester were selected as first alternates.

I’d like to state the obvious now. There’s a whole lot of defense listed above, some talented special teams, and although Matt Forte (pre-knee injury) was killing it racking up the rushing yards, it would be nice to see some more offensive players selected. Hey Mr. Angelo take a hint…Let’s get us a real wide receiver huh?!

Enough ranting. Congrats to all of the Pro Bowlers from the Bears. I would have rather seen another playoff run, a Packer defeat in the NFC Championship and a Super Bowl win. Wishful thinking – beggars can’t be choosers.

I want to send a shout-out to Vince Wilfork, one of the eight Patriots going to the Pro Bowl and my favorite teddy bear in the AFC. Hopefully we’ll get to see another interception like this 🙂