Free agent linebacker Brian Urlacher, the face of the franchise for more than a decade, wants to return the Chicago Bears next season. He even said recently he'd be willing to take a pay cut to stay in the Windy City.
"When you look at my age and everything, it's going to be hard to not give them a discount," Urlacher said, via the Chicago Tribune. "I'm not going to make what I was making in the past, how about that? Does that make sense? That's fair."
Yet it remains to be seen whether head coach Marc Trestman and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker want to bring back a 35-year-old veteran with a deteriorating knee. Last season, Urlacher's left knee severely limited him on the game field, reducing him to a pure north-south player and robbing him of his sideline-to-sideline speed.
At this point, it's highly unlikely he'll ever return to Pro Bowl form but his experience and leadership still have a lot of value, putting Trestman and Tucker in a tough spot. Do you step in and right away axe a future Hall of Famer or take the risk his knee won't completely give out on him?
Trestman said the team is still going through the evaluation process and wasn't willing to comment specifically on Urlacher.
"I'm excited to come here because Brian Urlacher has been such an important part of this and I've watched him play. But to talk about where that thing is going, it would be premature to talk about it at this time.
"Coming in here as I have, I'm not in tune to the entire situation, certainly the economics and all the things that go into it. That's a thing that's going to be a process between Brian and the organization moving forward."
Trestman reiterated that Urlacher has every intention of staying in Chicago.
"I don't think there was any question that he loves Chicago and this is a place he'd like to be," he said.
The ball is now in Trestman's court. He'll have to decide over the next month whether it's worthwhile to re-sign an aging veteran who has lost his burst and change-of-direction ability, or risk the PR backlash that would surely follow Urlacher's dismissal.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.