Bears can't afford Brownout

<!--Default NodeId For Mike Brown is 722153,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:722153]>Mike Brown</A> is a season away from free agency, but the Bears want to talk extension before the free safety hits the open market.

The Bears began the bidding at about $2 million per season for six years including a $2 million signing bonus. However, the offer will have to be increased for something to get done before the start of the season.

Although, Brown hasn't reached the Pro Bowl since being selected in the second-round of the 2000 draft, the free safety has led the team in interceptions the past two seasons.

Free safety is considered among the deepest positions in football, which could limit the amount of money the team wants to invest in Brown.

Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson got $14 million in a five-year deal with a $2.75 million signing bonus to leave Tampa Bay for Arizona. Atlanta forked over $12.25 million to Cory Hall in a five-year pact. Ex-Bear Tony Parrish got $3 million up front on a $12.025 million, five-year contract to go to San Francisco last year. He replaced Lance Schulters, who signed an interesting agreement with Tennessee worth $20 million over six seasons with $11.5 million coming in the first four years.

Brown is second on the team in tackles with 315 to Brian Urlacher in the last three seasons. The club has committed to re-signing both, but negotiations with Urlacher will require much greater resources and time.

However, after producing just nine interceptions in 2002 the Bears must commit to keeping Brown, who is their leader in the secondary. Losing Parrish and Walt Harris last offseason proved to be a bigger blow than the team expected.

Mike Green and Jerry Azumah failed to provide the production and intimidation that the defense needed. After signing a $21 million deal at the end of the 2001 season R.W. McQuarters spent a portion of the year on the sideline and had just one interception when he did play.

The Bears are preparing for life without Brown as they drafted Todd Johnson out of Florida with the 100th selection in April's draft. Johnson has played both strong and free safety, but could be a possible replacement if Brown signs elsewhere.

Another possibility would be to move Green from strong to free safety, which would allow Bobby Gray to move into the starting lineup.

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