Briggs' Price Tag Just Went Up

With their first major free agent acquisition out of the way, the next item on the agenda could be to lockup Pro Bowl LB Lance Briggs long-term. However, a new wrinkle has come into play after one free agent inked a deal that will impact Briggs' future in Chicago.

The Seattle Seahawks signed former San Francisco linebacker Julian Peterson to a whopping seven-year, $54 million deal. The contract is worth $18.5 million guaranteed, including $10 million this season.

There's no doubt Briggs' agent Drew Rosenhaus will use Peterson's deal as a negotiating ploy when talking to the Bears about getting an extension done.

Three years ago Peterson was one of the best linebackers in the game, but that was before suffering a torn Achilles tendon. The injury limited him to just five games in 2004. He didn't light the world on fire last year as some wonder if he'll ever be the same player.

On the other hand, in just his third year Briggs went to the Pro Bowl and was an alternate in his second season. He also received All Pro recognition and Defensive Player of the Year consideration.

Briggs has become a tackle machine with 338 stops over the past two seasons. There is some question if he's a product of the defensive system and how much he benefits from playing next to five-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Still that didn't stop Rosenhaus from asking for Urlacher type money in his first communication with the Bears, which is $58 million over nine years with a signing bonus of $19 million.

Undoubtedly Rosenhaus will now ask for a bigger contract than Peterson signed and therefore would be trying to make Briggs the highest paid player in franchise history.

Peterson will turn 28 before the start of next season, while Briggs doesn't turn 26 until November. If he hits the open agent market the Bears will not re-sign the six-foot-1, 240-pounder.

The six-year $33 million contract the St. Louis Rams agreed to with unrestricted free agent LB Will Witherspoon is something the Bears could have worked off of to get a deal done. Now the longer things drag on into the off-season the less likely a deal will get done.

Briggs has already said he would prefer to not talk about his contract during the season. Meaning there is a little more than five months to get something hammered out.

It's unlikely to happen, but there's a case to be made for the Bears trying to trade Briggs before the draft. There will be linebackers available that could step in and start as rookies.

Briggs' value is never going to higher than it is right now. There are several teams in need of linebacker help and would pay dearly for one of his caliber. He should bring no less than a first round pick in return and possibly more.

The problem would be facing the public relations disaster of trading a Pro Bowl linebacker for an unknown commodity. It's even worse when you consider the team is still $14-15 million under the salary cap after signing QB Brian Griese.

While there's no doubt the Seahawks overpaid for Peterson, it doesn't mean Briggs will accept anything less and chances are he'll want even more.


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