Bears on the Verge of Extension with Briggs?

Part of the reason the Bears have been quiet in free agency is to have a better opportunity to tie up All Pro linebacker Lance Briggs. After his agent Drew Rosenhaus spent Thursday at Halas Hall working on a contract, it appears a deal could get done as soon as today.

Briggs would become an unrestricted free agent after the 2006 season and a hot commodity on the open market. He's coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he had a career-high, 170 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and two sacks. Although the former third round pick has expressed his desire to stay in Chicago, he went on record to stay he didn't want contract talks to drag into the season.

The Bears have a history with Jerry Angelo as general manager of locking up young players before their rookie contract expires. Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and Alex Brown are all prime examples of his philosophy.

Now it seems to be Briggs' turn for a pay raise. The six-foot-1, 240-pounder is a key part of the defense. At 25, Briggs is still considered a player on the rise and knowing he'll be in Chicago long-term would also reshape the draft.

The Bears have been contemplating taking a linebacker with the 26th overall pick in the draft. Getting an extension done with Briggs would push the position down the list of needs.

The team also spent time with Carolina Panther CB Ricky Manning Jr. on Thursday, but signing the restricted free agent to an offer sheet is being put on hold for the time being. However, the Bears are still prepared to make him an offer before the April 21st deadline.

The Panthers have limited salary cap space to work with and the bulk of their space has been designated for their rookie pool. The Bears plan to structure the deal to make it difficult for Carolina to match an offer. The Panthers would have seven days to match or receive the Bears third round choice as compensation.

With cornerback and linebacker potentially solidified before the draft, the Bears could then look to tight end or receiver in the first round.

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