Setting the Market

Another big contract was handed out to a linebacker on Saturday, but once again it wasn't Lance Briggs. The New York Giants inked LaVar Arrington to a seven-year deal worth $49 million, which could have an impact on Briggs' future in Chicago.

Even though the Bears are willing to pay Lance Briggs, giving him a contract worth more than middle linebacker Brian Urlacher isn't going to happen. The nine-year deal Urlacher signed in 2003 averages out to a little more $6 million per season. For the salary, Urlacher is the face of the franchise, a five-time Pro Bowler and the current Defensive Player of the Year.

Arrington's deal will pay him $7 million per season and could be a solid working point for negotiations with Briggs. Arrington has gone to three Pro Bowls and is 27 years old.

Briggs has been to one Pro Bowl and is a pivotal part of the Bears defense. With 170 tackles, he finished one behind Urlacher for the team lead. If Briggs is willing to accept a deal in the ballpark of Arrington something could get done. While it would near or surpass the average salary of Urlacher, Briggs' still wouldn't top the total worth of the deal.

If there's any concern with Urlacher, the organization could tack on a year to his deal average more than any player on the roster. Still there are players on the roster that could have a higher cap value in a particular year.

Getting something done with Briggs before the draft would benefit the Bears. Coupled with the addition of Ricky Manning Jr., an extension for Briggs would mean linebacker and cornerback would be draft options but not priorities.

A deal also takes worry out of the equation for Briggs. He's been a tackle machine since coming to Chicago in the third round of the 2003 draft. However, he's not made many game changing plays over the course of his career. There is a debate whether he's a good linebacker who has risen to All-Pro status because he's in the perfect system and lines up next to the best defensive player in the game.

There's also the risk of injury during a contract year. Millions of dollars can be lost if there is a health issue going into free agency. Briggs would have to look no further than former teammate Jerry Azumah to realize football is not forever.

The longer talks drag out the less likely Briggs will be in Chicago past 2006. If the Bears are on the clock with the 26th pick without an extension for Briggs, there's a good chance general manager Jerry Angel will draft his replacement.

Although there is hope for Briggs staying with the Bears long-term, the odds could take a major hit in the next week.


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