22 Starters in 22 Days: Lance Briggs

Lance Briggs is one of the premier linebackers in the game, but can't even lay claim to being the best at the position in Chicago. Still, Briggs expects the Bears to pay him like an All-Pro and that means big money.

Briggs made the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2005. He battled Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher for the team tackle lead and finished with 170 stops, one behind Urlacher. He also added two interceptions, two sacks, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

At six-foot-1, 240-pounds Briggs is a perfect fit at weak-side linebacker. He's been a durable performer, starting 45 of 48 games and never missing a contest in three seasons. He's risen from an unknown third round pick out of Arizona to a core player on one of the best defenses in the game.

However, not all is bright for Briggs' future in Chicago. He will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2006 and is seeking a contract that would make him among the highest paid linebackers in the game.

In order to put himself in better position to maximize his payday, Briggs hired Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. The two sides looked to be close to an extension as the draft approached, but talks broke off and nothing has materialized since.

Although the Bears contemplated drafting a linebacker in the first round as insurance incase Briggs leaves, the team waited until the second day to address the position, when they selected Arizona State's Jamar Williams in the fourth round.

On previous occasions, Briggs has stated he doesn't want to negotiate during the season, which means time is running out to get a deal done. It remains to be seen if he will attend next weekend's mandatory mini-camp. Earlier this week, he skipped the first round of voluntary organized team activities.

The Bears want Briggs back, but at less than what they're paying Brian Urlacher, a five-time Pro Bowler who signed a nine-year, $56 million deal in 2002.

"We went to him because this is when we go to our players when we want to extend them," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said in mid-April. "He is under contract this year, so we have that satisfaction. We wanted to reward him based on what he did. I told him and his agent we were going to come at him with a good faith offer, and we've certainly done that. They accepted the fact that we did do that. It's just now a matter of coming to a conclusion."

But for now, the Bears seem content to consider a future without Briggs.

"We've talked," Angelo said. "We're moving forward now. We're doing other things. We're not at a stop sign here waiting for something to happen now with Lance. We're moving down a path and we told the agent that as well."

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