Signings of Things to Come

With extensions for linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer and running back Adrian Peterson coming over the last two days, what does it mean for the future of Lance Briggs and Thomas Jones with the organization?

While the Bears began the off-season with the idea of signing a linebacker to a long-term contract, instead of Briggs being rewarded it turned out to be Hillenmeyer. It's quite a turnaround, considering Hillenmeyer was in jeopardy of not making the team two years ago.

Hillenmeyer has made the most of his opportunity and turned it into a five-year extension with $5 million in bonuses. The total worth of the deal could reach nearly $13 million.

Allocating an abundance of salary cap space to one position is something general manager Jerry Angelo has tried to stay away from in the past. Rosevelt Colvin was allowed to leave via free agency after the team had already given Brian Urlacher and Warrick Holdman big contracts.

Several other key members of the defense are due to become unrestricted free agents at the end of this season or the next. Among the group include defensive tackle Ian Scott as well as cornerbacks Nathan Vasher and Charles Tillman.

Briggs' motivation for not participating in organized team activities is simple, the first time Pro Bowler trying to capitalize on his success. He's in search of cash comparable to Urlacher's $56.5 million deal, something that will not happen.

Therefore, it seems Briggs' days in Chicago are numbered. The Bears could use the franchise tag to keep him around past this season, a method Angelo has yet to employ during his tenure as GM.

The backfield the situation is also taking shape. By skipping the off-season program, Jones has given Cedric Benson the inside track to taking the starting job.

The impetus for Jones' boycotting the OTAs isn't necessarily a new contract, but more so to orchestrate a trade. Looking to maximize their potential return, the Bears may choose to explore a deal in training camp when other teams can be exploited because of an injury at running back.

Signing Peterson to a three-year extension shows the team is confident he can handle the backup duties to Benson, when and if Jones exits.

Nearly two years ago, the Bears were able to take advantage of similar circumstances with a disgruntled player to acquire defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, a Drew Rosenhaus client. It appears the controversial agent will play a pivotal role in two stars eventually leaving the franchise.

There could be more problems down the road. Defensive tackle Tommie Harris, who is coming off a Pro Bowl nod in just his second season, is also part of Rosenhaus' stable of clients. Although his contract doesn't expire until the end of the 2008 campaign, judging off previous history talks will heat up much earlier.

The Bears have tried to plan for a future without Briggs and Jones, but in the meantime there is business to take care of on the field.


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