The highly publicized trade offer that would have sent Briggs and the Bears' first-round draft pick – No. 31 overall – to Washington for their selection at No. 6 was rejected by GM Jerry Angelo yesterday. Angelo asked for second-year linebacker Rocky McIntosh in addition to the high first-rounder, but the Redskins balked. Since the Bears likely would have turned around and dealt the No. 6 to another club in order to move down and acquire more picks, the odds of this swap being revisited seem slim at best.
Briggs has made two Pro Bowls in four seasons and is regarded as arguably the best weakside linebacker in the NFL, so the Bears slapped the franchise tag on him in the offseason with hopes of keeping him in Chicago for at least one more year. Despite the fact that Briggs is guaranteed a one-year contract valued at a little over $7.2 million, he is upset that the organization blocked his opportunity to become a free agent and vows never to play another down for the Monsters of the Midway. He rejected a six-year, $33 million offer from the club before the 2006 season.
Briggs is threatening to hold out the entire year – or at least the first 10 regular season games – in order to get his point across, but Angelo appears ready to call his bluff.
"He can do what he wants," Angelo said recently from the owners meetings in Phoenix. "I just know this: if you don't play, you don't get paid. It's that simple. If he chooses not to play, which he has the option to do, we'll have to go on without him. And we're prepared to do that. That's not our choice. We need him, and we certainly want him because he's a very good player."
Angelo believes Briggs and his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are going out of their way to be a distraction in order to force the team's hand.
"He just wants to make enough of a ruckus that we're going to get tired of it and let him go," he said. "That's not our plan."
Although Briggs could indeed be back with the Bears since the Washington trade looks dead in the water, this situation has crossed the point of no return. At this past weekend's Fan Convention at the Hilton Chicago, the overwhelming majority of Bears backers on hand were siding with management and vilifying Briggs. Many are asking the team to move Briggs immediately just to get him out of town, while others want to punish the Pro-Bowler by allowing him to sit for the season and miss out on that $7.2 million – not to mention a year of play in his prime.
Angelo simply has to trade Briggs at this juncture, but he can afford to be patient leading up to the draft and take the best offer available. Almost all of the Bears' defensive starters were not in attendance at Fan Convention, and it has been rumored that this was a display of support for their disgruntled teammate. The longer this plays out, the more likely it hamstrings a club with Super Bowl aspirations.
So if the Redskins are out of the picture, at least for now, what team could step up and play Monty Hall? Let's make a deal:
The Bills own the 12th pick in this month's draft. Buffalo is desperate for help at linebacker after losing London Fletcher-Baker in free agency to Washington and trading Takeo Spikes to Philadelphia. Mario Haggan and Keith Ellison are currently atop the depth chart at outside `backer, although Briggs registered more tackles last year (134) than the two of them combined (82).
Buffalo is also coached by former Bears front man Dick Jauron, who Briggs played for as a rookie in 2003. At No. 12, the Bears could target Miami tight end Greg Olsen and give themselves another potential playmaker for quarterback Rex Grossman.
The Jaguars own the 17th pick in this month's draft. Jacksonville had one of the better defenses in the league a year ago, although they appear to have a hole at weakside linebacker. Neither Nick Greisen nor Pat Thomas – currently first and second on the depth chart, respectively – can match Briggs' combination of speed and strength, plus Briggs would be able to line up next to another special middle man, Mike Peterson.
Jacksonville is a franchise starved for star power playing in one of the NFL's smallest markets, so bringing in a high-profile player would make for some headlines. At No. 17, the Bears might be able to go after Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny and immediately fill the void left by Briggs' departure.
New York Giants
The Giants own the 20th pick in this month's draft. New York waved goodbye to both LaVar Arrington and Carlos Emmons in the offseason, but the combination of Reggie Torbor and Gerris Wilkinson doesn't exactly conjure up images of Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks. Briggs has the personality to survive the pressure of playing in the Big Apple, and this franchise has all the money in the world to throw at him.
New York needs to overhaul a defense that was riddled by injury and plagued with inconsistency in 2006, so adding Briggs would be an immediate upgrade. At No. 20, the Bears should be able to land Auburn guard Ben Grubbs, the best player in the draft at his position and an eventual replacement for the aging Ruben Brown.
|John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and Editor in Chief of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.|