Will They Stay, or Will They Go?

Lance Briggs is good as gone and Bernard Berrian will have many suitors, so the Chicago Bears could lose two of their top talents once the free agency period begins Friday. Even though Jerry Angelo is putting a priority on keeping his core players, can he come through in the clutch? Here's the latest ...

LB Lance Briggs
Briggs was hoping to strike it rich in free agency a year ago, but the Midway Monsters rained on that parade by slapping him with the franchise tag. The three-time Pro Bowler went on a rant about never suiting up in Chicago again and holding out for the season, although he eventually caved – like they always do – just before training camp and collected every penny of that $7.2 million tender. While Briggs is a very good linebacker and one of the best open-field tacklers in the NFL, he's not a special player like Brian Urlacher and could probably be replaced adequately by third-year pro Jamar Williams on the weak side.

Briggs is originally from Sacramento and there are rumors floating around that he already has a lucrative deal in place with the 49ers, so don't expect GM Jerry Angelo to get in any sort of bidding war.

Will he stay? Not a snowball's chance in hell.

WR Bernard Berrian
Berrian may not be a true No. 1 target in this league, but he's about to be paid like one because he'll be the top receiver on the open market – assuming All-Pro Randy Moss stays in New England, of course. Like Briggs, Berrian grew up on the West Coast and could attract a lot of attention from wideout-starved teams like the 49ers and Raiders. Now that the Bears have re-signed Rex Grossman to play quarterback for at least one more year, they would be wise to throw a bunch of money at Berrian because he and Grossman have a nice rapport on the field and there is very little behind him on the depth chart right now.

Angelo may have shied away from using the franchise tag on Berrian since the Briggs situation turned into such a mess, but it would have been a good idea if for no other reason than to give him a better shot to lock him up long-term – just like the Colts did with tight end Dallas Clark.

Will he stay? It doesn't look good with all the under-the-cap cash that's out there.

LB Brendon Ayanbadejo


LB Brendon Ayanbadejo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Ayanbadejo isn't much of a linebacker and might not even be second-string defensively anymore, but he's one of the best special-teamers in the NFL and just went to his second straight Pro Bowl. The Bears once again finished No. 1 in the league on special teams according to a system implemented by the Dallas Morning News, and Ayanbadejo had a lot to do with that because of his fearless determination on the coverage units. A team captain this past season, he is looking to be the highest-paid special-teamer in the league at about $3 million per year.

John Clayton of ESPN told Bear Report at the NFL Combine that Ayanbadejo won't get anywhere near a $3 million salary from another team, but he could be in line for a healthy signing bonus if he inks a multi-year contract.

Will he stay? He might once he realizes he's not worth as much as he thinks he is.

G Ruben Brown
Brown is a nine-time Pro Bowler and made the trek to Hawaii as recently as the Super Bowl season of 2006, but he looked like a player in decline this past year and ended up on injured reserve with a bum shoulder. Terrence Metcalf took over at left guard and was an unmitigated disaster, forcing the Bears to move career backup tackle John St. Clair inside for the final three games. Josh Beekman was drafted in the fourth round last April and Tyler Reed has been toiling on the practice squad for two seasons, but it's no secret that Bears fans far and wide want Angelo to write a blank check to perennial All-Pro Alan Faneca of the Steelers.

While Brown has been in touch with the organization and indicated that he'd like to return in 2008, head coach Lovie Smith told the media in Indianapolis last week that the team will be going in a different direction.

Will he stay? It sounds like he's already been shown the door.

TE John Gilmore
The Bears took Greg Olsen in the first round of the 2007 NFL Draft and recently rewarded Desmond Clark with a contract extension, so Gilmore doesn't have much of a chance to move up the depth chart in the Windy City. Nevertheless, he still serves a vital role in short-yardage and goal-line situations, lining up as a glorified tackle and catching the occasional play-action pass. Gilmore was inactive in Week 15 at Minnesota and none to happy about it, but he understands his role and isn't one to cause a stink in the locker room.

While the Bears did pick up Fontel Mines as an undrafted free agent last year and stuck him on the practice squad, he's a former college receiver and isn't ready to be a blocking tight end at this point.

Will he stay? He should unless another team offers more money and playing time.

John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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