It cost the Bears $40 million in new money to get three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris to agree to a four-year contract extension that runs through 2012, but general manager Jerry Angelo was upbeat in announcing the deal on the morning of Friday, June 20.
"There's a lot of give and take, mostly give on our part and take on theirs," Angelo said with a smile. "But we were able to [remain] consistent with what we believe in: rewarding our own players. This is a very proud day for us to have Tommie in the fold."
In terms of yearly earnings, Harris is the highest-paid player in Bears history and the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL. But he said he won't feel pressured by the size of his paycheck and believes players in the league are overcompensated.
"I feel like the reason I have this contract is because I've already displayed that I can carry this role," said Harris, who is the only defensive tackle in franchise history voted to three straight Pro Bowls. "It's nothing that I have to become. I'm already there.
"I don't believe any NFL player deserves the amount of money that we get. But in the business that we're in, they give us all tags and say, 'This guy's worth this, this guy's worth that.' We play a game, a kids' game and get paid a king's ransom. I'm just fortunate to be able to be in this position, and I will make the Bears' organization proud."
That being said, Harris believes he's earned the right to be paid as an elite player.
DT Tommie Harris
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
"It seems like I deserve this," he said. "I feel like I've worked hard for it. I've earned it, going out there playing through different ailments of the body and putting it all out there on the line for this organization, and I'll continue to keep doing it. I'm ready to go out there and continue to keep being the best defensive tackle in the league."
Harris still has one year remaining on his five-year, $9.8 million rookie contract that included a $2.1 million signing bonus. He'll get $18 million in guaranteed money with the new deal and a total of $27 million over the first three years of the extension with a $13 million base salary in 2012.
Harris, the 14th-overall pick in the 2004 draft, would have been an unrestricted free agent after the 2008 season, and there was speculation that the Bears would slap the franchise tag on him for 2009 rather than allow him to leave. That would have guaranteed Harris a salary of an estimated $6.36 million but kept him from cashing in on the huge chunk of guaranteed money that he'll receive as part of the extension.
Unlike Urlacher, who has stayed away from almost all of the Bears' voluntary offseason work to protest the lack of progress in his bid for a multi-million dollar extension, Harris has been at Halas Hall working out and practicing with his teammates.
Earlier in the offseason Harris downplayed his contract situation, declining to set deadlines or issue threats.
"I owe them one year, so there's not really a deadline," Harris said. "It's not a distraction, but to have security over your career or to guarantee security and to be able to get paid for your accolades, I believe that's what all of us do and that's what we all come to work for."
Offensive coordinator Ron Turner said the quarterback race remains even and hopes the competition elevates the performance of both players.
NEWS & NOTES
WR Devin Hester
Nam Y. Huh/AP Images
The Bears are also interested in extending the contract of wide receiver/return specialist Devin Hester, which still has two years remaining, and they have discussed terms with his agent, Eugene Parker.
The difficulty is deciding whether Hester should be paid as the best return man in NFL history or as the best return man in NFL history who also could wind up being a starting wide receiver this year.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"It's a very difficult dynamic. I know I've never been involved in one quite like this with a player of Devin's abilities. It's a good problem to have, and we certainly want to take care of Devin. He certainly deserves our attention. We've talked to his agent, and we'll just have to wait and see." – Bears general manager Jerry Angelo on Devin Hester's contract situation.
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