Briggs deserves a lot of credit, not only for living up to the six-year, $36 million contract he signed but also doing some rehabilitation on his seriously damaged reputation off the field. He earned his fourth straight trip to the Pro Bowl after leading the defense with 110 tackles, and many of them were of the bone-crunching variety as he delivered more than a few kill shots from his weak-side position. Urlacher, on the other hand, didn't make very many plays in the middle and flat-out disappeared in a few ballgames, so one has to wonder what kind of return the Bears will get after giving him an extra $18 million following neck surgery.
Incumbent Hunter Hillenmeyer got banged up and was eventually moved out of the starting lineup in favor of second-year speedster Nick Roach, although neither one of them played particularly well over on the strong side – it may be time for an upgrade.
Inside the Numbers
Briggs is in the prime of his career and remains one of the better open-field tacklers in the game, although there is still room for improvement in terms of getting sacks and forcing fumbles. While Urlacher may never get back to the automatic All-Pro most Bears fans took for granted all those years, he can still be effective and maybe even a Pro Bowler again if the D-tackles in front of him can occupy more blockers. Hillenmeyer is a good candidate to be cut in the offseason since the coaching staff finally made an effort to get a better athlete on the field, but Roach is far from a perfect fit and needs to be pushed in training camp by a free agent or draft pick.
In free agency, Leroy Hill of the Seahawks is used to being the third banana at linebacker playing alongside Lofa Tatupu and Julian Peterson. As for the draft, USC's Clay Matthews, who is projected as a second-rounder, has NFL pedigree and played for one of the better college defenses in recent memory.
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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