With Lovie Smith being gone, this might be a convenient time for the Bears to cut ties with the face of the franchise. And it's possible Urlacher might want a fresh start, perhaps even with Smith if he is coaching elsewhere. But a new coach might see real value in the middle linebacker. Emery sounds as if he believes Urlacher still can help the Bears. He said he thought Urlacher made progress with his knee injury throughout the season, to the point he was close to where he needed to be when a hamstring injury knocked him out Dec. 2. "The things that (would be) difficult to replace ... if we were to move in any other direction is the leadership that he has and the knowledge base that he has of our system," Emery said. Urlacher still has straight-line speed. His 34 years might show up in his change of direction. But he plays with more understanding than ever, which helps him compensate. At the time of his injury, Urlacher was the team's leading tackler. That doesn't happen by accident. Money could be a hurdle in retaining Urlacher. He made $8 million this season, assuming he hit his workout bonus. Urlacher might not be amenable to taking a pay cut. But the Bears might not be interested in paying him like he's an All-Pro. This will be a sensitive negotiation for Emery to navigate, assuming he wants to retain Urlacher. The good thing is it shouldn't drag out.
Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune
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