(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Brian Urlacher, it's been fun. Over 13 seasons, he has been the key to the Bears defense, made eight Pro Bowls and became a beloved part of Chicago. He was one of the latest among great Chicago linebackers, and helped the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006.
His contract ended after the past season, and the Bears announced Wednesday they couldn't come to terms with Urlacher.
"We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," Bears General Manager Phil Emery said via press release. "Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears."
For years, Urlacher was the speedy center of the Bears' cover-2 defense. But let's be honest. The 2012 season was not good. Urlacher missed training camp and took several games to get up to speed. Though there were flashes to to remind us of the Urlacher we once knew, he was down a step. His hamstring and knee injuries kept him from being the lynchpin to the Bears' defense.
And at 35, there was no reason to hope his play would improve. His longtime coach, Lovie Smith, is gone. It's a whole new regime at Halas Hall, and to hold onto Urlacher, the Bears would have had to kill their salary cap and ignore their other needs.
At this point, re-signing Urlacher would hurt the Bears more than it would have helped him.
Chicago has a new coach, a newer general manager, and a clear mission to win now. Urlacher doesn't fit into those plans.