Middle linebacker Brian Urlacher #54 of the Chicago Bears stands on the sidelines during the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. The Bears defeated the Cardinals 28-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
For the first time since the turn of the century, Brian Urlacher is not a Bear. Don't panic. He hasn't signed with another team, but the morning after free agency began, the longtime heart of the Bears' defense doesn't have a contract with Chicago. And that's OK.
Urlacher's agent reportedly made a contract offer to the Bears on Thursday. As of yet, they reportedly have not responded to it. You can see why, as they were busy addressing two of the team's biggest needs. Tight end Martellus Bennett and left tackle Jermon Bushrod were both signed on Tuesday.
Neither man came cheaply. As free agency started, they had around $7 million in salary cap to spend. Though they likely will clear space in other ways, it made no sense for the Bears to overpay for a 35-year-old linebacker whose onetime considerable skills are diminishing.
This way, Urlacher can test the market and find out his true price. It's likely much less than the $7 million he was paid by the Bears last season. It also gives the Bears time to figure out how much they can spend on him without ignoring other key positions.
General manager Phil Emery promised to not slight Urlacher in the free agency process, and he's not. What Emery is doing is building a team that can win, hopefully with Urlacher's help. Winning is the best thing to give a man who has been in the league for so long.