A handful of positions in the world of sports—center field for the Yankees, tailback at USC—test every individual who plays them against some of the giants in the history of the game. One such position is middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears.
Now, there will be a new would-be star in that role for the first time in 13 years. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Brian Urlacher and the team have broken off contract talks, and the career Windy City icon has played his last game in a Bear uniform.
With the end of the Urlacher era, it’s time to reflect on the Chicago career of the most successful and popular Bear of this century. Even in the lofty company of Bear MLBs, number 54 stacks up remarkably well.
Greg Olsen’s departure two years ago left the Chicago Bears with a bare cupboard at the tight end position. With a new (and non-TE-phobic) offensive coordinator in town, Chicago also might have an opportunity to replace at least some of Olsen’s much-missed production.
As reported by the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears are expected to make a serious push to sign free agent Jared Cook away from the Tennessee Titans. Cook was one of the few players who had been rumored as likely franchise-tag targets who was not, in fact, locked up by his incumbent team.
Although the Titans themselves and other clubs are sure to be in the mix for the Cook, he has so much going for him that Chicago has to make every effort to bring him in. The Bears don’t have much cap space of their own after franchising Henry Melton, but it’s not impossible that Julius Peppers or Jay Cutler could agree to some contract restructuring for the good of the team.
Ever since the Chicago Cubs signed Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, the fate of 2012 closer Carlos Marmol has been a topic of rampant speculation. Marmol is still a Cub, but that situation may not hold for much longer.
According to ESPN, the trade market for Marmol is a solid one, with the Detroit Tigers among multiple teams who have expressed interest. Marmol has a limited no-trade clause, but it’s expected that he would waive even that with the provision that he was heading to a contending team.
In fact, a potential trade is apparently close enough that the righthander may not make it to the end of spring training in a Chicago uniform.
It’s no secret that the Cubs are looking to increase financial flexibility and add long-term prospects. Dealing Marmol and his not-quite-$10 million contract—assuming they can get a reasonable package for him—would serve both purposes admirably.
Marmol’s trade value is never going to be higher than it is right now. He’s coming off a stellar second half in 2012, but his chances of maintaining that level of play this season are slim.
The Chicago Bears have a boatload of potential free agents to re-sign (or not) from last year’s roster, and the most expensive of the lot could be Henry Melton. The 26-year-old defensive tackle is coming off his first Pro Bowl appearance just as his rookie contract expires.
As reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter), the Bears appear to be willing to sink huge amounts of cash into keeping Melton on the roster. Biggs says that, unless a long-term contract is reached, the Bears are expected to put the franchise tag on the youngster…a move that’s expected to cost in the neighborhood of $8 million next season.
The Bears aren’t long on cap room in the best of scenarios, so committing that kind of money to one of their many skilled defensive linemen isn’t a trivial decision. Nevertheless, Chicago can ill afford to make any other move where Melton is concerned.
The NBA trade deadline has come and gone, and the Chicago Bulls’ roster looks just the way it did a week ago. Although the team’s inaction has provoked its share of grumbling (including some from Derrick Rose’s brother), Chicago will reap the benefits of its patience down the road.
In the first place, making a move for the sake of making a move would hardly have changed the outcome of the Bulls’ 2012-13 season. Chicago is already safely in the playoff picture at 31-23, and whether or not Derrick Rose returns, the Bulls will not be ready to dethrone the Heat in this year’s postseason.
Nothing the Bulls could realistically have done this week would have altered either of those situations.
Looking at the longer-term picture, the primary incentive for Chicago to make a deal was to cut salary to get under the luxury tax threshold. Smart though that option would’ve been from a financial perspective, it’s hardly a big enough gain to justify trading a useful contributor at a loss.