By Dan Bernstein-
CBSChicago.com Senior Columnist
(CBS) It seems like Lance Briggs woke up, felt a twinge in his injured knee, flipped the calendar ahead to November to see his 31st birthday circled in red marker, and realized that he probably already has signed away his last chance at big money.
So he snapped into action, publicly demanding a brand new contract before the end of the season. He told the Trib if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll insist on a trade.
A sudden awareness of one’s football mortality must make a guy crazy.
One non-holdout holdout has been odd enough, with Matt Forte running hard in exhibition games while he demands new paper. Now Briggs comes forward with his clumsy ultimatum.
Jerry Angelo has a pile of unused salary-cap money for this league-year, and he’ll need to spend most of it to comply with NFL rules, but he needn’t lose much sleep over Briggs right now.
There’s an easy answer, and it’s “no.” Briggs has no real leverage that I can see. He’s free to pull this stunt, and the Bears are allowed to let it play out.
If they make another playoff run this season and avoid any end-of-year angst (you’re well-aware of what I mean – one of those stilted, twitchy, over-lit press conferences of blank stares, dry mouths, conflicting statements, and nebulous authority that comes along every once in a while), Angelo could toss a nominal courtesy bonus to Briggs, stopping short of tearing up a deal that still is set to pay him $16.4 million over the next three years.
If the team tanks, all bets are off anyway. The castle will be under siege by villagers, any number of people could conceivably lose jobs, and public support will be minimal for any player associated with recent disappointment. If Angelo actually wanted to then see what he could get for Briggs, nobody would begrudge him.
It’s also very possible Briggs gets hurt this year, and the whole thing is academic. There are whispers that his current “bruise” may be something more than that, and he’s approaching the age when the minor injuries begin to add up. Should he miss a significant chunk of games, further grandstanding is more useless than it is right now.
What’s more, Briggs and agent Drew Rosenhaus seem to have miscalculated the endgame. So he’ll ask to be traded. To whom? For what?
Even if another team wanted to give up something of value for a player with only a couple good years left, would they then decide to hand over a generous, golden-parachute contract? Doubtful.
In fact, the remaining seasons of control at a decent price might be one of the reasons Angelo could find a taker offering fair compensation in the first place.
He’s not an unrestricted free agent, and I don’t expect the Bears to treat him like one.
Even if he were, I’m not sure what he thinks he could actually get as a guy on the street approaching age 32 next year.
I’ll bet he’s overestimating the number. Briggs is an outside linebacker – one that doesn’t rush the passer. On the weak side of a Tampa-2 base defense, he is a tackling machine, and a damn good one. He makes Pro Bowls and a decent living by executing specific responsibilities that are an ideal match for his current skills.
He signed a $36 million contract six years ago, and he had to know that he could be kicking himself when the market inevitably rose.
That’s what happens. That’s what happened.
Now it’s news, and something that may have been handled privately becomes a storyline conflated with that of Forte, who must be unhappy that Angelo now has more reason to dig in against a new attack from the flank.
With the season opener less than two weeks away, a big blip has appeared on Jerry Angelo’s radar screen.
He can ignore it.