By Laurence Holmes-
(CBS) The bizarre game of chicken between Lance Briggs & the Bears continues, but it seems as though, Briggs is the only one playing.
The Bears weak-side linebacker would like to restructure the remaining three years of a 6-year, $36 million deal. He has repeatedly asked for a trade in the last two weeks and has gotten no response.
“On the business side, if the organization, if management says that ya know they’re not willing to talk about my deal or are willing to deal with my deal now or at the end of the season or next year then I know my days here are numbered.” Briggs said.
As much as Briggs may want that, it seems unlikely. Right or wrong, the Bears believe that they are a Superbowl contender. That contention takes a major hit if they decide to trade Briggs right as the season begins. It would weaken them at a position that is already light on depth and would take a 6-time Pro-Bowler off the field.
If you’re a team that is looking to trade for Briggs, the fact there is “only“ $14 million left on his deal is attractive for a player of his caliber. Why would that team then give him more money when at the end of the deal he would be 33-years old with a lot of miles on his body?
Besides the money, Briggs is frustrated by the fact that the team hasn’t even acknowledge restructuring the deal.
“…When the organization or the management says that we’re not talking now, we’re not talking ever…it let’s me know my days our numbered.”
Briggs kept repeating the concept that his days are “numbered“, but it’s a threat with no teeth. The Bears have all the leverage. He is still under contract for three more years. If Briggs wanted to pull a power-play and hold out, he does so at his own peril. The team can fine a player up to $30,000 a day for everyday he misses. And if he holds out long enough, he won’t accrue a year of playing time.
It’s clear that Briggs would like a bump in salary for this season. That can be accomplished by flipping this year’s salary of $3.9 million with deal’s final year salary of $6.5 million. It’s a concept that Briggs says he presented to the Bears.
“What we’re trying to do is creatively think of some way-any way, whether it be this year, whether it be next year or whether it be ya know move it into the future. There is no negotiating so I have to make a decision.” Briggs said.
Let’s hit the pause button and go back for a second…
After Briggs negotiated this current deal, he was happy to stay in a Bears uniform and thought he was fairly compensated. Back in March of 2008, after Briggs signed, this is what he told the Score:
“This deal is a little more frontloaded and for the first four years, I make $28.8 million…which is good because I’m basically making my franchise number each of those years.”
I listened back to that interview. Briggs was happy with his deal. He hasn’t even collected all $28.8 million that he was talking about.
This is what he says today.
“Since I’ve signed the deal, have I not lived up to the contract?” Briggs asked rhetorically. “Ok ya know continue to do that. Year in and year out, even before I signed the deal I lived up to the contract.”
The Bears have too. They’ve paid Briggs over $24 million in the last 3-seasons for his Pro-Bowl level of play. So what’s his endgame? Making noise doesn’t seem to help his cause. The Bears have other contract priorities to consider before Briggs, like Matt Forte, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.
The best decision Briggs can make is to play this season out QUIETLY and then address the issue again at the end of the year. The Bears may be more willing at that point to renegotiate if he continues to perform at a high level. In the meantime, Briggs’ reputation is taking a hit. Fans that I’ve talked too range from: perplexed to downright angry. It’s a shame too.
Since the contract squabble in 2008, Briggs worked really hard to rebuild his image. He didn’t want fans to think of him as being selfish or greedy. To a large degree he was successful. He plays the game with a ferocity that fans respect. His approach to getting a new deal smacks of desperation. It leaves you to wonder why. Does Briggs see his NFL mortality and is trying for one last big-money grab? Does he truly feel under-appreciated? Does he need the money that badly? Who knows, but it seems that Briggs needs to change strategy because the one that he’s employing is not working and the Bears aren’t listening.