Monday, March 5, 2007

Briggs: "Not one more day" with Bears

Trouble's brewing with Lance Briggs, which isn't surprising considering that he skipped some early activities last offseason over dissatisfaction with his contract.

Sitting home wearing the franchise tag, Briggs evidently got fired up when seeing what could have been and still will be for him: free agent LB Adalius Thomas signed on with the Patriots for 5 years, $35 million, with $20 million guaranteed.

Whatever prompted it, Briggs isn't mincing words here:

"It's a great bunch of guys with a great future, but I can't see myself as being part of that future anymore. Whatever options are available to me, I'll take advantage of them. But going back and playing for the Bears again, no, I don't see that as an option. Not one more day. Not at all."

I'll have to look into this some more to see exactly what options are available to Briggs. My knee-jerk reaction is that he doesn't have much of an option but to play out his last season at $7.2 million.

He doesn't have to be happy about it. He can skip voluntary workouts again, he can skip mandatory workouts and draw fines, but I don't believe that sitting out the season disgruntled is an option. If I'm not mistaken, if he sat out the season, it wouldn't be like going to sleep for a year and waking up a non-franchised free agent -- it would be groundhog day, waking up a year older and still tagged by the Bears for a year.

He's not holding too many cards, in other words, it's about how much incentive the team has to make other arrangements in order to avoid distraction. This is the way of the NFL and Jerry Angelo is aware of it, having expressed that he will do everything he can to accommodate Thomas Jones's trade request. He'll probably be saying the same of Briggs very soon, if he hasn't already.

This is Rosenhaus-induced rhetoric, but Briggs goes out of his way a little to smack the "organization":

"The Chicago Bears team? The coaches, players, city and fans? Yeah, I could stay there forever. I love it. But the Chicago Bears organization? I don't want to be there anymore. I won't play for them and I'll do everything in my power to keep from playing there."

Also, there's no quote about it, but Len Pasquarelli refers to the fact that Briggs mentioned Ron Rivera's departure as a reason for dissatisfaction. (Then again, Len has Briggs as an Arizona State alum instead of Arizona)

Ultimately none of this qualifies as news, but it's still unfortunate to see Briggs getting after actively burning the bridges like this, the bridges every Bears fan hoped would lead to a long-term contract.

I say it's not over. I can understand Briggs's frustration -- it's the same reason I hold out some hope. For the last couple years, the Bears have talked constantly about and done their best to bring everyone back. Continuity, loyalty, and all that. That's much easier to do when you're talking about signing fullbacks and fourth safeties to long-term extensions. A cornerstone, high-quality performer's contract has needed attention for more than a year, and now continuity might be taking a back seat to "a tough business decision" to let him go, despite that the Bears could scrape together Adalius Thomas money.

The most annoying aspect I'll brace myself for is rehashing the notion that came up last offseason and will come up again: we can't pay Briggs more than Urlacher.

Which is nonsense - one has nothing to do with the other. Market's gone up and, in fact, Urlacher has said on several occasions that he would restructure if it meant keeping Briggs.

Despite that, it does look like things are setting up where we'll be reading Briggs's departure story and it'll say: Damn Rosenhaus asked for more than Urlacher money and we all know how crazy that is. Unfortunately, many Urlacher diehards will agree and give the Bears a pass on this one.


azibuck said...

Nitpicking, but until he signs the franchise tender, there are no mandatory workouts, and thus no fines either.

I don't know how or why it works this way, but he can sit around playing Madden 2007 until Game 6 or 8. Then he sign, report, and get credit for a year of service. The thing is, nothing stops the Beloved org from franchising him again in 2008.

I'm pretty sure Joe Galloway danced this dance with Seattle. They franchised, he reported during the season, they franchised him again the following year and wound up trading him to some sucker in Texas.

I agree about the bluster being a near non-issue. I think "I'll never play here again," is NFL for "I'll sign a fair long-term contract with a lot of guaranteed money if you offer me one."

dhort said...

A few clarifications from the Tribune:

-- "[A boycott] won't cost the team a dime and it can fine Briggs up to $14,000 for each day he stays away from camp"

-- If the Bears tag him again in 2008, his salary would be $8.6 million

The first one may disagree with my lippy Steamed Reader, although it does seem strange they can fine a guy $14K/day who isn't under contract.

It's like when Cosmo Kramer got fired:

- "But I don't even work here."

- "That's what makes this so tough."

dhort said...

I forgot one other important point:

"Since NFL teams started using the franchise tag on players five years ago, not once in 42 previous cases has a player skipped a game in protest."

So there's that.

azibuck said...

The Tribunes are a stupid.

If he signs and boycotts, yes. If he doesn't sign, no.

I was wrong about Galloway. He held out in the last year of his deal, incurring $837,000 in fines, then reported after Game 10, played 6 games to get credit for service time, became a FA, and Seattle franchised him and traded him to somebody.