Lance Briggs made it clear again he wants to be traded if the Chicago Bears won't restructure his contract at some point.
A six-time Pro Bowl linebacker, he believes his days with the organization "are numbered" because management is unwilling to renegotiate his contract. He says he initially approached the Bears about a new deal after last season and went back to them recently, but the team is not budging with three years left on a six-year, $36 million deal.
"If management says they're not willing to talk about my deal now or during the season or during the end of the season or next year, then I know that my days here are numbered," he said.
Briggs is scheduled to make $3.9 million this season (including bonuses), $4 million in 2012 and $6.5 million in 2013 after being paid $21.6 million over the first three years. He would like to flip his salary this season with what he's due in 2013.
Between Briggs' contract demand and running back Matt Forte's desire for a new deal as he enters his final season, the Bears have some big issues hanging over them as they prepare for the opener against Atlanta. That's just more drama for a team that already figured to be tested from the start.
LB Lance Briggs
With high expectations after winning the NFC North and advancing to the conference championship game, this would have been a difficult stretch for Chicago even if two of its top players weren't seeking new deals.
The Bears start off by facing one of the best teams in the NFC in the Falcons, and it doesn't get easier from there. They follow that with games against the past two Super Bowl champions when they visit New Orleans and host Green Bay before a possible breather against Carolina.
"Everyone here has a contract and they're all honoring their contract," coach Lovie Smith said. "You go to work, you have a job to do, your teammates all expect you to do your job, and that's what Lance has done. If there is something going on, you can't tell it, and that's all I'm interested in."
Briggs vowed he'll stay focused and won't let the contract situation affect his play. He sat out the final three preseason games with a bruised knee but expects to be ready for the opener.
"As long as I'm a Bear, I'm going to give it my all," Briggs said.
He's seen several linebackers such as the New York Jets' David Harris (four years, $36 million with $29.6 million guaranteed) get new deals. Now, he wants one, too.
The Bears would argue they paid up in March 2008, when Briggs agreed to his current deal. And they probably haven't forgotten he did so after he once vowed never to play for them again.
Actually, Briggs uttered those words after they slapped the franchise tag on him for the 2007 season. He wound up accepting a one-year, $7.2 million contract and agreed to his current deal a year later.
Did he think it was a fair contract back then?
"Yes," he said. "And since I've signed the deal, have I not lived up to the contract? I continue to do that year in and year out. Even before I signed the deal, I lived up to my contract."
He figured he would want to renegotiate at some point, and that time has come.
"If I underperform, owner will cut me," Briggs said. "They have the right to cut me at any time. They can cut me right before I'm supposed to get a bonus in March. So for a player, we have every right to ask for a renegotiation. To ask for a trade. Or to hold out."
Briggs is one of only four linebackers in franchise history to make six straight Pro Bowls, along with Dick Butkus, Bill George and Mike Singletary. He has led the team in tackles two of the past three years, so it's fair to say he has produced the way the Bears hoped. He doesn't appear to have much leverage, though.
Briggs turns 31 in November, and there's no guarantee he can continue to play at that level. Even if he does, it's no given the Bears would keep him with his salary escalating in the final year.
He knows Pro Bowl players can get cut, and a good example is new teammate Brandon Meriweather. He agreed to a one-year deal with Chicago after being released by New England over the weekend.
Holding out would not appear to be a good option for Briggs, considering players can be fined $30,000 a day under the new collective bargaining agreement.
"I didn't wake up and say `I don't like it here, I want out,'" Briggs said. "I'm not a snap-decision type of person. It was long and thought out. I ran out of options.
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