Most Bears fans were optimistic about Bernard Berrian remaining in Chicago but resigned to the fact that Lance Briggs was most likely a memory, although that scenario flip-flopped within a few hours Saturday.
Berrian bolted for Minnesota and leaves the receiver position very fragile in his wake, but shortly thereafter, Briggs re-signed for six years and $36 million to keep the linebacking corps stronger than ever. A Pro Bowl selection each of the last three seasons, Briggs was second on the team in tackles last year and has registered almost as many stops the last five campaigns (735) as teammate and former Defensive Player of the Year Brian Urlacher (772). Originally a third-round draft pick out of Arizona in 2004, Briggs is one of the best open-field tacklers in the game and is a natural fit on the weak side in head coach Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme.
Briggs was franchised by the organization before the 2007 season and proceeded to tell a national television audience he would never play another down in a Bears uniform, but he ultimately agreed to a multi-year deal very similar to the one he rejected from GM Jerry Angelo just before training camp in 2006.
JC's Take: I have to say, I'm absolutely floored by this turn of events because I've been convinced that Briggs has had his bags packed since the day the regular season ended.
Briggs was arguably the best defensive player available on the open market in free agency, but it appears he overestimated his value as potential suitors across the league made other arrangements. The Bills signed Kawika Mitchell away from the Giants, the 49ers signed Dontarrious Thomas away from the Vikings, and the Saints got Jonathan Vilma in a trade with the Jets. I've been saying all along that Briggs would only be back with the Bears if they offered him the biggest contract, so don't start thinking that he got sentimental and just couldn't walk away from the friendly confines of the Windy City – this was always about money.
While keeping Briggs solidifies one of the best linebacker units in the league, it remains to be seen what the team does with youngsters Jamar Williams and Michael Okwo – two players seemingly drafted with the specific purpose of replacing Briggs one day.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.