After Brian Urlacher called the 1 year offer by the Chicago Bears 'insulting' a couple days back, it became apparent that the face of the Chicago Bears and the embodiment of all that is the 'Monsters of the Midway' will be playing elsewhere in 2014.
Up the road in Minneapolis, the Vikings have been looking for a middle linebacker since E.J Henderson left after the 2010 season, and last year's starter, Jasper Brinkley, signed with the Arizona Cardinals. Maybe not so coincidentally, the Vikings and representatives for Brian Urlacher have had some broad based discussions about Urlacher's future. And if Urlacher is to be believed, it was the Vikings that contacted him, and not Urlacher out knocking on doors looking for a job.
Here you go!
Ted: Right when free agency opened, I wrote a piece that was more of a friendly jab at our friends in Chicago about the far-fetched possibility that he could land in Minnesota. I just assumed the Bears would work a deal out with him, and he would retire a Bear. But he didn't, and what was seen as more of a joke last week seems like it might be a distinct possibility.
I personally think it's a good, short term fix at a position of need for the Vikings. After struggling with injuries for the last two seasons, Urlacher is finally healthy. In an interview with Dan Patrick on his NBC Sports Channel show, he said about his health: "I finally feel good," he said. "Last offseason was so frustrating trying to fix my knee. ... This offseason I've worked out like normal. ... I'm finally healthy. Hamstring doesn't hurt anymore."
If signed, Urlacher would be coming to a defense that he has played in schematically for his entire 13 year career, the 4-3. There's probably not a better linebacker in the league that knows the defense like Urlacher does; the MLB is the 'quarterback' of the defense, responsible for calling the play in the huddle and aligning the defense once they break the huddle. There would be no learning curve in figuring out a new defense, other than some different calls of what would be the same plays and formations.
And I don't think he would be over-used, as last year's MLB Jasper Brinkley was on the field for only about 33% of the defensive plays. Brinkley was replaced in the nickel by Erin Henderson, and it would be easy to rotate Urlacher with Henderson on obvious passing downs, essentially giving him a 'snap count', if you will. That would give him every opportunity to stay healthy through a 16 game schedule.
Finally, much like Brett Favre in 2009, I would find just a little bit of glee seeing a longtime foe and the face of a bitter division rival playing in Minnesota, and hopefully playing well. Given the right circumstances, which I think exist in Minnesota, Urlacher would be a great fit.
But Kyle disagrees. Don't you, Kyle?
Kyle: My esteemed counterpart Ted is indeed correct, I do disagree. Now some of you might say "but wait, earlier on you supported this!" That is correct, but as always I reserve the right to change my mind, and it had been thusly changed well before Chicago decided to insult Urlacher on his way out the door.
I have a few key issues with this idea, in no particular order. Let's start with the glaring issue we're all aware of: cap space, or the lack thereof to be more appropriate. Urlacher felt that Chicago's 2 million offer was an "insult"; I'm not sure we have the actual cap space, even should we decide to trade every draft pick and not sign another single person, to reach what could be considered Urlacher's happy place. But let's say he was open to negotiation, understanding of our situation, willing to take less just to jab Chicago for their insult. Let's say Jared Allen and/or Kevin Williams is restructured (or even released), freeing up room to make one more splashy move. My issue remains regardless of all these possibilities because there is another key veteran out there that we should be more than pursuing in that situation: Antoine Winfield. Winfield brings every bit the impact to our defense that Urlacher would, I trust his health more, and it would be a positive for both the fan base as well as the locker room. If we have the room to sign Urlacher, we should forget about it and beg- BEG- Winfield to forgive us and return. And there's absolutely no way we will have room to sign both.
But let's say the room appears and Winfield either outright rejects our offers regardless (which I wouldn't blame him for) or gets a better offer that we can't beat and signs elsewhere. Go ahead and get Urlacher then, right? Wrong. As Ted pointed out, this is likely a guy who's going to play about a third of our snaps. Even if it is for the length of the season- which I'm not entirely convinced it would be- that lessens his potential impact considerably. While Winfield has the ability to be an incredible locker room presence regardless of his field presence, Urlacher will lack that some simply because he'll be the 'new guy'. Yes, Brett Favre brought magic to our team both on the field and in the locker room right away, but we all know that quarterbacks have a bit of a different role on the team than pretty much any other player. So to me, making a big splash for a guy who will be here for likely one year, a third of the time in that year, and fingers crossed that he's even in it for all 19 games (see what I did there?), well- it makes me wonder about the true potential return on investment. Even if Urlacher is doing amazing, we would absolutely have to limit his snaps, with his age and injury concerns. (I don't care what he says about his health. He's shopping for a team and a big paycheck- do you really think he'd admit it if he felt his body was less than 100%?)
While Rick Spielman is a master of the lie at this time of the year, and even usually uber-reliable Leslie Frazier is spinning some half-truths and whatnot, I do tend to believe them when they suggest that it will be young blood at that position. With two first-round draft picks, we have the luxury of targeting that position relatively aggressively. Don't bother asking me if that means Te'o or Ogeltree or whomever, I don't have a clue right now. But the truth remains, we need someone young there, because Urlacher's not going to be here for more than one year. If we were a team like 2008, just one piece away from the Super Bowl, I might be a bit more inclined to make the plunge and go all in for glory. But this is a team that's currently being constructed for long-term success, so putting big bucks in for a guy who's just a one-year rental doesn't add up. Maybe- MAYBE- if Spielman and co. are looking at the draft and saying "there's not a single MLB there that we can go with", then I suppose there's a difference. But I doubt that's the case. We're the team willing to take it in the teeth at a position right now if we believe it means that that position will grow into a contending piece for the following ten seasons.
I'll agree with Ted on this: LORD it would be fun to take both Greg Jennings and Brian Urlacher in one fell swoop, and double the wailing and gnashing of teeth across the NFC North. But I can't put the Vikings' long-term success after simple schadenfreude, and to me that's all this move would amount to.
So there you have it. As always, I'm right and Ted is wrong.
So what about you fine folks? Do you take the route that Urlacher should be pursued (cap space pending), or that it's fool's gold either way?