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updated: 8/29/2011 8:19 PM

Surely, Bears' Briggs must know the deal

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  • Bears linebacker Lance Briggs had no complaints in 2008 when he signed his current contract, which already has paid him better than $21 million.

      Bears linebacker Lance Briggs had no complaints in 2008 when he signed his current contract, which already has paid him better than $21 million.
    GEORGE LECLAIRE | Staff Photographer


So now Lance Briggs says he doesn't want to be a distraction to the Bears -- after he "leaked" to the media that he wants a new contract, even though he only has played halfway through the six-year, $36 million deal he signed before the 2008 season.

If Briggs didn't want to be a distraction, he could have remained silent and let agent Drew Rosenhaus continue to work behind the scenes on a restructuring of his deal.

That's not a distraction.

But when a player with three years remaining on his contract threatens in the media to sit out or to demand a trade, that can be a bit disruptive.

Briggs did say he wouldn't immediately seek a trade. Wow, what a team guy. He's actually going to honor his contract for another year before he wants a do-over.

Briggs reportedly is feeling disrespected because of the recent big-bucks deals signed by other linebackers who aren't as talented or productive as he is.

He definitely has a point there, but that's what happens when you sign a long-term deal. That's the way it works, at least in the NFL. Salaries go up every year. A great deal one year looks like a mediocre deal five years down the road.

This isn't breaking news.

When Briggs signed his deal in 2008, he was paid as one of the top linebackers in the NFL, which he was, still is and has been for the past six seasons, when he was voted to the Pro Bowl each year.

This isn't a knock on Briggs the player, because he has been as instrumental as anyone in the success of the Bears' defense over the years. He has missed just four games in his eight seasons and has started 121 of the Bears' last 125 games.

In every season since his rookie year in 2003, Briggs has had at least 120 tackles. In those seven seasons he has either led the Bears in tackles or finished second.

He has 12 career forced fumbles, 3 more than middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who has played three more seasons. Briggs has returned 3 of his 12 interceptions for touchdowns, third best in franchise history.

But Briggs already has pocketed $15.8 million in bonus money from his 2008 contract, plus $5.8 million in salary. His base salary plus roster bonus for this year is $3.9 million which, on its face, makes him seem way underpaid compared to the most recent deals.

In March, Green Bay's A.J. Hawk signed a five-year, $33.75 deal that included $12.2 million in bonus money. He will take home $10.95 million this year, but Briggs brought home more than $10 million in the first year of his deal and $21.6 million in the first three -- hardly chump change.

David Harris of the New York Jets reportedly will get $29.5 million in guaranteed money in a four-year, $36 million deal. Pittsburgh's Lawrence Timmons got a six-year, $50 million deal that includes $18 million in bonuses.

The difference between them and Briggs? Timmons is 25, Harris and Hawk are 27.

Briggs turns 31 in November. He had his chance in 2008 to cash in, and he did. Back then he was in his prime and shopped himself on the free-agent market but came back to the Bears.

As for demanding a trade sometime in the future, good luck with that. Briggs is still a great player, but he won't perform at his current elite level forever.

He can hold out next year, but he will be approaching his 32nd birthday, and players that age have precious little playing time left.

If Briggs doesn't play, he doesn't get paid. Say he sits out the entire 2012 season and then the Bears release him. He could hit the open market as an almost-33-year-old with a year's worth of rust on him.

Under his current contract, Briggs would make $6.5 million that year.

Lance, do the math.

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