There is no doubt that Brian Urlacher and Jay Cutler are at two very different points in their respective careers, but this last week has shown that fact come out in the most direct of ways. With Urlacher announcing that he will be out 2-4 weeks with a hamstring injury, talk has begun –Urlacher is in the final year of his contract– that Urlacher has played his last game with the Chicago Bears. While he insures that he would be ready for any potential playoff game should the Bears make it, there’s no denying that the Brian Urlacher era in Chicago is swiftly coming to an end.
Jay Cutler, meanwhile, is talking contract extension. And better yet, he claims that he won’t “break the bank” on a new contract. I’m sure the Bears and their fans greatly appreciate those sentiments. I’m assuming his agent doesn’t feel the same way. The difficulty in determining how much Cutler should make is brought on by the fact that his numbers don’t justify a “break the bank” sort of contract. Conversely, his undeniable value to the team –directly illustrated post-injury in 2011 and the small window of time Cutler missed here in 2012 –makes him worthy of a good chunk of change. He may not be the best quarterback in the league, but he is easily as valuable to his respective team as any quarterback in the league.
Chicago fans have been (rightly) clamoring the last few years for the Bears to consider drafting an eventual replacement for Urlacher. We Bears fans have been spoiled the last decade by having Lance Briggs and Urlacher patrolling the middle of the field. We have come to take for granted exceptional linebacker play. With both Urlacher’s contract and presumably his career coming to an end, the Bears need to draft someone they hope can replace him for the long term.
As for this season, the Bears need to tread lightly as they attempt to secure a playoff spot. While they are entirely in control of their own fate, there is some doubt as to whether they can make it. Urlacher’s injury is just another reason on a seemingly ever-growing list of why the Bears might not make it. I think a 2-2 finish would get the Bears in –giving them 10 wins– but with road games in Minnesota and Detroit and a home game against the Green Bay Packers, 2-2 isn’t a guarantee. I would hope the Bears have the ability to handle the Arizona Cardinals, but nothing is easy this time of year. With the Bears having lost three of four going into their game against the Minnesota Vikings, they can’t wait any longer to move towards locking up a playoff spot. They still have a some room for error, but with the NFC wild card race overflowing with potentials, one misstep combined with the wrong team –a team the Bears don’t have a tiebreaker over, for instance– getting hot could mean the Bears don’t get to play too far into January. After starting 7-1, that would be a major disappointment.
Brian is a lifelong Chicago Bears fan, having lived in Illinois his entire life and having followed the NFL throughout.
Urlacher Won’t Say He’s Done in Chicago
Cutler Talks Extension