Urlacher’s agent originally approached the Bears seeking a two-year deal worth $11.5 million. The thought was to aim high initially and reach a middle ground through negotiations.
The Bears apparently wouldn’t budge on their offer of a one-year contract worth a maximum value of $2 million.
“It wasn’t even an offer, it was an ultimatum,” Urlacher told the Tribune. “I feel like I’m a decent football player still. It was insulting, somewhat of a slap in the face.
“They came back with the offer and said, ‘This is what it is, take it or leave it. It was, ‘If you want to play for the Bears, you’ll play for this. If not, then you’re not playing for the Bears.’ “
Urlacher said he was willing to play for $3.5 million or even $3 million had the Bears been willing to keep negotiations ongoing.
“I want to be here,” Urlacher said. “I wanted to be in Chicago. I wanted to finish here. Now that’s not possible.
“This whole offseason, I had a bad feeling about this situation anyway. I just wish they would have said, `We don’t want you back.’ I think this whole thing is just about them saving face and trying to say that they made a run at me. That’s what I think it is.”
Urlacher has no plans to retire and continues to explore his options. He has been in contact with numerous teams.
Despite the low offer and the team’s decision to move in another direction, Urlacher vowed not to be bitter over the situation.
“There are no hard feelings between me and the Bears organization,” Urlacher said. “I had a great run here. I’m going to miss the (heck) out of my teammates.”
Urlacher’s legend was born Sept. 17, 2000, when he recorded 13 tackles and a sack in his first NFL start. Thirteen seasons and more than 1,700 tackles later, the 34-year-old longtime face of the Bears must now start a new chapter.
“We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,” general manager Phil Emery said in a statement. “Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.”
Owner George McCaskey said earlier in the week he hoped Urlacher would return but made it clear he steered wide of personnel decisions.
“Over the last 13 years Brian Urlacher has been an outstanding player, teammate, leader and face of our franchise,” McCaskey said in the statement. “As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. He embodies the same characteristics displayed by the Bears all-time greats who played before him and he will eventually join many of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city. He will always be a part of the Bears family. We wish him the very best.”
Now the eight-time Pro Bowl selection is left to ponder whether to continue his illustrious career elsewhere or walk away from the game with a bitter taste in his mouth. Urlacher missed the final four games of 2012 with a hamstring injury, watched his team miss the playoffs and saw coach Lovie Smith, whom he respected greatly, get fired after a 10-6 season.
The news of Urlacher’s departure stunned Bears players.
“He was the unquestioned leader of the defense, the team,” said center Roberto Garza, a team captain like Urlacher. “You couldn’t meet a greater person or player. Great locker room guy. He meant so much to this team, this city.
“Coach Lovie used to say he would be the greatest superstar you will ever meet because Brian doesn’t act that way and he doesn’t want to be treated that way. He was just another guy in the locker room. Obviously, he was Brian Urlacher. He’s one of the best middle linebackers to play the game but he didn’t act that way. And he was just another guy. If you needed some help, he was there for you. He was a big part of the reason that defense has been the defense it’s been for so many, many years.”
Chicago Tribune reporting