September 8th. That's a date to circle if you're a Bears fan because he could mark the end of an era in the Windy City, as September 8th is the last possible day the Bears can cut veteran Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher and not owe him a dime of his money owed to him.
There have already been rumblings of a roster move, albeit those rumblings pertain to the end of this upcoming season. Both Urlacher and the Bears have said they will not talk about a contract during the season, but one way to avoid that all together is to simply cut the oft-injured linebacker loose altogether.
Would it be an unpopular move, no doubt. But Urlacher isn't going to be around forever and there will come a day where the Bears turn their back to him. But the the $7.5 million question raised here is this: will that time come in less than two weeks?
$7.5 million is what the Bears will owe Urlacher if they keep him on the 53-man roster after September 8th.
Urlacher is coming off of yet another surgery in his career, one that the Bears hoped he wouldn't have to get and it ended up being for an injury they were simply wishing away rather than addressing. This isn't Urlacher's fault, but football teams aren't in the making friends business, they're in the winning championships business.
Phil Emery has stated hinted that he won't bring Urlacher back unless it's for a considerable discount, and Urlacher himself has acknowledged that things could get very messy after this season. Even Bears kicker Robbie Gould can see the writing on the wall, but everyone else still seems to be in denial about a possible future sans the man who's been here through thick and thin since 2000.
His body is breaking down, he can't stay healthy and the Bears have a semi-suitable replacement in Nick Roach. Now, Roach isn't going to fill Urlacher's Hall of Fame shoes but as long as he holds his own in the middle, Chicago will be fine.
It's a risk either way you look at it. Urlacher could stay injured or worse yet, re-injure himself and miss a majority of the season on the Bears dime, or he can come back better than ever and ride into the sunset with one final good season as a Chicago Bear.
If Urlacher is cut loose, it will be a terribly bitter pill for Bears fans to swallow. It will also be one of the more ugly ways to part with someone who's basically been the entire franchise for over a decade. But again, this isn't a business to make friends in, it's a business to win in and tough decisions need to be made in order to achieve that goal.
But if Chicago cuts Urlacher, it would simply be disrespectful, not surprising. Just look at how the Washington Redskins said good day to Pro Bowler Chris Cooley. To the outside world, the bears would be shoving their best defensive player of the decade out the door and tossing his hat after him. But to the Bears, they'd be slicing $7.5 million off the books and could re-sign Urlacher after this season.
It's an enigma of sorts: cutting Urlacher is both insanely stupid, yet dangerously logical at the same time.
Tough decisions lay ahead for the Bears, and there will be plenty of changes made to this roster between now and the September 9th opener.
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