• The looming showdown between the Bears and six-time Pro Bowl linebacker
Urlacher, who enters the season as the league's fourth-highest paid linebacker, has failed to show up for voluntary workouts and is expected to miss the team's minicamp later this month due to his dissatisfaction with his current contract.
He contends that not only has he outperformed his contract given his perennial status as one of the game's top linebackers, but also that the dramatic increase in the league's salary cap ($75 million to $116 million) since 2003 has lessened the significance of his nine-year, $54 million deal. Under the terms of the deal, Urlacher is scheduled to receive a combined $9 million over the next two years before his salary jumps to $7.5 million in 2010 and $9.0 million in 2011 with $1.3 million roster bonuses in each of those years.
However, the underlying issue that may explain his sudden push for a new deal is that the signing bonus acceleration expires in 2010 (under the previous collective bargaining agreement, signing bonuses could be prorated over a maximum of seven years), and the Bears could release him without facing salary cap ramifications at that point. Furthermore, he will be 32 in 2010, and his recent history of back and neck issues are major concerns considering the physical nature of his position.
"I wouldn't be on board with signing him to a big money deal considering his age and injury history," said an NFC personnel executive. "At this point, you need to identify and start grooming his replacement."
In spite of the risk factors, the Bears have reportedly offered Urlacher an extension that features a $5 million signing bonus with $1 million increases to his base salary in the remaining years of the deal. With the Bears also attempting to lock up
• With reports coming out of Cleveland of an expanded role for Pro Bowl return specialist
Although the notion of using a returner as an offensive threat appears to be a good one, it rarely has a significant impact on the offense and often minimizes the effectiveness of the player in the return game.
Cribbs doesn't figure to log significant snaps at receiver with
Although Thurman's decision to tend to family matters after the death of his grandmother is understandable, his reluctance to return to Cincinnati in a timely manner for voluntary workouts left Lewis little choice. Lewis had strongly encouraged all of his players to take part in the team's "voluntary" workouts during the offseason, and with Thurman attempting to shake off the rust from a two-year layoff, his prolonged absence from the team was inexcusable in the eyes of the team (especially if he failed to communicate with Lewis while he was away from the team). While treatment of Thurman appears to be harsh in this situation, it was hardly surprising given all of the circumstances.
Though Osgood has 32 career receptions, he has only two receptions in the past two seasons and has rarely been a part of the Chargers' multiple receiver sets in recent years. Plus, the Chargers are pretty set at the position with
"Players need to be honest in their assessment of their own abilities," said an NFC scout. "The kid is only in the league because of his ability to excel on special teams and he needs to realize that before he messes up a great situation."
The Chargers recognized Osgood as one of the league's top special teamers and rewarded him with a four-year contract worth nearly $4 million, with additional bonuses tied to Pro Bowl appearances. With two years remaining on that deal and a general manager (