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Friday September 2nd, 2011

Lance Briggs had 89 tackles and two sacks for the Bears in 2010. (Dennis Wierzbicki/US Presswire)

The plot surrounding Lance Briggs' reported request to be traded by the Bears is far from a new one. Briggs signed a big deal in 2008, performed well in the years after that, then watched other players at his position receive bigger contracts. So Briggs, like Oliver Twist asking for more gruel, went back to Chicago and demanded his salary be raised as well.

So far, the Bears aren't budging.

Briggs' 2008 contract was for six years and $36 million -- $13 million of it guaranteed, including a $4 million signing bonus. He's set to make $3.65 million this year.

The problem is that number falls short of others at Briggs' outside linebacker position. The Chicago Tribune cites Denver's D.J. Williams ($4.9 million) and Jacksonville's Daryl Smith ($4.2 million) as examples, rightly pointing out that neither has ever made a Pro Bowl, while Briggs has earned that honor in six straight seasons.

All things being equal, Briggs has a point. He's been a stalwart member of the Bears' defense for the past eight seasons, right alongside Brian Urlacher. At 31, coming off a season where he was banged up most of the way, you can understand why Briggs would want more money right now -- before it's too late to ask. It's basically the same argument made right here on this blog in favor of Chris Johnson's holdout.

Of course, Johnson has been the league's most productive runner for the past three seasons and would have earned less than a million in base salary this year -- a gross underpayment. Comparing his case to Briggs' is an apples-to-oranges situation.

And yet, even while defending Johnson's stance, let's admit that the constant raise requests from players must be frustrating for NFL teams. Say what you will about how the league runs and the way the financial pie is broken down. The fact of the matter is that the NFL, far more than any other league, has players trying to change what they earn right in the middle of their contracts.

It's not as if Briggs was unaware this was coming. The deal he signed in 2008 was essentially bookended -- he got a big bump up front via the signing bonus and a higher salary, and he's on track to top $6 million in the final year of the deal. That means, of course, that somewhere along the line, the compensation would drop for a bit. We've hit that valley.

So, now what do the Bears do? They need Briggs, based both on his track record in their defense and the lack of depth they have at linebacker. Chicago also won't get full value back by trading a disgruntled player.

The stance the Bears appear to be taking is to just sit tight and let Briggs stew. The linebacker has said that he'll play even if his demands aren't met, meaning the Bears don't have a do-or-die decision staring them in the face yet. It would be hard to see this situation reaching that point, either. The Bears did not blink in 2007 when a frustrated Briggs said he would "never play another down for Chicago again" before signing a one-year, $7-million-plus deal. Considering the amount of money they have already forked over to Briggs in his current contract, it's hard to imagine the Bears caving this time around.

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