Last week, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher announced his retirement after a Hall of Fame-caliber 13-year career. One of the greatest middle linebackers in NFL history, Urlacher was an eight-time Pro Bowler, the 2005 Defensive Player of the Year and has the most tackles in Bears history with 1,779. The fact that he leads the Bears in all-time tackles is saying something when you consider that the Bears have had two previous Hall of Famers man the middle of their defense in Dick Butkus and Mike Singletary.
He retired, he told Rich Eisen on the Rich Eisen Podcast, because he noticed he wasn’t the same player as he once was. But he acknowledged that if given the chance to play for another team, he would have played for the Dallas Cowboys. He said that the reasons were because the Cowboys now run the Bears’ old defense, and that former Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the new defensive line coach in Dallas.
The Cowboys, however, didn’t express a lot of interest in the future Hall of Famer, mainly because they are set at linebacker for years to come.
While he would’ve been a great fit in terms of familiarity with Marinelli’s scheme, playing time would have been harder to come by than it has been over his career.
In the middle of their defense, the Cowboys have emerging players Sean Lee – already considered one of the league’s best middle linebackers – and Bruce Carter. If Urlacher was signed by the Cowboys, he would have played a situational role.
Expecting him to produce anything close to what he did in his prime years with Chicago would have been a stretch, as he showed signs of the slowing down the last couple years. The great cover skills he had displayed in his prime years were dwindling, and he had trouble getting off of blocks, although in a situation role he still could have been productive.
However, more than on the field, he would’ve definitely helped the Cowboys in an area that they have been lacking in recent years, vocal leadership.
The Cowboys do have hard working guys that lead by example. DeMarcus Ware plays hard all the time. So do Jason Witten and Tony Romo. If you were to look at veterans by example leadership on the roster, it comes mostly from those three.
Urlacher would have provided not only more of that, but vocal leadership as well. In the 1990s when the Cowboys were a dynasty, Emmitt Smith led by example. Michael Irvin did as well and was vocal, and the same with Troy Aikman. But on the current version of the Cowboys, you get the feeling that vocal leadership is a little forced. Former Cowboy linebacker Keith Brooking’s pre game hype speech would be a prime example of that.
In 2008, the Cowboys signed another veteran linebacker, former Miami Dolphin and Hall of Fame candidate, Zach Thomas, to a one-year, $1 million deal. Including bonuses and incentives, the deal potentially totaled $3 million.
But the Cowboys would have had to pay Urlacher alot more than that, most likely what he was asking for – unless he would have taken a discount to play for his former coordinator, which was probably unlikely. He was asking the Bears for two years at $11.5 million. They offered him a one-year deal at $2 million and he rejected it.
Simply put, $11.5 million would have been too steep a price for the Cowboys to pay. With their cap situation, they could not have afforded it.
It is too bad that the circumstances weren’t right for both sides, because Urlacher, while also still providing quality play, would have addressed one of the more pressing off-the-field needs for America’s Team.