The Bears agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2014 with the Pro Bowl linebacker, keeping one of their cornerstone players happy.
“This was by far the least amount of time I’ve ever had with the Bears trying to (negotiate) a contract,” Briggs said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
A person familiar with the situation said the new deal basically guarantees about $8 million over the next two years. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the terms were not released.
Briggs, whose six-year, $36 million contract would have expired in 2013, was scheduled to make nearly $4 million next season. Instead, he gets a $3 million bonus up front, along with a $250,000 workout bonus and $3 million in salary.
His salary for 2013 is $4.5 million, with $2 million guaranteed and $4.75 million for 2014. The deal also includes $250,000 workout bonuses in 2013 and 2014, plus roster bonuses of $1 million and $500,000 for those seasons.
“I’m grateful,” Briggs said. “I’m just very appreciative right now that the work has been recognized and that it got handled as fast as it did.”
Agent Drew Rosenhaus met with new general manager Phil Emery and lead contract negotiator Cliff Stein at the combine, and they agreed to table the discussions until the Bears addressed other roster needs. Once they resumed talks, it didn’t take long to reach an agreement.
“It’s a good thing for Lance,” Rosenhaus said. “It’s good for the Bears. It’s nice to see a happy outcome.”
Briggs pushed hard for a new contract at the start of last season, but the Bears wouldn’t budge.
With three years left on a six-year, $36 million contract, general manager Jerry Angelo basically told Briggs at the time to leave him alone when the linebacker asked for permission to seek a trade if he couldn’t get a renegotiated deal before the season. Briggs said he thinks they would have reached an agreement even if Angelo had not been fired following an 8-8 finish.
“There were some times where it was kind of difficult dealing with Jerry. At the end of the year, we had some open talks with Jerry, and he voiced that my contract is something that needs to be addressed,” Briggs said. “It just so happens that he got fired the very next morning.”
Briggs vowed he would never play “another down for Chicago again” after the Bears slapped the franchise-player tag on him for the 2007 season. He wound up accepting a one-year, $7.2 million contract and agreed to that six-year deal in March 2008.
Now, he hopes to finish his career in Chicago.
“My dream is to retire a Bear, and I know that I will retire a Bear,” he said.
Briggs entered select company this past season when he became just the fourth linebacker in franchise history to make seven straight Pro Bowls, joining Hall of Famers Dick Butkus, Bill George and Mike Singletary.
He led the Bears with 147 tackles last year, his eighth straight with 100 or more, and had eight tackles for loss. He also forced two fumbles, broke up three passes and intercepted one.
“We’re very excited for Lance and for the Bears,” Emery said in a statement. “Lance has been a very valuable and productive member of our team. Seven straight Pro Bowls is quite a record of success. This is a very positive step for our team in our efforts to win championships.”
The extension for Briggs is just the latest in a long line of moves since Emery was hired. He addressed the Bears’ biggest need by acquiring Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall in a blockbuster trade with Miami and signed running back Michael Bush to a four-year, $14 million from Oakland to team with the disgruntled Matt Forte in the backfield.
He also signed Jason Campbell to back up quarterback Jay Cutler, brought in special teams star Eric Weems and added cornerbacks Kelvin Hayden and Jonathan Wilhite for depth in the secondary, but there are still some issues to address.
Forte hasn’t signed his $7.74 million franchise tender, and linebacker Brian Urlacher’s contract expires after the upcoming season.
Briggs said he hopes Forte’s situation gets resolved, adding “I want him to be happy.” As for Urlacher?
“I think that the Bears will do right by him,” Briggs said. “He’s coming off a great year, and hopefully, we can play until we’re 49 years old, if that’s possible.”