INDIANAPOLIS -- One key issue the Chicago Bears need to resolve is the future of perennial Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs, who stated before the start of last season he either wanted a new deal or to be traded. Briggs has yet to publicly back down from that demand after he led the Bears with 147 tackles in 2011 and was named to his seventh consecutive Pro Bowl.
The 31-year-old linebacker is currently under contract with the Bears through 2013 after he signed a six-year deal in March, 2008. He is due to make a base salary of $3.75 million in 2012 and could pocket an additional $1.33 million in likely to be earned incentives. Briggs' base salary jumps to $6.25 million in the final year of the deal.
At the core of the problem is the fact Briggs pocketed the bulk of his guaranteed money in the first three years of the contract. From 2008-2010, Briggs took home $11.8 million in the form of roster bonuses and made a combined salary figure of $6.445 in 2010. However, the final three years of Briggs' contact do not include any roster bonuses, and the linebacker saw his pay drop to $3.650 million last season, despite maintaining the same high level of performance on the field.
Smith said he briefly spoke with Briggs last week while the two attended funeral services held for the wife of ex-Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris.
"I did have a chance to talk to Lance a little bit," Smith said Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine. "Lance is family to us. Again, you're talking about a guy who's been here every day I've been here, and plays better football every year. He knows how much we like him and want him to be a Bear forever. So yes I've talked to him. Hopefully things are getting better on that front."