Previewing some of the big decisions facing NFC North teams early in the 2012 offseason:
It was just a few months ago when Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs requested a trade, citing dissatisfaction with his salary midway through a six-year contract. The Bears declined, Briggs played out the season and we haven't heard a thing about the issue since.
You would think that new general manager Phil Emery will address the matter, one way or the other, this offseason. Briggs now has two years remaining on his contract, which currently calls for him to earn base salaries of $3.75 million in 2012 and $6.25 million in 2013.
The Bears might not be inclined to do a major contract extension for a linebacker who turns 32 this year. It's also possible they won't want his salary to nearly get that high when he turns 33 in 2013. But we should say this much for Briggs: In 2011, he responded in the most credible way possible.
You know that he started all 16 games and was named to his seventh Pro Bowl team. But you might not be aware that Briggs played every single defensive snap for the Bears this season, a pretty rare feat for a linebacker. In 2011, 42 NFL players were on the field for 100 percent of his team's snaps, but 36 of them were offensive linemen. So, in other words, Briggs was one of six non-offensive linemen to pull it off.
It makes sense that Briggs would play the vast majority of the Bears' snaps. He is one of their top players and is part of every sub defensive packages. But to make it through a year without getting nicked up or tweaking an ankle or needing a breather is a noteworthy feat.
When Emery sits down to assess Briggs' situation, he'll see a player who has missed only four games in nine seasons and, at age 31, never left the field for any reason during an 8-8 season. Stay tuned.