Clayton: Brian Urlacher and aging LBs

As only he can, ESPN's John Clayton offered some context this week to a topic we broached last week. Namely: Is it possible that linebacker Brian Urlacher is entering his final season with the Chicago Bears?

Urlacher will be eligible for free agency after the season, a possibility he said last week is "exciting." As hard as it is to imagine someone other than Urlacher starting at middle linebacker for the Bears, it's relatively rare for a position player 35 or older to hold a starting job in the NFL, as Clayton notes.

Urlacher turned 34 last week.

Clayton: "Since 2000, a position player -- excluding punters and kickers -- age 35 or older has started 10 or more games 216 times. A 35-year-old player started at least 10 games 100 times during that period, but the numbers drop off quite a bit the next two years: 53 at age 36, 27 at age 37 and 19 at age 38 and 17 total for anyone 39 and older. Last year, there were only 14 players who were 35 or older who started 10 games or more, and four have either retired or haven't been signed to contracts. In fact, only 18 position players currently under contract are 35 or older."

What does all of that mean? I think Clayton summed it up well in the video. The Bears likely will use the 2012 season to decide how much -- more or less than his 2012 compensation -- to offer Urlacher for 2013 and beyond. The idea of a new team offering a 35-year-old middle linebacker a competitive salary seems far-fetched.