Does he have the right? Is he right? Can we blame Lance Briggs for his latest demand?
The question I think we all need to ask in Lance Briggs Gate II is whether Briggs has outperformed the nature of his contract, the one he publicly lobbied to get just three years ago?
Blame him for going to the media to demand a trade? Blaming Briggs is secondary. This is what he does. He complains when it comes to money. He did the same thing in 2007, even though he didn't ask for a trade the last time. Saying, at points during his unhappy stage, he would "never play another down for Chicago again," "I'm prepared to sit out the year if the Bears don't trade or release me," and that he'd "do everything in my power not to be with [the Bears] organization." All because he wasn't happy with his then-contract, which at the time, three Pro Bowls in, was understandable. So it's not a matter of blame.
That's why the central issue here is "outperforming," a term every attorney and agent uses when in discussion with teams about their clients' performance in relation to their pay. It's not a term of endearment; it's a term of leverage. It's a term Briggs himself used a couple weeks ago when explaining why Matt Forte deserves an extension from the Bears.
Back in 2007, Briggs had outperformed the deal he was under. Back then it was time to reconstruct the financial conditions under which he was playing. That's part of how the NFL works. Comes with the turf.
This time, can we say the same? Better yet, can Lance? Coming off a season with the second-lowest tackle total (89) of his career, I don't think he has a bruised knee to stand on.
Making the Pro Bowl for the sixth time is not enough. Only three years into a six-year deal for $36 million, continuing to make the Pro Bowl is to be expected. Even after Julius Peppers arrives.
There are players who have the right to complain. Tennessee Titans running back Chris Johnson's gripe seemed legit. So was New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis' last season. If he wanted, Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews could pitch a sermon on Brookwood Drive. The Falcons' Jerod Mayo and Curtis Lofton, as well as the Colts' Pierre Garcon, all could do a "Briggs" and be justified, because for multiple years they have outperformed the financial agreements with their teams.
And if Arian Foster has another season this year like he did last year, Houston's going to have a real problem.
But does Briggs have the RIGHT to complain?
The answer: Yes, he does. Only because, at this point, we should expect nothing less from him. Again, this is what he does; this is who Briggs has proven himself to be. He's habitually unsatisfied when it comes to contracts. Making noise through the media, demanding trades, acting like The Game, that's just him, 25/8/366. He's going to complain regardless.
Now that doesn't necessarily make Briggs wrong, but at this point with him it should be expected. By all of us.
For us in The Chi, it's like understanding and dealing with Carlos Zambrano. We all knew what was going to happen with him. We knew there would be another blow-up, another tirade. We've seen that film before.
Not that Lance is Big Z, but the analogy fits. He trends consistent. Briggs has proven -- whether he is right or wrong -- that he is going to be publicly vocal and use us, the media, as pawns in his negotiating strategy to get more money out of the Bears.
Are the Bears cheap? Yes. Does it appear at times that they play financial favoritism? Yes. Do they often overpay the wrong players and underpay players who should be bouncing banks? Yes. But in the NFL -- and you can judge this by how many players hold out or demand contract restructuring every year -- that's the rule much more than the exception. Which means you can go to damn near any city in the country and hear the same arguments, same beefs between labor and management, player and ownership.
Briggs is who we thought he is ... and at the same time what we sometimes don't want him to be.
A player always has the right to complain. A team always has the right to decide whether they want to put up with the noise or distance itself from it. Lance said a few days ago that if the Bears don't renegotiate his latest contract, by this time next year he will demad a trade. And though he's softened his stance a bit since then, it doesn't change anything. Mike Ditka preached the gospel by saying the Bears should not budge on this. In actuality, they should go one further.
Love Lance Briggs to death, but since he's made it clear with this last episode of unhappiness that he may never be satisfied monetarily, I think the Bears should acknowledge that and go about the business of making Briggs happy. Accept him at his word, give him a chance to fulfill his promise, let his demand come true, honor his latest threat.
Let another team find out what we already know.
It's the business of football. It ain't that hard to say goodbye.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com.