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Friday, June 6
Urlacher highest paid player in franchise history

By Len Pasquarelli

While the blockbuster nine-year contract signed by Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher earlier this week falls short of some estimates that placed its value as high as $72 million, the deal is nonetheless among the most lucrative ever awarded a defensive player, ESPN.com has confirmed through NFL Players Association documents.

The contract totals $56.655 million, and includes a $13 million signing bonus, not the $18 million in upfront money suggested in some reports. It does not have any "voidable" years. Of course, since the salary cap charges for each season of the contract exceed $5 million, and top out at $7.4 million in 2011, it is reasonable to assume the Bears will eventually be forced to restructure the contract.

Brian Urlacher
As the ninth player chosen overall in the 2000 draft, Urlacher signed a five-year contract that included $5.5 million in upfront money. Under that contract, the three-time Pro Bowl performer was scheduled to earn a base salary of $2 million for 2003. His compensation for the upcoming season will now be slightly in excess of $15 million.

The salary cap charge for 2003 rises from $3.29 million to $5.150 million.

It is believed that the $13 million signing bonus is paid in installments, but details on the timetable were not available.

The base salaries for the contract are $1.05 million (for 2003), $1.75 million (2004), $1.25 million (2005), $3.95 million (2006), $3.95 million (2007), $3.95 million (2008), $4.95 million (2009), $6.15 million (2010) and $7.35 million (2011). There is a workout bonus of $5,600 for this season and then of $50,000 each for 2004-2011.

Urlacher, 25, will receive roster bonuses of $1 million (2003), $2 million (2004), $3 million (2005), $1.3 million (2010) and $1.6 million (2011). The roster bonuses in 2010 and 2011, according to NFLPA documents, are tied to team and individual performances in previous seasons.

Over its first-three years, the contract is valued at $23.155 million, among the richest in NFL history for such a period. The seven-year value is $40.155 million, making it much less than the seven-year, $50 million deal Ray Lewis signed with the Baltimore Ravens last summer.

The contract, aptly termed a "landmark" deal by general manager Jerry Angelo, is the richest in franchise history.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

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