Bears place franchise tag on linebacker Briggs

The Bears ended the first big question about keeping their players by placing the franchise tag on linebacker Lance Briggs, their top priority to re-sign this offseason.

Lance Briggs Briggs

General manager Jerry Angelo informed Briggs he would be their franchise player. He was given a one-year tender at $7.206 million. For a team to acquire Briggs, it would have to potentially forfeit two first-round draft choices. Plus, the Bears would have seven days to match the offer.

"Lance is one of the cornerstones of our defense," coach Lovie
Smith said. "Everything we have asked him to do, he has done and
he has developed each year. A lot of the success we've had [on
defense] has been based on how Lance has played."

Before the Super Bowl, Briggs had talked optimistically about
getting a chance to enter the open market.

"You play four years as a third-round draft pick and you have
your opportunity to get big pay for your work," Briggs said. "You
definitely want to see what your worth is."

The Bears have until the middle of March to try to sign Briggs to a long-term contract. Briggs has Derrick Brooks-type speed and skills in the Bears' cover two defense, which makes him a franchise-type player. He would like to be paid as much as teammate Brian Urlacher, who has a nine-year, $54 million contract, but that might be tough for the Bears to do.

Briggs becomes the second player to be tagged with a franchise label. The Bengals franchised defensive end Justin Smith on Thursdsay.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.