Bears designate Briggs as franchise player
By Larry Mayer
February 16, 2007

LAKE FOREST, Ill. Determined to keep one of the NFLs top defenses intact, the Bears on Friday designated Lance Briggs as their franchise player, guaranteeing him a one-year contract for $7.2 million, the average of the top five highest paid linebackers in the league. The 6-1, 240-pounder was due to become an unrestricted free agent March 2.

Briggs can sign an offer sheet with another NFL team, but the Bears would have the right to match the deal. If they chose not to match the offer, they would receive two first-round draft picks as compensation, a stiff price that most clubs are generally unwilling to pay for any free agent.

The $7.2 million tender Briggs would sign with the Bears is guaranteed for the first time in accordance with the NFL's new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

In 2006, Briggs set a career high with 176 tackles and was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl. He led the Bears with 117 solo tackles while ranking second with 10 tackles-for-loss and nine pass break-ups. A consensus first-team All-Pro in 2005, the weakside linebacker was a second-team All-Pro selection this past season.

The skys the limit when it comes to Lance and his abilities, defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said in December. Last year he just scratched the surface and I think this year hes the same way. Hes scratching the surface a little bit more each time and I think its just a matter of time before he becomes a perennial Pro Bowl player.

Briggs has not missed a game since joining the Bears as a third-round draft pick in 2003 out of Arizona. This past season he reached double digits in tackles in a career-high 12 games while leading the team in tackles eight times, tying him with fellow linebacker Brian Urlacher.

While Urlacher garners more attention, Briggs has developed a reputation among teammates and opponents as one of the best linebackers in the league.

I think for me, as far as working hard throughout the years, Ive created a lot of respect from my peers and coaches and thats where it all starts for me, especially on this team, Briggs said last month while preparing for Super Bowl XLI. The guys that Ive played with, Ive earned their respect earning the starting job and taking it another step getting to a Pro Bowl. Now its going even outside of just the Chicago Bears.