Bears

Mutual support reflected in Urlacher award

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Mutual support reflected in Urlacher award

Brian Urlacher has been a Bear longer than any teammate other than long snapper Patrick Mannelly, coming in the first round of the 2000 draft.

He also has been a team captain since early in his career, an honor reflecting what players and coaches think of his leadership and persona.

That honor took the form of the teams annual Ed Block Courage Award on Tuesday, an award voted on by players and given to Urlacher who had to cope with the death of his mother Lavoyda Lenard last September.

Ive always appreciated my teammates and the organization always being there, Urlacher said. Its a family organization and it shows when something like that happened to me. They were there for me and the same goes for the locker room; the guys were there for me.

Lovie Smith inherited Urlacher when he succeeded Dick Jauron as Bears coach in 2004 and has seen Urlachers character in action both on and off the field.

You could give Brian some type of award every year and no one would be surprised, Smith said. Hes been a captain every year Ive been here, and Ive made the statement that hes the best superstar youll ever have a chance to be around... Hes not just a captain who goes out there for the coin toss.

Why Khalil Mack was in 'disbelief' watching Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph incident

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USA Today

Why Khalil Mack was in 'disbelief' watching Myles Garrett-Mason Rudolph incident

Khalil Mack plays with emotion, but doesn’t let that emotion impact how he plays.

It’s how he compartmentalized his feelings prior to and during the Bears’ Week 5 game against the Oakland Raiders, the team that traded him to Chicago just before the start of the 2018 season. It’s how he hasn’t shown any frustration with getting double- and triple-teamed over the last few weeks, in which he only has one sack since Akiem Hicks went on injured reserve. 

And it’s why he was able to provide an interesting perspective on the shocking incident involving Cleveland Browns edge rusher Myles Garrett on Thursday night, which led to Garrett being suspended indefinitely by the NFL. 

“It was kind of like a disbelief moment,” Mack said of his reaction to Garrett hitting Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph with his own helmet. “But ultimately it’s definitely something you don’t want to see transpire. 

“Football is an emotional game, right, but you have to know how to control those emotions. It was real crazy.”

It’s hard not to have an opinion on the Browns-Steelers melee. One Bears offensive lineman defended Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey, who received a three-game ban for kicking and punching Garrett after Rudolph was hit with his helmet (the gist of the defense: You have to be there to defend your quarterback). Other players took to social media to point out Rudolph’s role in instigating the brawl. 

While Garrett may not have started the fight, though, he escalated it to the point where it’ll be attached to his name for the rest of his career. 

“I learned a long time ago, it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it,” Mack said. “And so, yeah. It’s one of those learning moments.” 

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How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

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USA TODAY

How the Cubs can get a Javier Báez deal done now

With the MLB GM Meetings now over, the Cubs will turn their attention to seeing how their fact-finding mission will influence their offseason makeover of the entire organization.

As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reported on Friday, the Cubs and Báez’s camp have begun negotiating a long-term contract extension. While many have speculated that Báez could command a massive salary that would rank among the top of MLB in terms of the total value, the Cubs do have some leverage. Báez still has two more years of club control, which should help to suppress the contract’s total value.

Put yourself in Báez’s shoes. If the Cubs offered you a six-year deal, would you do it? If you say yes, you have lifetime security for you and generations of the Báez family. However, you could be leaving money on the table because you would never reach free agency in the prime of your career.

Rejecting an offer of that size means you would have to perform at a level among the best players in all of baseball for two more seasons, and you would have to avoid serious injury as well. Báez plays with a flair and a passion that also puts his body in harm’s way on a daily basis.

Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, 27, is two months older than Báez and the highest paid shortstop in baseball at $20 million per season. He signed a six-year, $120 million contract in 2019, which runs through the 2026 season.

Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor — who was selected No. 8 overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, one spot before Báez — will also be a free agent after the 2021 season. He made $10.55 million in 2019 and is projected to make $16.7 million in 2020.

Báez is projected to make $9.3 million.

So, would Báez accept a deal that would protect him against injury and set him up with lifetime security, knowing that with two more seasons before free agency he would potentially leave significant money on the table?

There could be three elite shortstops on the free agent market after the 2021 season: Báez, Lindor and Trevor Story of the Rockies. This may affect what each guy could make on the open market and what they might be willing to accept in a deal now. 

Add in the fact that there will be a new MLB collective bargaining agreement by the time those three stars hit the market, and there should be some impetus for them to get a deal done now. Multiple MLB front office sources expect Lindor to be dealt before he reaches free agency and some of those same sources believe Story could be traded before then as well.

What about a deal that helps the Cubs achieve payroll flexibility in 2020 and 2021 and locks Báez in long-term?

A former high-ranking MLB executive suggested a deal structure that pays Báez $10 million in 2020, $16 million in 2021, plus six additional years at an average annual value of $23 million. That would bring the total value of the contract to $164 million.

Add in two club options for an additional two seasons at $30 million each and it allows Báez to have the largest contract of all active shortstops in MLB. Total value of the deal: $224 million; guaranteed value of the deal: $164 million.

A deal structured like that gives the Cubs certainty with one of their most talented and marketable players and protects Báez from serious injury for the rest of his career.

Would he sign a deal structured like that? I know I would. There is no greater feeling in the world than long-term financial security. A deal structured like this is a win-win for both sides.

If the Cubs won’t give Báez a deal in this ballpark, then they have to think about moving him now. You can’t allow a player of his magnitude to reach free agency and you absolutely cannot lose him to another team. He is on a potential Hall of Fame track and he is one of the most charismatic players in all of professional sports.

This deal has to get done.

If the Cubs can sign Báez for less than the aforementioned deal, then they should consider themselves very lucky.

Either way, get a deal done. Javy Báez has to be priority No. 1.

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