A week ago a friend of mine asked if I was sympathetic to Chicago's Lance Briggs. I told him I was not, and -- to paraphrase Terrell Owens' former publicist -- I told him there were seven million reasons why.
As the Bears' franchise player, Briggs is entitled to $7.2 million, or 10 times what he made last season. Last time I checked, that's more than a lot of people will earn in a lifetime. But it's not more than what free-agent linebacker Adalius Thomas pulled down from New England, and that, folks, is what this is all about.
|You know, Lance, a boost to $7.2M in 2007 and losing the franchise tag in '08 is nothing to smirk at. (Getty Images)|
Forget that Briggs is making a lot of dough. He's not making as much as he could have if he were exposed to the open market. It's not that he wants to get rich. He already is. It's that he wants to get richer -- and, I'm sorry, I don't have sympathy for someone whose complaint is that he can't afford a fleet of Rolls Royces.
You see, when Lance Briggs looks at the Thomas signing he sees a contract that pays $18 million in bonuses and guarantees and wonders why not me? Well, here's why: Because he's covered by an NFL rule that allows the Bears to retain him while it allows him to get wealthy.
But this isn't about getting wealthy. It's about getting wealthier. If someone like, say, tight end Visanthe Shiancoe can gain $8 million from Minnesota, imagine what's out there for a two-time Pro Bowl choice like Briggs. Briggs has imagined it, which is why he'd love to auction himself.
That's why you hear him talk about not playing another down for Chicago. One minute he says he will sit out the season; the next, his agent says that Briggs will sit out the first 10 games, then return to collect a check for the last six.
That sure sounds like someone looking for a hammer.
But the leverage here is with Chicago. The Bears don't have to do a thing. If Lance Briggs doesn't play this year he remains the team's franchise player for another season -- or until he starts playing. Nothing changes. Briggs is their property, and he remains their property until they release or trade him.
That is what Briggs would like. So he pouts and rants and threatens to sit, hoping his behavior will convince the Bears to make a move.
History tells us it probably will.
When Philadelphia's Jeremiah Trotter expressed unhappiness with the franchise tag in 2002, the Eagles first tried to calm him. When that didn't work they tried to deal him. Then they simply cut him.
Two years later, he returned.