Other Bears in Line for New Deal Too...............
Bears' line for new deals long
Forget Briggs, Garza is likely team's most undercompensated player
Center Roberto Garza is more underpaid than teammate Lance Briggs. (Brian Cassella/Tribune photo)
By Brad Biggs, Chicago Tribune reporter 7:53 p.m. CDT, August 29, 2011
Since Lance Briggs clarified his contract wishes and made it clear he wants teammates also to feel the love with the Bears $19 million below the salary cap, it's easy to compile a list of players to line up outside Jerry Angelo's office.
The general manager said his "intent" is to extend the contract of running back Matt Forte, but talks haven't gotten across the goal line since they began about a week into training camp.paid. Considering the bulk of evidence there is supporting his value for the offense, why not? The Bears probably could have gotten Forte at a discount rate if they had worked on a contract during last season, but now he's aiming to be highly paid.
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The next player to knock on Angelo's door should be center Roberto Garza. Teammates should let him walk to the front of any line. He has been the lowest-paid starting lineman of his tenure in the NFL for three seasons. Angelo once said the only contract he didn't feel was fair for a player after the fact was a deal for former defensive end Alex Brown, who later was compensated. Angelo should feel that way with Garza, who signed a $12.8 million, six-year extension in 2006 and is entering the final year of that deal.
The contract included an injury waiver because of concern over Garza's right knee, which doesn't have an ACL, and he hadn't established himself as a starter at the time. The knee hasn't been an issue (he tore the MCL in his left knee last season) and he is regarded so highly the Bears asked him to replace longtime center Olin Kreutz. It would be an upset if Garza isn't selected as a captain next week.
Garza, 32, triggered $1 million escalators this season and last year, but he will make only $2.74 million in 2011, almost $500,000 less than Chris Spencer gets backing him up. He was given virtually the same contract Terrence Metcalf received in 2006. Metcalf has been gone more than two years and started only 25 games. Garza, meanwhile, has started 78 of the last 80 games. Frank Omiyale is slated to be the backup offensive tackle this season at a price tag of $2.1 million. He earned $7.8 million over the previous two seasons.
Garza and agent Jeff Griffin approached the Bears about redoing his deal in 2009. The team told them no. Neither has said a word since and both declined comment for this story. Who knows? Maybe the Bears plan to let him walk.
Defensive end Israel Idonije could be in line for a new deal considering his career has continued to grow since the extension he signed in 2009. The 30-year-old is entering the final year of his contract at $2.4 million. Coming off a career-best eight sacks in 2010, he figures to remain in the team's plans and he and Briggs share the same agent — Drew Rosenhaus.
"I understand the business aspect of the game," Idonije said. "But I am worried about getting better. No question I am leaps and bounds from where I was when I signed in '09. Everybody knows what the situation is, but the focus is handling football first."
Veteran safety Chris Harris hoped to have an extension before this season but he could be headed to free agency. Earl Bennett might be the team's best wide receiver and he's entering the final season of his contract. So is tight end Kellen Davis, who could position himself for a big payday with a strong season. Nickel back D.J. Moore, defensive lineman Henry Melton, wide receiver Johnny Knox and guard Lance Louis are signed through 2012, and in the past the team targeted young players after their third season for extensions.
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