This is a tough topic. Urlacher has lost a step. There is no doubt. However, does the present combination of physical ability (declined) and football IQ (increased) taken together mean that he is actually a liability on the field?
And how much is due to his knee? And how much will his knee get better given time?
To many unknowns, even for the people that have some of the answers. The bottom line is that you have a position with an aging star that is not able to contribute as much, but has a high level of football savvy and then in the other corner you have a porous line with several weak positions and only one veteran with a great deal of savvy (Garza).
If you don't have enough resources to go around, I think you have to put them towards the OL and try to hope that the combination of football IQ and physical ability will stretch one more year and that the backup is good enough just in case. The situation on the OL is just too bad not to address.
My concern - and for me it is a real concern is given some good talent, can Tice utilize it or will he be tempted to move people around to where he can "make them better"? In other words, will he take some good people and screw them up? I don't think Webb had a lot of natural ability (other than size), but Carimi did. And they are both struggling. Is it Tice, is it Carimi being a rookie, is it playing RT when he is used to LT?
Too many variables, but for me it brings Tices ability into question -- or at least being one of the factors to consider.
When I think of these things, I really get sick about how Jerry Angelo failed at keeping the talent level high enough. We should have had, at least an average oline in place when Cutler arrived. We should have had, at least an average WR corps in place when Cutler arrived. We should have had Urlacher's replacement being groomed 2 years ago, and starting along side him and Briggs - learning how to step in someday as the quarterback of our offense.
And we blew so many draft picks on defenders that never turned out. We blew oline picks (not just the #1 pick on C.Will). So, when Emery took over, he inherited too many personnel problems to fix in one off-season. Emery also inherited a coaching problem on offense. This will have to be addressed at the end of the year.
One last comment about Urlacher. I'm not saying he's completely done. Just saying he's had one heck of a decline - and the end obviously can't be too far away. Anyone who believes he has multiple years left to play is delusional.