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Would Bears take the ‘Singletary’ approach with Lance Briggs?

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Updated: September 2, 2011 3:51PM

The Bears hold all the cards in Lance Briggs’ demand for a new contract. But if they want to play ball with the disgruntled Briggs, they could offer to have both sides to take a chance with the “Mike Singletary” solution.

In a scenario similar to Briggs’ unhappiness today, Singletary put the Bears in a bind with a holdout in 1985 that threatened to sabotage the team’s Super Bowl season.

After making the Pro Bowl in his third season in 1983, Singletary signed a six-year contract that almost immediately became a bargain when 1984 first-round pick Wilber Marshall — aided by the timely leverage of the upstart USFL — signed a rookie contract with the Bears for nearly double Singletary’s salary.

Singletary won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1984 and held out for a new deal. He missed mini-camp in the spring of 1985 and the first 27 days of training camp.

The stalemate ended when the Bears agreed to void the final two years of Singletary’s contract. It saved the ’85 season, but still came at a cost. When the Bears nearly tripled Singletary’s salary with a new contract during the 1987 season, Otis Wilson and other players wanted their undervalued deals re-done. And it raised the bar for Marshall — by then a two-time Pro Bowler — who bolted for the Washington Redskins as a free agent in 1988. That was the beginning of the end for the vaunted Bears defense of the Ditka era.

The Bears don’t have to do a thing with Briggs. But it would be interesting to see what would happen if they offered the same solution as they did with Singletary. Voiding the final two years of his deal would make Briggs a free agent next year, when he’ll be 31. If he’s that unhappy with the current deal, would Briggs be willing to bet on himself? Or is just worried that his balky knee is a sign that the end is near?

Age isn’t on his side. Singletary was 26 when he bet on himself in 1985. He made his second, third and fourth Pro Bowls in the final three years of his old deal, then won his second Defensive Player of the Year Award at 30 in the first year of the new deal.

Briggs will turn 31 this season and will be 33 at the end of his current deal. He’s done pretty well for himself by being at the right place at the right time — playing a position perfectly suited for his skills in a defense perfectly suited for his skills, for a head coach perfectly suited for his skills — and playing next to Brian Urlacher in the prime of Urlacher’s career.

There have been plenty of players with Briggs’ skills whose careers withered or never even got started because they weren’t that fortunate. But if there’s one thing this latest episode makes perfectly clear, it’s that Lance Briggs doesn’t know a good deal when he sees one.

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