In 2008, Bears' Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs tested the NFL free agent market and ultimately re-upped with the Bears for 6 years and $36million. He's exactly mid-way through this contract.
So why on earth is Briggs, through his agent Drew Rosenhaus, requesting a trade if his earlier request for a new contract is not met?
I suppose the flippant answer is because it never hurts to ask. Also, if you can get past the noble principle that once you sign a contract you should live up to it, you can understand that, since Briggs will be nearly 34 when his current contract ends, he'd like to improve on the $14.4MM left in what likely will be Briggs' NFL career.
However, the timing of the Briggs/Rosenhaus request is a little baffling. There's clearly no way that the Bears are going to re-work Briggs' contract at this point...the precedent would be awful. It's just as clear that Briggs would be foolish to attempt to use his only real leverage, a hold-out, this season...from a purely financial perspective, it's extremely unlikely that he can force the Bears' hand and would simply lose his $3.9MM 2011 salary.
The Bears had a surprisingly successful 2010 season and have had a fairly positive 2011 preseason, avoiding key injuries and somehow shoring up their woeful offensive line without making any major personnel additions. On paper at least, they're a better team than they were entering last season where they fell only one win short of playing in the Super Bowl. It's not surprising that many on the team have visions of 2011 glory dancing in their heads.
So Lance/Drew, why now? Very little positive can come from this trade request, and if you actually decide to withhold your services, you'll not only alienate your teammates (who understandably hope that their comrades can get as much as they can from management as long as it doesn't affect them or the team), but league executives as well (what good is signing a contract with someone who's proven that he won't live up to its terms and will put his own selfish interests ahead of the team). Even if you continue to play under your contract, you're putting yourself unnecessarily under a media/fan microscope...any minor injury or unproductive game will lead to speculation about whether you're using the playing field as your negotiating table.
Lance, reality check here. You're unquestionably a very good player, but not remotely a superstar. You play weakside linebacker in a defensive system designed to make your position look good, but not to rack up sacks or Sports Center highlights. What you do very well makes for great defense, but isn't very sexy/lucrative.
Drew, by all accounts, you're one of the better/more reasonable player agents. You understand that your client didn't sign any sort of "home town discount" deal back in 2008. It was pure market value...the best you could get. Since you've represented many Bears' players over the years, you also understand how, once a player hangs up his cleats, a former Bear's popularity can translate into very real money in this major market city. Chicago fans generally LOVE their former Bears' heroes, and Briggs, a very well-spoken guy, has serious post-career potential.
Unless, of course, you allow him to turn himself into a selfish, Super Bowl-sabotaging villain in Bears fans' minds. Trust me when I tell you that they won't forget this sort of unprecedented betrayal. If you let this happen, your client's financial opportunities (and your commissions) in Chicago will end on his last NFL snap.
I sincerely believe that Briggs and Rosenhaus have seriously misjudged and mishandled the situation. They're out on a pretty tenuous limb and have no one to blame but themselves. Had they had been more patient and private, just between Briggs/Rosenhaus and the Bears brass, they might have gotten something positive accomplished in 2012. Unfortunately, they put themselves and the Bears in a lose-lose situation.
While some irrevocable damage may have already been done, my advice is for Briggs to publicly "clarify" his stance quickly stating that his agent's attempt to better his lot will have no effect on his play this season.
As a general rule, no matter how far down that wrong road you may go down, the sooner you turn back the better. Lance/Drew, it's time to try to turn back.