It is a matter of debate whether the Dallas Cowboys need to bring in a middle linebacker via NFL Free Agency. What can not be debated is the impact that the recent ACL injury to Cowboys starting middle linebacker Sean Lee will have on this team in 2014. Lee was diagnosed with the season-ending injury last week. And ever since then, speculation as to what the franchise will do to fill his void has run rampant. And the most recent name to pop up is that of former Chicago Bears middle linebacker Brian Urlacher.
The last time Urlacher made a tackle was in December 2, 2012. After an injury plagued 13th season, Urlacher had no desire to retire. But the firing of head coach Lovie Smith from Chicago and the franchise’s unwillingness to overpay the veteran sealed Urlacher’s fate in the Windy City. And ultimately it was money that forced him into early retirement. Urlacher made $7.5 million in 2012. The Bears were rumored to have offered him only $2 million to return for one more season.
I don’t want to go somewhere where, ‘Oh, so-and-so got hurt, we need you.’ – Urlacher in 2013
Although speculated to have “some” interest in Urlacher in 2013, the Cowboys (along with every other NFL team) appeared to think his asking price, age and level of play were not viable at the time. A year later, what has really changed? Due to the loss of Lee, Dallas could be interested in a veteran to help their young linebacker corps. But only at the right price.
And the fact his old defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, is now in Dallas could entice the 36-year old out of retirement. Especially considering Urlacher played under the same 4-3, Cover 2 defensive scheme that Dallas now employs his entire career, making the transition back the the NFL that much easier. But Urlacher made it clear in 2013 that he wanted to play for a contender. Do the 2014 Dallas Cowboys qualify?
Urlacher himself surely does qualify…as a great player. The future Hall of Famer has been to the Pro Bowl eight times, was defensive player of the year in 2005 (AP, PFWA), and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s. In his thirteen-year career, Urlacher’s recorded 1,362 total tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. But does veteran linebacker miss the game enough to leave his nice, comfortable job as an analyst for Fox Football Daily on the Fox Sports 1 Network?
The answer to that question is probably not. Here’s what Urlacher told ESPN 1000 after officially retiring just over a year ago:
"“I didn’t want to put another jersey on for any other team. Obviously it wasn’t going to be for the Bears this year, so I thought it was the right thing to do to shut it down…We talked to every team in the NFL, and maybe in July or August it would have happened, but I’m not going to wait. I want to be somewhere where somebody wants me. I don’t want to go somewhere where, ‘Oh, so-and-so got hurt, we need you.’ I don’t want that to be the situation. The Bears offered me the contract they offered me, and that was probably the best contract I was going to get from anywhere. And I’m not going to put my body through what it goes through for what the offer was.”"
After sitting out an entire season, it’s unlikely that salary offer would increase to bring Urlacher to Dallas now. Still, stranger things have happened under the ownership of Jerry Jones. But most seem to think Dallas would prefer to look in-house to solve their linebacker issue.
And some believe second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman will be that answer. Holloman was the Cowboys sixth round pick out of South Carolina in 2013. He played in nine games last season, having his best performance in the final game of the year. Holloman recorded 11 tackles and two sacks in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17. It seems the Cowboys will give him every chance this offseason to win that starting role.
Also in the mix will be the Cowboys 2014 fourth round pick out of Iowa, linebacker Anthony Hitchens. The young linebacker was specifically chosen to back-up the often injured Lee. If Hitchens can make enough progress this offseason, he should also be considered for the open linebacker position. But both Holloman and Hitchens lack the one thing Urlacher has in spades…experience.
But what do you think? Should the Cowboys sign the retired veteran linebacker Brian Urlacher? Place your vote below and feel free to chime in to our community discussion about it in our comments section as well.