Briggs won't attend when Bears begin minicamp
Still without a contract and apparently without much hope of landing an agreement anytime soon, two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs will not be in attendance when the NFC champion Chicago Bears begin a mandatory three-day minicamp on Friday morning.
Briggs was named a franchise player by the Bears three months ago but is one of four such designated veterans around the NFL who has yet to sign a contract. Three other franchise players have signed contracts.
Without a deal in place, Briggs is technically precluded from participating in the minicamp. Since he is not currently under contract, Briggs, who has not attended any of the offseason conditioning sessions, cannot be fined for skipping the mandatory minicamp.
It is believed that both sides have held firm in their respective stances, with Chicago officials still offering only the one-year qualifying offer that the franchise tag entails and Briggs still preferring to be traded rather than play under such terms. Briggs told ESPN.com in March that he would "not play one more day" for the Bears and then told Fox Sports nine days later that he would sit out the entire 2007 season if necessary.
Briggs subsequently said he will report to the team after the 10th game of the season, play the six games necessary to gain credit for an accrued season toward the pension plan and then be an unrestricted free agent next spring. Rosenhaus declined to comment Thursday, other than to acknowledge that nothing had changed with his client's status.
The Washington Redskins made an offer to the Bears at the annual league meetings at Phoenix in March in an attempt to acquire Briggs, proposing that the franchise swap slots in the first round of the 2007 draft. Chicago rejected that offer after a few days and then the teams revived the negotiations before the draft but were still unable to reach a deal.
There has been some speculation that the Redskins might still pursue Briggs if they felt that an agreement with the Bears could be struck and that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are rumored to have some interest in him as well. Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said that, on the weekend of the draft, Washington was the only club with which he discussed a trade. Briggs has already reached an agreement in principle with the Redskins on a long-term contract.
It's entirely possible that the standoff between Briggs and the Bears will remain unchanged until training camp time -- and perhaps longer. As is the case with this weekend's minicamp, Briggs is precluded from reporting to training camp without a contract.
The Bears have two young linebackers, second-year veteran Jamar Williams and rookie Michael Okwo, who figure to see significant playing time in Briggs' absence. Williams was a fourth-round draft choice in 2006 and Okwo was taken in the third round last month.
By using the franchise tag on Briggs, the Bears ostensibly made him a one-year qualifying offer worth $7.206 million. He could guarantee that amount as base salary for '07 by signing the tender but has steadfastly maintained that is not a consideration.
A former University of Arizona standout, Briggs was chosen by the Bears in the third round of the 2003 draft. He earned a starting job as a rookie, emerged by his third season as one of the NFL's top young weakside linebackers and was chosen for the Pro Bowl in each of the past two seasons.
In 64 games, Briggs has 441 tackles, 3½ sacks, six interceptions, 29 passes defensed, seven forced fumbles and three recoveries.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.