He won’t be released, like many other long-tenured players have been within the last week or two, but veteran linebacker Lance Briggs won’t return to the Bears for the 2015 season, reports Jen Lada of CSNChicago.com (via Twitter). Briggs is eligible for free agency, and it appears he’ll hit the open market and sign elsewhere.
Briggs, who entered the league as a third-round pick in 2003, has spent all 12 of his NFL seasons in Chicago, appearing in 173 total regular season games (170 starts) for the Bears. A Pro Bowler for seven straight seasons from 2005 to 2011, Briggs was a key piece on the defensive side of the ball for the Bears for more than a decade.
Within the last two seasons, however, the usually durable Briggs has missed 15 of 32 games, after missing just four total contests in his first 10 seasons. The veteran defender will also turn 35 this November, and the Bears – like they did with Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester in recent years – seem to have made the decision to move on.
Given the mileage he has piled up over the last 12 years, Briggs may not be viewed as a starter or a regular contributor by potential suitors this month, but I expect he’ll generate some interest as a part-time player and a source of veteran leadership. A reunion with former Bears head coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay is one possibility, though having played for 12 seasons, Briggs has connections to a number of other coaches around the league as well.