Some things just go together, like peanut butter and jelly, ham and cheese, the Kentucky Derby and mint juleps, and finally, linebackers and the Bears. Brian Urlacher will most likely be the next Bear inducted to the Hall in coming years, but longtime teammate Lance Briggs is making his case as the best outside linebacker in franchise history.
Briggs was a third round pick in 2003 from the University of Arizona. He was drafted behind two notable busts, defensive end Michael Haynes and quarterback Rex Grossman. In college, Briggs racked up two first team all-conference selections, 308 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 36 tackles for losses, three picks, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries in 33 games.
Since joining the Bears, Briggs has been a model of consistency and durability. He appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, starting 13 and recording 78 total tackles. In his second season, Briggs recorded his first of eight seasons with over 100 total tackles, with 102 solo and 23 assisted, according to Pro Football Reference.
In 2005, Briggs had 107 total tackles and earned his first of seven consecutive Pro Bowl selections, in addition to being named First Team All-Pro. In 2006, he again made the Pro Bowl and recorded 134 total tackles and helped the Bears earn a trip to the Super Bowl.
Following the season, he appeared on the Mike North Morning Show, and stated he was upset about how much money he was making. This started a trend with Briggs to criticize the franchise for their management and lack of ability to prove he was in their long-term plans. Briggs demanded to be traded multiple times, and was close to being dealt in 2007 to the Redskins. General Manager Jerry Angelo ultimately declined Washington’s offer, and in 2008 Briggs signed a new six year deal.
Despite Briggs’ displeasure with his contract, he remained a consistent performer. The 2010 season was the first since Briggs’ rookie year in which he didn’t get 100 tackles until 2013 when he was injured in week seven.
Overall, Briggs has appeared in 165 games for the Bears, starting all but three. He’s recorded 915 solo tackles, 225 assisted, is a seven-time Pro Bowler and a First Team All-Pro in ’05. He’s also added 15 interceptions, 83 passes defended, 15 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries according to Pro Football Reference.
At 33 years old, Briggs is entering the twilight of his career, but with the moves the Bears have made this offseason on defense, he is in a prime position to come back and be productive once again. He can still play at a Pro Bowl level and should add to his resume of outstanding accomplishments this season, widening the gap as the best Bears player to ever play outside linebacker.