LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Linebacker Brian Urlacher failed to reach a contract agreement with the Chicago Bears and after 13 years with the team, became a free agent Wednesday.
“We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward,” General Manager Phil Emery said in a statement. “Brian has been an elite player in our league for over a decade. He showed great leadership and helped develop a winning culture over his time with the Bears. We appreciate all he has given our team, on and off the field. Brian will always be welcome as a member of the Bears.”
Urlacher, who missed the last four games of the season with a hamstring injury, is an eight-time Pro Bowler who started 180 games from 2000 through 2012, recording a team-record 1,779 tackles.
He has 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was the AP’s defensive player of the year in 2005.
The Bears’ chairman, Brian McCaskey, said the team wished its “humble superstar” the best.
• Defensive end Turk McBride agreed to a one-year contract.
PATRIOTS: New England re-signed cornerback Marquice Cole and linebacker Niko Koutouvides.
Both unrestricted free agents are special-teams players and substitutes on defense.
Cole joined the Patriots before last season after spending three years with the New York Jets. He started one of the 14 regular-season games he played for New England with 12 tackles and one interception on defense, and seven tackles on special teams.
Koutouvides is a nine-year veteran who played for the Patriots the past two seasons. He played the last 14 regular-season games last year, making one tackle on defense and eight on special teams.
Both appeared in the Patriots’ two postseason games.
BRONCOS: The team is set to talk Thursday with free-agent pass rushers Dwight Freeney and John Abraham, 48 hours after submitting a new contract proposal to Elvis Dumervil.
Freeney, 33, and Abraham, 34, are both older and less productive than Dumervil, 29, but might make financial sense for the Broncos, who had to cut Dumervil last week to avoid paying him $12 million in 2013.
REDSKINS: Coach Mike Shanahan said quarterback Robert Griffin III is “ahead of schedule” in his return from knee surgery.
Shanahan said Griffin must learn how to protect himself in the face of the fierce defenses in the NFL.
• Washington filled at least one hole in its depleted secondary by agreeing to terms with free-agent cornerback E.J. Biggers.
GM MEETINGS: Team owners passed a player safety rule barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field.
The tuck rule, one of the most criticized in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.
The Steelers were the only team to vote against getting rid of the tuck rule. New England and Washington abstained.
THE NFL is looking to make the Rooney Rule more effective after eight available coaching jobs and seven for general managers did not go to a minority candidate.
Commissioner Roger Goodell said “we were disappointed in the results this year.” But the league will make some tweaks that Goodell hopes will “make sure we get the right candidates better training and we really are doing a better job of getting them in front of the people who are making the decisions.”
COLTS: The team signed free- agent defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin and is bringing back offensive guard Joe Reitz.
Franklin, who is 6-foot-1, 315 pounds, is a 10-year veteran who played with San Diego last year. He made nine starts for the Chargers and finished with 23 tackles. He was drafted by Baltimore in 2003, has four career sacks and is the eighth free agent Indianapolis has signed from another team.
RAIDERS: Oakland re-signed free-agent offensive lineman Khalif Barnes.
Barnes is the first of Oakland’s 17 unrestricted free agents to re-sign with the team.
THE PRO BOWL will return to Honolulu next January and again will be played the week before the Super Bowl.
GIANTS: Quarterback Eli Manning said he will consider reworking his contract if it will help keep the leading receiver, Victor Cruz, on the team.
Manning said the Giants haven’t asked him to redo his contract to open cap space. But he would consider anything that helps the team.
“I want Victor back with the Giants,” Manning said of the free agent. “It’s nerve-wracking.”