With the future of injured veteran Brian Urlacher uncertain, the Chicago Bears will soon be forced to make a difficult decision at the linebacker spot this coming offseason.
The Bears have benefited from the improved play of 27-year-old Northwestern product Nick Roach this season, a player who head coach Lovie Smith called an ideal candidate to play middle linebacker in Chicago's defensive scheme according to CSN Chicago's John Mullin.
Roach, who has 25 tackles and 1.5 sacks over 10 starts for Smith's defense this year at both strong side and middle linebacker, appears to be solid replacement for Urlacher if the organization is unable to afford a high-priced contract on the free agent market. Roach would likely come at a significantly reduced cost in free agency, which would then allow the Bears to fill holes as they see fit elsewhere on the roster.
Urlacher's growing list of injury problems over recent years could complicate things further for a Chicago team that desperately wants to keep its first-round pick from back in 2000 in the Windy City for the rest of his career. He remains one of the game's premier interior linebackers and is sure to command a hefty sum from a number of prospective teams, but it's quite possible that Urlacher has played his last down in a Bears uniform.