In terms of Bernard Berrian, Lance Briggs and their respective deals these past few days, agent Drew Rosenhaus is batting .500.
In their 2008 NFL Free Agency Preview, footballguys.com listed Bernard Berrian (pictured) right behind Randy Moss in their Top Wide Receivers On The Market list, noting that although Berrian has yet to notch a 1,000-yard season, he did start 29 games over the last two seasons and score 11 TDs along with 122 receptions. “Berrian has the ability to stretch the defense,” they note. And when observers noticed Rosenhaus, huddling with Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo at the combine in Indianapolis, many assumed a new deal would soon be in order.
In fact, an offer was made, and quickly rejected. Some were surprised that Berrian, through Rosenhaus, decided to reject the initial offer—and quickly up the ante to upwards of $20 million guaranteed over the first years of any deal, in doing so. Vented one angry Bears blogger, “LOL what the heck?! Drew has been feeding Berrian a load of garbage. No way anyone pays that for him.” And in an interview conducted by phone on Monday, Berrian confirmed that he more or less expected—and desired—to be a Chicago Bear in the fall, especially with the resigning of Rex Grossman.
That said, insiders said from the beginning that Berrian was expecting a deal similar to what Deion Branch got last year from Seattle—six-years, $39 million, and $23 million in the first three years. If the Bears were privy to this expectation as well, their offer was a slap in the face as far as Berrian was concerned. Especially since there is a $116 million (up $7m from ‘07, and a 36% increase since the CBA extension three years ago) salary cap now in play. But despite a career-high 71 receptions in 2007 for 951 yards, the Bears offer–$25 million over five years with $8 million in bonus money upfront—was far less than what Berrian and Rosenhaus were seeking, and prompted them to explore what the market might offer. And when Houston’s Andre Davis signed with the Texans last Thursday for four years, $16 million, and $8 million guaranteed, their decision to reject the Bears’ bid immediately seemed wise in hindsight (Davis is widely accepted as having similar skills to Berrian, but so far, less production on the field).
It didn’t take long for Berrian’s true market value to be established. Saturday night, the Minnesota Vikings validated Rosenhaus’ asking price, signing the 27-year-old Berrian to a $42 million, six-year contract that included $16 million in guarantees. Berrian will get $23 million over the first three years of the deal and will become the fourth-highest-paid receiver in the NFL.
What does this mean for the Bears? Unless they plan on rolling with Mark Bradley, Devin Hester and Rashied Davis (they cut Mushin Muhammad on Feb. 18), they may want to take a look at Bryant Johnson, D.J. Hackett or Javon Walker. And either way, targeting a wide receiver in April’s draft may now be a necessity. But not all Bears fans are upset by Berrian’s departure. Many seem to feel the receiver noticeably regressed in 2007 and the ‘market’ has vastly overestimated him. Maybe it has. But at the end of the day, Rosenhaus did his job. It’s his job to get his client the most guaranteed money he can, especially in relation to players with similar skill-sets such as Davis and Branch. Well done.
Berrian’s rejection, however, should have given Rosenhaus plenty of leverage on his Lance Briggs (pictured left) deal. In fact, it’s reported that the Bears were mulling whether to increase their offer to Briggs in the hours after Berrian left. But the ultimate six-year, $36 million deal ($21.6 over the first three years) that includes $13 million in guarantees and ensures the three-time Pro Bowl pick will be a Bear through the prime of his career, was a long ways away from the $20 million guaranteed that Rosenhaus originally sought (a figure based on the contract outside linebacker Adalius Thomas signed with New England a year ago).
While Rosenhaus figured that Briggs, a key component of the Bears’ Cover-2 defense (he had 140 tackles and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss last season, although he didn’t exactly match the pass-rushing numbers that Thomas put up with the Ravens before his Patriots deal), would tempt a blockbuster offer outside of Chicago, Briggs’ asking price was apparently too high and interest remained comparatively low to what Rosenhaus expected—despite the fact that Rosenhaus played up the notion that Briggs was close to signing with the Washington Redskins (who tried to acquire him last summer), and that Green Bay, Tampa Bay and New Orleans were also supposedly interested. And while the increase in guaranteed cash up to $13 million on Chicago’s part may have been due to Berrian’s loss, it surely was no where near what Rosenhaus originally envisioned when he tried to get the habitually free-wheeling Daniel Snyder in on the talks as well.