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NFL personnel roundup: Bears bid farewell to Urlacher

The SportsXchange

Brian Urlacher's days as the face of the Chicago Bears franchise ended Wednesday.

The Bears issued a statement to announce negotiations with the unrestricted free agent weren't fruitful, seemingly closing the book on Urlacher's 13-year run with the Bears.

"We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," Bears general manager Phil Emery said. "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."

Emery is entering his second season as general manager in Chicago and was a college scout with the Bears when Urlacher was drafted ninth overall in 2000.

Reports early in free agency linked Urlacher to the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. He turns 35 in May and since a knee injury at Minnesota on the season finale in 2011, faced questions about his health, age and diminishing skills. Urlacher had knee surgery at the outset of training camp last summer and missed time with a hamstring injury.

--Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said at the NFL Annual Meeting in Phoenix that the team is nearing agreement on a contract extension with quarterback Tony Romo.

"We all have to decide what that day is, everybody involved -- his agents, him, me," Jones said, according to USA Today. "It's not a concern of mine."

Romo continues to receive strong support from Jones. Despite passing for 4,903 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, Romo was intercepted an NFL-high 19 times and the Cowboys fell short of the playoffs. The knock against him continues to be his lack of postseason success.

Romo's 2013 salary under his existing contract will count $16.8 million against the cap.

--The Washington Redskins aren't counting on quarterback Robert Griffin III to ready for the season opener.

Coach Mike Shanahan said the team isn't pushing Griffin to rush back from surgery to repair torn knee ligaments. The Redskins will prepare second-year quarterback Kirk Cousins by giving him all the first-team reps in the offseason and into training camp.

"If hard work has anything to do with it, (Griffin) will be ready," Shanahan said in Phoenix.

Cousins, drafted in the fourth round, started one game -- a victory at Cleveland -- when Griffin sat out with a knee strain and completed 33 of 48 passes for 466 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions last season.

--Greg Jennings expressed his thanks to Green Bay Packers fans in a full-page ad Wednesday in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The longtime Packers wide receiver signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract with the rival Minnesota Vikings last week.

--New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is going back to calling plays for the defense next season.

Ryan was in charge of calling signals when he joined the Jets in 2009 but handed off those duties to Mike Pettine, who left after the 2012 season for the Buffalo Bills. But with new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman coming on board, Ryan wants to have more input again in the direction of the defense.

--The Redskins signed free agent cornerback E.J. Biggers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Biggers, 25, has 153 tackles, three interceptions, 27 passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one sack during his four-year NFL career. He started 12 games last season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and had 48 tackles.

--Oakland re-signed offensive lineman Khalif Barnes, one of the Raiders' 17 unrestricted free agents, the team announced.

Barnes has played in 47 games in four years with the Raiders and started 30, including 25 at right tackle. He missed seven games last season because of a groin injury.

--The Chicago Bears signed defensive end Turk McBride to a one-year contract.

McBride, 27, has started 24 games in six seasons with Kansas City, Detroit and New Orleans. He has 119 tackles, 9.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries during his career.

--Long snapper Thomas Gafford signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Terms were not disclosed.

--The Buccaneers re-signed two unrestricted free agents, left safety Andrew Economos and linebacker Jacob Cutrera.

Economos, who has logged 92 games with the Bucs, is a specialist on special teams and has recorded 20 tackles and one forced fumble as a part of that unit. Economos is also a long snapper.

Cutrera has played in 24 games during three NFL seasons, including 16 appearances with the Buccaneers from 2011-12. He also has 11 special teams tackles and two forced fumbles.

--The New England Patriots re-signed a pair of unrestricted free agents, cornerback Marquice Cole and linebacker Niko Koutouvides.

Cole, 29, played in 14 games for the Patriots last season, including one start. He ended the season with 12 tackles, one interception, three passes defended and seven tackles on special teams.

Koutouvides, 31, was in training camp with the Patriots in 2012, was released on Aug. 31, but resigned three weeks later and played in all of the Pats' 14 remaining games (12 regular season and two in playoffs). He tallied eight special teams tackles and one on defense in regular season games and one special teams tackle in the playoffs.

--The Indianapolis Colts signed unrestricted free agent defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

The team also said that exclusive rights free agent guard Joe Reitz signed the tender offered by the team.

Franklin comes to the Colts from the San Diego Chargers, where he played 12 games (including nine starts) last season. He amassed 23 tackles (19 solo) last season.

Reitz played in nine games last season, including eight starts.
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