The Bears on Wednesday announced that they were unable to reach a contract agreement with star middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career.
"We were unable to reach an agreement with Brian and both sides have decided to move forward," said Bears general manager Phil Emery. "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."
Selected by the Bears with the ninth pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, Urlacher was voted to eight Pro Bowls in 13 seasons. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2005 and helped the Bears reach the Super Bowl in 2006 for the first time in 21 years.
But Urlacher got off to a slow start in 2012 after sitting out the entire offseason program and preseason with a knee injury. He improved throughout the season and led the Bears in tackles before suffering a hamstring injury Dec. 2 in a loss to the Seahawks that sidelined him for the final four games.
Urlacher started 180 of 182 games played with the Bears, recording a franchise-record 1,779 tackles, 41.5 sacks, 22 interceptions, 16 fumble recoveries and 11 forced fumbles. He was selected NFL Rookie of the Year in 2000, was a four-time All-Pro and won two Brian Piccolo Awards.
"Over the last 13 years Brian Urlacher has been an outstanding player, teammate, leader and face of our franchise," said Bears chairman George H. McCaskey. "As Bears fans, we have been lucky to have such a humble superstar represent our city. He embodies the same characteristics displayed by the Bears all-time greats who played before him and he will eventually join many of them in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. We thank Brian for all he has given our team and our city. He will always be a part of the Bears family. We wish him the very best."