Free-agent linebacker Brian Urlacher
Free-agent linebacker Brian Urlacher (Phelan M. Ebenhack, The Associated Press)

Hey, John Elway. Breaking up is indeed hard to do. But get a grip, man. Kiss defensive end Elvis Dumervil goodbye.

Here's a better idea: Call legendary linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Sure, at age 34, Urlacher has more mileage than a beat-up car on the L-train. Even in Chicago, he is lovingly described as a meathead. By any measure, Urlacher ain't the Hall of Fame middle linebacker he used to be.

But this Denver team could use a little more mean.

Is Nate Irving or Stewart Bradley really a better option in the heart of the Broncos defense?

And how much is Urlacher going to cost at this point? Maybe $2 million? Heck, Dumervil can send more money to the dead zone with one push of a button on his fax machine.

"We would like to be tougher, both physically and mentally," Elway told me recently, explaining one way he intends to improve his 13-3 team from last season.

Not that Elway needs my advice, but if there's one thing any NFL team can count on from Urlacher? He will bring the tough.

The Bears offered Urlacher a guaranteed $1 million, plus incentives. Urlacher considered the offer a slap in the face. To be sure, most of us would like to be slapped once a year in precisely the same manner.

But has it ever been a really smart idea to poke a stick at this Bear and get Urlacher mad? If his knee holds up, there's another Pro Bowl season or two in Urlacher.


Of course, finding out would be a gamble on the part of Elway. When it's Super Bowl or bust with No Plan B, doesn't the potential reward outweigh the risk?

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, an all-star who recognizes talent when he sees it, told the Chicago Sun-Times that Urlacher is still capable of holding up for the rigors of a 16-game NFL schedule. Tillman added: "He was the heart and soul of our team — the defense especially — and he will be missed. I wish him the best. I didn't want to see him go. He still has juice in the tank."

Relying too heavily on old NFL stars can get even the smartest team architect fired. Nevertheless, Elway has a three-year window of championship opportunity with Manning, a limited budget and the need for more playmakers on defense.

The Broncos and Dumervil have tried everything to patch up their differences and get back together, short of calling in Dr. Phil to mediate. It made sense for a while. Doom did not earn three trips to the Pro Bowl in the past four seasons by accident. But, like many a good relationship, this one lost that loving feeling and has been soured forever by money issues.

Place the blame wherever you want, but Dumervil wrecked $5 million of Denver's available salary cap space. Some folks would like Broncos owner Pat Bowlen to fix it with a bold stroke of a pen in his checkbook. Yeah, right. And if I wrecked your car today, would you let me take it back out for a spin tomorrow? Only if you're a saint. Or a fool.

The Broncos need a defensive end to divert some of the blocking focus from linebacker Von Miller. One of Manning's old buddies from Indianapolis, Dwight Freeney, has been asked in to see if the Dove Valley digs are to his liking.

Between Freeney and Urlacher, the Broncos might have one veteran who does damage to opposing quarterbacks and another who spends the majority of next season soothing his aching joints in the cold tub. Why try to guess which one, if Elway can sign both?

Maybe the Broncos could even get Urlacher and Freeney for roughly the price of Dumervil. Everybody loves a bargain.

When former New England receiver Wes Welker was introduced last week as the newest distinguished member of the Broncos, coach John Fox stood near the front of a room crowded with microphones and cameras. As Welker stepped to the podium to answer questions, there was the sound of one coach clapping amid the media curmudgeons. I caught Foxy's eye, shook my head and shot him a grin.

"Hey, Kizzy," Fox told me later, "you were killing me for clapping for Welker. Heck, that's what I thought you were supposed to do when a good player joins the team. I'm happy to have him."

Should the team find a way to land Urlacher and Freeney, the coach wouldn't be the only person in Broncos Country to stand up and applaud.

Mark Kiszla: 303-954-1053, or