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Most Important Bears: No. 7 Lance Briggs

(CBS) As we count down to Bourbonnais, a panel of 15 670 The Score hosts, reporters and producers ranked their top 10 most important Bears players for the 2012 season. We compiled the rankings into one master list and will release the 10 Most Important Bears over the next 10 weekdays.

Next up:

No. 7 Lance Briggs (47 points)

At this point, you pretty much know what you are going to get from Lance Briggs. The growing concern, however, is his age. At 31, Briggs certainly falls into the "aging defense" group. The good news is that he hasn't really shown any signs of slowing down.

Briggs enters the 2012 season with a new three-year deal that kicks in. All of his 2012 contract is guaranteed ($3 million), but with what's at stake in 2012, there's little doubt that he won't have a lot to play for. Some would argue he has already passed Brian Urlacher as the best linebacker on the team and with No. 54 coming off a knee injury, Briggs' performance is crucial.

It's reasonable to think that Briggs should appear higher on this list, but many don't worry about him because he's been so consistent. In fact, four panelists didn't even put Briggs on their top 10 most important Bears list.

What's a fair expectation for Briggs in 2012? Just to do what he always does. Make plays, be a leader, go to the Pro Bowl. If he regresses in the first year of his new deal, however, the Bears defense will likely be shaky.

The Rest Of The List:
No. 8 Gabe Carimi
No. 9 Henry Melton
No. 10 Shea McClellin

The 10 Most Important Bears were decided by 15 Score contributors who ranked their most important players from  1-10. The rankings were then compiled into a master list by assigning point values to the votes (a No. 1 vote is worth 10 points and a No. 10 vote is worth 1 point).

The panel: Mike Mulligan, Zach Zaidman, Laurence Holmes, Matt Spiegel, Adam Hoge, Jason Goff, Matt Abbatacola, Ben Finfer, Jay Zawaski, Nick Shepkowski, David Schuster, Herb Lawrence, Craig Miller, Dennis Gambino and Brendan McCaffrey.

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