July 20, 02011
The Chicago Bears got some business done at the end of last season when they extended the contracts of long snapper Pat Mannelly and defensive tackle Matt Toeania.
But the team missed the mark when it didn’t attempt to lock up center Olin Kreutz for the future, making the 34-year-old a free agent when the new league year opens.
Problem? Potentially a big one. Mike Martz’s offense is a complicated one and the Bears have readily admitted they don’t have another player on the roster capable of playing the position. So, the team faces the possibility of cramming for the start of the new season as it tries to revamp the offensive line with rookie first-round pick Gabe Carimi while having a center who doesn’t know the scheme. That’s a potentially huge problem.
It’s one that’s set Kreutz, a six-time Pro Bowl performer, up with all the leverage.
“I am not looking for an advantage, I am looking for a fair deal,'' Kreutz told David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. "I am not looking for an upper hand, the Bears know that about me. But it has to be fair. Whatever the decision is up there, I respect it. I know what they do is hard. They have decisions to make just like anybody in a business. When they decide it's time to move on from me there will be no hard feelings.''
Kreutz was still working his way back from surgery to repair his Achilles tendon this time last year. Now, he feels great. Offensive line coach Mike Tice routinely praised him in 2010. But the front office didn’t budge to get a contract extension done. With one more start, Kreutz would tie Walter Payton for the most in franchise history.
“Everybody knows the way I feel about the Bears,'' Kreutz said. "I've chosen them many times. You hate to toot your own horn but I've left a lot of money on the table to be a Bear. The guys at Halas Hall have to decide what's best for the Bears. That's the decision they're going through this off-season and probably why I'm not signed yet.”
The Bears need to get him signed once the doors opened or they face even bigger problems on the line than they did a year ago.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune