The Bears offensive line has a chance to look really different next year. There's a small chance that not one of the five will be back in the same capacity in 2011. Offensive line coach Mike Tice did a great job piecing together the group in 2010, and his expertise will be counted on again next year. I already took a look at tackle and guard, and next up is center.
Olin Kreutz - free agent - Kreutz will be a Chicago Bear next year. You can take it to the bank. He'll sign a 2 or a 3 year deal at some point this off season, and finish his career in Chicago. Yes, he isn't what he was. Yes, he can't get the push he once did. And yes, the Bears need to find his replacement. But Kruetz is still capable of starting in the NFL, and the leadership he brings to the team can't be overlooked.
Pro Football Focus had Kreutz rated as the best starting Chicago lineman. And yes, I know it's like being the best freestyle rapper in International Falls, Minnesota... but his season wasn't all bad. He was the 33rd overall rated center, but his pass blocking was 8th best as he gave up only 1 sack. His 7 penalties brought his overall rating down some. Part of the mental mistakes could have to do with the new line calls he had to learn and the burden of keeping a young line together. Not making excuses for him, because he has to improve in this aspect, but it could be a factor.
Edwin Williams - contract undisclosed - I'll spotlight Williams here with the centers, even though he played guard in 2010, because he is the primary back up to Olin. After being claimed off waivers back in September Williams was promoted to the active roster in less than a month. The Bears liked what they saw, just not that much. He's a solid prospect and someone that I would expect to be back next year.
PFF actually had a favorable grade on his play in 2010. In 4 games at right guard he had a +4.5, which was the best grade they gave any Bears lineman for the season. Now before you get all caught up on the grade and wonder why he didn't play more, take into account why he was benched in the first place. Mike Tice thought he made to many mistakes and he wanted to insert the veteran Roberto Garza back at RG. I remember on more than one occasion Williams and J'Marcus Webb both blocking out, when their inside gap was threatened. A big no-no.
Even though PFF does a great job with their grading, it's not a be all end all system. If it was we'd expect that after Williams was removed from the starting lineup for a lesser graded player (Garza), the play of the line would suffer. When in fact the Bears productivity increased after Williams was replaced.
2011 OUTLOOK - The next starting center for the Bears could very well be drafted in this Draft. I'd expect a C/G combo player to be taken at some point. Williams will also see his reps increase at center this off season. When it's time for the Bears to move on from Kreutz they will. He's too proud to just hang on if he isn't the best man for the job. And as far as other free agent centers on the market, there isn't anyone better than Kreutz.