As we move our series onto the big guys up front, we'll break the o-line posts into 3 parts. Care to take a guess on the three? First up is center, and since the Bears only had 1 player take snaps at center you'd think the focus would be squarely on Roberto Garza. But, since Chris Spencer was signed to play center, and since he's the only player listed solely as a center on the roster I'll throw him in this post as well. I'll get to the other guards next time out.
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Roberto Garza - Signed through 2013 - Garza was voted a team captain by his teammates and as a 11 year vet that can play all three interior positions, he has value to the team. Had there been an actual off season Garza may have been left at guard. But with the lockout holding things up, the Bears weren't allowed to have Chris Spencer involved until Garza had a rapport built up with his quarterback. Once a QB finds comfort between his centers legs it's best to leave that situation alone. (OK, I giggled typing that last sentence) The Bears will tell you Garza did a fine job and I'll tell you that Garza did an adequate job, but the PFF grading system paints a different story. With a new GM in place I don't think any veteran should feel safe. I could see a scenario playing out where the Bears let Garza leave if Spencer shows up good in camp.
PFF had Garza rated as the 2nd worst center in football. He had an inconsistent year, and the weekly PFF grades went as follows; Week 1 was a positive game followed by 3 negative games. Then 3 neutrally graded games followed by a negative, a neutral, then 2 negatives. He then recorded a positive, a negative, a positive, a neutral, then a week 17 negative. Half his games he was graded negatively, but in 5 of those 8 games he scored a -3.0 or worse.
Chris Spencer - Signed through 2012 - Spencer was forced into action at guard and he played pretty good early on, but as the year wore on his play seemed to level off. He looked good on the pulls and getting to the second level, but he did have some technique issues throughout the year. His 7 penalties led all Bears interior linemen.
Looking at the PFF grades they had him starting off real good with a +6.8 in weeks 1-4. However, his -12.4 overall should tell you how they graded him the rest of the way. They didn't have him giving up a single sack on the year, but his 28 QB pressures was the 3rd worst of all the interior linemen.
Reggie Stephens - Signed a reserve/future contract - If you know anything about Mr. Stephens please fill us in. All I know about him is the Bears list him at guard and Rotoworld lists him as a center. He'll be a camp body.
2012 OUTLOOK - As I said earlier Garza may be a cap casualty. The $1.75 million that's due him isn't huge money, but Spencer is being paid like a starter. In fact, Spencer will be the highest paid offensive lineman on the '12 roster as it stands now at $2.25 million plus a $500,000 roster bonus.
If the Bears decide to go the free agent route for a center again, they won't have to look very far for the top guy on the market. Green Bay's Scott Wells is an unrestricted free agent and will get top dollar from someone. Why not strengthen the Bears and weaken a rival with one move.
I think drafting an interior lineman to play center and guard at some point is smart football. Next time out, a look at the offensive guards for the Bears.