Look no further than the two teams playing in the Super Bowl for an example of what a good center means to an offensive line. With defenses so focused on generating up-the-middle pressure, having a center strong enough to block behemoth nose tackles, athletic enough to stay with three-technique defensive tackles, and smart enough to recognize a-gap blitzes is a must.
The Chicago Bears have struggled at center for a few years now, so finding a long-term solution at the position is something this regime needs to do.
In this 12-part series, I'll list the contract status of all the current Chicago players on a position-by-position basis while speculating on some offseason moves that could happen.
Lucas Patrick - Signed through 2023 - Even though the 2022 season didn't go as planned for him, the Bears are still high on Patrick. He was signed to play center last offseason, but a hand injury forced him to play guard, then once his hand healed, he was hurt again and lost to season-ending injured reserve.
Sam Mustipher - Restricted free agent - Fans keep wanting to replace Mustipher, but he keeps hanging around, and I wouldn't be surprised if he's brought back for one more season. The Bears probably won't tender him an RFA offer, but with 40 starts in the last three years, he'd be an experienced interior o-line reserve at the right price.
Dieter Eiselen - Exclusive rights free agent - Eislen may be back to compete for a spot, but he seems like a guy maxed out as a practice squadder.
EDIT: Eiselen’s agent Tweeted that the Bears brought him back for 2023.
Doug Kramer - Signed through 2025 - Kramer went on IR last year before getting a chance to show the team much.
2023 OUTLOOK - It would seem Patrick is in line to start at center in 2023, but his $5.3 million salary doesn't guarantee him anything. If an upgrade presents itself, the Bears could keep him around as a reserve or let him go and save $3.9M. His play was disappointing last year, but how much of that was due to the injury?
The social media drama surrounding Mustipher's family would be enough for me to let him walk, but if the team has an internal handle on it, his returning to compete for a backup job isn't out of the question.
I don't see the Bears attacking this position in free agency, but if they were, the top players on the market could be Cleveland's Ethan Pocic, the Jets' Connor McGovern, and Philly's Jason Kelce.
The Bears would be wise to snag a center in the NFL Draft at some point. Minnesota's John Michael Schmitz, Ohio State's Luke Wypler, Notre Dame's Jarrett Patterson, Wisconsin's Joe Tippman, Penn State's Juice Scruggs, and Michigan's Olusegun "Victor" Oluwatimi are a few names that could make sense depending on how their board falls. All indications have this as a solid draft for offensive line, so expect the Bears to take advantage of that.
What direction would you take at center if you were running the Bears?