In Part I of this two-part series, we looked at five elite-level offensive guards the Bears could pick up in free agency. In this second installment, we'll analyze five tier-two players who could give a slight boost to Chicago's front five. These guards would be an upgrade on either side of the line and will cost much less than the top-flight free agents.
Daryn Colledge – Packers
Colledge's early career was nothing to write home about, be he ratcheted his game up in 2008. Since then, he's developed into a very dependable interior lineman. He was tendered a restricted free agent contract, but will almost certainly test the free agent market once the new CBA declares him unrestricted.
Colledge was drafted by Green Bay in 2006. He started 28 games his first two seasons, and has started every game since 2008. Durability is not an issue. At 6-4, 308-pounds, he's not enormous be league standards and he's not overly powerful. But he is a very fundamentally sound, smart and competitive player who has good athleticism. He just turned 29, so there are plenty of good miles left on his tires.
The Bears would love to steal a player from their biggest rival, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them make a run at Colledge. He can perform on either side of the line. If the top free agent guards sign elsewhere, Colledge would be a great fallback option.
G Justin Blalock
Justin Blalock – Falcons
Atlanta will need to decide which guard to re-sign, Blalock or Harvey Dahl. They also must choose whether to re-sign tackles Tyson Clabo and Will Svitek. The Falcons won't be able to keep all four, so Blalock could hit the open market.
At 6-4, 329 pounds, Blalock has the perfect body for an NFL guard. He has a wide, thick base with above-average initial quickness and body control. He lacks good lateral movement but uses his hands well in close quarters. He has a ton of raw power and often engulfs opposing defenders with his size. Knocks against him include playing too tall when run blocking and wearing down late in games.
Blalock is only 27 years old. He has plenty of good years in his future. A player with his size would make for a great addition to the interior of the Bears' offensive line.
Marshal Yanda – Ravens
Yanda is a natural guard but was forced to play tackle last season due to injuries. Baltimore considers him a valuable part of their offense due to his versatility, and will push hard to re-sign him. Coach Jim Harbaugh called him one of his "favorite guys." Yet the Ravens have solid starters at all five front-five positions and the 26-year-old could earn a more-lucrative contract in free agency. It wouldn't be surprising if he tested the free agent waters.
The 6-3, 315-pounder is a fundamentally sound blocker who is very aggressive. He only has marginal strength, so he's not a mauler on the inside. But what he lacks in power he makes up for with sound footwork and good hand usage. He has improved every year in the league and should continue to get better.
Yanda's value comes with his experience playing both tackle and guard in the NFL. If Kreutz signs with another team and Roberto Garza has to play center, Yanda could come in and fill in immediately. He's a smart, solid player who would instantly upgrade Chicago's offensive line.
G Deuce Lutui
Deuce Lutui – Cardinals
Bears fans probably best remember Lutui as the guy on the receiving end of a Tommie Harris uppercut. But he's more than a punching bag. Arizona has some decisions to make regarding its offensive line, as five linemen have expiring contracts. Lutui could be the odd man out.
At 6-4, 338-pounds, he has great size for an interior lineman. He's a wide body who plays with a lot of strength and power. He often has problems in space against quicker defenders, but he can lock opposing players down when he gets his hands on them. He's a road-grader.
While Lutui isn't the most-skilled guard available in free agency, few are stronger than him. He doesn't carry a Pro Bowl resume, but the 26-year-old could blossom on a team dedicated to the run. If Angelo is able to sign him, RB Matt Forte would be a very happy camper.
Nick Cole – Philadelphia
Cole was not offered a free agent contract by Philadelphia and will hit the free agent market. He's 6-3, 339-pound and has played both center and guard in the NFL.
Adding the 26-year-old only makes sense if the Bears are unable to re-sign Kreutz. Cole is not a top-flight offensive lineman, and may never be, but he's young enough and has the size to be serviceable for many years. His value is buoyed by the fact he can play either center or guard. The Bears don't seem too enamored with either Edwin Williams or Lance Louise, so they could bring in Cole as a backup who can play any of the three interior-line positions.
This would not be a groundbreaking acquisition. But if Angelo chooses to address the guard position in the draft, Cole would be a cheap way to add depth and flexibility up front.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.