While six-time Pro Bowl snapper Olin Kreutz likely will return to the Chicago Bears -- middle linebacker Brian Urlacher recently suggested it's a priority for the team to keep the unrestricted free agent -- it's not a slam-dunk the 13-year veteran will just automatically come back to the only NFL franchise for which he has ever played.
C Olin Kreutz
As was conveyed to The Sports Xchange the past few weeks, and then expounded upon by The Chicago Tribune on Friday morning, Kreutz, who will be 34 in about another week, might have some options. As noted above, this is not a particularly strong center class in free agency -- as is often the case at a position where longevity is a hallmark and where players rarely move - and that will boost Kreutz's popularity and price tag, even at his age.
And there is, as well, a distinct lack of young centers ready to make the step up. There were 13 centers taken in the first three rounds of the six drafts 2005-2010; this year, the only snappers chosen in the first five rounds were Stefan Wisniewski Oakland) and Rodney Hudson (Kansas City), both of whom were second-rounders. Last year's draft alone produced Pittsburgh Pro Bowler Maurkice Pouncey and J.D. Walton (Denver), both of whom started all 16 games for their respective teams, and Matt Tennant (New Orleans), who could replace starter Jonathan Goodwin for the Saints this year, if the latter departs in free agency.
The departure of Kreutz would be an upset, for sure, but contemporary Matt Birk left Minnesota for Baltimore in free agency at the age of 33.
Len Pasquarelli is a Senior NFL Writer for The Sports Xchange. He has covered the NFL for 33 years and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee. His NFL coverage earned recognition as the winner of the McCann Award for distinguished reporting in 2008.