With over $10 million in cap space it would seem safe that Chris Villarrial should be back in a Bears' uniform next season.
The fact is GM Jerry Angelo wants re-sign the 8-year veteran, but in the salary cap driven league there is no way he's going to tie up $3-4 million in Villarrial when there are younger cheaper solutions. The Bears have several options to replace Villarrial, which makes him expendable when the team has to address another position on the offensive line.
Terrence Metcalf started two of three games that Villarrial sat out and is one of four players the Bears could have compete in training camp. Steve Edwards started 16 games at left guard in '03 is an option. Mike Gandy is a restricted free agent but will likely be retained to move from tackle back to his natural position of guard. Aaron Gibson also a guard up until last year when he started every game at right tackle could slide back inside.
Left tackle is the linchpin in fixing a line that allowed 43 sacks and will start a quarterback next year that has three career games under his belt.
Admittedly there will probably be a drop off between Villarrial and any of his understudies, but that's a sacrifice Angelo is willing to make.
The Bears averaged 57 yards per game rushing when Villarrial was not in the line-up, which compares to 122.5 yards per game with him at right guard.
The offensive line struggled at the outset of the season, but came together as the year progressed according to Villarrial.
"We had a slow start and didn't get the results that we wanted early on. Now we have jelled and have become a team. We all want to be here. We want to be playing together."
Villarrial also saw a glimpse of the future in Rex Grossman.
"He's got that leadership role and that's what you need in the NFL. The guy is going to be a good one and its going to be fun to watch him develop."
Chances are Villarrial won't be around to take part in the process.