Stay or Go

Terrence Metcalf is the only starter who has a good chance be in another uniform next year. Should the Bears push harder to re-sign Metcalf or will their strategy of letting him test the market payoff?

Just because general manger Jerry Angelo is letting Metcalf reach free agency without a new deal doesn't mean the guard can't end up back in Chicago.

"We have a plan with Terrence and we have a plan without Terrence," Angelo said. "We'll have enough time to know beforehand based on what the free agent market will be."

The decision will be driven by the price. If a team offers Metcalf starters money then the Bears are unlikely to match offer. Considering Metcalf is an unrestricted free agent, the Bears don't automatically get a chance to match but Angelo has used this tactic before. He asks the agent to come back to him with an offer from another club and then makes a counter offer.

Center Olin Kreutz received a more lucrative offer from the Miami Dolphins as a free agent in 2002, but took less money to stay with the Bears.

Although has Metcalf as the sixth best free agent guard, after Seattle's Steve Hutchinson the group is relatively even. At 28, Metcalf should be in the prime of his career. He became a regular starter for the first time in 2005, but injuries forced him to miss time, which has been the case throughout his time in Chicago.

The Bears have invested time in developing Metcalf. He's capable of starting and would be a great backup. Ruben Brown has missed 13 games the past two seasons and is in the final year of his contract. Roberto Garza started seven games between left and right guard in 2005, but is playing without cartilage in his right knee.

As it stands right now, the top reserves at guard are Steve Edwards and Qasim Mitchell. Edwards was cut before the start of the season only to be brought back. Mitchell is headed for NFL Europe and may end up back at tackle. The team also re-signed Lennie Friedman as insurance.

Kreutz is the only member of the unit to start every game the past two years. Having depth is always beneficial on the line. The Bears lacked quality reserves in 2004 and when starters missed time, the sack total rose to a league high 66.

No matter what happens with Metcalf, the Bears plan on addressing the offensive line in the draft.

"We'd like to get one or two young offensive linemen irrelevant if Terrence comes back or not, just keep grooming and developing at that position," Angelo said.

Depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement over the weekend, the market could be flooded with veterans. Metcalf could see his worth decrease with more competition and less money to go around.

Metcalf will get a chance to see his market value. It rarely meets the expectations of a mid-level free agent. If he can be retained at cap friendly price it would be the right move by the Bears.

The six-foot-3, 318-pounder knows the system and has proven he can work well with the rest of the line. Metcalf can also bridge the gap between Brown's contract expiring and any draft pick the Bears need to develop.

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