Free Agent Centers Hit the Market

Get the inside take on the centers scheduled for free agency around the league from the beat writers who cover them.

Carolina Panthers C Jeff Mitchell and RG Tutan Reyes are both unrestricted free agents. Don't expect the team to go out of its way to sign either. They have Evan Mathis, a third-round pick in 2005, and Geoff Hangartner, a fifth-round selection waiting in the wings to replace those guys. That may or may not happen this year, but it's hard to imagine Carolina spending much money to keep either Mitchell or Reyes.

  • Devnver Broncos C Tom Nalen is expected to void his contract and become a free agent this offseason. He said he wants to come back to Denver but didn't know if that would happen.

    "I don't have a gut feeling, but it was weird walking off the field thinking it might be my last game at this stadium," Nalen said. "Hopefully it's not."

    Nalen is 34 years old and the Broncos already have his successor at center. Starting left guard Ben Hamilton was re-signed when he was a free agent last offseason, in part because the Broncos wanted him to take over at center whenever Nalen was no longer with the team. Nalen could end up in another uniform next season. He is a five-time Pro Bowler but he didn't know what to expect on the open market.

    "I'm old, so I don't know what kind of market is out there for me," Nalen said. "I've never been a free agent."

    Nalen said he is definitely not considering retirement.

    "I'd love to play," Nalen said. "I feel great. I feel as good as when I was 24. My body is not an issue right now."

  • Green Bay Packers C Mike Flanagan played in pain the last 10 games after rushing back from surgery for a sports hernia in early October. Flanagan, 32, will be an unrestricted free agent whose time might be up in Green Bay after a remarkable 10-year run.

  • Minnesota Vikings C Melvin Fowler replaced injured starter Matt Birk, but Birk is expected to return in 2006, meaning Fowler's days in Minnesota are most likely finished. He will be a free agent and is expected to look for a starting job.

  • New Orleans Saints C LeCharles Bentley, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, was a solid player and was selected to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

  • Buffalo Bills C Trey Teague, an eight-year veteran and unrestricted free agent, has been a steady if not spectacular performer for five seasons in Buffalo but he's likely to be replaced by rookie Duke Preston, who played in all 16 games.

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