When the Vikings lost Matt Birk in free agency, it weakened the offensive line. The Bears are facing that same possibility this year. Plus, there is speculation the rookies and their agents are getting more desperate.
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 but 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.
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 from 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.
The Price isn't right:
People who have seen the Tampa Bay's unofficial workouts seem convinced that second-year defensive tackle Brian Price
won't be ready for training camp, no matter when it begins, and that he is a likely candidate to start the season on the physically unable to perform list.
A second-round pick in 2010, Price was expected to join first-rounder Gerald McCoy
to provide the Bucs a strong, young interior around which to rebuild the defense. But Price appeared in just five games (no starts) before pelvis surgery landed him on injured reserve. His recovery from extensive surgery has been slow. There haven't been any major setbacks, but Price remains nowhere close yet to being able to play. The good news, if it can be termed that, is that Tampa Bay discovered that Price's replacement, Roy Miller
, is a pretty solid player in his own right. Miller is only a two-year veteran, so when Price is ready, the upstart Bucs should have an excellent inside rotation.
The mention of Peyton Manning prompts the rumor that his agent, the powerful Tom Condon of CAA, is pushing for a CBA agreement that would do away with all franchise designations, and, thus, make his client an unrestricted free agent. Condon represents a ton of high-profile players/quarterbacks, with Drew Brees among them, and such a provision would obviously benefit them. It's worth noting, though, that, even with the CAA imprimatur, Condon doesn't have quite as much influence over CBA negotiations as he once did. Condon represented the late Gene Upshaw, the former NFLPA executive director.
Many of the draft choices at the NFLPA Rookie Seminar this week told players association officials they are running short of money and that their agents, some of them also cash-flow impacted, are reluctant to grant them further advances. As for the NFLPA, well, we're still waiting for them to respond to questions about why they told The Sports Xchange they expected 177 players to turn out for the seminar, and the actual number was closer to 150.
Make Atlanta offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, one of the best in the business and a man who has achieved great results in his three seasons with the Falcons, one of the guys most on the spot in 2011. The Falcons are expected to build on a '10 season in which they had the NFC's best record. But the club figures to lose three of its five line starters – guards Justin Blalock and Harvey Dahl, and right tackle Tyson Clabo – in free agency. The Falcons have three young players they feel are prepared to move into the starting lineup. But Garrett Reynolds, Mike Johnson, and Joe Hawley have a total of zero regular-season starts among them.