CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23: Center Olin Kreutz #57 of the Chicago Bears prepares to snap the ball against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Olin Kreutz
Though the Bears' season ended just days ago, GM Jerry Angelo has to start looking forward to the draft and free agency. Several key players from this year's playoff run will become free agents, and the Bears have the hard task of deciding whom to keep and whom to let go.
The job is more difficult this off-season, as the NFL's collective bargaining agreement will expire on Mar. 4, and the threat of a lockout will hang over every free agent discussion. But even with that hanging in the air, the Bears need to move forward and figure out who is integral to the team.
First up, the offense:
Caleb Hanie and Todd Collins -- One of the easier decisions that the Bears brass has to make is on the back-up quarterback. Collins is old -- he'll turn 40 in November -- and not good. He didn't complete a single pass in the NFC Championship, and in two regular season games, earned a quarterback rating of 5.9. Hanie, on the other hand, played well when called upon. He's a restricted free agent, meaning the Bears have the right to match any offer from other teams. This is a no-brainer, Bears. Meet whatever offer is made on him.
Desmond Clark and Devin Aromashodu -- The tight end and wide receiver spent much of the year on the sidelines or inactive list. Though they've both contributed to the Bears in the past, it's clear that Mike Martz doesn't have a role for either player in his offense, so it wouldn't make sense for the Bears to hold onto either player.
Rashied Davis and Garrett Wolfe -- Both Davis and Wolfe have contributed on offense, with Davis filling in well for Earl Bennett in the regular season-ender with Green Bay, but are limited by their size (both players are under 5-foot-9). Where they make their mark is on special teams, blocking for return men Devin Hester and Danieal Manning, and taking out returners. It was Davis who spotted the fake punt attempt against the Jets, a pivotal play in the Bears late-season win over New York. Though it won't be possible for the Bears to keep all of their special teams stars, holding onto Davis or Wolfe makes sense. Taking versatility into account, Davis is the better option.
Olin Kreutz -- This one is going to hurt, Bear fans. The man at the center of the Bears offense is not the player he once was, considering that his line allowed Jay Cutler to be sacked 57 times over the course of the regular season and playoffs. His last Pro Bowl was in 2006, and he'll be 34 at the beginning of next season. Let him explore the market to see what he's worth.