News that center Olin Kreutz has left the New Orleans Saints brings the obvious question: Are the Chicago Bears now justified in taking a hard-line stance in contract negotiations with him over the summer?
It's a convenient explanation, but I'm not sure it's the complete one.
To review: Kreutz's performance slipped noticeably in recent seasons. The Bears offered him a one-year contact worth $4 million when the NFL lockout ended in July, but they would not negotiate beyond that. Kreutz rejected the offer. The Bears signed free agent Chris Spencer, moved right guard Roberto Garza to center and watched as Kreutz signed with the Saints.
Agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN that Kreutz had lost his passion for the game. Would that have happened if he had remained with the Bears? I'm guessing not. Kreutz played 13 seasons in Chicago and wanted to finish his career there. His pride took a hit when he sensed the Bears' ambivalence. Not all players are prepared or interested in changing teams in the twilight of their career, especially when their identity is as intertwined with the franchise as Kreutz's was with the Bears.
It's also worth noting that Kreutz hadn't exactly experienced a career renaissance in New Orleans. Pro Football Focus, which evaluates offensive linemen based on their per-play blocking effectiveness, has Kreutz ranked as its second-worst center this season.
This summer, I suggested the Bears had made the right move at the wrong time in jettisoning Kreutz. The opposite was true for Kreutz. He made a mistake in turning down the Bears' offer, even though it was probably the right time for him to end his career.