Phil Emery and the Chicago Bears made another solid free agent acquisition today with the signing of center Brian de la Puente, formerly of the New Orleans Saints. The Bears have made it clear that Roberto Garza, 35, is still the starter at center and that de la Puente was brought on board to back up both the center and guard positions. With the re-signing of tackle Eben Britton earlier in the week, the Bears have shored up their offensive line depth with quality back-ups at all three line positions.
Brian de la Puente was originally signed by the 49ers in 2008 as an undrafted free agent out of California. He bounced around the league for two years before signing with the Saints in 2010 and spending the year on the practice squad. When Olin Kruetz surprisingly retired in 2011, de la Puente took over as the starter and played very well. He was the Saints starting center the last three seasons and earned a positive grade every year from Pro Football Focus. His best season was in 2012 when he finished as PFF’s 2nd rated center with a 23.0 grade.
The Lions and Saints also made offers for de la Puente but he decided to join the Bears on a 1 year veteran minimum deal and reunite with offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer who gave de la Puente his first shot when he was the offensive line coach of the Saints. de la Puente will be a backup for the Bears in 2014, but with Roberto Garza close to retirement, de la Puente, 28, could take over as the starting center in 2015 and beyond.