Chicago Bears 2015 Position Preview: Center

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Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With free agency and the NFL draft completed, the core of the Chicago Bears 2015 roster is in place. There may be an undrafted player who makes the team via mini-camp, like RB Senorise Perry and CB Al Louis-Jean did last year, or a free agent signing of a cap casualty late in the preseason, but for the most part the roster is in place. Over the next few weeks I will be breaking down the Bears depth chart at every position.

The Bears released long-term center Roberto Garza this offseason after a ten year stint with the team. They replaced him initially with veteran center Will Montgomery, who HC John Fox is familiar with from his time in Denver and Carolina, and used a 3rd round pick on Hroniss Grasu, who was Kyle Long’s teammate at Oregon and a player I had graded as a mid-2nd round pick. One of those guys will most likely be playing center for the Bears on week 1, but there are a couple of long shot candidates in Conor Boffeli and rookie Chad Hamilton.

Position Previews: QB | RB | WR | OT | OG | C

2015 Bears C Depth Chart:

Starter Candidates

Will Montgomery

The Bears replaced Garza with Will Montgomery, 32, a former 7th round pick of the Panthers in 2006 when John Fox was head coach in Carolina. Montgomery started 4 games as a rookie for Fox, then 2 games for the Jets in 2007, before ending up with the Redskins from 2008-2013 and becoming their full-time starting center from 2011-2013.  During his three year stretch as a starter, Montgomery accrued a positive 30.3 grade, including a 25.2 grade in 2012 when he was the 5th best center in football according to Pro Football Focus. Montgomery had some struggles in pass pro, but has graded out consistently as an impact run blocker.

The Broncos signed Montgomery to a 1-year, $1.2M contract before the 2014 season to back-up starting center Manny Ramirez, but Montgomery took over as the starter in week 10 and kept the job though the Broncos playoff loss to the Colts. He finished the season with a 6.6 overall grade from PFF, which would have been the 11th best mark among centers last year if he played enough snaps to qualify. Montgomery has been an asset as a run blocker his whole career and should improve the Bears running game.

The Bears signed Montgomery for a veteran minimum deal ($870k) so they don’t have a significant financial commitment should Grasu cleanly beat him out for the job and a young (less expensive) player proves to be a competent back-up. If Grasu earns the job, the Bears will most likely keep Montgomery around as an experienced, competent backup unless one of the younger centers clearly outplay him during the preseason. If Grasu isn’t ready for the starting gig, then I’m sure Fox is comfortable enough with Montgomery to open the season with him in the starting lineup.