BBAO: Importance of Olin Kreutz to Bears

We're Black and Blue All Over:

If all goes as expected, NFL teams will soon enter a three-day exclusive window to sign their own free agents.

The Minnesota Vikings will get their chance to re-sign receiver Sidney Rice, who has previously indicated a desire to test the market. The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, will get three days to, in the words of the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh, avoid fielding the "NFL's worst offensive line."

That's how important it is to re-sign center Olin Kreutz, according to Haugh. "Nothing would sabotage their season quicker" than allowing Kreutz to depart. The Bears have no obvious replacement in house and need an anchor amid the moving parts they're expected to have at both tackle and guard positions.

Kreutz acknowledged he will return to the Bears as long as he's offered "a fair deal." Haugh suggests it should fall in line with the three-year, $12 million deal the Baltimore Ravens gave Matt Birk two years ago. The Bears will be some $37 million under the cap and will need to dish out a number of contracts in order to meet the NFL's new minimum for cash expenditures.

Concern arose when the Bears opted not to re-sign him before the lockout, but it's possible they were awaiting the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, as many other teams chose to do as well.

Kreutz: "Everybody knows the way I feel about the Bears. I've chosen them many times. You hate to toot your own horn but I've left a lot of money on the table to be a Bear. The guys at Halas Hall have to decide what's best for the Bears. That's the decision they're going through this off-season and probably why I'm not signed yet."

We'll find out soon enough.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Don't expect a free-agent splurge from the Bears, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times.

  • Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal said his surgically repaired shoulder won't be 100 percent until October and that he'll have to participate in training camp with slight pain in the area. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.

  • Former Packers linebacker Dave Robinson has come to grips with his own mortality, writes Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

  • The artificial playing surface at the Metrodome will be replaced following work to replace the roof, according to Dave Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

  • Ted Mondale, the political appointee who serves as the liaison on the Minnesota Vikings' stadium issue, sought to calm tensions after Gov. Mark Dayton turned a cold shoulder on the issue. Via Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune: "Everyone's tired and angry. It's time to cool off. Have a glass of iced tea. Walk the dog. Everything will be all right." My opinion: The time for backing away is over. The state has used up that leverage. A better idea: Put down your ice tea and do your job.

  • The opinion of Tom Powers from the St. Paul Pioneer Press: "Sit down, clam up and wait until another special session is called this fall. And tell Zygi Wilf to back off. From what I hear, our elected officials are beginning to consider him a royal pain in the keister. I'm not sure how many people around here actually are fond of him. I'm pretty sure not too many trust him. The Vikings will get their stadium. We're in, like, the sixth inning of this whole process. Progress has been made. A site and a local partner have been established. Financing figures have been tossed around. Infrastructure has been addressed. It's going to happen. The word is that a special session likely will be called in the fall."

  • Arizona Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been working out with new Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph and compared him to former New York Giants star Mark Bavaro. Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com has more.

  • Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com views Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and former running back Barry Sanders the same way in one sense: "[B]y and large, they're both loners in the locker room."