At least two and possibly three NFC West teams will have new starting centers in 2011.
SpencerMax Unger is replacing free agent Chris Spencer in Seattle. San Francisco has an opening after Eric Heitmann had surgery and his 2010 replacement, David Baas, agreed to terms with the New York Giants. Arizona's Lyle Sendlein remains without an agreement for 2011, joining Spencer among the higher-ranked centers available this offseason.
Casey Rabach's expected release from the Washington Redskins adds another candidate to a list featuring free agents Olin Kreutz (Chicago Bears), Jonathan Goodwin (New Orleans Saints), Seindlein, Spencer and Samson Satele (Oakland Raiders). Rabach, 33, has started all but one game over the past seven seasons, dating to his days with Baltimore.
Sendlein's situation in Arizona is of particular interest in the NFC West. Arizona likes Sendlein very much and wants him to return. At what price? Sendlein wasn't sure what to expect heading toward free agency. Would another team -- San Francisco, even -- pay more than the Cardinals would pay? Spencer has ties to 49ers line coach Mike Solari. The two were together in Seattle.
Losing Sendlein would destabilize a Cardinals line already in flux following Alan Faneca's retirement and Deuce Lutui's potential departure. Green Bay's Daryn Colledge could wind up replacing Faneca. Veteran Rex Hadnot is under contract and could start if needed. Centers don't get much acclaim, but how well they communicate with quarterbacks can matter a great deal. Centers are also well positioned to be leaders of a line.