Bears sign center Kreutz to three-year extension

Four years ago, Olin Kreutz had the opportunity to make more money by leaving the Chicago Bears and going to the Miami Dolphins. He wanted to stay a Bear.

On Thursday, Kruetz reiterated that desire, signing a three-year, $17.5 million extension -- with $9 million in guarantees -- that will keep him with the Bears through 2010. He was scheduled to be a free agent after the 2007 season.

"It means a lot," Kreutz told The Associated Press. "The Bears didn't have to
re-sign me right now and they did, and I'm thankful for that. "I
can retire a Bear now."

Kruetz has been the leader of the offensive line since 1998, when the Bears drafted him in the third round. He's a great communicator along the line. Plus, he adds a degree of toughness with his blocking style.

"He's been very loyal to us," Bears general manager Jerry
Angelo told AP. "Not only has he been a good football player, he's
been a very loyal player and I also told Olin this: 'loyalty is a
two-way street.' I wanted to make sure he saw that first hand from
our perspective."

Teammates applauded the contract extension.

"He's the one guy that we can't lose," linebacker Brian
Urlacher told AP. "And we're not going to."

In 2002, he stayed with the Bears by signing a six-year, $22.56 million contract. That contract made Kruetz the fourth-highest paid center in the league. He will make $17 million over the next two seasons before the extension kicks in.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.