Olin Kreutz has decided to walk away from the NFL after 13 seasons in the league, citing a lack of passion for the game as his reason. While he hasn't officially filed retirement papers, his decision to no longer play in the NFL proves that the Chicago Bears were right in not giving in to his free agency demands this offseason.
The Kreutz/Bears negotiations dominated the chatter around Chicago. He was the locker room leader and the veteran presence on a young and not-so-good offensive line. It was a common thought that the Bears made a big mistake by not giving in to Kreutz’s contract request of more than $4 million and letting him sign with the New Orleans Saints for half that amount.
The Bears moved forward without him, signed free agent Chris Spencer from the Seattle Seahawks and adjusted their line accordingly. By choosing not to bring him back, the Bears were able to focus on developing and rebuilding their offensive line for this year and the future, however bleak it may seem from a talent standpoint.
It also allowed for quarterback Jay Cutler to take on more of a leadership role in the locker room and on the field, something both he and the franchise needed.
While the Bears' offensive line has been mostly brutal this season, it hasn't been because they miss Kreutz. They have been asked to block for an offensive scheme that requires more skill and talent than they possess. Even with Kreutz in the middle, it would still be one of the worst lines in football.
One obvious question is whether Kreutz would have retired if he were still a member of the Chicago Bears, the only team he knew for his first 13 seasons in the league. He went to six Pro Bowls as a member of the Bears, and was regarded as one of the best centers in the NFL during his prime.
Maybe if the two sides had agreed to a contract, then Kreutz would still be playing. He didn't hide the fact that he wanted to finish his career with the Bears, and was hurt when they refused to meet him halfway on his monetary demands.
But who’s to say that this same scenario wouldn't have played out if he were still in Chicago? A player can’t predict in the offseason if he is going to lose his passion for playing.
It is a real possibility that Kreutz would have decided to not take the flight across the pond for this week’s game, which would have left the Bears in a real state of flux. They would have had to scramble to put together a line for the game and been left with little to no depth at the position.
For as little credit general manager Jerry Angelo is given, and deservedly so, he and the powers that be were absolutely right for not crossing the line they drew during negotiations. The Bears offensive line is one of the weaknesses of the team. By not bring back Olin Kreutz, they allowed themselves to get bigger and younger while being able to decide which players are NFL-worthy or not.
The fact that Kreutz has decided to walk away from the game proves that he was not mentally prepared for a 14th NFL season, and the Bears were right in letting him go.