2014 NFL Off-Season: Bears Build For The Future With Addition of De La Puente

2014 NFL Off-Season: Bears Build For The Future With Addition of De La Puente
New Orleans Saints center Brian De La Puente (60) points before a snap during the first half of an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013, in Chicago.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The Bears may be looking to the future with their most recent signing.

Center Brian De La Puente agreed to a one-year contract with the Bears on Sunday, a move that reunites him with his former offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, whom he played for from 2010-2012.

Since joining the Saints in October 2010 via the practice squad, the undrafted lineman out of California has started 44 consecutive games as Drew Brees's center.

Longtime Bear Olin Kreutz started the first four games of the 2011 season for the Saints, but chose to retire shortly there after, allowing De La Puente to step in. The 28-year-old did a solid job, grading out as the 12th, second and 16th in Pro Football Foucs' ratings the past three seasons.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," De la Puente told ChicagoBears.com. "I'm excited about the team. I've heard nothing but great things about the organization and I'm excited about starting this next chapter of my career."

The 6-3, 306-pound De La Puente comes at a very good value and into a system that he is very familiar with. His one-year deal contains only $165,000 in guaranteed money despite generating interest from his former team, the Saints and the New York Giants, who are desperate for offensive lineman.

Last off-season De La Puente signed a one-year, $2.02 million deal to stay with the Saints. He joins left tackle Jermon Bushrod as the second Saint, who came over to join Kromer in the windy city.

Despite re-signing Roberto Garza to a one-year deal this off-season this move makes sense for the Bears. They've been looking for a future replacement at center for a while now. Garza is serviceable, but De La Peunte gives them a nice option at any of the inside positions not just at center.

"Brian is a great addition to our offensive unit," Kromer told ChicagoBears.com. "He has the experience as a starter and has position flexibility. Brian will fit in a group of unselfish linemen who display a true sense of family, helping each other to grow to their full potential."

This move by general manager Phil Emery could pay off in a big way. It's hard to believe a player of De La Puente's caliber was still on the market this late in free agency.

Even though it's only a one-year deal, he should be looked at as Garza's future replacement. Now the Bears can mark center off their draft boards and focus on their top needs: (DT, S, CB, QB, TE/WR, RB and MLB).

De la Puente is the 30th player signed by the Bears since the end of last season.

Quarterback Help?

Free agent quarterback Josh Freeman visited Halas Hall on Monday afternoon, according to CBS's Jason La Canfora. The 26-year-old Kansas State product appeared in three games with the Tampa Bay Bucs last season before being cut. He latched on with the Vikings, but failed to impress in one start.

2013 was a bad year overall for Freeman, but the former first-round pick has plenty of talent. He holds a career passer rating of 77.8 along with 80 touchdowns and 67 interceptions since entering the league in 2009.

Freeman's best season came in 2010, when he tossed 25 touchdowns and only six interceptions with a QB rating of 95.9 in 16 starts for the Bucs.

Tight end Matthew Mulligan and quarterback Adam Weber worked out for the Bears on Monday as well. Mulligan, primarily a blocking tight end played in 15 games with the New England Patriots in 2013, while Weber was part of final cuts with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Weber was a four-year starter for the University of Minnesota from 2007-2010, but hasn't found a spot in the NFL just yet.


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