August 1, 2014
As the saying goes, you never can have enough good centers in the NFL.
The Bears added depth to their offensive line by agreeing to terms with center Brian de la Puente, a three-year starter, on a one-year contract ostensibly to back up veteran Roberto Garza.
The 6-3, 306-pound de la Puente, who will turn 29 in May, started 44 games over the previous three seasons for the New Orleans Saints, including the first two under Bears offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, who was the Saints’ offensive-line coach.
De la Puente, who got his break as a starter when former Bears center Olin Kreutz abruptly retired in 2011, had Pro Football Focus ratings of plus-6.1 in 2011, plus-23.0 in 2012 and plus-6.1 in 2013.
He had feelers from the Redskins, Giants and Lions and talked with the Saints in free agency. But apparently the market dried up, forcing him to settle for a one-year deal as a backup.
Garza, coming off a resurgent season in 2013, signed a one-year contract for $1.5 million for the 2014 season. But at 35, it remains to be seen how long he will be able to maintain his productivity.
Judging by the market, there are similar questions about de la Puente, but he is younger and could prosper under Kromer. The Saints’ offense ranked first (2011), second (2012) and fourth (2013) in yards and second, third and 10th in points in de la Puente’s three seasons as a starter.
De la Puente played in college at California and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. He also was with the Panthers and Seahawks but did not play in a game until he signed with the Saints.