By Adam Hoge-
(CBS) — The Bears have their center for next season.
Veteran Roberto Garza, 34, will return for his 10th season with the Chicago Bears after signing a one-year contract with the team Thursday.
“I’m excited to keep playing and playing for a great franchise and a great city,” Garza said. “Everybody knows that I wanted to stay here. With the guys that I’m playing with, everything is coming together. I feel it’s a great opportunity to build on what we started last year.”
Garza was the only current offensive starter not locked in for 2014. He was set to become a free agent March 11 if a deal wasn’t worked out ahead of time. Both sides made it clear that they wanted to work out a deal, but given his age, it wasn’t a given that Garza would return.
“Everybody’s coming back and we’re going to be in the same system for the second year,” the center said. “We did some good things last year, but there’s a lot of stuff we have to build on and correct and do better. It’s going to be fun to watch the film from last year and get better at things that are going to make us a better football team.”
Bears head coach Marc Trestman admitted last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that the team wanted Garza back, but he also said “it’s a tough business.”
“Roberto is an outstanding player and person,” Trestman said Thursday. “He is as hard-working a player as we have and an unselfish leader. He is tremendously important in our preparation by quarterbacking the offensive line both in run and pass protection. He anchors everything we do up front and we’re thrilled to have him back.”
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer went as far as to say the center, who turns 35 next month, is still getting better.
“It was important for us to get him back. We’re excited to have him back. He’s a veteran presence in the [offensive line] room,” Kromer said. “He probably had his best year last year so we think he’s on the upswing even though he has a lot of years under his belt. We think he can be very productive for us again this upcoming year.”
With Garza locked up, the Bears can now concentrate on their defensive needs, where only two or three starting positions are set for 2014. The team still has 22 players set to hit free agency next month.
Offensively, depth will be the focus for the rest of the offseason, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bears add another center in the NFL Draft, despite also giving center Taylor Boggs a one-year contract earlier this week.
Adam Hoge covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @AdamHoge.