After 10 years inside Halas Hall, center Roberto Garza was released by the Bears’ new regime Thursday. To take his place, the team signed Will Montgomery — who played for coach John Fox in Denver and Carolina — to a one-year contract
“We have a great deal of respect for what Roberto has brought to the Bears over the last 10 years,” Bears GM Ryan Pace said in a release. “He has been a great player, teammate and leader. We wish Roberto and his family the very best as he continues his career.”
The 32-year-old Montgomery started eight games for Fox’s team last year after spending five seasons with the Redskins and 2007 with the Jets. The Broncos allowed 17 sacks, the fewest in the NFL.
Montgomery started every game from 2011-13 with he Redskins.
Fox’s Panthers drafted Montgomery in 2006; he started four games at right guard as a rookie.
Garza signed a one-year contract extension the day after Christmas that would have paid him as much as $1.5 million in 2015. It was the last move made by then-general manager Phil Emery, who was fired three days later.
At the time, Emery called Garza a “consistently good offensive producer and key contributor to our offensive line for an extended time period” and a “leader and role model to everyone on our team and in the greater Chicago community.”
The Bears have no other linemen who can play center, but planned on giving some established veterans snaps during voluntary workouts. Brian de la Puente, a center under GM Ryan Pace with the Saints who spent last season in Chicago, is still a free agent.
Garza, who turned 36 last week, said in December he ruled out retirement after he missed the sport while sitting out four games with a high ankle sprain. He said he was taking the decision “year-by-year.”
Garza first joined the Bears in 2005 after four years with the Falcons, and started 145 games over 10 seasons in Chicago. Garza credited a power lifting regimen — in South Carolina with teacher Donnie Thompson — for helping him stay healthy and keep his body in shape.
“There’s a lot of things that he does help 300-pound men play football,” he said.
With Garza released, only kicker Robbie Gould remains from the Bears’ 2006 Super Bowl team.