11:33am: The Bears have formally announced both moves, officially signing Montgomery to a one-year contract and releasing Garza (Twitter link).
10:21am: Montgomery is signing a one-year deal with the Bears, tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
9:14am: The Bears have informed longtime offensive line stalwart Roberto Garza that he will be released, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Rich Campbell of the Tribune tweets that the team’s plan is to sign veteran center Will Montgomery as Garza’s replacement.
The move comes as something of a surprise, since the Bears signed Garza to a one-year contract extension back in December, locking him up for the 2015 season. However, the deal was consummated by the previous regime, led by general manager Phil Emery. Emery and head coach Marc Trestman were let go several days later, and new coach John Fox is more familiar with Montgomery, having coached him in Denver last season.
Garza, who turned 36 last month, had been with the Bears since the 2005 season, playing 154 regular season contests (145 starts) during that stretch, primarily at center and right guard. While he’s in his mid-30s, he was reasonably effective last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). PFF’s metrics graded him as a below-average pass blocker, but a positive run-blocking grade increased his overall ranking to 21st among 41 qualified centers.
Montgomery, meanwhile, ranked 15th on that same PFF list of qualified centers, with a +4.9 pass-blocking grade buoying his overall mark. The 32-year-old spent five seasons in Washington before joining the Broncos a year ago.
Garza’s old one-year contract with the Bears reportedly included a $75K signing bonus, which would have been prorated across the 2014 and 2015 seasons. As such, Chicago should only be left with $37.5K in dead money on its books after cutting him.