The center position is going to be one to watch for the Eagles this off-season. With Jamaal Jackson's ACL injury, it will be interesting to see if the Eagles bring in a veteran to compete with Nick Cole, Mike McGlynn and A.Q. Shipley in case Jackson isn't ready to start the season. Looking back at the centers throughout the Andy Reid era, no one has been drafted and started from day one. Just look at Jackson, who had a couple of years in the system before he got the starting nod. Here's a look at the top free agents at the center position.
|1. Chris Spencer, Seattle Seahawks (RFA)
|The centers might be the weakest of all free agent groups. Spencer is the headliner, but hardly a great player. The Seahawks spent a first-round pick on him, but Spencer hasn't developed into the kind of player they expected. Injuries have affected him. He's also spent some time at guard. The upside is that he's got pretty good size and is still in his prime physically.
|2. Casey Rabach, Washington Redskins (UFA)
|Durable veteran has only missed one start in the last six years. He will turn 33 in the upcoming season, but still has the ability to be a solid starter in the middle of the line. Could be a good short-term fix for some team. Rabach is a good run blocker.
|3. Lyle Sendlein, Arizona Cardinals (RFA)
|Undrafted player has started the last 32 games at center for the Cardinals. The Cardinals will probably give him a high tender so that they can keep him and maintain some continuity on the line. They will lose at least one starter this year. Sendlein has some size at 6-3 and 305 pounds.
|4. Kevin Mawae, Tennessee Titans (UFA)
|Father Time may be nearing the end of the line. He made the Pro Bowl in 2009, but wasn't deserving of that accolade. Put on the game tape and you'll see a player who has started to slide. He's now a finesse guy who relies on experience and positioning as much as physical skills. He can still pull well and block on the move. Mawae is 39 years old. That's pretty amazing.
|5. Rudy Niswanger, Kansas City Chiefs (RFA)
|Another undrafted player who has developed over time into a good starter. Niswanger, 6-5 and 301 pounds, has started 31 games in the last two years. Good at the line of scrimmage. Big and strong enough to control defensive tackles. Watch Jamaal Charles' long runs down the stretch and you'll see a lot of key blocks from Niswanger. He also is able to get to the second level and take on linebackers.
|6. Rex Hadnot, Cleveland Browns (UFA)
|Hadnot has started at guard and center in his career. Teams could look at him at either spot. The center class is exceptionally weak so teams may be more eager to look at him as part of this group. He has a thick, squatty build at 6-2 and 320 pounds. Hadnot has started 76 games in his career.
|7. Jason Spitz, Green Bay Packers (RFA)
|Another guy who has split time at guard and center. A back injury limited him to only five games in 2009. Spitz has been a good player for the Packers. They will probably use a pretty high tender on him in hopes of retaining his services. Spitz has started at guard or center since the Packers drafted him.
|8. David Bass, San Francisco 49ers (RFA)
|Baas has played guard in the NFL, but was a star center at Michigan. He could make the transition back to that spot. He's big at 6-4 and 338 pounds. Baas is a physical run blocker. He's started for the last two seasons. He looks like a player on the rise.
|9. Nick Cole, Philadelphia Eagles (RFA)
|Cole was originally brought in by the Eagles to be the backup center. Most of his playing experience has been at guard. Cole has played well at right guard. He started a couple of games when Jamaal Jackson got hurt. Cole was up and down at center, but could be a good player with a full off-season to practice at that position.
|10. Wade Smith, Kansas City Cheifs (UFA)
|Smith is a versatile veteran who has started at all three positions on the offensive line. He's been in the league since 2003, but has only started 34 games. Smith is ideally suited to be a backup or spot starter. Sixteen of those starts did come in the past two seasons while he was a Chief.
-- Posted by Tommy Lawlor, 9:59 a.m., March 1*