The Bears are reportedly trying to steal OT Phil Loadholt away from the Vikings.
The 2013 NFL free agency period begins at 4 PM ET, and we're already getting news on the Bears being interested in three of the market's top offensive tackles.
The Bears are interested in offensive tackles Jake Long, Jermon Bushrod, and Phil Loadholt, according to reports.
The Loadholt news is the one getting the most talk today and comes as a bit of a surprise. Brad Biggs is hearing from a source that the Bears are "hot on Loadholt", which is frankly more than I needed to know.
The 6'8", 343-pound Loadholt has been an absolute mauler at right tackle for the rival Minnesota Vikings. In 2012, Loadholt ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 22 offensive tackle, the No. 8 right tackle, the No. 4 run-blocking tackle, and the No. 27 pass-blocking tackle (for perspective on the last stat, J'Marcus Webb ranked 42nd as Sean Jensen points out). The 27-year-old (just turned it in January) has started 63 of 64 games for the Vikings after being a second round pick out of Oklahoma in 2009.
So why would the Vikings let Loadholt get away, especially after watching what Adrian Peterson did running behind him in 2012? Money, of course. The Vikings don't want to pay Loadholt over $5 million per, and the Bears are offering him more than that, according to Tom Pelissero of ESPN 1500 (Twin Cities):
#Bears' interest in Phil Loadholt is legitimate, I'm told. Offering better numbers than #Vikings, who don't want to go above $5M/year.Biggs adds, "The price tag for Loadholt could reach $5.75 million per season."
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 12, 2013
It's assumed the Bears would just leave Loadholt at right tackle where he's played so well, but he played left tackle in college and would appear to have the tools/size to play on the left side in the NFL. So, you can't totally discount that possibility.
But, the Bears are reportedly interested in two of the market's top traditional left tackles as well. Biggs says that the Bears "are in conversations with" the Miami Dolphins' Long and New Orleans Saints' Bushrod:
A source also said the team is involved in conversations with the top left tackles on the market: Jake Long of the Miami Dolphins and Jermon Bushrod of the New Orleans Saints. The Bears’ interest level in Long is difficult to gauge, though.Jensen also had this tweet in regards to Long:
Source confirms to me what I reported earlier, that the #Bears interest in Jake Long is real. Again, the key is money.And Jensen added this on Monday in an article on the Sun-Times about the Bears' interest in Long:
— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) March 12, 2013
Long was considered one of the truly elite left tackles earlier in his career, but his play suffered in the last two seasons, when he was sidelined with injuries. According to Pro Football Focus, Long was ranked 47th out of 75 tackles last season. In 2011, he was 21st but second in 2010 and second in 2009.If Long were still playing like he did in 2009 and 2010, there's no way the Dolphins would let him hit the market after taking him with the No. 1 overall pick in 2008. But, the decline in play to go with the injury concerns (and the injuries of course could be the main reason for his decline in play) has left the Dolphins unsure about paying the $9-$12 million average salary Long's looking for in free agency.
Long will still just be 28 in the 2013 season, and perhaps he'll be in better health and return to pre-2011 form. That's surely what the Bears are hoping, and if they pay Long the hefty price he's looking for, that would say they're pretty confident he'll be playing at a higher level than he did the previous two seasons, at least.
As for Bushrod, the 28-year-old has been linked to the Bears since they signed Aaron Kromer to be the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, as Kromer was the offensive line coach for Bushrod in New Orleans from 2009-2012. The 6'5", 315 Bushrod made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and 2012 after being Drew Brees' blindside protector. It's believed Bushrod could be had for under $7 million or so annually, so signing him instead of Long could give the Bears more options in free agency (like, getting Loadholt too?).
Other Bears free agency nuggets as we approach 4 PM ET...
- There's been a few mentions from reporters on Monday about the Bears being interested in re-signing Jason Campbell. I just have a hard time seeing that happening unless he takes under $3 million or so per (and I doubt that since he could potentially compete to start for a few teams) given the Bears' needs on the offensive line, tight end, linebacker, wide receiver, etc. Of course, if they don't keep him, the rest of the quarterback market is god awful and for the No. 2 quarterback position, they may be better off just going with a quarterback selected in the first four rounds of the upcoming draft that they can also develop into a potential successor to Cutler. I don't see Matt Blanchard being a realistic No. 2 option, and Josh McCown is a pretty underwhelming No. 2 himself. It's going to be interesting to see what the Bears do here.
- Vaughn McClure points out how "word around the Combine" was that the Bears would look to get a traditional fullback. Solid fullbacks can be found for really all the way up to the beginning of the season as they're valued differently by different teams (some teams don't use a traditional fullback really at all).
UPDATE: The Bears are also interested in Andy Levitre, the top guard on the market.
Stay tuned for much more Bears free agency coverage right here on DBN. And make sure to follow our Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates as well.
UPDATE #2: No Phil Loadholt, as he re-signed with the Vikings, after they stunningly released long-time stud cornerback Antoine Winfield to clear up $7.5 million in cap space. Maybe the Bears' interest caused that release or for the Vikings to pay a bit more for Loadholt?
Reports are that the Bears are still in talks with Jermon Bushrod, though.