Loadholt, Long on Bears' radar

The Chicago Bears are looking to make a big splash in free agency by signing one of two big-name offensive tackles, Phil Loadholt or Jake Long, yet they may not be able to afford either.

It has been reported that the Chicago Bears have serious interest in free-agent offensive tackles Jake Long and Phil Loadholt. Both are quality veteran lineman who would provide substantial upgrades over J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi.

Long is a four-time Pro Bowl left tackle who, at one point in his career, was considered one of the top two players at his position – along with Cleveland's Joe Thomas. Long's production has dropped the past few years but he's still one of the best left tackles in the game.

Loadholt is a right tackle who spent his first four years in the NFL in Minnesota. He's massive (6-8, 343) and can road grade as a run blocker. He can also hold his own in pass protection, allowing just four sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus. On top of that, he's extremely durable, having missed just one game in his career.

The problem with both players, particularly Long, is the price tag they will command. Long has said publicly he wants at least $10 million per season, which is the reason the Dolphins are willing to let him walk. As of right now, the Bears have roughly $7 million in available cap space, so the club will have to do some major salary restructuring to even consider Long.

Loadholt won't be as expensive – right tackles never are – yet he won't be cheap. He could command $6 million-$8 million per season, which would also eat up Chicago's cap space.

When free agency begins today at 3 p.m. CT, the Bears will instantly have 20 roster spots to fill. With just $7 million to make that happen, it seems highly unlikely the club is going to be able to afford either Loadholt or Long, or any big-name free agent for that matter.

Unless they start putting heads on the chopping block.

The best way for GM Phil Emery to clear cap space is to cut dead weight on the current roster. Some possible candidates include Devin Hester and Kellen Davis, while they club may also look to restructure or extend the contracts of veterans Julius Peppers, Brandon Marshall, Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings.

One way or another, the team has to create some breathing room under the cap, otherwise they'll be forced to fill those roster spots with mediocre players. I think we can all agree that is not a recipe for success.

Loadholt and Long would be great additions to an offensive line that has struggled mightily the past three seasons. Yet it's unrealistic to assume they'll end up in Chicago, unless major changes soon take place.

**UPDATE: The Vikings are reportedly on the verge of re-signing Loadholt, a move made financially possible after the team cut cornerback Antoine Winfield, which cleared more than $7 million in cap space.**

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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