- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Past issues in protection indicate the Chicago Bears could be looking at offensive tackle in free agency or the draft, but the club has actually explored the possibility of bringing in an interior offensive lineman in New York Jets veteran guard Brandon Moore, according to an NFL source.
A pending free agent and 10-year veteran, Moore has started 142 of 144 games for the Jets, and has logged 137 consecutive starts for the team. While age (32), could be seen as a negative, Moore is considered one of the NFL’s top free agents at his position.
Teams can begin negotiating with agents for pending free agents on Friday at 11 p.m. CST, but can’t make any official moves until the start of the new league year, which is Tuesday at 3 p.m., CST.
Moore recently told Sirius Radio on Thursday that he’s had “surprisingly” little contact with the Jets, and is interested in signing with a Super Bowl contender. A former standout at Illinois, Moore is considered the highest-rated interior lineman available in free agency, and considering the typical lifespan of offensive linemen, his age won’t be a deterrent because the Bears would look to structure a deal that makes sense for the franchise.
Younger free agents at guard such as Buffalo’s Andy Levitre and San Diego’s Louis Vasquez should be able to command in the $7 million per-year range, while the high end for Moore would likely fall into the $6-million range, with the low end hitting somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million.
With $3.9 million in available cap space as of Friday morning, the Bears could structure a deal with Moore in which he would count somewhere around $2 million to $2.5 million against the 2013 salary cap. That would wipe out a good portion of the available cap space if the Bears can’t restructure a few high-dollar current contracts or re-sign players to long-term deals that would lessen their cap figure for next season.
The team is also looking to bring back free-agent guard Lance Louis, who continues to recover from knee surgery. With a healthy Louis playing opposite Moore in 2013, the Bears could significantly solidify the interior of the pocket for quarterback Jay Cutler.
New Bears coach Marc Trestman has stated on numerous occasions that he’ll place a premium on protecting Cutler.
Moore obviously possesses the experience and ability to help do that.
“I’ve played a little while now and I’ve been in some big games and played in a lot of big games,” Moore told Sirius Radio. “At this stage of my career, I’m looking to really be with a team that’s on the cusp of a championship; a team that’s really a here, a piece there from really vying for a championship.”