Any lingering questions about how active the Chicago Bears will be during free agency are going to get answered starting at 4 p.m. That's when the frenzy officially begins as teams around the NFL are allowed to sign free agents.
Until then, fans have to rely on rumors to figure out which way their favorite teams will head. For Chicago, it seems like upgrading the offensive line is a top priority, as it should be, with a playmaker or two being next on the to-do list.
With that in mind, let's examine some buzz about potential targets for the Bears, including a couple coveted tackles.
TE Jared Cook
Last season, the Bears' top receiving tight end was Kellen Davis, who had a measly 19 catches for 229 yards, despite playing all 16 games. In fact, no Chicago player aside from Brandon Marshall had more than 400 receiving yards.
Giving Jay Cutler more options is vital. Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times reports the Bears are among the teams interested in pursuing Cook, who's spent the first four seasons of his career with the Tennessee Titans.
Cook has been vastly underutilized in the Titans offense and will probably seek out a team where he'd play a much larger role in the passing game. That would definitely be the case in Chicago given the lack of other receiving weapons.
Which of these players should be the top target?
OT Jake Long
Cutler was sacked 38 times in 15 games last season. For a quarterback who's had some accuracy issues to begin with, adding constant pressure to the equation makes matters a lot worse, which helps explain his lackluster 59 percent completion rate.
The Bears need somebody who can anchor the line to take some heat off Cutler. Jake Long is one of the most talked about tackles on the market and Chicago is definitely interested in making a run at him, according to Jensen.
Long made four straight Pro Bowls with the Miami Dolphins after being drafted with the first overall pick in 2008. He's coming off a down season, which could impact the size of his market, but the Bears are smart to pursue him and bet on a bounce back season.
OT Phil Loadholt
Another option is Loadholt. Tom Pelissero of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities reports the Bears are putting more on the table than the Minnesota Vikings, where the tackle has spent the past four seasons. The Vikings likely aren't going to offer more than $5 million per season.
It's unclear whether Long or Loadholt is Chicago's top target to fill its void at tackle, but it sounds like the Bears are going to pursue both options to cover their bases. Based on the two reports, the Loadholt talks appear a little farther along.
Ultimately, there isn't a huge difference between the two tackles in terms of ability. As long as the Bears are able to sign one of them, it will be considered a success. They just can't afford to get caught without a new tackle once the free-agency dust settles.