If the former Pro-Bowler is granted his freedom, the Bears had better be first in line for his services.
This latest news stems from the settlement of the Brady vs. NFL antitrust lawsuit.
The issue is the franchise tags the players received from their teams before the NFL locked out its players in March.
Last year, Mankins missed the first seven games of the season after refusing to report. But that didn't stop the 29-year-old from being named to the Pro Bowl for the third time in 2010.
The Bears, meanwhile, need more help on the offensive line.
Just because they drafted Gabe Carimi in the first round doesn't mean all their troubles are gone. Remember, the Bears led the league in sacks allowed last season.
While Mankins may simply be using this as leverage in re-signing with the Patriots, there is precedence to grant him free agency. In 1993, something similar happened as part of the Reggie White lawsuit.
If Mankins is declared a free agent, he won't come cheaply. But under the expected terms of the proposed new CBA, the Bears should have about $30 million to spend.
No matter what, there is a lot to do in a short period of time for Bears GM Jerry Angelo.
Here's hoping he makes Mankins a priority.