Upon Further Review: Offensive line fix?

LAKE FOREST, Ill. – The Bears are up against a tight Tuesday deadline to swing what’s sure to be a complicated deal if they plan to consummate a trade for New England Patriots guard Logan Mankins, who could potentially upgrade the club’s leaky offensive line.

Given the 23 sacks taken by quarterback Jay Cutler in four-and-a-half games, which put him on pace for more than 80 this season, the Bears seriously need solutions.

They’re just not likely to find them by Tuesday’s trade deadline, according to multiple personnel executives around the league, who identified some of the potential snags of a trade while questioning whether Mankins is actually worth what Chicago would have to give up to acquire him.

“What you’ve got to think about is [the fact] guards don’t carry that kind of value,” said one NFC North personnel executive. “You’ve also got to consider you’ve got a quarterback up there in New England [Tom Brady] that gets the ball out quickly. So is he a guy who makes an offensive line much better? Will he still be good on another o-line? Are you willing to pay that price for a guard? New England is not.”

It’s no secret the Bears kicked around the idea of making a move for Mankins ever since the restricted free-agent guard balked at signing New England’s $3.26 million tender. Otherwise, general manager Jerry Angelo wouldn’t be doing his due diligence when it comes to making sure Chicago fields a roster featuring the best talent available.

ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter floated the possibility of the Bears acquiring Mankins in exchange for defensive tackle Tommie Harris and a fourth-round pick, writing that “Chicago gets the help on the offensive line it needs, and New England gets [the] help on the defensive line it needs along with the fourth-round pick it gave up for wide receiver Deion Branch.”

It’s believed the Patriots are looking to receive a first-round pick as compensation in a potential trade, and that Mankins seeks a deal averaging more than $8 million per season. Mankins’ agent, Frank Bauer, revealed to ESPNBoston.com that New England’s final offer to the guard is 20 percent lower than the deal signed by Saints’ guard Jahri Evans, a Pro Bowler, who signed a seven-year contract in May worth $56.7 million, which averages out to a little more than $8 million.

Based on that, the Bears would have to pay Mankins left-tackle money.

“You’ve got to make a deal before you trade for him, otherwise he’s gone at the end of the year,” the NFC North executive said. “It doesn’t make sense to give up something for him and not have a deal. Then, you’re talking about paying tackle money to a guard. You can’t overpay a guard.”

An AFC personnel executive agreed, saying that actually getting a long-term deal done with Mankins would be the Bears’ biggest challenge.

So Mankins’ contractual demands certainly decrease Chicago’s chances of landing him. It’s also well-documented that Angelo has indicated he’s exhausted the funds allotted by ownership to upgrade the talent. In structuring any potential new deal with Mankins, the Bears would need to strongly consider the effect the contract could have on the salary cap once a new collective bargaining agreement is implemented, another NFC executive said.

Without knowing what the new cap could be, the Bears run the risk of signing Mankins to a deal that could potentially force them to unload salaries/talent in the future to stay within the confines of that new cap. The club will already have several hard choices to make in that arena next offseason, considering players such as Olin Kreutz, Anthony Adams, Devin Aromashodu, Desmond Clark, Corey Graham, Caleb Hanie, Brian Iwuh, Patrick Mannelly, Danieal Manning, Nick Roach, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Matt Toeaina are playing in the final years of their deals.

Additionally, draft compensation is an issue. Each of the personnel executives believed a third-round pick (and possibility an additional conditional pick) would be the minimum needed for the Bears to acquire Mankins. Still, that’s probably not the route the club needs to go considering its past, which is rife with it essentially throwing away draft picks in trades. The Bears gave away two first-round picks and a third-rounder to acquire Cutler and a second-round pick for defensive end Gaines Adams.

Prior to that, the Bears traded away three additional picks.

Based on comments made by coach Lovie Smith, the Bears aren’t seeking outside help to fix the offensive line’s myriad problems. Smith thinks the club may have found the best combination to protect Cutler during Sunday’s loss to Seattle.

So help from Mankins likely isn’t on the way.

“I’m hoping we have [found the right combination on the line],” Smith said. “Believe me, each week we haven’t said, ‘New week, let’s try a different combination.’ Injuries have forced us to do it a little bit, but we’re getting guys back healthy right now. So hopefully, we can go with this same line again this week, and just that in itself -- the guys playing together a little more -- will help.”