Over on FoxSports.com, former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick recently posted a list of the top 10 presumed free-agent defensive linemen. It's worth noting that four of the top five played in the NFC North last season.
But I'm less interested in where Ray Edwards, Cullen Jenkins, Tommie Harris and Cliff Avril will play in 2011 than in who might be joining one of our teams. (All indications, by the way, are that Avril will be a restricted free agent and thus will return to the Lions.)
Billick's ninth-ranked defensive lineman almost certainly is of some interest to the Chicago Bears, who are expected to be $37 million below the salary cap when free agency opens. I'm not in the business of indiscriminately throwing names against the wall just to foster free-agent discussion, but I think you'll agree that there are more than a few reasons to tie the Bears to defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who played the first four years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks.
First, the Bears should be in the market for experienced defensive tackles after releasing Harris. They've already made some moves, drafting Stephen Paea in the second round and indicating that Henry Melton could shift from end to tackle. But veteran Anthony Adams is a pending free agent, and Mebane's career track suggests he would be an upgrade.
Most recently, Mebane made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Bears' 35-24 victory over the Seahawks in the divisional playoffs. Scouts Inc. offers this take on his strength as a player: "He has enough power to hunker down and clog things up on the inside and can be extremely quick off the ball to penetrate and create problems in the backfield."
Second, connections are always important when trying to predict free-agent movement. Mebane has two critical associations with the Bears. The man that drafted him in Seattle, Tim Ruskell, is now the Bears' vice president of player personnel. And the Bears' new defensive line coach, Mike Phair, spent the past six seasons with the Seahawks.
As we've discussed several times, offensive line should be the Bears' top priority in free agency. But on a secondary level, it makes sense to keep an eye on whether they'll take the seemingly obvious step of pursuing a player who makes sense for their team.