The list of teams lining up for the services of guard Andy Levitre, who has started every game for the Buffalo Bills since being drafted in 2009, should be long.
And the Bears are expected to be included.
Fixing the Bears' woeful offensive line is widely considered to be general manager Phil Emery's No. 1 job for the offseason. Teams are allowed to talk to unrestricted free agents on other teams during a three-day negotiating period, which starts Friday at 11 p.m. Free agency officially begins at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.
Levitre, the 51st overall pick in 2009 from Oregon State, should command a hefty contract because of his high demand. But at just 26 years old, Levitre has the durability (he has never missed a start) and the skills to be a fixture in the interior of the Bears' offensive line for years.
Bills GM Buddy Nix said at the NFL Scouting Combine that it was important to keep Levitre. But the Bills opted to place the franchise tag safety on Jairus Byrd, leaving the door open to Levitre to look elsewhere.
According to Pro Football Focus, Levitre rated as the ninth best guard for the 2012 season. He's rated behind Jets guard Brandon Moore, who also is a free agent. But Moore is six years older than Levitre.
It all depends on what the Bears want to do and are willing (or able) to spend.
At the combine, Emery said he was interested in keeping right guard Lance Louis, arguably the Bears' most consistent lineman last season. But Louis is coming off surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Emery also is open to trying right tackle Gabe Carimi again at guard, saying "he had good moments both at guard and at tackle" last season.
But with the Bears expected to become very pass-oriented under new coach Marc Trestman, Levitre may be the best option. According to PFF, Levitre was the best pass-blocking guard in 2012.
There also are notable offensive tackles available in free agency, such as the Dolphins' Jake Long. But the Bears seem encouraged with all the progress that left tackle J'Marcus Webb has made and Emery has said he'll talk with the agents of right tackle Jonathan Scott about re-signing the veteran.
This year's draft class is also considered rich with offensive linemen.
"What you want in an offensive lineman, No. 1, is production," Emery said at the combine. "You want guys that produce consistently and you call those guys starters. So consistently good as a pass protector, consistently good as run blockers. You're looking for guys that have the size, mass and strength and quickness to accomplish that at the NFL level.
"Defensive linemen are, on average, more athletic than their counterparts on offense. You also have to have someone who has good football sense or smarts and has good toughness, because he's going to have to bounce back to reach that consistent level when he normally plays against someone who may have a little more speed and quickness than he does."