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Offensive tackle isn’t only need for Bears in offseason

New EnglPatriots v New York Jets

New England Patriots v New York Jets

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Andy Levitre >>>>

Has started every game since the Bills drafted him in the second round in 2009, and he could have a breakout season in 2013.

Brandon Moore

He’s not listed first because he’s 32. But the 2011 Pro Bowl selection is the top-rated free-agent interior lineman, according to Pro Football Focus.

Louis Vasquez

Timing is everything, right? Started all 16 games for the first time in 2012 and had a solid season.

Donald Thomas

Buried on the Patriots’ bench, but he performed well in his seven starts last season. Only 27, he’s viewed as a capable starter.

Geoff Schwartz

He didn’t start last season for the Vikings, but PFF rates him as the third-best interior lineman available based on his snaps last season. The 26-year-old has 19 career starts.

Updated: April 9, 2013 11:52AM

The Bears’ No. 1 offseason need was widely perceived to be offensive tackle, which they can address in free agency and/or the draft.

But the Bears’ woeful offensive line needs more than one new player, and they might find a bargain at guard via free agency.

The hot name is Andy Levitre, 26, a 2009 second-round pick of the Buffalo Bills who has started every game since entering the league. He’s expected to sign a lucrative deal, and a handful of teams already have been linked with him.

Louis Vasquez, 25, is another trendy pick.

But the bargain — and potentially best — option is Brandon Moore. At least for the short term.

He won’t command a huge contract because he turns 33 in June and could be a tremendous addition to an offensive line for at least a couple more seasons.

Consider his durability and performance: He has started 137 consecutive games dating to November 2004.

For the 2012 season, Pro Football Focus rated him the fourth-best guard behind Evan Mathis, Marshal Yanda and Alex Boone.

According to PFF, he’s the top-rated guard or center available in free agency: “Don’t let one of the league’s most infamous fumbles, which happened to involve Moore’s buttocks, distort your view. He was one of the best interior linemen in the league and part of a New York Jets offensive line that surprisingly ranked near the top of the league.”

PFF also noted that he finished the season strong with nine consecutive positive grades, according to their analysis.

His pass-blocking is above-average, and his run-blocking is exceptional.

Moore received an overall grade of plus-21.3, four points higher than Levitre and 8.5 points higher than Vasquez.

And if they make a competitive offer, the Bears might have some built-in advantages.

Moore is from Gary, he played at Illinois and he’d probably be drawn to the strength of the Bears’ roster.

It’s widely noted that some of the team’s best players are in their 30s, so Moore could join them in trying to capitalize on the win-now mind-set.

He is, after all, fresh off that disastrous season with the Jets.

Not only did the Jets finish 6-10, but they had one of the NFL’s worst offenses as well as a media-circus atmosphere.

Bears general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman have highlighted the character of their players, and Moore is highly thought of by Jets coaches and players.

He was the 2011 Ed Block Courage Award winner.

“It’s impossible not to respect Brandon Moore,” Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters last fall. “Obviously, you respect good players, but with him, this is a self-made player.

“He is smart, tough, dependable and durable. And ever since I got here, I have said he is the best guard in football, the best right guard in football, and really nobody listened until the stats came out.”

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