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Chalk Talk

Who are top offensive linemen in free agency?

Wondering about a player, a past game or another issue involving the Bears? Senior writer Larry Mayer answers a variety of email questions from fans on ChicagoBears.com.

It seems to me that the Bears need to pick up some free agent offensive linemen. Do you know who will be a free agent that's worth pursuing?

Brad
Boise, Idaho

Most websites that rank 2013 NFL free agents list (in alphabetical order) Branden Albert (Chiefs), Will Beatty (Giants), Jermon Bushrod (Saints), Ryan Clady (Broncos), Phil Loadholt (Vikings), Jake Long (Dolphins), Andre Smith (Bengals) and Sebastian Vollmer (Patriots) as the top offensive tackles due to become free agents. Of course, several of them may be re-signed by their own teams or designated as franchise players before they ever hit the free agent market.

Do you think Charles Tillman is still a top contender for defensive player of the year?

David D.
Keenesburg, Colorado

I'm certainly more than a little biased working for the Bears and having covered Charles Tillman for his entire NFL career. But, yes, I think he's among the top contenders for the defensive player of the year award. He made a ton of huge plays and also locked down arguably the NFL's best receiver in Calvin Johnson not once but twice. Tillman led the NFL with a career-high 10 forced fumbles and tied for the league lead with three interception return touchdowns. His main competition no doubt will come from Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt, who recorded 20.5 sacks, batted down 16 passes, forced four fumbles and recovered two fumbles.

When playing outside their own division, what determines when the Bears will host the game or when their opponent will?

Rick S.
Crete, Illinois

When playing another entire division, the games generally rotate. For example, the Bears will play at Philadelphia and Washington, and host Dallas and the Giants next season. In 2010, they hosted the Eagles and Redskins, and visited the Cowboys and Giants. The only exception is a rule that the NFL instituted in an effort to reduce long road trips that prevents teams playing the AFC West to travel to both San Diego and Oakland in the same season. The formula for the two games teams play against conference foes that finished in the same spot in the standings also rotates.

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