NFC North Tour: Free Agent Update

Here are team needs for Packers, Bears, Lions and Vikings and the status of each of their free agents.

Green Bay Packers


1. Defensive end/outside linebacker: In the wake of having the league's worst-ranked defense last season, it was going to be imperative the Packers upgraded their paltry pass rush and give left-side linebacker Clay Matthews some help. The need is greater now that defensive end Mike Neal has been suspended the first four games of next season for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

2. Center: The explosive offense lost Scott Wells, the veteran anchor of the offensive line and a first-time Pro Bowl selection last season, in free agency. Fortunately for general manager Ted Thompson, the free-agent market for the position is teeming with potential replacements.

3. Safety: It's up in the air whether standout free safety Nick Collins will be medically cleared to play again after suffering a severe neck injury early last season. An answer is expected by the end of the month.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.




CB Jarrett Bush is a core special-teams contributor, tying for the team lead in tackles (12) last season, and a capable situational cover man in the slot. The Packers would like to retain him, but the decision will hinge on the market and what interest Bush gets elsewhere.

QB Matt Flynn is free to shop for a team that will give him his long-awaited opportunity to be an NFL starter after the Packers didn't use the franchise tag on him. Depending on where Peyton Manning lands, Flynn may be a sought-after commodity for a number of teams.

RB Ryan Grant has rushed for a meager total of 604 yards the last two injury-marred seasons and is 29. Yet, Packers haven't ruled out bringing him back to remain the veteran presence in a stable of young backs.

DL Howard Green takes up a lot of space with his roughly 350-pound frame but wasn't much of a factor as a role player in his first full season with Green Bay. The well-traveled 33-year-old could be moving on again.

CB Pat Lee has been a nonfactor on defense since the team took him in the second round of the 2008 draft. Lee, though, has value on special teams and tied Bush for the top spot in tackles.

LB Erik Walden wasn't the playmaker the Packers need to complement left-side standout Clay Matthews and lost his starting job on the right side late in the season. The team still may re-sign him.




TE Jermichael Finley: UFA; $14M/2 yrs, $1M SB/$7M RB.



C Scott Wells: UFA Rams; $24M/4 yrs, $13M guaranteed

Chicago Bears


1. Offensive line: Every position on the line could be upgraded with the exception of right tackle, which should be in good hands, as long as last year's No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi is fully recovered from a dislocated kneecap that sidelined him after two games. Improvement is especially needed at left tackle, given the lack of pass protection provided by J'Marcus Webb last season.

2. Pass-rushing defensive end: Free agent Israel Idonije is a solid run defender, but he had just five sacks playing across from right end Julius Peppers. The defense is based on getting pass-rush pressure from the linemen, but they did not get that consistently last season.

3. Wide receiver: With the addition of Brandon Marshall, the Bears have their long-awaited No. 1 receiver. But, the most productive member of last year's group, Johnny Knox, is slowly rehabbing from a devastating hit late last season that necessitated back surgery. There is no timetable for his return.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: RB Matt Forte (tendered at $7.742 million).



CB Zack Bowman at 6-1 and 196 pounds, has ideal size to match up with big wide receivers. Bowman has started 16 games but has failed to hold on to the starting job on three different occasions, most recently in Week 16 last season.

CB Corey Graham led the Bears with 22 special teams tackles, which earned him a Pro-Bowl berth. When he finally got a chance to play defense, he picked off passes in three straight games while filling in at nickel back. Since starting nine games in 2008, Graham has just one start in the past three seasons, when he wasn't exactly competing with an all-star cast for playing time. But he wants a chance to play regularly, and if someone offers him that, he'll be gone.

QB Caleb Hanie is athletic and has been in the program for four years, but he was a huge disappointment when he finally got a chance to play late last season, and the Bears reportedly will not re-sign him.

LS Chris Massey filled in reliably last season, and Patrick Mannelly, the Bears' long-snapper for the past 14 years, is still rehabbing from the torn ACL that ended his 2011 season in November. Mannelly might not be 100 percent for some time.

DT Amobi Okoye contributed in the rotation last season and has five years' experience, even though he's still only 24, so he could have a lot of good football ahead of him. But, with starters Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina back, and last year's second-round pick Stephen Paea expected to play a bigger role, where does Okoye fit?

WR Roy Williams, at 6-3 and 215 pounds, is easily the biggest of an undersized group of wide receivers. But, despite high hopes last season, Williams' production was pedestrian: 37 catches, 507 yards, two touchdowns.


RB Kahlil Bell (tendered at $1.26M with no compensation) was impressive in late-season action last year outperforming Marion Barber, although even in limited action he fumbled three times.



TE Kellen Davis: UFA; $6M/2 yrs, $2.7M SB.

DE Israel Idonije: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

CB Tim Jennings: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

QB Josh McCown: UFA; $850,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.

S Craig Steltz: UFA; $1.64M/2 yrs.


QB Jason Campbell: UFA Raiders; $3.5M/1 yr.

LB Blake Costanzo: UFA 49ers; $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.

WR Brandon Marshall (trade Dolphins).

WR Eric Weems: UFA Falcons; $4.2M/3 yrs, $1,5M guaranteed.


NT Anthony Adams (released).

S Brandon Meriweather: UFA Redskins; $6M/2 yrs.

T/G Frank Omiyale (released).

Detroit Lions


1. Cornerback: There is no cornerback on the roster signed beyond next season and the lack of depth was exposed late last season after starter Chris Houston, nickel back Aaron Berry and free safety Louis Delmas were injured late in the season. Compound the problem with the loss of Eric Wright and the Lions need to restock the shelves here. The only corners on the roster right now are Houston, Berry, Alphonso Smith and Don Carey.

2. Offensive line: It is interesting that the Lions reached out to free-agent linemen Eric Winston (signed with Kansas City) and Marcus McNeill. Still, Mayhew has admitted that with left tackle Jeff Backus, center Dominic Raiola (34) and right guard Stephen Peterman (30) are getting older, and he needs to start developing some younger talent. Presently, the two developmental linemen are tackle Jason Fox, who's been injured the last two years, and guard-tackle Johnny Culbreath who was injured all of last season.

3. Linebackers: The ranks are extremely thin here, too. Starters DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant will be back, but Stephen Tulloch may be too pricey for the Lions to re-sign. Two primary backups last year, Bobby Carpenter and Ashlee Palmer, aren't expected to be re-signed. That leaves developmental linebacker Doug Hogue as the only other true linebacker on the roster. If they lose Tulloch, Levy could move back into the middle. But judging from their interest in Seattle free agent David Hawthorne, it looks like they would first try to replace Tulloch with another veteran middle linebacker.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: DE Cliff Avril (tendered at $10.605 million).




OLB Bobby Carpenter isn't expected to be re-signed. The Lions learned the same lesson about Carpenter that the Cowboys learned. He is built like a Pro Bowler. His football IQ is off the charts. But something is missing. The more he played last season, the more he struggled. By the end of the season, he was playing mostly on special teams. The only defensive package he was part of was the four-linebacker goal-line package.

OG Leonard Davis won't be back. The Lions brought the veteran former Pro Bowler in last season for three reasons - as insurance against injury, to push starter Stephen Peterman and to take an extended look at him to determine if he'd fit in the plans for 2012. It appears the answer to No. 3 is no, he does not fit.

WR Rashied Davis was a stabilizing force on the special teams once he got healthy. He was also a stabilizing and at times hilarious presence in the locker room. But, he will be 33 and that will give the Lions some pause. Still, it is a good bet they bring him back.

LB Isaiah Ekejiuba was another vital special teams player who was lost early; in Week 3. He will be 31 in October and it seems like there's still a lot of good football left in him, but the Lions are expected to revamp their linebacker core again and will be looking for younger special teams aces.

DT Andre Fluellen was essentially the fifth defensive tackle and the emergency fill-in at defensive end during his four-year tenure with the Lions, but he was consistently productive when he was called upon. He's 27 and could also be looking for a larger role, which he won't get backing up Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, Nick Fairley and Sammie Hill.

P Ben Graham has earned a shot at competing for the job next season. The Lions haven't given up on Ryan Donahue, who beat out Nick Harris last season before being injured during the bye week. But Graham stepped in and stabilized what had been a shaky punt unit. His directional punting and ability to drop punts inside the 10 was a weapon for the Lions last season.

S Chris Harris won't be back. If the Lions needed a run-stopping specialist, they would probably re-sign Harris without hesitation. But they aren't looking for one-dimensional defensive backs. Harris' inability to protect the back end against deep throws was exposed over and over last season - in Chicago and in Detroit.

RB Jerome Harrison's football career is on hold after he had surgery last October to remove a tumor from his brain. Asked about Harrison's condition during the Combine, both coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew declined to comment.

CB Brandon McDonald went from the starting nickel back in training camp to being released in Week 14 to being brought back for the final two regular-season games and actually played the entire second half against Green Bay. But the Lions are looking to upgrade the entire secondary so it's doubtful McDonald is in the plans.

RB Maurice Morris' time in Detroit is probably over. After productive years in 2009 and 2010, Morris seemed to lose a step last year. His numbers were similar (4.0 yards per carry) but he was unable to take charge of the position after Best, Jerome Harrison, and then Smith were injured. He will be 33 in December and it seems likely the Lions will not re-sign him.

LS Don Muhlbach had been just about perfect the past seven and a half seasons since joining the team in the middle of 2004. It is inconceivable that he wouldn't be re-signed.

RB Kevin Smith is expected to be re-signed, which is somewhat of a surprise. The Lions essentially gave up on Smith because he couldn't stay healthy. He played well in his first two games after they re-signed him in Week 10, but again, he couldn't stay healthy. He battled through a high ankle sprain the rest of the season. But, with all the uncertainty around Jahvid Best (concussion) and Mikel Leshoure (Achilles), they need as much depth at running back as possible.

WR Maurice Stovall won't be back. The Lions didn't get what they were expecting in Stovall. He didn't tackle consistently enough to be a force on special teams and by the end of the season was used on offense in run plays only. He caught just one pass all season.

MLB Stephen Tulloch will command a significant raise over the $3.2 million he played for last season. The Lions want him back badly but may not have the resources to get it done. Unless wide receiver Calvin Johnson's contract is restructured, he may be too expensive. Expect the Eagles to make a big play for him.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

OLB Ashlee Palmer (not tendered as RFA), but there is slim chance they could re-sign himat a salary lower than what the tender would have been. He has been a key special teams player the last two seasons. The Lions didn't tender Kevin Smith when he was restricted last season and brought him back at the end of the season. Most likely, though, Palmer will play elsewhere.


DT Sammie Hill (tendered at $1.26M with fourth-round pick as compensation) posted 80 tackles and four sacks playing part time the last three seasons. The only way he wouldn't be a Lion in 2012 is if he was used as trade bait. He has a lot of value and, because the Lions won't be able to do much in free agency, they are expected to be wheeling and dealing before training camp starts.

OT Corey Hilliard (tendered at $1.26M with sixth-round pick as compensation) as of right now, he's the only backup tackle on the roster that has started games in the NFL. Though he has mostly filled in for Gosder Cherilus at right tackle, the Lions are confident he could handle the left tackle spot, too, if needed.

LB DeAndre Levy (tendered at $1.927M with second-round pick as compensation). If the Lions don't re-sign Stephen Tulloch, there is a good chance Levy would move back to middle linebacker. General manager Martin Mayhew, though, said he liked what he saw of Levy on the outside last season. Either way, his versatility is hugely important to the Lions right now.



LT Jeff Backus: UFA; $10M/2 yrs.

S Erik Coleman: UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.

QB Shaun Hill: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.



TE Will Heller (released).

QB Drew Stanton: UFA Jets; $1.25M/1 yr.

CB Eric Wright: UFA Buccaneers; $37.5M/5 yrs, $15.5M guaranteed.

Minnesota Vikings


1. Cornerback: The team's best cornerback is Antoine Winfield, who missed 11 games in 2011 and turns 35 in June. That's downright alarming considering the Vikings play in the NFC North, a pass-crazed division that got even more explosive with the Bears adding receiver Brandon Marshall. Even if Chris Cook returns, the Vikings need to add more than one quality cornerback.

2. Wide receiver: The Vikings have Percy Harvin, an electrifying slot receiver, and, well, virtually nothing else at receiver. Michael Jenkins, who played 11 games before a knee injury ended his 2011 season, is a potential No. 2 outside receiver, at best.

3. Left tackle: Charlie Johnson was a stopgap left tackle, signed last summer when the Vikings decided they were going to release Bryant McKinnie. Johnson is better suited to play left guard, which he will do now that Steve Hutchinson was released. That clears the way for the Vikings to pick USC left tackle Matt Kalil.

MEDICAL WATCH: No updates.




FS Husain Abdullah could return because he's not expected to garner much interest on the open market after suffering four concussions over the past two seasons. The Vikings need to upgrade both safety positions, but have so many other needs to address. They would feel comfortable with Abdullah, who knows the defense and was making progress before ending up on injured reserve.

LB Xavier Adibi played in just four games, mainly as a special teamer, last year. Despite holes to fill at linebacker, the team sees little to no priority in re-signing him.

WR Devin Aromashodu has a chance to return because he showed glimpses of being a decent deep threat in 2011. Was inconsistent overall, but he also averaged 18 yards on 26 catches.

WR Greg Camarillo has already been told the team has no interest in re-signing him.

LB E.J. Henderson is a long-time team leader that won't return. He turns 32 in August. Physically, he's beat up and does not fit the team's youth movement.

LB Erin Henderson is a versatile, promising player who will be only 26 in July. The Vikings are trying to re-sign him after he finished fourth in tackles (91) in his first year as a starter. Henderson, however, wanted to test his value on the open market.

S Tyrell Johnson is coming off surgery to repair a hamstring that tore from the bone, and won't be pursued by the Vikings. After years of Johnson's underachieving, this will bring to a close a very disappointing stint that began with high hopes when Johnson was taken in the second round in 2008.

LS Matt Katula won't be re-signed. He was brought in just to finish the season after regular long snapper Cullen Loeffler was injured.

OL Scott Kooistra spent the season on injured reserve after fracturing a bone in his neck during the preseason.

S Jarrad Page was a late-season stopgap signing because of injuries; he's unlikely to be brought back. Signed a minor-league contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

CB Benny Sapp at 31 he doesn't fit the team's youth movement and won't be brought back.

TE Visanthe Shiancoe turns 32 in June and won't return.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)

RB Lorenzo Booker (not tendered offer as RFA) is not a high priority as a little-used No. 3 running back and an average kickoff returner who takes some of that workload off Percy Harvin.




OT Pat Brown: Potential ERFA; $540,000/1 yr.

NT Fred Evans: UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

DT Letroy Guion: UFA; $9M/3 yrs, $2.5M guaranteed.

QB Sage Rosenfels: Potential UFA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.


TE John Carlson: UFA Seahawks; $25M/5 yrs, $11M guaranteed.


CB Cedric Griffin (released).

OG Anthony Herrera (released).

OG Steve Hutchinson (released).

TE Jim Kleinsasser (UFA; retired).

LB Kenny Onatolu: Not tendered offer as RFA/Panthers; 3 yrs, terms unknown.

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