Bears general manager Jerry Angelo drafted Chris Williams in the first round (14th overall) in 2008 with the idea that he'd be the team's left tackle for the next decade or so.
Williams started the first two games there last season but was hurt and replaced and wound up starting the last 11 games at left guard. Now, the question is: Does Williams deserves another shot at left tackle or will he remain a starter at left guard?
Either way, the Bears need help on the offensive line, and determining Williams' future will help Angelo pinpoint offensive linemen in the draft.
"I really don't care where we have Chris, personally," Angelo said. "I want to make sure that when everything plays itself it out, after we get through this period of allocating players, that we get the five best players on the field."
Offensive line coach Mike Tice spent a good portion of last season trying to figure that out. After he did, the Bears' front wall showed improvement but still was never better than mediocre. Additional young talent remains a must.
Jay Cutler was sacked 52 times in 15 games last season, more than anyone in the NFL.
Center Olin Kreutz will be 34 before training camp begins and right guard Roberto Garza turns 32 this week. They can't go on forever. There is some youth on the roster, but Williams and right tackle J'Marcus Webb are already starting. None of the current backups appear to be starter material and none of the starters are indispensable.
Left tackle Frank Omiyale got better over the course of the season, but there is still much room for improvement, and he might be better suited at right tackle.
It's also possible the Bears will decide Williams' fate after they make their first pick, No. 29 overall, depending on whom they take. After an injury-marred rookie season, Williams started the first 11 games in 2009 at right tackle and transitioned to left tackle for the final five games.
That's where he started the first two games last season. But a hamstring injury sidelined him for three games and necessitated the move of Omiyale from right tackle to left. Williams was plugged in at left guard when he returned and started the final 11 games there with mixed results.
"We have a few options, a few directions we can go," coach Lovie Smith said. "Chris has played both tackle positions and guard for us. We don't have to make those decisions right now. We just know that Chris is a part of our future, and once we lock him into a position – maybe the one he's in right now – I'm anxious to see exactly where we end up playing him."
If the Bears still believe Williams has a future at left guard, they can target a tackle or an eventual replacement for Kreutz. The 13-year veteran is eligible for free agency, but the Bears are expected to re-sign him for another year or two.
Florida center-guard Mike Pouncey and Colorado tackle Nate Solder have been mentioned as possibilities for the Bears, but it's doubtful either will be available near the end of the round. Danny Watkins, who played left tackle at Baylor but projects to guard in the NFL, might be a more realistic prediction, and Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod and Miami tackle-guard Orlando Franklin are other considerations.
Without question, the Lions' weakest link in 2010 was their outside linebackers. Thus, it is no surprise that the three players who started most of the games are gone - Julian Peterson was released, Landon Johnson is a free agent and Zack Follett suffered a serious neck injury that has his NFL future still very much in doubt.
That leaves two young veterans - Ashlee Palmer and Bobby Carpenter - as the only outside linebackers on the roster, not including Caleb Campbell, a special-teams ace who spent most of the season on the practice squad.
General manager Martin Mayhew said recently that he thinks both Palmer and Carpenter can evolve into capable starters, but he is still looking to upgrade.
The problem is, this draft is especially bereft of quality outside linebackers, particularly ones that would fit the Lions' 4-3 defensive scheme.
"The biggest thing, if you are a 4-3 outside linebacker with us, your ability to rush the passer isn't as important as your ability to play behind the ball, make tackles and play in coverage," coach Jim Schwartz said.
There is no shortage of pass-rushing linebackers available at this draft and very few that fit Schwartz's description, certainly none worth the Lions' 13th overall pick.
"There's not a ton (available)," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "Teams are going to have to do some very astute scouting to find linebackers in that third- fourth- fifth-round area that would be factors right away."
The one wild-card in that discussion is North Carolina's Bruce Carter. Before injuring his knee, Carter was projected as a first-round pick. Post-reconstruction surgery, though, he has fallen off most experts' boards.
"I think he's really slipped back," Kiper said. "I didn't like him as much (before the injury)."
The Lions, though, haven't completely given up on him. They brought him in for a physical and were encouraged.
"Talking with our doctors, he is on schedule with his rehab," Mayhew said. "He'd be like where Kevin Smith and Brandon Pettigrew were last year going into camp. If he was with us, (Carter) would be a guy that might start on the physically unable to perform list, but he's coming along and moving in the right direction."
Still, he's not a guy the Lions would take until maybe the third round, at the earliest.
The Lions might decide to fill one of the outside linebacker vacancies from within. During the league meetings, Mayhew and Schwartz admitted there was a chance that starting inside linebacker DeAndre Levy could be moved to the outside.
Levy might move to the outside next season.
"Part of our criteria for linebackers is that we like multi-dimensional players," Schwartz said. "That means the ability to play inside or outside and that means being good against the run and pass. That's one of the reasons we drafted (Levy). Wherever he played, he's played well. He can move around."
Schwartz made it clear, though, that moving Levy wasn't Plan A. Once he was healthy, Levy was a stabilizing presence last season.
"One of his strengths is his ability to control the defense," Schwartz said. "There is value to having him in the middle. But he's confident in doing both and he's had success doing both."
The only way the Lions would move Levy is if they could acquire a proven veteran to replace him in the middle. One candidate could be potential free agent Stephen Tulloch, whom Schwartz coached at Tennessee.
Among the traditional 4-3 outside linebackers that might have value for the Lions, at least as Kiper sees it, include:
Green Bay Packers
Changes are in store for the reigning Super Bowl champions, on and off the field.
Whenever the next football game is played at Lambeau Field, spectators will be treated to new state-of-the-art, HD video boards and an enhanced sound system thanks to a $13 million offseason project.
And, once football activities resume after the ongoing lockout, the team will have undergone some anticipated changes. Among them is a facelift on the defensive line.
The Packers presumably will go into the start of this year's draft April 28 with a mindset that they will have a starting spot to fill at defensive end, whether or not the league's labor conflict is resolved. As soon as free agency opens, Cullen Jenkins is expected to pull up stakes and find a new address after calling Green Bay his in-season home the last seven years.
"You get to a point where you want to go where you feel you're wanted," Jenkins told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in late February after the Packers didn't show interest in retaining him by either looking to sign him to a contract extension or placing a one-year franchise tag on him.
"The way everything came down, it's just time for a new start," Jenkins added.
With age (30) and an assortment of past injuries to consider, Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson evidently feels the time is right to move on without the versatile and productive veteran. Jenkins ranked second on the team in 2010 with a career-high seven sacks despite missing five games in the regular season because of a recurring calf injury.
Although Thompson said in recent weeks he hasn't ruled out bringing back Jenkins, it's all but certain the Packers will have a major piece of their Super Bowl XLV-winning puzzle to replace. Jenkins' formidable pass-rushing skills at right end enabled defensive coordinator Dom Capers to move star outside linebacker Clay Matthews from the right side to the left side before last season, and that forced opposing offenses to account for both sides with their pass blocking.
If Jenkins indeed is left to walk, the Packers won't have a dynamic bookend to pair with Matthews, whether it's a defensive lineman or another outside linebacker.
Mike Neal, a second-round draft pick out of Purdue last year, has the talent and Jenkins-like power and tenacity to assume the lead role. However, not enough of Neal was seen in 2010 - he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 5 - to know whether he can be a full-time difference maker.
The Packers also will have back a couple young prospects in C.J. Wilson and Jarius Wynn, but it's unclear whether they will hold onto Justin Harrell and retain the services of Johnny Jolly. Harrell has been an injury-riddled bust as the team's 2007 first-round draft pick; he missed all but the first quarter of the opening game last season because of a torn ACL. Jolly, a former starter, applied for reinstatement with the league after the Super Bowl after sitting out the entire season for violating the substance-abuse policy.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said at this week's NFL league meetings in New Orleans that Jolly is in the team's plans, pending a decision by commissioner Roger Goodell.
"We'll let the process take its course, and we'll see what happens," McCarthy said.
With so many unknowns about their personnel along the defensive front, the Packers figure to give strong consideration to bolstering the depth chart there in the draft. They don't pick until No. 32 in the first round, but a deep class of D-linemen could yield a starting replacement for Jenkins or perhaps a successor to left end Ryan Pickett, who will be 32 in October.