NFC North free-agent analysis

Not just a list, but analysis on which players are priorities for the NFC North teams to sign, which ones are no longer good fits and which ones might be too expensive to keep. Grab something to drink and get ready for the in-depth analysis.


It wouldn't be much of a problem if the Bears lost all four (assuming there is no CBA) of their unrestricted free agents, but LB Pisa Tinoisamoa is probably the one they want back the most. He was a major disappointment last season in his first year in Chicago, but that was because of the knee injuries that limited him to less than one full game. Tinoisamoa played well enough in the preseason to win a starting job and, after missing so much time, it's doubtful that he'll get a lot of interest from other teams.

DE Adewale Ogunleye will probably be looking for more money and more years than the Bears care to offer a 32-year-old whose best sack days are probably behind him. But, if there is no market for him, the Bears would welcome him back, since they don't have anyone better on the roster. Gaines Adams, who cost the Bears their second-round pick, could have been the successor to Ogunleye at left end, but he died tragically due to complications from an enlarged heart.

If the Bears let Ogunleye walk, they will be forced to keep restricted free agent Mark Anderson, who has only flashed since a 12-sack rookie season in 2006.

The Bears won't use either tag on any of their players.




  • LB Darrell McClover is a good special-teams player who isn't a factor on defense and probably won't be back.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye is a solid two-way player who no longer has double-digit sack potential and will be 33 before the start of the 2010 season. He's expected to be back only if he tests the market and finds no buyers.

  • RB Adrian Peterson has been a reliable role player for several years as a backup and third-down option who also excels as a coverage guy on special teams. He doesn't expect to return.

  • OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa won a starting job in training camp but played less than one full game before knee injuries ended his season. The Bears want him back.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

  • *DE Mark Anderson has only showed flashes since his 12-sack rookie season, but if Adewale Ogunleye leaves in free agency, as expected, Anderson could have value at least as a situational pass rusher.

  • *S Josh Bullocks saw more action as the season progressed because of injuries to others, but he did not stand out, although he could contend for a starting job in 2010 at a position that is a team weakness.

  • NT Dusty Dvoracek wound up on injured reserve before the season started in two of his first four seasons (2006 and ‘09) in the league and played just one game in ‘07 before a torn knee ligament landed him on I.R. He started first 12 games in ‘08 but wound up on I.R. with a torn biceps.

  • *S Danieal Manning has played safety, cornerback and nickel back but has not played well enough at any of those positions to keep a starting job, although he is an excellent KOR option.

  • LB Nick Roach earned a starting job midway through the ‘08 season, lost it last training camp to Pisa Tinoisamoa but then wound up starting 15 games when Tinoisamoa and Brian Urlacher were lost early in the season. Roach is undersized but has the speed and athleticism the Bears like in their linebackers.

  • *Jamar Williams has never stepped up the way the Bears expected, but he is versatile and a quality backup who could become a capable starter.


  • RB Kahlil Bell was impressive as a backup/change-of-pace runner, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.

  • LB Tim Shaw is an elite special-teams coverage guy who led the Bears with 30 tackles.

  • DT Matt Toeaina has been on the roster for three years but played in just five games, although he provides depth at a position where the Bears like to have plenty of bodies.





    General manager Martin Mayhew made it clear the Lions won't be using a franchise or transition tag on anyone this year. No one rises to that level.

    The biggest decisions are at linebacker. Larry Foote, the captain in the middle in 2009, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 5. Mayhew said he wouldn't rule out bringing back Foote, but Foote sensed a lack of interest and said he expected to hit the market. Julian Peterson is due a $7.5 million salary in 2010. The Lions can't afford to overpay, but they're so short on talent that they can't afford to let decent players leave, either.

    MEDICAL WATCH: RB Kevin Smith had surgery to repair the torn ACL in December. He was supposed to have surgery to tighten the separated shoulder after he got off crutches, but he might be reconsidering surgery and could simply rehab the shoulder instead. He is expected to miss the off-season program, and it is unclear when he will be ready to return.

  • QB Matthew Stafford had his right knee scoped in December, after suffering a partially dislocated knee cap Oct. 4 at Chicago. But he did not need surgery on his left shoulder, after suffering an AC joint separation Nov. 22 against Cleveland. He said his rehab has gone well and he expects to be ready for the start of the off-season conditioning program in March.

  • TE Brandon Pettigrew had a torn ACL repaired in December. Mayhew said his rehab is going well so far. Pettigrew will come to Detroit to rehab at some point. He is expected to miss the off-season program, and it is unclear when he will be ready to return.

  • RG Stephen Peterman is recovering from ankle surgery. He should be cleared to participate at some point in the off-season program and is expected to be ready for training camp.




  • LB Vinny Ciurciu helped improve the woeful coverage units. He could be signed as a role player.

  • OL Damion Cook spent the season on injured reserve. If he comes back, it will be for depth.

  • QB Daunte Culpepper appeared certain to be gone, but both sides haven't ruled out a reunion.

  • TE Casey Fitzsimmons is a good receiving tight end and a valuable player on special teams. He could be back in that role.

  • TE Will Heller blocked well and made some good catches. He could return in that role, especially with Brandon Pettigrew recovering from a torn ACL.

  • LB Larry Foote wants to stay in his hometown and is upset the Lions haven't shown more interest, but he struggled to adapt to the middle in a 4-3 after seven years in Pittsburgh's 3-4.

  • CB Anthony Henry isn't the cover man he once was and spent most of the season in the doghouse.

  • CB Will James might have been the Lions' most consistent corner, and the team would like him back at the right price with the position so thin.

  • OT Jon Jansen is limited physically after so many injuries but remains a solid backup and a valuable veteran presence in locker room.

  • S Marquand Manuel started six games but did not distinguish himself, then finished the season on injured reserve.

  • QB Patrick Ramsey signed only at the end of the season to dress as the third quarterback with Matthew Stafford injured. The Lions are looking for a veteran backup.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

  • DE Copeland Bryan finished the season on injured reserve and would return if the Lions want him for depth.

  • *S Daniel Bullocks has missed two out of the last three seasons because of a knee injury. He is recovering from microfracture surgery, and it remains to be seen whether the Lions will tender the 2006 second-round pick.

  • LB Zack Follett made an impact on special teams when signed off practice squad, also contributed in four-linebacker package. He's likely to be tendered.

  • *OG Dylan Gandy started at right guard after Stephen Peterman suffered an ankle injury. The Lions might want him back for depth.

  • OT Corey Hilliard, signed during the season for depth, could return to compete for a roster spot.

  • CB Kevin Hobbs was the top nickel back, but for one of the league's most porous pass defenses. He could return until Lions find an upgrade.

  • *DE Jason Hunter started at left end and was solid, at best. The Lions are likely to tender him.

  • *OT Daniel Loper couldn't hold onto the starting job at left guard, rotating with Manny Ramirez all season.

  • TE Jake Nordin spent the preseason with the Lions, then returned when they had injury problems at tight end.

  • RB Cedric Peerman provided depth at running back. He could return at thin position.

  • OG Manny Ramirez couldn't hold onto left guard spot, either, rotating with Daniel Loper.

  • *S Ko Simpson is recovering from microfracture surgery. Health could be determining factor.

  • CB DeAngelo Smith provided depth at corner.

  • *LB Cody Spencer spent the season on injured reserve with knee injury.




  • RB DeDe Dorsey: FA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.



    Unless things drastically change in the talks between the team owners and the players association, the Packers are bracing for the onset of an uncapped year when free agency begins March 5.

    If that's the scenario, Green Bay will have 13 players who will become free agents with the potential to leave. Eight of those would be restricted free agents, including starters Nick Collins (free safety), Atari Bigby (strong safety), Johnny Jolly (defensive end), Daryn Colledge (left guard) and Jason Spitz (center).

    General manager Ted Thompson's M.O. is to keep his players, so figure the majority of the baker's dozen to be back as Packers. One notable departure could be Aaron Kampman, an unrestricted free agent who is coming off late-season knee surgery and wasn't a good fit for moving from defensive end to linebacker in the team's new 3-4 scheme last season.

    The Packers aren't expected to use a franchise or transition tag on anyone this year.




  • OT Chad Clifton turns 34 in June and has been healthy enough to play a full season of games only once in the last four years. Yet, he's dependable when on the field to get one more season as the starter at left tackle as the team looks to identify a long-term replacement.

  • RB Ahman Green is a long shot to return to the club after it brought back its onetime workhorse at midseason and allowed him to become the team's all-time rushing leader. Green is 33, and his explosive running abilities are way behind him.

  • OLB Aaron Kampman seemingly is a 50-50 proposition to be back in a Packers uniform. He is on track to be ready for the start of training camp after undergoing surgery for a torn ACL on Dec. 4, but the pass-rushing standout isn't a good fit for the team's 3-4 scheme.

  • NT Ryan Pickett has expressed his desire to return to Green Bay for a fifth season and should get his wish before free agency opens March 5. The durable 30-year-old played well as the anchor of the line in the new scheme and can continue to mentor B.J. Raji, the team's top draft pick last year.

  • OT Mark Tauscher is in the same boat as Chad Clifton as a 10-year veteran who doesn't have age (will be 33 in June) and an undamaged body on his side, but he was getting stronger the latter part of the season on a surgically repaired knee after the team re-signed him in October to rectify things at right tackle. Without a sure replacement there, too, the Packers could keep the veteran bookends intact.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

  • *S Atari Bigby has been a starter since 2007, but his last two seasons have been riddled by an assortment of injuries, which have diminished the impact he once made as a tenacious strong safety. The Packers would run the risk of losing him if they tender the undrafted player at the lowest level.

  • *CB Will Blackmon has been damaged goods for most of his four-year run in Green Bay, including an early-season ACL tear in his left knee that required surgery Oct. 29. When healthy, though, Blackmon is a dynamic kick returner, so the Packers want to retain him.

  • *OG Daryn Colledge regressed in his fourth season as a starter at left guard. That sets up the possibility that he is the odd man out since the Packers have good depth on the interior of the line and could plug in Jason Spitz or T.J. Lang at Colledge's spot.

  • *S Nick Collins has warranted the long-term contract extension he has long desired with two straight Pro Bowl appearances and 13 interceptions in that span, but the team isn't inclined to oblige. Ensuring Collins' return with the first- and third-round tender could create a contentious offseason.

  • *DE Johnny Jolly still has a legal issue hanging over him stemming from his 2008 drug possession arrest, but he didn't allow that to be a distraction in a highly productive season (75 tackles, team-record 11 pass deflections) as the starter on the left side. A second-round tender should be in the offing for the sixth-round pick.

  • *FB John Kuhn can't be considered expendable even with the position well stocked with Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson coming off his rookie season. Kuhn is a durable blocker and a viable short-yardage back with six touchdowns the last two seasons.

  • *S Derrick Martin has value on special teams after ranking second on the team with 22 tackles.

  • *C/OG Jason Spitz is on the comeback trail from November back surgery. Provided there's not a setback in his recovery, Spitz should have a shot to regain a starting spot, which may have to be at left guard since Scott Wells performed well at center in Spitz's absence.


  • TE Spencer Havner, a key contributor on special teams, was converted from linebacker and became a favorite red-zone target of Aaron Rodgers with four touchdown catches.

  • P Jeremy Kapinos had a league-worst net average of 34.1 yards, prompting the Packers to create competition right after the season ended with the signing of Tim Masthay.

  • CB Tramon Williams held down starting job with Al Harris out the last seven games, but Williams is better equipped in his customary nickel role.

  • RB DeShawn Wynn landed on injured reserve before Halloween for the second time in his three years as a pro with a knee injury, shortening the leash even more for his future with the team.





    While it seems unlikely the Vikings will use a franchise or transition tag on any of their free agents, this doesn't mean they don't want them back. Running back Chester Taylor would be atop the list because of his value as a blocker and receiver out of the backfield on third down.

    Taylor's presence also means the Vikings can keep Adrian Peterson away from taking constant hits. Cornerback Benny Sapp also proved to be a valuable replacement for Antoine Winfield when he missed time because of a foot injury.




  • DT Jimmy Kennedy has proven to be a very reliable backup to both nose tackle Pat Williams and three-technique player Kevin Williams. Considered a first-round bust for much of his career, Kennedy has thrived under Vikings defensive-line coach Karl Dunbar and it might be wise for all sides if he returns.

  • CB Benny Sapp increased his value by his performance at left corner when Antoine Winfield was out because of a foot injury. Sapp could stand to get a decent pay day from another team for the first time in his career.

  • WR Greg Lewis made one of the season's most memorable catches in Week 3 when he pulled Brett Favre's pass out of the air while leaping for a last-second game-winning touchdown against San Francisco. But he was used in a limited role and might be willing to return in the same capacity.

  • OL Artis Hicks has proved himself to be extremely valuable as a backup at both guard and tackle spots and likely will re-sign to continue in that role.

  • RB Chester Taylor figures to draw the most interest of the Vikings' free agents. He's extremely valuable to the Vikings but could get more money and playing time elsewhere.

    RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (*indicates restricted because of uncapped year)

  • S Eric Frampton is a special-teams player and if he left it would be because of his ability on those units. The Vikings like him, though, so it's unlikely he will depart.

  • *OL Ryan Cook will be restricted if there is no new CBA but that doesn't mean he won't leave. If Cook gets an offer elsewhere it would not be surprising to see the Vikings pass on the opportunity to match.

  • *DE Ray Edwards will be restricted if there is no new CBA. The Vikings will have to give him a higher tender or he very well could depart. Edwards was second on the Vikings last season with eight sacks and is considered to be in the prime of his career.

  • *DT Fred Evans will be restricted if there is no new CBA. Evans fell behind Jimmy Kennedy this season but he still has value as a backup to Pat Williams at nose tackle.

  • *QB Tarvaris Jackson will be restricted if there is no new CBA. Jackson almost certainly will stick around if he's restricted, unless there is a team that really feels he still has what it takes to become a starter.

  • *FB Naufahu Tahi will be restricted if there is no new CBA. He has been the Vikings' top fullback the past two seasons. He came close to jumping to Cincinnati last season as a restricted free agent and could draw interest again.

  • *CB Karl Paymah will be restricted if there is no new CBA. He fell out of favor this season and almost certainly will be allowed to depart.





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