LIONS INSIDER

NFC NORTH: A look at team needs as the focus shifts to 2014

Posted Feb 3, 2014

This will be a busy and important offseason for the four teams in the NFC North, as they try to jockey for position heading into 2014

Seattle’s 43-8 romp of Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII effectively puts to bed the 2013 NFL season.

The Seahawks and their fans still have some partying to do, but in 31 other markets around the country the focus now turns to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis later this month, free agency in March and the NFL Draft in May.

This will be a busy and important offseason for the four teams in the NFC North, as they try to jockey for position heading into 2014.

Every team has needs this time of year and is looking to fill them over the next three months. Here’s a look at what the Packers, Bears, Lions and Vikings could be looking to add to their football teams heading into next season:

GREEN BAY

Record: 8-7-1 (won division)

Jermichael FinleyPackers' TE Jermichael Finley (Photo: AP Images)

Finish: Lost, 23-20, to the 49ers in the first round of the playoffs

Key free agents: B.J. Raji (DT), Jermichael Finley (TE), Ryan Picket (DT), James Jones (WR), Sam Shields (CB), John Kuhn (FB), Johnny Jolly (DT), James Starks (RB)

Three positions of need:

Safety: The Packers didn’t record a single interception from the safety position this past year. One need for them this offseason is to find a free safety to pair with strong safety Morgan Burnett.

Defensive tackle: Notice the list above includes three of their top defensive tackles. Raji will be a priority to resign, but they could fill some of the void with younger talent.

Tight end: Depending on what the Packers decide to do with Finley will decide how big of a need this really becomes. Finley is trying to come back from a major neck injury, too. No. 2 tight end Andrew Quarless is also a free agent.

CHICAGO

Record: 8-8

Finish: Lost a 33-28 decision to the Packers in a that decided the division winner

Key free agents: Henry Melton (DT), Charles Tillman (CB), Major Wright (S), Devin Hester (KR), Robert Garza (C), Josh McCown (QB), Corey Wooten (DE)

Three positions of need:

Defensive tackle: The Bears ranked last in the NFL this past season against the run. They missed Melton when he suffered a torn ACL during the year. The Bears have to be looking to get more physical on the inside of their defense.

Cornerback: Tillman’s future is very much up in the air. If he’s not back in 2014, the Bears will definitely be in the market for a cornerback to pair with Tim Jennings. Even if Tillman does come back, however, they still might have an eye on the future of the position.

Defensive end: The Bears could potentially make Julius Peppers a cap casualty this fall. Shea McClellin, the team’s first-round pick in 2012, has just 6.5 sacks his first two years in the league and could be headed to play linebacker.

DETROIT

Record: 7-9

Finish: Lost six of their last seven games after starting 6-3

Key free agents: Brandon Pettigrew (TE), Dominic Raiola (C), Willie Young (DE), Rashean Mathis (CB), Shaun Hill (QB)

Three positions of need:

Wide receiver: The Lions need an outside receiver with good size and speed who can stand-alone and make plays. It’s about time the Lions find themselves an outside receiver who can take some of the pressure off Calvin Johnson.

Safety: It’s unclear if Louis Delmas will be back for the final year of his deal in 2014. Glover Quin and Don Carey are under contract, but the Lions could certainly use another playmaker in that group.

Cornerback: Chris Houston didn’t have a good 2013 season and the Lions will have to decide if that was just a fluke or a problem heading forward. They have some young developmental corners on the roster in Darius Slay, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green. Could they add another one or will they look to free agency for help?

Glover Quin, Jonte GreenS Glover Quin and CB Jonte Green (Photo: Gavin Smith)

MINNESOTA

Record: 5-10-1

Finish: A 0-3 start snowballed to 1-7 and the Vikings couldn’t recover

Key free agents: Jared Allen (DE), Kevin Williams (DT), Everson Griffen (DE), Matt Cassel (QB), Toby Gerhart (RB), Desmond Bishop (LB), Jerome Simpson (WR)

Three positions of need:

Quarterback: Matt Cassel was the best quarterback on the roster last season and the Vikings will probably try and sign him back. That means 2011 first-round pick, Christian Ponder, is probably on his way out and the Vikings are back looking for a quarterback for the future.

Defensive end: Allen is 32 years old and might be looking for one big contract with a winner to finish his career. The Vikings will need someone to pair with Brian Robinson. It could be Griffen or someone else.

Defensive tackle: Like Allen, Williams is getting up there in age and could be on his way out. The Vikings could be switching defenses to a 3-4, also, which would have a big effect on the position over the next few months.