LIONS INSIDER

NFC North: Free Agency primer

Posted Mar 8, 2014

Teams and player agents have begun negotiating free agent deals that can be signed as early as 4 p.m. on Tuesday

Teams and players agents have begun conversations ahead of Tuesday’s 4 p.m. start to the free agency period.

The Detroit Lions aren’t expected to be huge players in free agency, at least not like they were on Day 1 last year, but they’ll be able to find a couple quality starters.

Here’s a look at where the four teams in the NFC North stand heading into free agency.

GREEN BAY

Record: 8-7-1 (Division champs)

Free agents: Seneca Wallace, QB; Greg Van Toten, G; 
Kahlil Bell, RB; 
Matt Flynn, QB; 
James Starks, RB; 
John Kuhn, FB; 
James Jones, WR; 
Jermichael Finley, TE; 
Andrew Quarless, TE; 
Marshall Newhouse, OL; 
Evan Dietrich-Smith, OL; 
Mike Neal, DE; C.J. Wilson, DE; 
Johnny Jolly, DT; 
Ryan Pickett, DT; 
B.J. Raji, DT; 
Rob Francois, LB; 
Sam Shields, CB

BJ RajiDT B.J. Raji (Photo: AP Images)

Breakdown: The Packers still have 18 impending unrestricted free agents three days before the start of free agency. There’s talk the team and defensive tackle B.J. Raji are reportedly closing in on a one-year deal. That would be an important signing for a team that might be looking to retool their entire defensive line around him. The biggest free agent on that list, however, is cornerback Sam Shields. The former undrafted free agent has blossomed nicely in the Packers defense and looks ready to hit the market as one of the top cornerbacks in the class. He missed two games, but still finished with career-highs with 61 tackles, 16 pass deflections and four interceptions. The Packers aren’t typically big players on the free agency market, but they have more than $30 million to spend this year.

CHICAGO

Record: 8-8

Free agents: Patrick Mannelly, LS; 
Derrick Martin, DB; 
Josh McCown, QB; 
Jordan Palmer, QB; 
Jonathan Scott, OL; 
Eben Britton, OL; 
Corey Wootton, DE; 
Landon Cohen, DT; 
Nate Collins, DT; 
Henry Melton, DT; 
James Anderson, LB; 
Blake Costanzo, LB; 
D.J. Williams, LB; 
Zackary Bowman, CB; 
Sherrick McManis, CB; 
Charles Tillman, CB; 
Craig Steltz, S; 
Major Wright, S 


Breakdown: The Bears have a shade under $10 million in available cap space heading into free agency, but that could change if they decide to do something with defensive end Julius Peppers’ $13.9 million base salary in 2014. The team could also part ways with cornerback Charles Tillman, which means the defense is going to look very different that what we’ve become used to in the windy city. Head coach Marc Trestman told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine last month the team is looking to remake it’s defense in 2014 and moving forward. Expect the Bears to use their available cap space bolstering one of the worst defenses in the league last year.

DETROIT

Record: 7-9

Free agents: Shaun Hill, QB; 
Kevin Ogletree, WR; 
Micheal Spurlock, WR; 
Brandon Pettigrew, TE; 
Jason Fox, OL; 
Dylan Gandy, OL; 
Israel Idonije, DE; 
Willie Young, DE; 
Andre Fluellen, DT; 
Rocky McIntosh, LB; 
Rashean Mathis, CB; 
John Wendling, S; 
David Akers, K

Breakdown: The Lions have stated publically they’d like to bring tight end Brandon Pettigrew back on a long-term deal. It seems to make sense for Pettigrew to test the market, however, after Baltimore paid Dennis Pitta $32 million to stay a Raven. Pettigrew will be one of the top tight ends on the market. Defensive end Willie Young was productive last season, but other teams might value him more than the Lions given Detroit already has Ziggy Ansah, Jason Jones and Devin Taylor under contract. The Lions have about $10 million currently in cap space and don’t expect to be as huge of players on Day 1 as they were last year. They will be looking for help at receiver in the secondary, though.

MINNESOTA

Record: 5-10-1

Free agents: Jared Allen, DE; 
Everson Griffen, DE; 
Kevin Williams, DT; 
Fred Evans, DT; 
Chris Cook, CB; 
Desmond Bishop, LB; 
Joe Berger, C; 
Marvin Mitchell, LB; 
Charlie Johnson, G; 

Josh Freeman, QB; 
Toby Gerhart, RB; 
Jerome Simpson, WR; 
Joe Webb, WR; 
J'Marcus Webb, OL; 
Charlie Johnson, OL

Breakdown: The Vikings inked quarterback Matt Cassel to a new two-year deal this week that gives them a little bit of stability at the quarterback position. It seems unlikely free agent quarterback Michael Vick will be on their wish list now, even though they lead the division with around $40 million in available cap space. Their defense allowed the most points in the league and couldn't stop anyone through the air. They need to bolster their back seven and will try to do so via free agency.