The top two teams in the NFC North had breakthrough seasons and will likely try to stand pat for 2011. But the Lions and Vikings both have opportunities to change their rosters this offseason and try to remain competitive in what could be the best divisions in football.
The Lions have a number of defensive players that they could let walk in order to get some fresh blood in the secondary — again. They’ve completely revamped their secondary in two straight offseasons and could make it a third. The Vikings also have a lot of free agents (click here for a complete NFL list), some aging players that they could let go, and some that they need to keep if they don’t want to get into a complete rebuild mode.
A look at the free agency situation for the North:
Restricted Free Agents (3 years): Devin Aromashodu (WR) and Caleb Hanie (QB)
Restricted Free Agents (5 years): Corey Graham (CB), Brian Iwuh (OLB), Danieal Manning (S), Nick Roach (OLB), Rod Wilson (OLB) and Garrett Wolfe (HB)
Unrestricted Free Agents: Anthony Adams (DT), Josh Bullocks (S), Desmond Clark (TE), Todd Collins (QB), Rashied Davis (WR), Olin Kreutz (C), Brad Maynard (P) and Pisa Tinoisamoa (OLB)
Please Don’t Go: After struggling at cornerback in 2008, Danieal Manning has developed into a very good safety for the Bears. He came up good in run support with 22 stops, as well as never giving up the big play in the secondary. Although the Bears have nice depth at linebacker, Pisa Tinoisamoa can still be an asset to the team.
Au Revoir: It should go without saying that Todd Collins is done with the Bears and probably the NFL. He was the second worst rated QB this year, and did this on just 70 snaps. Olin Kreutz’s long stay in Chicago may also be coming to an end as he saw a decline in his play in 2010. He still had some decent games, but a lot of the time his play was poor.
Restricted Free Agents (3 years): Cliff Avril (DE), Jerome Felton (FB), Andre Fluellen (DT) and Kevin Smith (RB)
Restricted Free Agents (5 years): Bobby Carpenter (ILB), Brian Clark (WR), Tye Hill (CB), Chris Houston (CB), Turk McBride (DE), Brandon McDonald (CB), Dave Rayner (K), Drew Stanton (QB) and Josh Wendling (S)
Unrestricted Free Agents: CC Brown (S), Vinny Ciurciu (ILB), Jared DeVries (DE), Dylan Gandy (C), Landon Johnson (OLB), Eric King (CB) and Nathan Vasher (CB)
Please Don’t Go: The Lions have some good players in the 3 years of service group worth keeping in Cliff Avril and Kevin Smith. During the later parts of 2009 Avril began showing promise as a pass rusher, and he kept it up in 2010 with 64 combined pressures in his last 15 games. Those players are likely to stay, making the rest of the group mostly expendable as Jim Schwartz tries to mold the franchise more to his liking.
Au Revoir: This group of Lions is unique in that while none of them stand out as must-keeps, there aren’t any players who played extraordinarily poorly. The secondary needs cleaning up, and CC Brown probably isn’t part of the rebuilding process there, so he is likely to go.
Green Bay Packers
Restricted Free Agents (3 years): Josh Bell (CB)
Restricted Free Agents (5 years): Atari Bigby (S), Daryn Colledge (G), Mason Crosby (K), Korey Hall (FB), Brandon Jackson (RB), James Jones (WR), John Kuhn (FB), Charlie Peprah (S), Anthony Smith (S) and Jason Spitz (C)
Unrestricted Free Agents: Cullen Jenkins (DE) and Matt Wilhelm (ILB)
Please Don’t Go: The Super Bowl champions’ short list of free agents consist of a lot of role players. The player the Packers would miss the most if he left is Cullen Jenkins. While there is a lot of depth on the defensive line heading into 2011, Jenkins is by far the best pass rusher of the group, and only strong one other than B.J. Raji.
Au Revoir: The Packers wide receiving set may see some changes this offseason, which could very well include the departure of James Jones. Ted Thompson has a history of picking receivers early in the draft, and there may have been too many memorable drops by this receiver for Packer fans to handle.
Restricted Free Agents (3 years): Husain Abdullah (S) and Erin Henderson (OLB)
Restricted Free Agents (5 years): Hank Baskett (WR), Ryan Cook (G), Ray Edwards (DE), Fred Evans (DT), Eric Frampton (S), Chad Greenway (OLB), Tarvaris Jackson (QB), Sidney Rice (WR), Brian Robison (DE) and Naufahu Tahi (FB)
Unrestricted Free Agents: Brett Favre (QB), Ben Leber (OLB), Greg Lewis (WR), Ryan Longwell (K), Patrick Ramsey (QB), Lito Sheppard (CB), Frank Walker (CB) and Pat Williams (DT)
Please Don’t Go: There are two players that clearly stand out on this list, and that’s Ray Edwards and Chad Greenway. During the three years we’ve been rating players, each has been very consistent in their contributions to the team. While the defense is likely to see some changes in 2011, it would be a step in the wrong direction if either of these players were to leave.
Au Revoir: While there are a few aging players that will go, Ryan Longwell could join his buddy Brett Favre in the retirement rolls. He had an average kickoff distance of only 62 yards, and that number was on the decline as the year went on. He also only attempted two field goals beyond 40 yards.