Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Monday, July 25, 2011
Scramble'11: Top priorities in free agency

By Kevin Seifert

In an Insider piece for ESPN.com, our friends at Football Outsiders have put together a list of first free agency steps Insider for each NFL team. You'll need a subscription to see all of it, but below I've passed along their recommendations for the NFC North along with my thoughts for a free-agent market that will open in the coming days:

Chicago Bears
Football Outsiders:
Sign defensive tackle Brandon Mebane
Seifert comment: We've discussed this possibility and it makes a good bit of sense. But anchoring the offensive line should take top priority. That can't happen without re-signing center Olin Kreutz, a job the Bears will get to right away, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com.

Detroit Lions
Football Outsiders:
Sign cornerback Johnathan Joseph
Seifert comment: Sounds like a good idea to me, especially if the Lions have decided that Nnamdi Asomugha is too expensive.

Green Bay Packers
Football Outsiders:
Trade or release linebacker Nick Barnett
Seifert comment: We've gone over the cap implications of Barnett's departure; it would save the Packers more than $4 million against the cap. But the Packers have other ways to create cap space, and the biggest motivation would be to avoid the potentially uncomfortable situation of a veteran starter returning from injury to find his job filled (by Desmond Bishop). If egos can be managed, the Packers would be stronger with Barnett, Bishop and A.J. Hawk sharing the two inside linebacker positions, at least to guard against training camp injuries. If so, the Packers' top priority should be re-signing place-kicker Mason Crosby.

Minnesota Vikings
Football Outsiders:
Trade for a veteran quarterback
Seifert comment: Everyone wants to know what the Vikings will do with rookie Christian Ponder. I think they want him to play right away. Even if Ponder isn't ready for Week 1, should the Vikings sacrifice a draft pick just to find the shortest of short-term starters? I'm not sure. But I agree that establishing their training camp depth chart at quarterback, one way or the other, should be their top priority.