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Friday, May 10, 2013
Eight in the Box: Key offseasons

By Kevin Seifert

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a key player from each NFC North team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:

Chicago Bears: Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi was the No. 29 overall pick of the 2011 draft, a left tackle at Wisconsin whom the Bears decided to install at right tackle as a rookie. There was some thought that Carimi could eventually find his way back to left tackle with the Bears, but a knee injury knocked him out for the season after two games. Carimi couldn't regain his footing last season, was benched and moved to guard because of an emergency personnel situation. Now the Bears are looking at him exclusively at a position he might not be physically suited for. The Bears' new coaching staff has no ties to Carimi as a first-round pick and he will have to demonstrate a level of comfort this offseason to give himself a chance to compete for a job -- either as a starter or a backup -- in training camp.

Detroit Lions: Cornerback Bill Bentley was a third-round draft choice last season and earned a starting job out of training camp before a shoulder injury limited his effectiveness and eventually ended his rookie season. Since then, the Lions have re-signed veteran cornerback Chris Houston, used a second-round draft choice to acquire Darius Slay and expressed excitement about the development of two other cornerbacks drafted alongside Bentley: Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. Slay is recovering from knee surgery and might not have a chance to impress coaches right away, but Bentley will need to make sure he doesn't get lost in the shuffle this offseason to ensure a legitimate chance to win the starting job alongside Houston.

Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod was selected three slots below Carimi in the 2011 draft. The Packers viewed Sherrod as a potential long-term replacement for left tackle Chad Clifton but worked him at guard and right tackle before he suffered a gruesome multi-fracture of his leg late in Week 15. He missed all of the 2012 season and recently had a second surgery to address lingering issues. The Packers hope he can be cleared to do at least some work this spring so they can determine whether to count on him for their right tackle competition. If he can't get back to non-contact practices 18 months after the injury, there is reason to be concerned if he ever will.

Minnesota Vikings: Joe Webb has a cult following among Vikings fans (and some media members) because of his off-the-charts athletic ability. The Vikings gave him a handful of reps earlier in his career at receiver and kick returner before making him their backup quarterback in 2012. That experiment failed, resulting in the free-agent acquisition of Matt Cassel. Now it's on Webb to find a way to make himself valuable, perhaps at another position, this offseason. It's possible the Vikings will simply make him their No. 3 quarterback, but for his long-term career prospects, it's probably time for Webb to dig in elsewhere as well.