NFC North: 2014 NFL free agency

PITTSBURGH -- The New England Patriots apparently thought enough of Lance Moore to at least consider him as Plan B in case they lost 1,000-yard receiver Julian Edelman in free agency.

Moore visited the Patriots shortly after the New Orleans Saints released the veteran wide receiver and they told him they would wait and see what happened with Edelman before moving forward.

Edelman re-signed with the Patriots, leaving Moore wondering about his next stop.

Then the Pittsburgh Steelers entered the picture.

[+] EnlargeLance Moore
AP Photo/Matt RourkeThe Steelers are looking to Lance Moore to replace Jerricho Cotchery as the team's No. 3 receiver.
"I came up here and had a great time. I met all the coaches. It felt like it was right. Coming from a place where things are run the right way, ownership is great and you win a lot of games, obviously won a world championship, you want that feeling again," Moore said. "You want to be able to get somewhere where you have an opportunity to win. I've been in the game 10 years now. I am not here just to try to collect a check. I want to win another championship.

The Steelers signed Moore last month, moving quickly to fill the void left by Jerricho Cotchery's somewhat surprising departure to the Carolina Panthers.

Whether Moore, who won a Super Bowl in New Orleans, has a chance to win a championship in Pittsburgh is up for debate.

The Steelers are coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons and they are trying to re-establish themselves as a legitimate Super Bowl contender while also re-tooling their defense. The offense showed signs last season that it can cover for a defense that often did the same for its counterpart when the Steelers played in three Super Bowls and won two of them from 2005-10.

One thing that would help the offense build on its strong finish in 2013 is if Moore can do a reasonable Cotchery impersonation as the Steelers' No. 3 wide receiver.

The Steelers aren't going to get 10 touchdown receptions out of Moore as they did with Cotchery last season. But the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder has shown a knack for finding the end zone after making the NFL as an undrafted free agent.

Of Moore's 346 career receptions 38 of them have gone for touchdowns. For comparison sake Antonio Brown has 261 career receptions and 15 touchdown catches.

Moore caught 37 passes for 457 yards and two scores last season but he missed three games because of a broken hand and the injury had a lingering psychological effect on him.

"It was more of a confidence things and a mental thing, getting over a broken bone and that feeling on being able to just be consistent, catching the ball, blocking, getting tackled and stuff like that," Moore said. "It took a little longer than that three-to-four week period but it feels good now and I am ready to go."

Moore has been taking part in the Steelers' offseason program and getting used to catching passes from Ben Roethlisberger instead of Drew Brees.

And this is only part of the adjustment he is making after playing for the Saints for nine seasons.

"Last week I felt like I was the new kid at school," Moore said. "But I looked around and I think the first couple of days, Ben came in a little bit after, Heath Miller was rehabbing and doing what he was doing, and I was the oldest guy on offense that was here. I feel like there are a number of different things that I can do, as far as helping guys on the field, which, I am not going to go out of my way just to correct everybody and try to be another coach. But if somebody asked me, and I've always been the guy to be open and try to not necessarily tutor, but give guys some of my knowledge and some of the things I do on that field.

"That's all I wanted when I was a young player, to have somebody be able to help me out a little bit. If I felt like I could take a few things from each of the older guys' game and put it into my game, then hopefully one day I would be able to make a lot of plays. I've been lucky enough to do that."
The Detroit Lions open their voluntary mini-camp on Tuesday, and they'll have a pair of new defensive backs on the field for it. The team announced it signed cornerbacks Aaron Hester and Nate Ness after working both players out on Monday, and both should be ready for the mini-camp with new coach Jim Caldwell.

Hester, the younger cousin of return man Devin Hester, was last with the Denver Broncos in training camp last season. The 24-year-old was cut at the end of camp in August, after being signed by the Broncos as an undrafted free agent.

Ness has played in eight career games, the last one coming with the St. Louis Rams in 2011. The 27-year-old began his career as an undrafted free agent with the New York Jets in 2009, and also spent time with the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.

It's possible -- perhaps even probable -- both players are just on the roster for extra depth, but their stature should hit a familiar refrain for where the Lions are going with their cornerbacks. Both stand 6-foot-1, and they worked out at the team's facility in Allen Park, Mich., on the same day the Lions hosted cornerbacks Justin Gilbert (6-foot-0) and Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-3) on pre-draft visits.

The Lions want bigger cornerbacks, and in a league that's both trying to keep up with larger wide receivers and likely to copy the Seahawks' approach after their Super Bowl win, the Lions are hardly the only team looking for size in their secondary. They certainly are taking steps in that direction. The shortest defensive back on their roster is the 5-10 Bill Bentley, and 11 of the 15 defensive backs on the roster are at least six feet tall, counting Hester and Ness. If the Lions do intend to play more press coverage under defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, they should have the size to do it.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If the Green Bay Packers do nothing else at the quarterback position this offseason, at least they know they have someone who has proven he can win games as a backup.

That is a better situation than they were in a year ago, when they had no clue whether Graham Harrell or B.J. Coleman could function with a meaningful NFL game on the line.

Flynn
Flynn
And it's a better situation than they were in in September, when they broke training camp by cutting Harrell, Coleman and Vince Young.

By re-signing veteran quarterback Matt Flynn on Tuesday, the Packers renewed an insurance policy that paid off last season after Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. Flynn came back on Nov. 12 after failing to win starting jobs with the Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders (and following a brief stint with the Buffalo Bills).

Just 12 days later, he rallied the Packers to a comeback tie against the Minnesota Vikings and went 2-2 in his next four starts to keep the Packers in playoff contention before Rodgers returned to win the regular-season finale -- and NFC North title -- against the Chicago Bears.

Whatever Flynn's shortcomings were (likely a lack of arm strength and an unfamiliarity with new offenses) when he got his chances in Seattle and Oakland, he has proven to be comfortable and effective in Green Bay, where he began his career in 2008 and still holds a share of the team’s single-game passing yards record (480 against the Detroit Lions in the 2011 regular-season finale, a mark Rodgers tied in Week 2 last season against the Washington Redskins).

Perhaps the Packers won't need Flynn or they will decide Scott Tolzien is a better option after he goes through coach Mike McCarthy's offseason program for the first time. But for now, they don't have to worry about the unknown that came with Coleman, who never caught on with another team; or Harrell, who, coincidentally on Tuesday, was hired as an assistant coach at Washington State, according to media reports.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings offered former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman a contract after meeting with the free agent on Wednesday and Thursday, according to a league source, but Coleman is still weighing his options.

The Vikings confirmed Coleman's free-agent visit on Friday morning, which meant the safety had left the facility without a contract.

Coleman had met with several teams, and arrived in the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin his visit with the Vikings. However, the contract offer wasn't enough to get him to pull the trigger on a deal on Friday. The Vikings and Coleman could still circle back to one another and come to an agreement at some point.

The former seventh-round pick started 27 games between 2011 and 2012 for the Eagles, but was bumped out of a starting job last season. If he were to sign with the Vikings at some point, he'd likely come in as a special-teams contributor and a backup at both safety spots, where he'd compete with Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo for playing time at one of them.

Kurt Coleman visiting Vikings

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Kurt Coleman flew to the Twin Cities on Wednesday to begin a free-agent visit with the Minnesota Vikings, as ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported. Coleman will continue his visit with the Vikings on Thursday, and if the Vikings like what they see, they could add Coleman to what already looks like a crowded safety position.

Coleman didn't start in 2013 for the Eagles after making 27 combined starts in 2011 and 2012. He struggled in run support, especially in 2012, missing 15 tackles that season, according to Pro Football Focus. Coleman had two interceptions in 2012, and four in 2011, but mostly played special teams in 2013. He saw his most playing time on defense in the Eagles' 48-30 loss to the Vikings on Dec. 15, playing 27 snaps at safety.

He'd likely come in as a backup safety and a contributor on special teams, but while Harrison Smith likely has one safety spot locked down, Jamarca Sanford and Andrew Sendejo can make no such claim at the other spot. Both played well at times last season, but Sanford will be a free agent next spring after taking a pay cut this year, and Sendejo was solely a special-teams player until injuries forced him into the lineup last year. If the Vikings were to sign Coleman -- heading into a training camp where a new coaching staff figures to invite plenty of competition -- it's conceivable he could fight for playing time.

Coleman had visited the Indianapolis Colts last week, but left without signing a contract. Now, he and the Vikings will discuss whether they might make a good match.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have been spending part of the offseason trying to upgrade their secondary.

On Monday, the team added what could be another piece, signing cornerback Cassius Vaughn to a one-year deal according to the Detroit Free Press.

The 26-year-old Vaughn played college ball at Ole Miss and went undrafted in 2010. He spent two seasons with Denver before heading to Indianapolis for 2012 and 2013.

He played in every game for the Colts over the past two seasons and has played in 54 games in his NFL career, making 116 tackles and intercepting five passes. He has also recovered four fumbles in his career.

Vaughn adds to a large group of cornerbacks already on the roster, including veteran Chris Houston and younger players Darius Slay, Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood. The Lions are also expected to add a cornerback during May's NFL draft, perhaps even with a first round selection.

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- It's hard to tell where John Kuhn's popularity is greater: Among Green Bay Packers fans or with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Both were likely celebrating on Thursday, when Kuhn agreed to return on a one-year contract that will pay him a little more than $1 million if he makes the roster this season.

Kuhn's agent, Kevin Gold, summed up the feeling in the subject line of his email that announced the deal. Gold wrote: "KUUUUUHN!"

Why is Kuhn so popular?

Kuhn
To understand that, you must go beyond the statistics -- 165 carries for 506 yards (a 3.1-yard average). That's not for a season. That's for his eight-year career, the last seven of which have been with the Packers.

Rather, just turn on the highlights from last year's regular-season finale. Skip ahead to the final minute of the fourth quarter.

On fourth-and-8 from the Bears' 48-yard line with 46 seconds left, Kuhn saved the Packers' season. He dove at then-Bears defensive end Julius Peppers (now with the Packers) and got just enough of a block on him to allow Rodgers to throw the game-winning, NFC North-winning touchdown to Randall Cobb.

After the game, Rodgers called Kuhn: "A big-time football player."

"It's always good to highlight the unsung heroes on the play, and it was definitely John Kuhn, as usual," Rodgers added. "They brought empty pressure, checked to it late, and I was trying to hit Jordy [Nelson] right away, the safety rolled down quickly. As I looked outside, I felt Julius was coming free, was going to try to elude him, which the chances of that are pretty slim. John comes out of nowhere and cuts him."

Kuhn is the ultimate NFL underdog. He played small-college football at Shippensburg (Pa.) and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Perhaps that's why he's so beloved in the NFL's smallest city.

If you’re the Detroit Lions, tempting the world of fate must not really bother you because, well, you know your history. So sure, look at all of the quarterbacks left in the NFL, all of the quarterbacks available in the draft and there’s only one guy out there where if you brought him back to Detroit, you’d wonder what the heck the Lions were doing.

Dan Orlovsky.

Why wouldn’t the Lions want to bring back one of the few players left in the NFL who can conjure memories of the team’s 0-16 season in 2008 -- when he was the team’s starting quarterback for seven games. Why wouldn’t their new head coach, Jim Caldwell, want to bring in a guy who helped quarterback Indianapolis to a 2-14 record in 2011 -- the season that cost Caldwell his job.

And why not bring in a guy whose last job was in Tampa Bay -- a franchise that spent the first half of last season unable to get out of its own way.

Sure, Orlovsky was only the backup in Tampa and he didn’t have much to do with it, but if you’re the Lions and you’re talking about winning and winning now and how important this is, do you really mess with the karma -- even if you think it is hogwash.

Other than in 2009, when Houston went 9-7, Orlovsky has never been part of a winning team. But he has been a part of some historically bad ones. This is what Detroit will get in its backup quarterback.

Yes, the thought is he’ll never play at all, that Matthew Stafford has been healthy for the past three seasons and that perhaps Kellen Moore ends up beating Orlovsky out for the job anyway. And Orlovsky isn’t a terrible quarterback -- he has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career -- but it’s not about that with Detroit.

It’s about karma and fate, and why if you’re Detroit would you even want to go tempting any of that? Seriously, man? Seriously. This is a guy who during his last stint in Detroit managed to be chased out of the end zone by Jared Allen for a safety -- and he didn’t even realize it.

Orlovsky likely came as a cheap option, and the team wasn’t going to find a veteran with the experience or skill of the departed Shaun Hill, but there were other options out there. Matt Flynn is still available, although likely nowhere as cheap as Orlovsky will end up being. So is Brady Quinn, if any sort of experience is what you’re looking for.

But to bring in Orlovsky shows an immense amount of confidence in three things for Detroit: In Stafford’s health. In Orlovsky’s ability. And in the ability of the new staff to make history and bad memories a thing of the past.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The prospect of landing Jared Allen and his 128.5 career regular-season sacks forced the Bears to treat the pursuit of the free-agent defensive end like a covert operation.

The Bears, like most NFL teams, try to limit the amount of contract information that reaches the media. However, the organization took its top secret approach to a new level with Allen, who ultimately signed a deal that contained $15.5 million worth of guaranteed money.

Allen
“It was a little bit right out of a movie,” general manager Phil Emery said Monday at Halas Hall. “It was very quiet. Just to give you a little aside; [Allen's agent] Ken Harris came to the hotel at the NFL owners' meetings [in Orlando, Fla.]. We knew for it to remain silent we couldn't have anybody see us meet or shake hands.

"We met at night away from the hotel. Ken had come to meet us and we were standing out facing the parking lot and [ESPN's] John Clayton came up to [Bears contract negotiator] Cliff Stein to shake his hand. Fortunately, John's back was to Ken who was walking up to say hi to me, and I grabbed Ken and pulled him around a post [to avoid detection].”

Emery explained why the Bears felt it necessary to be clandestine about the Allen contract negotiation.

“It does make difference on any contract situation because you've removed the pressure of other situations," Emery said. “The fact we were able to do this quietly removed [other team's abilities to] counter. We were the right fit and we were going to continue to push it through without it getting out in the media to allow teams to counter while we were trying to work out an agreement.”

Allen is the 28th player the Bears have signed since the week before the final regular-season game of 2013 versus the Green Bay Packers. Whatever negotiating tactics the Bears have used, extreme or not, have clearly been effective.
Jared Allen and Julius PeppersAP PhotoIt will be interesting to watch Jared Allen and Julius Peppers face their old teams this season.
MINNEAPOLIS -- The subplots behind the roster moves -- among teams that have lived on intra-division player hopping over the last five years -- are particularly juicy.

Jared Allen jumps from the Minnesota Vikings to the Chicago Bears, just four days after Julius Peppers emigrates from the Bears to the Green Bay Packers? We sure do love our star-player-faces-his-old-team melodrama up here in NFC North country, and even by the lofty standards of a division that gave us Favre vs. Rodgers in 2009 and the hottest existential question of 2013 (who is Greg Jennings?), this week's game of musical chairs between pass rushers created intrigue. After all, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers and Jennings never got to hit their former teammates on the field.

But behind the flurry of roster moves lies three teams with distinct defensive problems, and three disparate approaches to solving them. How each strategy pans out could have a large hand in untangling the NFL's most mediocre division a year ago.

The Vikings had lived for years on a defensive line anchored by Allen and tackle Kevin Williams, who were named to 10 Pro Bowls between them in Minnesota. But when that foundation aged, and the arrival of coach Mike Zimmer brought a new approach to the 4-3 defense this winter, the Vikings decided they needed to revitalize the position more than they needed to give Allen a new contract before he turned 32. Instead of retaining Allen, they gave $20 million guaranteed to 26-year-old defensive end Everson Griffen, who has so far delivered production mostly in flashes.

The Packers, decimated by injuries in 2013 and forced to generate much of their pressure by bringing extra rushers, needed a player who could give blockers something to think about other than linebacker Clay Matthews. They gave Peppers a three-year, $30 million deal, with plans to add linebacking duties to the defensive end's resume and hopes that Peppers could learn a new role in a 3-4 defense at age 34.

And the Bears, who couldn't get to the quarterback or stop the run in 2013, let Peppers and Henry Melton walk and pivoted to Allen, giving him a four-year contract worth up to $32 million and crossing their fingers he could be a complete player at age 32 and beyond.

All three strategies carry considerable risk, but all three teams had substantial incentive to make changes. Zimmer's defense called for Vikings linemen who would be stout against the run before chasing quarterbacks, and Allen didn't fit that profile. The Packers and Bears were 30th and 32nd in the league in quarterback pressures, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and both teams were among the league's worst at getting to the quarterback with four pass rushers.

What's more, all three teams have central figures on offense who aren't getting any younger. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson turned 29 earlier this month, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will be 31 in April and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers turns 31 in December. If some of the changes seem rash, it's because keeping the status quo probably carried greater risk.

Still, the moves should command headlines as much because of their boldness as the players they involve. The Vikings, Packers and Bears are all gambling they've got the best way to fix an anemic defense -- the Vikings by reinventing their defense, the Packers by trusting an aging player can reinvent himself and the Bears by believing a veteran pass rusher needs no reinvention. How their respective strategies work could swing the NFC North race in any number of directions next season, which might ultimately be the most compelling outcome of this week's moves.

But next fall, when Peppers is bearing down on Cutler or Allen is trying to corral Peterson? Well, we'll still have fun with that, too.
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers may have let receiver James Jones walk no matter what, but having an up-and-comer like Jarrett Boykin made it easier for them to watch one of their veteran receives sign with the Oakland Raiders in free agency.

Boykin
Jones
Jones
Although coach Mike McCarthy said this week that one didn't necessarily have to do with the other, Jones' relatively modest price ($10 million over three years with $3.65 million guaranteed) suggested the Packers weren't interested in the soon-to-be-30-year-old receiver anymore.

"I wouldn't say we were looking to move on from him," McCarthy told reporters earlier this week at the NFL annual meetings. "It's the business part of it. There's going to be one or two individuals every year, if you're doing your job right, [if] your roster is built the right way, you're bringing a young class in, there are players that are going to move on.”

A year ago, McCarthy and receivers coach Edgar Bennett probably weren't sure what they had in Boykin, who was cut by the Jacksonville Jaguars and then came to the Packers' rookie camp on a tryout basis in 2012. He made the roster his first season but saw little action, catching only five passes for 27 yards.

The start of last season was more of the same for the 6-foot-2, 218-pounder who left Virginia Tech as the school's career leader in catches (184) and receiving yards (2,884). He did not catch a pass the first four games of 2013. In fact, he played only 10 snaps on offense combined in those first four games.

It's easy to say it now, but Bennett insisted even during that time, he felt Boykin would be ready to contribute if needed.

"It goes back to preparation," Bennett said shortly after the season. "That's really the starting point, but then also the man. You look at his character, his approach; it matters to him. Regardless of what was said in some areas, you can't really measure the heart of the man and his passion and his desire, along with his skill set. I think he's done a phenomenal job."

Once he got his chance after both Jones and Randall Cobb were injured against the Baltimore Ravens on Oct. 13, Boykin showed that. Getting starter-type playing time over the final 12 games, Boykin delivered with 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns. Over 16 games, those numbers would equate to 65 catches for 908 yards, both of which are totals Jones never produced in any of his seven seasons.

"As far as our receiver group, you've got to be excited about obviously Jordy [Nelson] and Randall and Boykin," McCarthy said. "I can't say enough about Boykin. The young man is a heck of a player. He's done it the right way, [starting with] special teams. He's performed [in] every opportunity he's given."
The ESPN Insiders NFL team of veteran reporter Mike Sando along with Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson and Field Yates combined to grade all 32 teams in free agencyInsider so far.

Peppers
When it came to the Green Bay Packers, apparently the big-splash signing of defensive end Julius Peppers was only enough to warrant a grade of slightly better than average. The Packers also re-signed some of their own key free agents, including cornerback Sam Shields, defensive tackle B.J. Raji and defensive end/outside linebacker Mike Neal.

In giving the Packers a C-plus, Sando wrote: "Keeping Shields, Raji and Neal from leaving was important, but the big question is whether Peppers can make the Packers better on defense."

Wrote Riddick, a former NFL scout: "Peppers has that connection with [Packers defensive line coach Mike] Trgovac and has wanted to play in a 3-4. They got good value. Playing with Clay Matthews is a good fit there. I think Ted Thompson is good at making those targeted free-agent gambles. Everything else they do will be through the draft."

Among the Packers' key losses were center Evan Dietrich-Smith (who signed Tampa Bay) and receiver James Jones (who signed with Oakland).

Polian, the former Indianapolis Colts general manager, said that he thought Dietrich-Smith would be missed. Polian also wasn't convinced that Peppers would be worth the money, but he liked some of the Packers' re-signings. He thought most teams would miss Jones, too, but the Packers might be fine.

"They produce receivers on an assembly line there," Polian said.
Don't put a label on new Green Bay Packers defensive end Julius Peppers.

In fact, he probably shouldn't even be called a defensive end.

The way Packers coach Mike McCarthy explained it to reporters on Tuesday at the NFL annual meetings in Orlando, Fla., the newest addition to the Packers' defense will play a hybrid position -- a combination of an outside linebacker and defensive lineman the Packers will call an "elephant."

[+] EnlargePeppers
AP Photo/Paul SancyaThe Packers plan to use Julius Peppers in a variety of ways along their defensive front.
It's a spot that McCarthy first revealed during an interview at the NFL scouting combine last month that was in his plans, well before he knew he would have Peppers on his roster.

In preparing for that role, Peppers will spend most of his individual practice time and meeting sessions with the linebackers, who were merged into one group under assistant head coach Winston Moss and position assistant Scott McCurley following the resignation of outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene shortly after last season ended. It also means Peppers will not work directly under defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who was Peppers' defensive line coach and defensive coordinator with the Carolina Panthers from 2002-08.

"Elephant is a term used for a multiple-position player along the defensive front," McCarthy told reporters at the league meetings. "Julius will be part of that group.

"The specifics I'd rather get into once the players find out, once we go through it with the players, but that's the big-picture outlook for the way we'll use Julius defensively."

In his only public comments since he signed with the Packers, Peppers, who was released this month by the Chicago Bears, told the Packers' web site he expected his role to be "something different" than it was during his stint with the Bears.

This would qualify as such.

Even before the Packers signed Peppers to a three-year, $26 million contract on March 15, they had planned to use the elephant position for Mike Neal and Nick Perry. In some defenses, the elephant position is used to describe an end who lines up between the offensive tackle and the tight end (in what is called the 7 technique) but based on McCarthy's comments on Tuesday, it appears he has multiple positions in mind for his elephants.

Perry, a former first-round draft pick, was a defensive end in college but switched to outside linebacker with only moderate success the past two years. Neal played his first three NFL seasons at defensive end before he switched to outside linebacker last season.

The trio of Neal, Peppers and Perry could be interchangeable this season.

"It's not only your position, your alignment, it's your assignment," McCarthy said. "So he has more to offer in his opinion, and I agree with him, from an assignment standpoint. So where he aligns, competing against Julius, he's lined up on both sides at defensive end. He has been an inside rusher, so those experiences he already has and will continue to do so."

The addition of Peppers and the redefinition of some positions could make coordinator Dom Capers’ defense look a lot less like the traditional 3-4 he has run throughout his 28-year NFL coaching career. But McCarthy said Capers' defense has evolved into a two-linemen look more than ever to combat the spread offenses used so prolifically around the league.

"How much 3-4 defense do we play?" McCarthy said. "We've been averaging 24-25 percent over the past five years. So we're playing so much sub."

When the Packers do use their base defense, McCarthy confirmed that recently re-signed lineman B.J. Raji will return to his old position, nose tackle. Raji played more at defensive end the past three seasons, when his productivity waned. McCarthy said the plan for Raji will be to "cut him loose."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Even after signing or re-signing seven players since the start of free agency, the Green Bay Packers still have enough salary-cap space to do more.

According to the latest figures from ESPN Stats & Information, which includes all the contracts the Packers have done in free agency to date, the Packers still had more than $15 million in salary-cap space. To be exact, they were $15,742,829 under their adjusted salary cap of $141,821,209 (which includes room they carried over from 2013).

Only six teams had more cap room left than the Packers, as of Monday. They were: the Cleveland Browns ($37.1 million), New York Jets ($30.4 million), Jacksonville Jaguars ($25.7 million), Cincinnati Bengals ($27.1 million), Miami Dolphins ($19.2 million) and Philadelphia Eagles ($16.3 million).

The Packers will need around $5 million in cap space for their rookie salary pool.

They still have a few of their own free agents they could sign -- including fullback John Kuhn and perhaps defensive linemen Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett -- but general manager Ted Thompson also knows he must leave room to extend the contracts of receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson. Both are entering the final year of their current deals.
The Lions, lying in wait for a new year ...

It took a little bit longer than expected, but the Detroit Lions finally nabbed a safety Monday night as James Ihedigbo -- the team's first real target -- agreed to join the club.

Ihedigbo
He'll line up opposite Glover Quin as the last line of defense for Detroit as the team tries to improve a secondary that struggled toward the end of last season. So they replaced Louis Delmas for Ihedigbo, but what are the Lions getting? Here are some thoughts from colleague Jamison Hensley, who covers the Ravens.

"Ihedigbo wasn't expected to start last year after the Ravens signed Michael Huff in free agency and drafted Matt Elam in the first round. But he turned into one of the biggest surprises on defense. Playing nearly every snap on defense, Ihedigbo finished second on the team with a career-best 99 tackles.

"He's basically a lesser version of Bernard Pollard. Ihedigbo is solid at coming up to make the hit but he doesn't make enough plays in coverage. All three of his interceptions last season came against Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. Excluding the two games against Cincinnati, Ihedbigbo broke up only seven passes in 2013.

"Ihedigbo wasn't in the Ravens' plans in 2014. General manager Ozzie Newsome said the team needed to add a more athletic safety. The Ravens also plan to move Elam to Ihedigbo's strong safety spot, which is the first-round pick's natural position.

"Basically, he's a great special teams player and an average safety."

And now, a look at other Lions news from across the Interwebs:

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