NFC North: Brendan Daly

We're Black and Blue All Over:

If nothing else, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's visit to Detroit on Thursday served as reminder to stop making predictions for when the Detroit Lions might lose defensive tackle Nick Fairley to a league suspension.

Goodell disputed the suggestions that he always waits for the legal process to play out before making a decision, "particularly if there's a pattern of behavior," Goodell said. Fairley was arrested twice during the offseason in his hometown, but legal delays have pushed the hearing for one incident into November.

For all we know, the league has already suspended Fairley but hasn't announced it because the appeal process is still active. All we can say is that Fairley seems likely to miss some time, but whether the suspension starts in Week 1, Week 10 or in the 2013 season, we have no idea.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Leading Questions: NFC North

February, 13, 2012
2/13/12
12:00
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With the offseason in full swing, let's take a look at one major question facing each NFC North team as it begins preparations for the 2012 season:

CHICAGO BEARS

In last year's version of Leading Questions, we wondered when the Bears would address the depth behind their aging defensive stars. That issue is still on the table, but of greater 2012 importance is this: How will the Bears manage their transition to new offensive coordinator Mike Tice?

Tice will retain much of the terminology and some of the philosophy from former coordinator Mike Martz. But Tice has his own spin on the "three-digit offense," and the Bears will need to realign behind a power running game and a passing approach that emphasizes downfield throws.

Tight end and receiver are two positions the Bears need to focus on this offseason, either by developing their existing players like Kellen Davis and/or acquiring a legitimate downfield threat. New general manager Phil Emery should have more than $20 million in cap space to work with, and the free-agent market should be deep with receivers.

But to make Tice's offense work, Emery will also need to ensure the return of free-agent tailback Matt Forte and find him a reliable backup as well.

DETROIT LIONS

In a tight salary-cap situation, can the Lions keep their nucleus together and add where needed?

Years of high draft positioning made the Lions a talented team but also one facing a cap crunch in 2012. Preliminary cap reconciliation leaves the Lions with $122 million in cap commitments, about $2 million above the estimated $120 million cap. And that total doesn't include three defensive starters who are pending free agents: defensive end Cliff Avril, middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Eric Wright.

The Lions will need to find ways to shave from that total, whether it's borrowing from future caps -- a tool now available in the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) -- or reducing the cap figures in existing contracts.

As we've discussed, receiver Calvin Johnson should be the first target for a cap-reducing contract extension. He's projected to account for about $22 million against the cap in the final year of his rookie deal. Johnson, quarterback Matthew Stafford, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch are estimated to account for nearly half of the Lions' total cap allotment.

What does all this mean? We are all figuring out the NFL's new salary-cap rules together, but it's clear the Lions must make some difficult short-term decisions and weigh them against long-term prosperity.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

What can the Packers do to improve a pass defense that gave up more passing yards than any team in NFL history?

The easiest answer is to address the pass rush, which weakened in 2011 when the Packers couldn't find a suitable replacement for departed free agent Cullen Jenkins. The rush could come from the defensive end position, where the Packers have waited two years for the highly touted Mike Neal to make an impact, or through acquiring a pass-rushing outside linebacker.

General manager Ted Thompson has been reluctant in recent years to utilize veteran free agency, and the truth is that few teams allow a legitimate pass-rusher to depart without compensation. But the situation was serious enough in 2011 that Thompson will at least need to consider every avenue available for a substantial and fast-acting solution. The Packers had 29 sacks in 2011, tied for the third-worst total in the NFL.

Parallel to that issue, however, Thompson will also have to monitor a situation at safety that contributed to the Packers' defensive problems in 2011. Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins will find out in March whether he can continue his career or if he must retire because of a serious neck injury. The Packers missed his leadership and instincts in center field and would need to acquire a long-term replacement if he retires.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

The development of quarterback Christian Ponder will dominate many of the Vikings' offseason headlines, but there is an equally important question hovering over the team: How fast can it upgrade its historically poor pass defense?

Vikings opponents finished the season with a 107.6 passer rating, the third-highest figure in NFL history. Their eight interceptions tied for the league's lowest total in 2011 and only one player among the back seven who started the majority of games in 2011 -- linebacker Chad Greenway -- is assured a starting job in 2012.

It's difficult to replace six starters in one offseason, but the Vikings have already begun their defensive overhaul by hiring new defensive coordinator Alan Williams, bringing back Brendan Daly as their defensive line coach and making former coordinator, Fred Pagac, their primary linebackers coach.

The personnel situation is most dire in the secondary, where two of the Vikings' primary safeties -- Husain Abdullah and Tyrell Johnson -- are free agents. Talented cornerback Chris Cook, suspended for the final 10 games of the season following a domestic-violence incident, remains in limbo. Cook's trial date is tentatively scheduled for March 5. The future of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield must be addressed as well; Winfield turns 35 in June.
Just to keep you updated, the Minnesota Vikings have made it official: Former Indianapolis Colts defensive backs coach Alan Williams is their new defensive coordinator and Brendan Daly will take over as their defensive line coach.

A news release made no mention of former coordinator Fred Pagac, who reportedly will share duties as linebackers coach with Mike Singletary, who will also be a special assistant to the head coach. I'll withhold most comments until later Thursday, when we should hear from coach Leslie Frazier.

In general, however, I would view these moves as more of a re-shuffling than a shakeup considering the familiarity of all involved. Frazier and Williams worked together on the Colts' staff in 2005 and 2006, and both are devoted to former Colts coach Tony Dungy's Tampa-2 defense. Williams was once part of a Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff that included Dungy as the head coach and former Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin as the defensive backs coach.

Daly was the Vikings' assistant defensive line coach from 2006-08, the final two years under Frazier. He replaced Karl Dunbar, who was fired. It is presumed that defensive backs coach Joe Woods will return in his current role. More to come.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Matt Forte's appearance Wednesday on ESPN 1000 seemed mostly optimistic to me. The Chicago Bears tailback seems to understand the likelihood he will receive a franchise tag this offseason and realizes it could prove a tool to ultimately get a long-term contract negotiated.

But if the Bears franchise him not for the purpose of negotiations, but instead as their final decision on how to compensate him in 2012, there could be trouble.

Forte: "A lot of teams franchise guys so that they can get a deal done or negotiate a deal. It just depends on what the motive of that is."

The franchise tag for running backs this offseason is expected to be a little less than $8 million. If it seems clear the Bears plan to pay him that salary, with no credible offer for an extension beyond the 2012 season, Forte implied he might not be in training camp on time.

"I wouldn't say holdout," he said, "but people probably wouldn't know where I was."

You say tomato, I say tomahto.

This is a discussion that can't begin in earnest until the Bears hire a new general manager.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

To the extent there have been rumors about a possible position change for Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times reports it won't happen.

There have been suggestions that Tillman could move to safety and replace veteran Mike Brown, who was told last week he won't be offered a new contract. But Tillman, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, is expected to remain at cornerback, according to the report.

In the end, finding a replacement for Tillman at cornerback would have proved more difficult than replacing Brown.

Tillman won't be cleared in time to participate in the Bears' mandatory minicamp next month. He should be ready for training camp.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald believes Brown could have helped the Bears in some capacity in 2009.
  • So does David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. But Haugh suggests that the Bears will miss retiring right tackle John Tait more than Brown in 2009. Haugh: "Nobody who made $11 million his first season on a new team, as Tait did in 2004, really can be described as taken for granted. But Tait was like a good paperboy in that you really didn't appreciate the job he did until somebody else tries to do it."
  • Detroit guard Stephen Peterman on why he re-signed with the Lions before testing free agency: "Through all this, I'm glad to be back. I want to be a part of rebuilding this thing and win a Super Bowl." John Niyo of the Detroit News reports.
  • Minnesota has hired a replacement for former defensive assistant Brendan Daly, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. Diron Reynolds will work mostly with the defensive line.
  • Speaking to a Rotary Club meeting Monday, Green Bay president/CEO Mark Murphy didn't get a huge crowd response when he noted the Packers set themselves up at quarterback in 2008. The Fond du Lac Reporter covered the event.

Rams take another Vikings assistant

February, 2, 2009
2/02/09
3:37
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Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

It turns out that St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo has grabbed two assistant coaches off Minnesota's staff.

Last week, Spagnuolo hired Vikings special teams coordinator Paul Ferraro as linebackers coach. Monday, the Rams announced Vikings defensive assistant Brendan Daly as their defensive line coach.

Daly worked mostly with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar over the past three years and is well-liked by players. He has also been the assistant coach who sends in defensive playcalls from the defensive coordinator, whether it was Mike Tomlin or Leslie Frazier.

The Vikings haven't announced replacements for either coach. One possibility for Ferraro's job is assistant special teams coach Brian Murphy. Overall, there are four ex-Vikings assistant coaches on the Rams' staff. In addition to Ferraro and Daly, Spagnuolo has also hired Charlie Baggett as receivers coach and retained Steve Loney as offensive line coach.

Meanwhile, the Rams hired former Green Bay strength and conditioning coach Rock Gullickson. Former Packers and Lions assistant Sylvester Croom is the Rams' new running backs coach.

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