NFC North: Darius Heyward-Bey
Item: The Green Bay Packers are making progress on a contract extension for quarterback Aaron Rodgers that will make him the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Comment: A deal has been inevitable for years. It will set a record in the short-term and be eclipsed at some point afterwards. So there will be two points of significance for us. One is obvious: The deal will extend contract peace with the most important player on the Packers' roster. The other has yet to be evaluated: How a contract that presumably averages more than $20 million per season will impact the Packers' future salary-cap space.
Item: After much public debate, the Packers did not touch the contract of tight end Jermichael Finley. He received a $3 million roster bonus, will remain with the team in 2013 and be eligible for free agency after the season.
Comment: It seemed clear for some time that coach Mike McCarthy was encouraged by Finley's performance late last season and wanted him back. The departure of receiver Greg Jennings gave the Packers the financial flexibility to make it happen. At the moment, Finley has the second-highest 2013 compensation on the Packers' roster ($8.25 million). It will be up to him to earn it or almost certainly move on after the season.
Item: The Packers ensured offseason competition for place-kicker Mason Crosby for the first time in five years.
Comment: The choice, former Cal place-kicker Giorgio Tavecchio, isn't exactly a shoo-in to win the job. Last month, we discussed some context to explain the Packers' affinity for Crosby. He'll be the heavy favorite to win the job again unless the Packers were to sign a veteran with experience. But after his inconsistent 2012 season, it's only fair to bring in some level of competition.
Item: Packers linebacker Brad Jones got the kind of contract that makes you wonder what the team has planned for him.
Comment: The deal included a $3 million signing bonus, a $1 million base salary and a roster bonus of $18,750 for every game he is active. So if Jones is active for 16 games this season, he'll earn $4.3 million in 2013. That's not special-teams money, the role you would assume for Jones if A.J. Hawk, Desmond Bishop, Nick Perry and D.J. Smith are all healthy.
Item: The Detroit Lions scheduled a visit for place-kicker David Akers because they are stymied in negotiations with incumbent Jason Hanson.
Comment: This isn't an unusual tactic to spur negotiations, and it's worth noting that Akers kicked himself out of a job last season with the San Francisco 49ers. Hanson is still an excellent field goal kicker. On the other hand, cap-strapped NFL teams don't want to extend themselves on specialists.
Item: The Lions hosted free-agent receiver Darius Heyward-Bey on a visit.
Comment: It's pretty clear the Lions are looking for more depth at receiver after hosting Heyward-Bey and a number of the top receivers in the draft as well. The release of Titus Young and Ryan Broyles' ongoing knee recovery makes for an obvious need.
Item: The Minnesota Vikings confirmed a topic we've discussed several times this offseason: They will be playing in new uniforms in 2013.
Comment: The uniforms will be revealed April 25 at the team's draft party. If the Vikings follow form with the mild updates to their logo in February, the uniform changes won't be significant.
Item: The father of Miami Dolphins receiver Mike Wallace told the Miami Herald that the Vikings offered more money during Wallace's brief sojourn into the market.
Comment: Wallace seemed destined from the start to head to the warmer climate of Miami. The Vikings ended up with Jennings at $3 million less per season than Wallace signed for.
Item: The primary public funding mechanism for the Vikings' new stadium has fallen far below estimates.
Comment: Gov. Mark Dayton must figure out how to overcome a shortfall of more than $30 million. Electronic gambling revenues projections. created to fund the stadium, were dropped from $34 million to $1.7 million last week. As we discussed last month, there are two "blink-on" backup plans in place, a Vikings-themed lottery and a 10 percent tax on luxury suites, but projections could still fall short.
I know. The headaches were coming on. A few of you were getting nosebleeds. Maybe the shakes, too. But rest easy. We are here to feed your NFL draft addiction and soothe those side effects.
On Thursday, ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper and Todd McShay released new, combined mock drafts based on their information through Wednesday's pro days. You'll need an Insider subscription to see their entire board, but I can bring you their choices for the NFC North teams at no charge to you. (Just don't tell anyone.)
And what the heck. I'll drop in a few pithy comments of my own as well.
Kiper: Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford
From the peanut gallery: McShay has argued against Stafford, but as of now he believes the Lions are leaning in that direction. I agree with Don Banks (SI.com) and Pat Kirwan (NFL.com). Baylor offensive lineman Jason Smith is looking awfully tempting right now.
From the peanut gallery: All things equal, I like the idea of adding another interior defender. That's where the Lions were at their worst last season.
Kiper: Texas defensive end/linebacker Brian Orakpo
McShay: Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin
From the peanut gallery: Both Kiper and McShay passed on Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith here. I think Smith would be worth a long, hard look.
Kiper: Maryland receiver Darius Heyward-Bey
From the peanut gallery: Hard to argue with the player or his position as it relates to the Bears. But take a look at Jerry Angelo's history in drafting receivers and get back to me.
Kiper: North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks
McShay: Florida receiver Percy Harvin
From the peanut gallery: A receiver would definitely fall under the "best available player" category. Another option here, under the same guideline: USC linebacker Clay Matthews Jr.
In the video below, Kiper runs through his top 10 with Hannah Storm of SportsCenter: