NFC North: Drew Stanton

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

December, 3, 2012
12/03/12
11:45
AM ET
After the Detroit Lions' 35-33 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, here are three issues that merit further examination:

  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    We've had plenty of offseason discussions about the value of defensive backs relative to pass rush in the NFL's current passing era. A reasonable argument can be made that an elite pass rush, as the Lions have displayed at times, can better protect an average group of cover men than if the situation were reversed. Perhaps that's why the Lions have felt comfortable cobbling together their secondary on a yearly basis under general manager Martin Mayhew. Sometimes it has worked, but Sunday it was a big reason for the Lions' loss. Veteran cornerback Drayton Florence gave up receiver LaVon Brazill's 42-yard fourth-quarter touchdown in a situation where the cornerback's only job is to keep the receiver from getting behind him. Florence was signed just before the start of the season and clearly was available for a reason. I'm not blaming Florence for the loss and I'm not saying an elite cornerback couldn't also get beat in that situation. I'm saying that a patchwork secondary has its risks, and Sunday we saw what can happen. If you're playing a corner who can't cover in a prevent-style defense, and you're playing him because you realized at the end of training camp that you needed more help than you gave yourself in the offseason, then, well, you probably deserve the result.
  2. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh had an indisputably great game. The Colts lost yardage on four of his six tackles. He had one sack, hit Luck six times and batted down a pass. It's hard to ask for more than that from a defensive tackle in a regulation game. Perhaps you could question why one of those hits didn't come on the last play of the game, when Andrew Luck seeped through the pocket long enough to find receiver Donnie Avery for the game-winning score, but you could say that about everyone on the Lions roster in some way. We noted earlier that Colts guard Mike McGlynn was furious with Suh for what he viewed as celebrating the concussion of teammate Winston Justice, but I haven't seen a replay yet. It's not visible on the version the NFL puts on its Game Rewind feature. McGlynn isn't the first opponent to accuse Suh of such antics, but at this point there is nothing conclusive we can say.
  3. I know there has been plenty of debate about the Lions' playcall on third down just after the two-minute warning. A conversion would have sealed the game for the Lions, but Mikel Leshoure's one-yard run ensured the Colts would get one final possession. Coach Jim Schwartz played it by the book, opting to run down the clock with the Colts out of timeouts rather than attempt a pass considering there was five yards to go. (It should be noted that quarterback Matthew Stafford had hit only one of his six attempts in the fourth quarter.) I think this is one of those situations where people would be upset with whatever Schwartz decided if it didn't work. Don't forget the 2010 game against the New York Jets, when an incomplete pass by quarterback Drew Stanton late in the game provided the Jets ample time on their final possession. Sunday, the ball was at midfield and the Colts were going to have no more than 1 minute, 14 seconds to work with. The Lions were let down by a poor directional punt by Nick Harris and atrocious defense on the final drive.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
If the season ended today, the Lions would have the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft. And amazingly, we could craft a relatively long list of needs for a team that returned 21 of 22 starters this season because it believed itself close to contending for a championship. Nate Burleson's injury, Titus Young's maturity and concern over Ryan Broyles' knee makes receiver a surprisingly thin position. As we just discussed, the Lions are paying this season for the little attention they've paid to their secondary. Allowing four fourth-quarter comebacks is indicative of poor pass coverage when it was required. And you wonder who among the Lions' long list of pending free agents on defense, from Cliff Avril to DeAndre Levy to Justin Durant to Louis Delmas to Chris Houston, will need to be replaced as well.
Looking over Matt Williamson's offseason grades for the NFC North compelled me to take a look back at our Big Decision series from the winter. In it, I tried to preview some of the most important issues facing NFC North teams in the coming months.

The list was by no means exhaustive, but I thought we would take this moment to circle back and comment on its resolution. We discussed seven issues at the time, which I've reviewed below, and I'll also add a few additional topics that ended up dominating our conversations.

[+] EnlargeCharles Woodson
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireCharles Woodson is expected to play both safety and cornerback for Green Bay this season.
Big Decision: Charles Woodson's 2012 position for the Green Bay Packers
Resolution:
A schematic adjustment that could feature Woodson as a hybrid safety-cornerback in the base defense. Woodson likely will play as a slot defender in nickel and dime situations.
Comment: The Packers answered (C) when faced with the question of Woodson as a safety or cornerback: All of the above. Given how malleable defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme is, there was no reason to make a black-and-white decision when gray might have been the best option all along.

Big Decision: Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs' trade request
Resolution: The Bears mollified Briggs with a $2.5 million raise for 2012. He would earn $5.5 million in 2013.
Comment: The Bears weren't ready to give a 31-year-old linebacker a huge upgrade, but as it turned out, it wasn't necessary. Briggs just wanted to see the most minor demonstration of love to be happy.

Big Decision: The future of Detroit Lions left tackle Jeff Backus
Resolution:
Signed a two-year contract in March.
Comment:
Backus will turn 35 during the season, but the Lions needed to protect themselves when they had an opportunity. They followed up by making tackle Riley Reiff their top draft choice, setting up an ideal succession plan that could begin next month or next year.

Big Decision: The Minnesota Vikings' middle linebacker situation
Resolution: Fourth-year player Jasper Brinkley will be given a chance to take the job of incumbent E.J. Henderson, who was not re-signed.
Comment: Brinkley missed all of 2011 because of a hip injury and was held out of June minicamp for precautionary reasons. There is no depth behind Brinkley, making this move a big risk. As a result, middle linebacker remains one of the Vikings' biggest question marks.

Big Decision: Backup quarterbacks for all four teams
Resolution: The Bears signed veteran Jason Campbell. The Lions re-signed Shaun Hill but allowed Drew Stanton to depart via free agency. The Packers allowed Matt Flynn to depart and seem committed to Graham Harrell. The Vikings re-signed Sage Rosenfels but appear set to make Joe Webb their No. 2.
Comment: Campbell represents a huge upgrade for the Bears. Hill is the perfect player to back up Matthew Stafford in the Lions' offense. Harrell is unproven but drew raves from Packers coaches this offseason. The Vikings are serious enough about Webb as their No. 2 that they stopped experimenting with him at other positions.

Big Decision: The Bears' commitment to Kellen Davis
Resolution: Davis re-signed with a two-year contract.
Comment: Davis feels confident the Bears will use the tight end more under new offensive coordinator Mike Tice, a former NFL tight end. That's probably a good assumption.

Big Decision: The future of Lions defensive end Cliff Avril
Resolution: The Lions restructured their salary cap sufficiently enough to make room for Avril's $10.6 million franchise tag figure. The sides have until Monday to agree on a long-term extension.
Comment: The Lions made clear from the start of the offseason that Avril was a strong fit for their defensive system and a vital part of its success. Given the importance of pass rushers in this era, few if any would argue with the decision, even if it means he ultimately departs via free agency in 2013.

Honorable mention
The Bears jumped on the relative bargain rate of the franchise tag for tailback Matt Forte ($7.74 million) but the inability/unwillingness to sign him to a multi-year deal suggests some ambivalence about his long-term future. … The Bears re-committed to quarterback Jay Cutler by acquiring one of his favorite receivers (Brandon Marshall) and coach (quarterbacks guru Jeremy Bates), giving Cutler by far his best surrounding cast since he arrived in Chicago. … The Lions nipped a pressing long-term issue by making receiver Calvin Johnson the highest-paid player in the NFL at the time of the agreement, a deal that actually lowered his 2012 salary-cap figure and set up the rest of the Lions' offseason. … The Packers addressed their pass defense by signing several free agent defensive linemen, including veteran Anthony Hargrove, and selecting six consecutive defensive players to open the draft. … The Packers made a wise decision not to place the franchise tag on Flynn, who did not receive the level of free-agent interest once anticipated. … The Vikings publicly hemmed and hawed about their direction for the No. 3 overall pick, but ultimately made the obvious choice by selecting left tackle Matt Kalil after trading down one spot to No. 4.

#FreeStanton a success

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
4:54
PM ET
We did it!

#FreeStanton!

Drew Stanton is free!

Perhaps you've noted my obnoxious posting and tweeting about Stanton, the longtime Detroit Lions backup quarterback who signed last week with the New York Jets to be their No. 2 quarterback. Those plans changed quickly when the Jets acquired Tim Tebow this week, and we all had fun with the "campaign" to get Stanton out of New York and to a team where he would be the No. 2.

The Jets complied Friday by trading Stanton to the Indianapolis Colts, according to the Jets' official Twitter account. Stanton won't necessarily be in a position to play, considering the Colts' plan to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, but at least he'll be only once-removed from the starting job rather than twice.

For our next trick, I say we shoot for #nachosonthehouse. Or maybe #cheeseburgersforeveryone. Thoughts?

BBAO: #FreeStanton gains steam

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
7:45
AM ET
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We had some fun Wednesday afternoon when the #FreeStanton hashtag started on Twitter. As you recall, former Detroit Lions quarterback Drew Stanton spent only a few days as the New York Jets' No. 2 before the acquisition of Tim Tebow via trade.

It's a harsh business, and Stanton might just have to deal with the turn of events. But the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported Wednesday night that he wouldn't be surprised if Stanton asks for a trade or a release.

Stanton "was promised team not looking at" adding additional quarterbacks this offseason, according to La Canfora.

Best of luck to Drew on that one.

#FreeStanton.

Continuing around the NFC North:
Let's take a moment away from this otherwise light news day to recognize an important development to NFC North blog readers.

It's time to join a Twitter movement. I think Pride of Detroit started it, but I'm not twuent enough to say that for sure. ("Twuent:" Twitter fluent.) Regardless, let's all help out a brother and use the following hashtag the rest of the day:

#FreeStanton

Sure, the NFL has announced unprecedented discipline against the New Orleans Saints for a three-year bounty program. And yes, the Denver Broncos traded quarterback Tim Tebow to the New York Jets.

But we have a bigger fish to fry around here, assuming the Tebow trade is finalized and he lands with the Jets.

Just five short days ago, longtime Detroit Lions backup quarterback Drew Stanton signed a one-year contract with the Jets, presumably with a real opportunity to be their No. 2 quarterback. Tebow's arrival would lessen his chances, if not overwhelm the dream altogether.

So let's do it.

Let's #FreeStanton.

Give the man a chance.

Let's hope the Jets agree and let Stanton seek a No. 2 job elsewhere.

#FreeStanton.
Below are a few award-winning thoughts on the Saturday evening return of left tackle Jeff Backus and backup quarterback Shaun Hill to the Detroit Lions.
  • Both players signed two-year deals. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that Backus' contract is worth $10 million. We don't yet know what Hill received.
  • The Lions never gave an indication they planned to move on from Backus, who will turn 35 during the season and had surgery immediately after the season to repair a torn biceps muscle. They know they will have to replace him sooner than later, but long-term answers at left tackle rarely are available in free agency. They almost always come through the draft, and it's something to keep an eye on next month. The Lions now have the flexibility to draft a possible replacement without needing to insert him immediately into the lineup.
  • Veteran Marcus McNeill visited earlier this week, and his situation is a perfect example of how left tackles who are available often are damaged goods in some way. McNeill is a two-time Pro Bowler but has had two neck surgeries and suffers from spinal stenosis. It would have been hard to count on him for more than a year-by-year basis.
  • Backus had trouble with some of the NFC North's elite pass-rushers last season, but he is nothing if not reliable. His streak of consecutive games played is 176, and there is every reason to believe his biceps will heal in time for the 2012 regular season.
  • Barring an unexpected offer to start for another team, it was difficult to imagine Hill leaving the Lions. He has a long history with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and quarterbacks coach Todd Downing and would have been starting over had he signed with the St. Louis Rams.
  • The Lions chose Hill, 32, over Drew Stanton, 27, who departed Friday for what could be the No. 2 job with the New York Jets. Both players had some success during the 2010 season, but Hill was an acquisition of the Lions' current regime while Stanton was a draft choice dating back to the Matt Millen era. I would feel more comfortable with Hill, but there is also an undeniable comfort level between the sides.
  • Barring any late Saturday evening news, I'll check in with you Sunday. Night-night.
Drew Stanton's expected departure at least temporarily leaves the Detroit Lions with one quarterback on their roster.

Stanton, who spent his Lions career as the No. 3 quarterback, confirmed via Twitter that he had agreed to terms with the New York Jets. Their No. 2 quarterback of the past two years, Shaun Hill, is a free agent who reportedly visited the St. Louis Rams earlier this week.

The assumption has been that Hill would return to back up Matthew Stafford, and that's why Stanton considered it a better career move to sign with the Jets. That scenario could still play out, but to this point the Lions have no agreement with Hill. Stay tuned.

NFC North Quick Hits: Tuesday

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
9:00
PM ET
While we have a moment, let's post another edition of, uh, quick-hitting Quick Hits. I'm not sure if this will be our last post of the evening, but it will catch us up on some secondary news items that arose during the initial frenzy of the NFL's 2012 free agent and trade period.

Item: Chicago Bears tight end Kellen Davis is visiting the Dallas Cowboys, according to Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network.
Comment: Bears coach Lovie Smith has spoken highly of Davis, and it's been assumed he would return. But there was no deal when the free-agent period began, so it was off to the races.

Item: Brad Biggs' analysis of receiver Brandon Marshall's contract for the Chicago Tribune suggests there is no guaranteed money remaining in the deal.
Comment: That gives the Bears exceptional flexibility given Marshall's checkered history off-the-field.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings have agreed to terms on a three-year contract with reserve defensive tackle Letroy Guion, accoring to Tim Yotter of Scout.com.
Comment: Who says the Vikings weren't doing anything Tuesday? The deal suggests the Vikings might give Guion an opportunity to compete with starting nose tackle Remi Ayodele, who had a disappointing first season with the Vikings in 2011.

Item: Detroit Lions cornerback Eric Wright has received interest from the San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Comment: The Lions shaved more than $15 million in cap space just to comply with the NFL's cap limit of $120.6 million. I'm not sure if they have the space to complete a significant contract with Wright if a market develops around him.

Item: The Lions have a visit set for Friday with free agent offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Comment: Schwartz was a full-time starter for the Carolina Panthers in 2010, but a hip injury forced him to miss 2011. Regardless, he wouldn't be in line for a big contract given the Lions' cap situation.

Item: Already flush with about $25 million in cap space, the Vikings have deferred the $1.6 million in extra space the NFL disseminated after taking it from the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins, according to Schefter.
Comment: The Vikings will get that $1.6 million credit in 2013. The Lions, Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers all took it this year.

Item: Former Packers quarterback Matt Flynn has been contacted by the Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins, according to Omar Kelly of the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
Comment: From this point, the Flynn story matters to us only in the sense that his contract value will impact the compensatory draft pick the Packers receive for his departure.

Item: Lions quarterback Drew Stanton has drawn interest from the New York Jets, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News.
Comment: It would make sense for Stanton to seek opportunities to be a No. 2 quarterback, given he is likely to be the Lions' No. 3 quarterback if he returns.

NFC North free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
12:00
PM ET
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Chicago Bears

Key free agents: Tight end Kellen Davis, running back Matt Forte (franchise), cornerback Corey Graham, quarterback Caleb Hanie, defensive end Israel Idonije, cornerback Tim Jennings, quarterback Josh McCown, safety Brandon Meriweather and receiver Roy Williams.

Where they stand: The Bears will have the most salary-cap space among NFC North teams, upwards of $30 million, and have plenty of potential uses for it. Quarterback Jay Cutler needs more targets in the downfield passing game, whether it's at the receiver or tight end position. And new general manager Phil Emery must start restocking a defense led by four players more than 30 years old: Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, defensive end Julius Peppers and cornerback Charles Tillman.

What to expect: It's widely believed the Bears will be in the running for free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson. But Jackson's price tag could be steep and no one knows if Emery will prove to be a big spender. It seems likely he will re-sign Davis, and Emery should also save some of his cap space to extend Forte's contract. Secondary receiver targets could include Marques Colston. Bears fans are hoping the team will pursue defensive end Mario Williams, but it's hard to imagine the Bears budgeting for Williams two years after breaking their bank on Peppers.

Detroit Lions

Key free agents: Defensive end Cliff Avril (franchise), left tackle Jeff Backus, safety Chris Harris, quarterback Shaun Hill, linebacker DeAndre Levy (restricted), running back Maurice Morris, running back Kevin Smith, quarterback Drew Stanton, linebacker Stephen Tulloch and cornerback Eric Wright.

Where they stand: The Lions are tight against the salary cap after franchising Avril and aren't likely to be big spenders on the free-agent market. They could relieve the situation by reaching long-term agreements with Avril and/or receiver Calvin Johnson, who has a $22 million cap figure for 2012. Tulloch made a big impact last season after signing a one-year deal, but so far the Lions' attention has turned elsewhere.

What to expect: The Lions' best-case scenario is to keep their 2011 core together without mortgaging their future relative to the salary cap. That would mean getting Tulloch re-signed to preserve the linebacker group they upgraded last season by signing him and veteran Justin Durant, moves that allowed Levy to play on the outside. Hill seems likely to re-sign as Matthew Stafford's backup, while Stanton might test the free-agent waters to see if he has a chance to do better than third on a team's depth chart.

Green Bay Packers

Key free agents: Cornerback Jarrett Bush, quarterback Matt Flynn, running back Ryan Grant and center Scott Wells.

Where they stand: The Packers took care of a big challenge by signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract last month. They will let Flynn depart for a possible starting job elsewhere and it appears Grant will test the free-agent market. Discussions with Wells haven't led to an agreement, but the Packers often go to the final moments before reaching a deal. There are no obvious internal replacements for Wells, making his return a priority.

What to expect: The Packers will have some flexibility with the salary cap, but general manager Ted Thompson's aversion to veteran free agency is well known. It's been three years since he signed a veteran unrestricted free agent in the offseason. The Packers have needs at defensive line, outside linebacker and possibly at center if Wells leaves. But let's put it this way: Thompson's strong preference is to find depth and future replacements in the draft, not on other teams' rosters.

Minnesota Vikings

Key free agents: Safety Husain Abdullah, receiver Devin Aromashodu, receiver Greg Camarillo, defensive lineman Fred Evans, defensive lineman Letroy Guion, linebacker E.J. Henderson, linebacker Erin Henderson, safety Tyrell Johnson, quarterback Sage Rosenfels, cornerback Benny Sapp and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe.

Where they stand: The Vikings seem poised for a major roster overhaul in their first offseason since Rick Spielman was promoted to general manager. Players like Shiancoe, E.J. Henderson, Camarillo and Johnson all seem poised to move on. There aren't many positions on the team that appear secure.

What to expect: If the Vikings don't plan to draft USC left tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall next month, the first clue will be if they pursue a free-agent left tackle. That seems unlikely. But they'll need to combine their draft with at least a few veteran free agents if they intend to compete for a playoff spot in 2012. Cornerback could be a point of focus, where Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan are among those available. Another could be receiver. The Vikings had major interest in Jackson two years ago.

NFC North links: Burfict a fit for Lions?

February, 27, 2012
2/27/12
9:50
AM ET
Chicago Bears

The Bears informed veteran defensive tackle Anthony Adams that they plan to release him.

Coach Lovie Smith weighs in on how his defensive linemen played in 2011.

The Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei breaks down how the top receivers performed at the NFL combine.

Detroit Lions

The Lions have some decisions to make at quarterback, as the contracts for both backups — Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton — expire in 2012.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press looks at how Vontaze Burfict, who declared Sunday he was the best linebacker in the draft, would fit with the Lions.

Green Bay Packers

With Matt Flynn's future with the Packers in doubt, the team could draft a quarterback in the later rounds, writes the Green Bay Press-Gazette's Pete Doughtery.

The Packers met with the agent for Texans center Chris Myers, who is one of the top free agents available at his position, at the NFL combine.

Minnesota Vikings

Could the Vikings pass on USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil at No. 3 overall? The Star Tribune's Dan Wiederer examines the argument for not taking a tackle so early.

Jeremy Fowler of the Pioneer Press looks at this draft's strong class of cornerbacks, a position of need for the Vikings.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

We noted last month that all four NFC North teams faced decisions on their quarterback depth this offseason. The Detroit Lions, specifically, had to decide whether to bring back backups Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton -- both of whom are pending free agents -- or if they would use the positions to help draw down their bloated salary-cap structure.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports that Hill is likely to return, one way or the other, even if it means taking a "slight discount" to make it happen.

That makes sense for all parties. Hill has a longtime connection with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, performed well when the Lions needed him in 2010 and understands that he won't get a chance to beat out starter Matthew Stafford. That's a pretty good combination for a backup quarterback.

Continuing around the NFC North:

Big Decision: Backup quarterbacks

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
3:15
PM ET
Previewing some of the big decisions facing NFC North teams early in the 2012 offseason:

Our Air and Space division boasts arguably the top grouping of starting quarterbacks in the NFL. We have a presumptive MVP in the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers, a 5,000-yard passer in Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions and, in the Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler, an upper-level starter who was having perhaps his best season before fracturing his right thumb in December. The Minnesota Vikings, meanwhile, are hoping for a big jump from first-round draft pick Christian Ponder in 2012.

The relatively settled nature of those starters overshadows what could be division-wide change in their backups. The Packers' Matt Flynn, the Lions' Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton, the Bears' Caleb Hanie and the Vikings' Sage Rosenfels are all pending free agents. Let's look at the decisions awaiting each team:

Packers: Flynn could draw interest as a potential starter from several teams, most notably the Miami Dolphins -- who hired former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as their head coach last week. The Packers' only chance to keep him would be to use their franchise tag, requiring a commitment of about $14 million in cash and cap space. That's not going to happen. The logical successor is third-string quarterback Graham Harrell, and the Packers might have revealed their intentions by promoting him to the active roster late this season when he began receiving interest from other teams.

Lions: Quarterback depth is valuable, but you wonder if a team with tight salary cap problems can afford to keep two vested veterans behind their franchise quarterback. Hill ($3.02 million) and Stanton ($900,000) accounted for about $4 million in cap spacein 2011, and if the Lions desperately wanted to shave that figure, they could promote Stanton and sign him to a cheaper contract than what Hill was paid last season. But Hill has a longtime association with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and is generally considered one of the most reliable backups in the NFL. There are no easy answers here.

Bears: Hanie's disastrous stint as Cutler's replacement might have sealed his exit from Chicago. But the Bears will have new offensive leadership with coordinator Mike Tice and a quarterbacks coach/passing coordinator who has yet to be hired, so it's possible the new regime will have other thoughts. The Bears didn't think enough of rookie Nathan Enderle to start him in a meaningless Week 17 season finale, making it hard to imagine his ascendance to No. 2. That could leave veteran Josh McCown, another pending free agent, as an option. Or the Bears could seek help on the free agent market themselves.

Vikings: The situation in Minnesota is less clear-cut. Ponder remains the starter, and 2011 backup Joe Webb is under contract for 2012. Webb was impressive in one start and appearances in 10 other games, accounting for five touchdowns, but the Vikings' continued commitment to Ponder suggests they might look for other ways to use Webb. If he develops into a hybrid receiver/quarterback/returner, it's possible the Vikings would want an established veteran behind Ponder. That could be Rosenfels, a longtime favorite of general manager Rick Spielman, or he could come from elsewhere.
We're Black and Blue All Over:

Half of the NFC North will now be impacted by the Oakland Raiders' wide search for a new head coach.

We already knew that new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie would have his eyes on multiple candidates from the Green Bay Packers, where he spent the past 17 seasons. But he is also interested in speaking with Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Mike Tice. The Raiders requested permission Tuesday to speak with Tice, a story first reported by Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.

Tice was promoted to his current job earlier this month, but by NFL rule the Bears can't deny permission to interview. He spent four seasons as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach from 2002-05 and is one of perhaps a dozen candidates linked to the first round of Raiders interviews; he is one of the few with previous head-coaching experience.

Continuing around the NFC North:
  • The Bears have now interviewed two of their five candidates for their general manager job, the team announced. San Diego Chargers executive Jimmy Raye III was the latest through the door.
  • Former Bears receiver Sam Hurd has a Jan. 25 arraignment set in Dallas after being indicted on federal drug conspiracy and possession charges. ESPNChicago.com has the story.
  • Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers would consider moving cornerback Charles Woodson to safety next season if Nick Collins (neck) doesn't come back. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more.
  • Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is a finalist for the Miami Dolphins' head-coaching job and will receive a second interview, notes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com.
  • Former Packers coach Mike Holmgren will be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame this summer, notes Kareem Copeland of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  • Both of the Detroit Lions' backup quarterbacks, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton, will be free agents this spring, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. One or both could move on.
  • Justin Rogers of Mlive.com review the appearance of Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on "Jimmy Fallon."
  • Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is moving closer to naming a preferred site for the Vikings' new stadium, according to Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune.
NEW ORLEANS -- There are no major surprises on the Detroit Lions' inactive list for Saturday night's wild-card playoff game against the New Orleans Saints. One minor shift from the recent norm: Cornerback Don Carey is active and cornerback Brandon McDonald is inactive.

That could be a nod toward special teams, considering the Lions secondary will be at full strength with Aaron Berry back in the nickel and Alphonso Smith available to play the dime. McDonald had been active for the past two games while Berry rehabilitated a shoulder injury.

As expected, safety Louis Delmas is active and will start his first game since Thanksgiving Day. That moves Chris Harris to the inactive list; Harris has also been dealing with a back injury.

The rest of the inactives: Quarterback Drew Stanton, running back Joique Bell, linebacker Doug Hogue, guard Leonard Davis and defensive lineman Andre Fluellen.

Matthew Stafford will start for Lions

October, 30, 2011
10/30/11
2:39
PM ET
DENVER -- As expected, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will start Sunday against the Denver Broncos. And the Lions feel confident enough about his injured right ankle that third-string quarterback Drew Stanton is inactive.

Shaun Hill will be the only backup quarterback active, as usual.

There were no surprises among the Lions' pregame roster announcements. Defensive tackle Nick Fairley (foot), receiver Rashied Davis (foot) and running back Jahvid Best are among those who won't play. New safety Chris Harris, claimed Friday on waivers from the Chicago Bears, is inactive as well.

Maurice Morris will start at running back for Jahvid Best.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

NFC NORTH SCOREBOARD