NFC North: Everette Brown

NFC North free-agency assessment

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
11:00
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AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Chicago Bears

Key additions: Running back Michael Bush, linebacker/special teams Blake Costanzo, quarterback Jason Campbell, receiver Brandon Marshall (trade), receiver Devin Thomas, receiver/returner Eric Weems.

Key losses: Running back Marion Barber (retired), cornerback Zack Bowman, cornerback Corey Graham.

Come on back: Lost in the shuffle of the Marshall trade were the return of three free agents who should play key roles in 2012. Tight end Kellen Davis figures to get an expanded role in offensive coordinator Mike Tice's scheme, especially as a receiver. Cornerback Tim Jennings should retain his starting role opposite Charles Tillman, with D.J. Moore in the nickel. And safety Craig Steltz will provide reliable depth at safety and will be one of the Bears' special teams leaders after the departure of Graham and Bowman.

What's next: There is no urgency yet, but the Bears will need to make peace with tailback Matt Forte at some point before the summer. Forte isn't happy that he's been made the Bears' franchise player and briefly lost his public composure when Bush signed a deal that guaranteed him about the same amount of money as the franchise tag will pay Forte. It's not a big deal if Forte skips the Bears' offseason program or even misses a few days of training camp, but the Bears will want to find a way to eliminate this issue by early August. Meanwhile, it wouldn't be surprising if the Bears address their offensive line during the draft.

Detroit Lions

Key additions: Defensive end Everette Brown, cornerback Jacob Lacey.

Key losses: Cornerback Eric Wright.

All in the family: With the exception of Wright, the Lions were able to retain the core of their 10-6 team. Among those who re-signed: Tackle Jeff Backus, safety Erik Coleman, defensive end Andre Fluellen, quarterback Shaun Hill and linebacker Stephen Tulloch. And don't forget that receiver Calvin Johnson is locked up for perhaps the rest of his career. He signed a new eight-year contract worth $132 million.

What's next: The Lions appear interested in adding competition at safety, having hosted free agent O.J. Atogwe earlier this month. Adding a safety remains a possibility, if not through free agency, then probably through the draft. And while Backus is re-signed for two years, it wouldn't be surprising if the Lions look for a long-term replacement in the draft.

Green Bay Packers

Key additions: Defensive lineman Daniel Muir, center Jeff Saturday, defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove.

Key losses: Quarterback Matt Flynn, center Scott Wells.

Shocker: The Packers usually do whatever it takes to keep their own players and avoid having to search the free-agent market for other the castoffs of other teams. They started off that way by re-signing tight end Jermichael Finley to a two-year contract, but when they were unable to sign center Scott Wells, they quickly targeted veteran Jeff Saturday and made him their first starting-caliber free-agent signee in five years. General manager Ted Thompson also authorized the acquisition of Hargrove and the pursuit of Dave Tollefson.

What's next: It's not out of the question that the Packers will add a veteran pass-rusher, whether at defensive end or linebacker. Then they'll get back into their comfort zone and start preparing for the draft, where it's reasonable to think they'll use at least one of their 12 picks on a center while also continuing to pursue pass-rushers.

Minnesota Vikings

Key additions: Cornerback Zack Bowman, tight end John Carlson, running back Jerome Felton and offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz.

Key losses: Nose tackle Remi Ayodele (release), guards Anthony Herrera (release) and Steve Hutchinson (release), tight end Jim Kleinsasser (retire), running back Jerome Felton.

Methodical methodology: The Vikings made one big-money signing, bringing in Carlson as a new weapon for quarterback Christian Ponder, and otherwise have spent their offseason getting younger and signing complementary players. General manager Rick Spielman wants to end a cycle of seeking blue-chip players via free agency and instead count on the drafts for his difference-makers.

What's next: One way or the other, the Vikings need to find a deep threat for Ponder. The draft would seem the most likely place for that will happen. They are also midway through a rebuild of the secondary that could use at least one more cornerback and perhaps two safeties.

NFC North Quick Hits: Thursday

March, 22, 2012
3/22/12
6:08
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A few newsbits from Thursday:

Item: The Detroit Lions re-signed tight end Will Heller and also signed defensive end Everette Brown.
Comment: Heller is back for another year as the Lions' third tight end, presumably at a lower salary than the $1.2 million he was scheduled to earn in 2012. Brown is a former second-round draft pick who didn't make much impact in three years with the Carolina Panthers and San Diego Chargers.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to host Baltimore Ravens free agent cornerback Chris Carr on a visit, according to multiple reports.
Comment: Carr has been a starter on one of the NFL's better defenses, but a hamstring injury limited him to one start last season. He is very much the definition of the second-tier free agent market.

Item: New Chicago Bears running back Michael Bush hasn't spoken yet with starter Matt Forte, who didn't react well Thursday to his arrival.
Comment: Hopefully no one takes out their anger on Bush. Forte's issue is with the team, not him.

Item: The Lions hosted Bears free agent cornerback Corey Graham on a visit Thursday.
Comment: The Lions have an opening for a starter after Eric Wright's departure, and Graham is looking for an opportunity to play more cornerback in addition to special teams.

Item: Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch's five-year contract is worth $25 million, including $11 million guaranteed, according to Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com.
Comment: As my NFC West colleague Mike Sando noted, the market for inside linebackers has been flat for a while, probably due to the NFL's passing focus. For context, consider that former Vikings middle linebacker E.J. Henderson signed an almost identical contract six years ago.

NFC North Quick Hits: Tuesday

March, 20, 2012
3/20/12
5:48
PM ET
A few odds and ends to clean up on a busy Tuesday here in the NFC North:

Item: The Green Bay Packers signed special teams captain/defensive back Jarrett Bush to a three-year deal, according to multiple reports.
Comment: Bush had every right to find out if another team would consider him more of a full-time defensive back. That he returned to the Packers tells you all you need to know.

Item: The Minnesota Vikings hosted receiver/returner Ted Ginn Jr. on a visit Tuesday, according to Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Comment: Presumably, the Vikings see Ginn as a full-time returner who would lessen their compulsion to use receiver Percy Harvin on special teams.

Item: The Detroit Lions will host defensive end Everette Brown and safety O.J. Atogwe on visits Tuesday and Wednesday, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press.
Comment: The Lions don't have a lot of cap space remaining, and they're now very much into the secondary free agent market.

Item: In his ESPN 1000 interview Tuesday, Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher said his only concern with the acquisition of receiver Brandon Marshall is the possibility the NFL could suspend him as discipline for an incident two weeks ago in New York City.
Comment: Marshall's attorney has said Marshall did nothing wrong. If that's the case, Urlacher has nothing to worry about.
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

I've caught up enough from last weekend's absence to bring you a Black and Blue version of the mock draft that ESPN.com's Todd McShay is updating around the clock.

You'll need an ESPN Insider subscription to view the entire story, but we have permission to bring you McShay's current choices for the NFC North. Because I can't keep my opinions to myself, I'll add a comment or two below each selection. Let's get to it:

Chicago Bears
No. 18 overall: Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey
My comment: The right position, as long as quarterback Mark Sanchez is off the board.

Detroit Lions
No. 1 overall: Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford
My comment: I get the feeling Detroit isn't sold on Stafford yet. Maybe that's just me.
No. 20 overall: USC linebacker Clay Matthews Jr.
My comment: This is a good spot for a linebacker, and Matthews had a strong combine.

Green Bay Packers
No. 9 overall: Florida State linebacker/defensive end Everette Brown
My comment: Outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene would get some fresh meat to work with.

Minnesota Vikings
No. 22 overall: Mississippi defensive tackle Peria Jerry
My comment: He could make an immediate impact if starters Kevin Williams and Pat Williams are suspended.

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