NFC North: Positions to address

February 17th, 2013

Could both Urlacher and Jennings no longer be in the NFC North?

Freelance contributor Jeremy Brade takes a look at positions of need for the Lions and their NFC North foes.

Chicago Bears

Offensive Tackle: Jonathan Scott is a UFA which takes care of that problem. On Cutler’s blindside, J’Marcus Webb played his way in to a reserve role. This has been an area of concern for quite some time and the Bears should do everything in their power to ensure they find Tackles to fortify their line. 2012 1st Round Pick Gabe Carimi seems to have found a home at Right Guard after replacing Lance Louis and should be given the opportunity to grow there.

Free Agent Option: Sam Baker – Atlanta Falcons
1st Round Draft Option: D.J. Fluker – Alabama

Left Guard: Lance Louis could potentially be the man for the job but the ACL injury he suffered along with his December surgery will affect his ability and time table to contribute next season if he is re-signed and moves over to the left side. James Brown filled in admirably but is not the man for the job.

Free Agent Option: Matt Slauson – New York Jets
1st Round Draft Option: Jonathan Cooper – North Carolina

Tight End: Providing Cutler with a receiving threat out of the Tight End position will give him a safety valve on the few occasions his Wide Receivers are not open. Despite not using the Tight End in Montreal, Coach Marc Trestman has plenty of years as an Offensive Coordinator with the Tight End getting plenty of touches so look for the Bears to improve on this position.

Free Agent Option: Jared Cook – Tennessee Titans
1st Round Draft Option: Zach Ertz – Stanford

Defensive Tackle: This might not seem like a position of need but with Henry Melton a UFA, another team may come calling with a deal the Bears can’t afford to match. If they determine he’s worth it, Melton is a candidate for the Franchise Tag. Stephen Paea performed alright but is nowhere near the force they need on the inside of their Defensive Line, especially if Melton gets away.

Free Agent Option: Henry Melton – Chicago Bears
1st Round Draft Option: Johnathan Hankins – Ohio State

Middle Linebacker: Everyone knows there is a chance Brian Urlacher may have played his final game with the Bears, but there is also a good chance he returns with a cap friendly deal. Even if he does, it is time to look for someone else to take the reins.

Free Agent Option: no significant upgrade available
1st Round Draft Option: Manti Te’o – Notre Dame

Strongside Linebacker: Nick Roach may be re-signed to fortify the strong side because he shouldn’t demand much on the market as a UFA. However, if there’s an opportunity to improve the Bears should jump at it.

Free Agent Option: Justin Durant – Detroit Lions
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position

Punter: The 32nd best punting average during the 2012 season belonged to Adam Podlesh. There is no excuse not to bring in some competition.

Free Agent Option: Sav Rocca – Washington Redskins
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position

Detroit Lions

Offensive Tackle: Last year’s 1st Round pick Reilly Reiff will be starting at one of the Tackle positions. If Jeff Backhus finishes out his contract as the Left Tackle, the team will have to decide whether to bring back Gosder Cherilus as a back-up or look elsewhere for depth. Perhaps a cheaper option would be to bring back Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard to ensure they are covered.

Free Agent Option: Gosder Cherilus – Detroit Lions
1st Round Draft Option: Eric Fisher – Central Michigan

Offensive Guard: After releasing Stephen Peterman, the Lions will most likely attempt to try Bill Nagy out at Guard or Center but another option will have to be to look for a proven starter on the free agent market and to add depth through the Draft.

Free Agent Option: Ramon Foster – Pittsburgh Steelers
1st Round Draft Option: Chance Warmack – Alabama

Center: Nagy is definitely an option to replace Dominic Raiola, even after he was willing to restructure his contract. Alternatively, if he finds a home at Guard, Raiola may remain the starter for another year but will need a back-up to step in when the time is right.

Free Agent Option: no significant upgrade available
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position

Running Back: It appears as though Jahvid Best will never play for the Lions again, nor anyone else for that matter. Mikel Leshoure could still prove to be capable of handling the starting duties, although he appears to be better suited for a 3rd Down role. That being said, Joique Bell had a nice season in that role and may end up as a better long-term option.

Free Agent Option: Steven Jackson – St. Louis Rams
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position

Wide Receiver: Where’s Matt Millen when you need him? No, they won’t need to take a Receiver in the 1st Round, but the Lions will have to add some help. Titus Young proved that he had the ability to be on the field, but even these coaches couldn’t deal with him. Ryan Broyles showed flashes but will once again have to return from a knee injury, although it’s not the same injury he suffered in college. If they can’t find an improvement for Kris Durham or Mike Thomas, the production of the Offense could take a hit.

Free Agent Option: Domenik Hixon – New York Giants
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position

Defensive End: Kyle Vanden Bosch – gone. Cliff Avril – still there, but for how long? The Lions may be realistically looking to replace both of their Ends from last season. The Franchise Tag is a possibility for Avril, but his sack stats may be hiding his overall production. Both of their backups are also free agents, although while Willie Young is restricted, Lewis Jackson is not. There are also many options in this year’s Draft and youth at the End position will allow for their Tackles to continue their impact.

Free Agent Option: William Hayes – St. Louis Rams
1st Round Draft Option: Bjoern Woerner – Florida State

Outside Linebacker: With both DeAndre Levy on the Weakside and Justin Durant on the Strongside as unrestricted free agents, another area the Lions could be looking to replace on both side is at Linebacker. Durant is a possibility to return unless he gets snagged by another team.

Free Agent Option: Justin Durant – Detroit Lions
1st Round Draft Option: Jarvis Jones – Georgia

Cornerback: Seemingly always an area of concern, this year is no different in regards to addressing the Cornerback position. They have 4 UFA’s and the best of those is Chris Houston, who may end up being too expensive to try and bring back. The Lions will need to address the problem through both free agency and the Draft because depth is something they do not have.

Free Agent Option: Chris Houston – Detroit Lions
1st Round Draft Option: Dee Milliner – Alabama

Safety: Despite the play of Don Carey and Louis Delmas, this is an area that needs a spotlight as well. Depth once again came into play at Safety this season and with Delmas and Amari Spievey both free agents, an upgrade is necessary. Delmas could be brought back but it may be time to move on. Despite playing effectively while in, Spievey’s concussion issues are reasons enough to stay away.

Free Agent Option: Chris Clemons – Miami Dolphins
1st Round Draft Option: Kenny Vaccaro – Texas

Punter: The Nick Harris experiment does not appear to have been the right decision. His average of 41.5 yards was good enough for 34th in the League. That was even a regression from his 30th best average the year before with Jacksonville (tied with Ryan Donahue) for that season. Another year…another punter.

Free Agent Option: Sav Rocca – Washington Redskins
1st Round Draft Option: no pick worthy of 1st Round position


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