The offseason has arrived as all NFC North teams have been eliminated from the playoffs. Teams will now begin their quest for glory and domination for the 2016 season. All four teams will have plenty of cap space with the cap to be set at approximately 154 million or more. Let’s take a look at the cap space and the free agents to be for each team.
Salary Cap Space
Chicago Bears: 55 million with 54 active contracts
Green Bay Packers: 22.5 million with 43 active contracts
Minnesota Vikings: 20.4 million with 54 active contracts
Detroit Lions: 20.7 million with 46 active contracts
All four teams have a good amount of space to re-sign their own players and add new free agents and draft picks. The Bears have the most space and possibly another 3.4 million in carryover from 2015. The other three teams have similar space around 20 million in room but the Lions and Packers both need to add players to get to the top 51 mark. The Lions could carry over 1.1 million from 2015 and the Packers have 9.6 million in potential carryover. The Vikings have 3.5 million they could carry over from 2015.
No team should have limitations with that amount of room. The first priority will be their own free agents and cuts of existing contracts.
The Vikings have a good amount of space and are over the 51 man rule at 20.4 million. The Vikings could make more room by cutting Mike Wallace to free up 11 million but this is unlikely. Shaun Hill is another potential cap cut at 3.25 million. The Vikings will most likely not cut anyone due to overpriced contracts.
The Packers have cap space and don’t have anyone to cap cut unless they do something crazy with Julius Peppers. The Packers will focus on re-signing their own free agents and the draft per usual.
The Bears have 55 million in room. Jay Cutler seems to be there to stay despite saving 4 million by cutting him. Jermon Bushrod lost his starting job and could save 4.3 million in room. Martellus Bennett could save room but he is too good a weapon despite being a head ache at times. The Bears will focus on signing their own free agents and adding talent in free agency and the draft.
The Lions have 5 potential cap cuts. Stephen Tulloch could save 6 million if cut. Tulloch is a two down LB only now after his ACL injury. Brandon Pettigrew was injured most of 2015 and tore his ACL. The Lions could save 2.6 million by cutting him. Rashean Mathis is 35 years old and may retire. The Lions gain 1.5 million if he retires. Joique Bell had another slow first half of a season due to injuries. Bell could save 2.5 million if the Lions cut him. CJ Wilson is on the books for 2.3 million with no dead money. It is a no brainer to cut him. The Lions have 14.9 million in total in potential cap cuts. That is a lot of cap space.
Finally, Calvin Johnson may retire. This would be a big blow to Detroit’s offense but they could use the cap space or draft to add a stud WR to pair with Tate, Ebron, Riddick and Abdullah. Stafford won’t be short on weapons. The Lions would lose a great player but gain 11 million in cap space. With the cap cuts and Calvin retirement, the Lions could have over 40 million in cap room.
Own Free Agents
The Vikings have some starters that are free agents. Linebacker Chad Greenway is a veteran but struggled in run defense. Terrence Newman is 37 but had a solid year for the Vikings at CB (+3.7 PFF). Mike Harris is a good RG with a +8.3 grade per PFF. Finally Andrew Sendejo and Robert Blanton struggled in 2015 but both could be starting caliber strong safeties or both could be upgraded. Backup CB Josh Robinson and CB/returner Marcus Sherels hit free agency. Backup RB Matt Asiata, FB Zach Line and backup TE Rhett Ellison are worthy of new cheap contracts.
The Bears have a lot of important players set for free agency. Alshon Jeffrey is the biggest free agent. He will want a big deal but the Bears may franchise him (13 million). Matt Forte is also a big time weapon. Forte is on the wrong side of 30 but should command a decent sized deal. Forte knows the Bears have the cap space for it and Jeremy Langford (3.6 YPC) may not be the answer.
Shea McClellin was solid in 2014 but struggled in 2015. The Bears could upgrade at ILB and let McClellin test free agency. The 1st round pick appears to be a bust.
Will Montgomery was a free agent addition at center that was injured. Montgomery could be brought back as a backup or competition for Grasu. Grasu should be the starting center going forward. Vlad Ducasse didn’t have a good year at guard and Patrick Omameh is a backup guard at best. Both are free agents. The Bears may sign them to be backups but should add a tackle and have Matt Slausen and Kyle Long as their starting stud guards.
Jarvis Jenkins had an average season. He exceeded expectations as the 3-4 DE signed to make up for the Ray McDonald blunder. He could be brought back on a very cheap deal but the Bears will look to upgrade at 3-4 DE.
Alan Ball, Sherrick McManis, Chris Prosinski (safety)and Tracy Porter are cheap backups in the secondary. Pace may opt to go in another direction after the Bears struggles in the secondary this season. Ball and Porter were on one year deals but didn’t play to starter quality.
The Packers have some important free agents with BJ Raji, Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, Michael Neal and kicker Mason Crosby. Hayward is a good slot CB and could want a Davon House type deal. Nick Perry came on stronger the last two seasons despite early struggles. Pass rushers are paid a premium and will see if that premium matches Ted Thompson’s price for Perry. Thompson elected not give Perry the 5th year option which may be a factor in his re-signing.
BJ Raji was injured all of 2014 but had a good 2015 season. Raji may want a nice sized pay raise after two one year deals in a row. Thompson may let Raji test the market and then re-sign him once his market value is known similar to Cobb and Bulaga. Mike Neal struggles at OLB but every once in a while shows some flashes for Green Bay. Neal could be brought back cheaply.
Crosby is a good kicker and the Packers should make him one of the highest paid kickers in the league this offseason.
Backup running back James Starks could also be retained at the right price. Starks had a poor finish in 2015 and had some fumble issues. Will the Starks Express continue to roll through Green Bay?
John Kuhn should survive on a cheap one year deal at full back. Kuuuuuuuuuhnnnnnnnn.
Backup Letroy Guion would be worth a cheap deal too at 3-4 DE/Nose tackle. Backup swing tackle Don Barclay may go elsewhere after struggles filling in for injured players this season and the emergence of JC Tretter as the ultimate backup.
The Lions have a lot of free agents this offseason. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata is their top free agent. Mayhew traded a 4th and 5th round pick for Ngata last offseason. Ngata had a good season for Detroit overall at 31 but struggled early due to injuries in training camp and the first half of the season. There is a new GM in town in Detroit with Bob Quinn. We will see how much Quinn values the 32 year old Ngata. The franchise tag could be in play for Ngata but this is unlikely.
The Lions have two other starting defensive linemen as free agents. Tyrunn Walker was signed on a cheap one year deal and got hurt in game 4. The Patriots had interest in Walker so there is a Bob Quinn connection right away.
Third year DT Carraun Reid was average filling in for Walker but the Lions should upgrade one or both DT spots. Gabe Wright is a young DT on the roster but was inactive most of the second half of the season. The Lions traded a 2016 3rd round pick for Wright so he better start showing more promise.
The Lions will need to add one good DT and possibly retain Ngata. I hear Nick Fairley, CJ Mosely, Sammie Lee Hill and Andre Fluellen are all available on top of Ngata and Walker. The Lions could bring the whole former Detroit DT party back together.
Jason Jones just completed a 3 million per year contract but is over 30 now and has some injuries in his past (knee/neck). The Lions should upgrade at DT and DE in free agency and the draft and let Walker and Jones test free agency and determine their contract value.
James Ihedigbo had a poor 2015 season for Detroit and was benched for Isa Abdul Quddus in the second half of 2015. Quddus played really well but is also a free agent. The Lions should re-sign Quddus due to strong play in the second half of 2015 when given the chance at strong safety and sound cover skills. Quddus is good on special teams too. Quddus may have earned a raise though over the cheap one year deals he was receiving the last two seasons in Detroit.
Tahir Whitehead is a good cover LB and a special team demon. Whitehead improved in run defense and should get a decent sized contract. If the Lions cut Tulloch, they should try and retain Whitehead. Travis Lewis is a special teams LB that does have SAM ability. Lewis should be signed to a Josh Bynes type deal. Bynes could play SAM or Mike LB for Detroit too and Bynes had a good year at weak side LB filling in for Levy. Former 2nd round pick Kyle Van Noy has been wallowing on the bench for two years and could play SAM LB. DeAndre Levy should return for a big boost at weak side LB. The Lions have options at LB but re-signing Whitehead would give some good depth with Levy, Bynes, Van Noy and Whitehead.
Guard/Center Manny Ramirez is an important backup that will be a free agent. Quinn should look at retaining Ramirez who can play guard or center. Travis Swanson struggled in 2015 and just had shoulder surgery in January. Ramirez did well in Cooter and Lombardi’s schemes and outplayed all of Detroit’s interior linemen in 2015. Mayhew did well to add Ramirez to his draft day trade with the Broncos. Hopefully Quinn will offer Ramirez a contract. Ramirez is 32 and shouldn’t be that costly but is a good player that could start.
Dan Orlovsky is a cheap backup QB on one year deals the last two seasons for Detroit. The Lions would be in trouble if Stafford was injured an extended period of time. The Lions need to add a developmental young QB in the mid rounds in the draft. We’ll see if Caldwell can convince Bob Quinn to keep Dan O one more year. Orlovsky does know the scheme which is a plus for him.
WR Lance Moore had a solid season as the slot WR for Detroit. Joe Lombardi is gone though and so is the Saints scheme. Moore might not fit the Cooter offense and TJ Jones showed some promise at the end for 2015. A cheap one year deal for Moore wouldn’t hurt though.
Daryl Tapp is a solid backup DE. Another cheap one year deal for the 31 year old is possible but Quinn may want to upgrade DE.
Tim Wright is a restricted free agent. Wright was on the Patriots in 2014 but Quinn ended up sending Wright back to Tampa Bay. I don’t think Detroit will give him a restricted free agent offer.
Don Mulhbach should be signed to another cheap deal one year deal to be the Lions long snapper. Death. Taxes. Mulhbach.
There are a lot of big name free agents and possible retirements in the NFC North. Everyone has good cap space and needs to make upgrades. It should be a fun offseason