NFC North offseason: Lions could take D-line hit

Maggie Hendricks
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The Lions stand  to lose DTs Nick Fairley (98) and Ndamukong Suh in free agency.

Now that the 2014 NFL season is over, it's time to take a look into preparations for the 2015 season with the NFL scouting combine less than two weeks away in Indianapolis. This is one in a series of team-by-team looks at the needs of each NFC team. Other NFC divisions will be posted throughout the day.

Tomorrow, a team-by-team look at the AFC's offseason needs for 2015.


After two disappointing seasons under Marc Trestman, the Bears cleaned house. Both Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were fired, replaced by veteran John Fox and Ryan Pace, respectively. The Bears will focus on rebuilding the defense while figuring out if QB Jay Cutler is the man to lead them on offense.

Contract issues: Pace will quickly have to determine whether to bring back CB Charles Tillman and OLB Lance Briggs, two unsigned players who were once cornerstones of the defense. But each has struggled with injuries as their ages advanced. Pace and Fox must also make a determination on Cutler considering he will bring a $16.5 million cap hit in 2015.

Draft pickings: Chicago needs secondary help immediately. A safety like Alabama's Landon Collins may be a strong consideration.


They made an impressive turnaround to reach the playoffs in 2014. Unfortunately, the Lions were led by a second-ranked defense, and free agency could take a huge bite out of that group in 2015.

Contract issues: DT Ndamukong Suh is headed toward free agency. He's a dominant player but has brought more than his share of distractions to the team. Fellow DTs Nick Fairley and C.J. Mosley are also bound for the market, and it will be tough for Detroit to re-sign all three.

Draft pickings: Given the players they're likely to lose, the Lions will surely be looking for help at defensive tackle. And with C Dominic Raiola on his way out after 14 years, likely alongside G Rob Sims, reloading the O-line's depth will also be a priority.


Had they executed on any number of special teams failures in the NFC Championship Game, the Packers would have gone to the Super Bowl. Coordinator Shawn Slocum took the fall for those failures after the season. Now, GM Ted Thompson faces major decisions on several key players.

Contract issues: RT Bryan Bulaga has been injury-prone. But at 25, he's also young and talented, and QB Aaron Rodgers wants him back on an O-line that jelled nicely in 2014. After re-signing WR Jordy Nelson last year, Thompson now faces the prospect of losing WR Randall Cobb, who had a breakout season (1,287 receiving yards, 12 TDs). DL B.J. Raji was lost to a training camp biceps injury and is also free to walk.

Draft needs: Thompson's free agency plans will largely dictate the draft strategy. The D-line could be an issue if Raji leaves and Letroy Guion's legal problems fester. But a wide receiver-tight end hybrid like Michigan's Devin Funchess could also be a worthwhile addition if Cobb is lost.


Heading into its second year with coach Mike Zimmer at the helm, Minnesota will look to build on its surprisingly strong 2014. The Vikings are young and have room to bring in veteran talent.

Contract issues: RB Adrian Peterson is the biggest question mark. He brings baggage from ongoing legal issues as well as a $15 million cap hit. He will be 30 by the time training camp rolls around, so the Vikings have to decide if he is worth holding onto, assuming the NFL reinstates him.

Draft needs: It makes sense to put more pieces around QB Teddy Bridgewater, especially if Peterson departs. More blocking would be nice after Bridgewater was sacked 39 times in 2014, but a new downfield target would also be beneficial. Stanford T Andrus Peat or Louisville WR DeVante Parker could fit in well in Minnesota.

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