Dec 15, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn (41) reacts after returning an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Free Agency Predictions: NFC North

Every team should have certain targets heading in 2014 NFL free agency.  Based on projections, here are some predicted pursuits for the NFC North division.

Detroit Lions

Captain Munnerlyn – CB

Cap space is going to be tight for the Detroit Lions so they’ll have to manage their money carefully and go specifically after roster needs.  Captain Munnerlyn is at a crossroads with Carolina.  He’s not the best corner set to hit the market but he’s a veteran, dependable and can make plays in a variety of ways.

Mario Manningham – WR

The 2013 campaign was a very forgettable one for Mario Manningham.  Hampered by an injury all season he barely played and never looked like his old self.  With a full off-season to further recover, at age 27 he has an excellent chance to regain that form.  The Lions would consider it a steal if they could put that player across from Calvin Johnson.

Minnesota Vikings

Michael Johnson – DE

If there is any team that has a direct line to defensive end Michael Johnson, it’s the Minnesota Vikings.  Their new head coach, Mike Zimmer coached the 27-year old in Cincinnati, so there is definite familiarity.  With Jared Allen likely gone the Vikings will need to replace him somehow.  Johnson would be a good start.

Alterraun Verner – CB

Coverage was a big problem for Minnesota most of the season and a lot of it had to do with inexperience at the cornerback position.  They could really use a veteran with playmaking skill.  If they were thinking aggressively they have the funds to go after Alterraun Verner.  The corner had five interceptions in 2013 and is just 25.  He’s not expected to get the franchise tag from Tennessee either.

Green Bay Packers

Brian Orakpo – OLB

For the longest time the Green Bay Packers have tried to add a dynamic pass rusher opposite Clay Matthews.  Now they finally have the money to make that happen if they wish.  Brian Orakpo would be the steal of 2014 NFL free agency if they could lure him away from Washington.

Aqib Talib – CB

The nature of the 3-4 defense is laid in physical cornerbacks who can play press coverage, enabling their team to blitz when desired.  Aqib Talib has his problems but he is undoubtedly one of the best man-on-man corners set to hit the market, and it’s not looking like the New England Patriots plan to pay him.

Chicago Bears

B.J. Raji – DT

In recent interviews the Chicago Bears coaches did not mince words.  Their top priority moving forward will be to stop the run.  To do that they might want to get bigger at defensive tackle.  B.J. Raji may have ended his time in Green Bay but he’s still a very effective run blocker with great size at 330 lbs and the quickness to crash down the line of scrimmage and make plays.

Antoine Bethea – SS

Jairus Byrd and T.J. Ward get the bulk of the attention as far as free agent safeties, so it’s easy to miss Antoine Bethea, which is incredible since he’s a two-time Pro Bowler who hasn’t missed a game since 2007.  He’s a veteran, experienced, smart, tough and still only 29 with no signs of losing his ability to make plays.  Chicago would love him on the back end of their defense.

Tags: 2014 Nfl Free Agency Chicago Bears Detroit Lions Green Bay Packers Minnesota Vikings

  • Ken Tomlin

    The FA you have for the VIKINGS are spot on. If they could land those two, then they could focus on QB, DT, and LB help in the draft.

    • Erik Lambert

      Very realistic possibilities, Ken. Griffen is certainly a priority. Cassel is an unknown at the moment since I believe the Vikes will get a rookie in the first round. Last I heard he hasn’t received an offer yet. Also, to a slight counter-point, even if they get Griffen back I would still take a shot at Johnson. Getting one is good, getting both would be phenomenal.

  • Jake

    So you have the Vikings signing Johnson in FA and then in your mock draft you have them trading up four spots in the second round to draft a DE? Why would they ever make such a trade if they were to sign a DE like Johnson?

    • Ken Tomlin

      I agree Jake!! That makes no sense!!

      • Erik Lambert

        Jake, you need to stop thinking everything is interconnected. My mock drafts change every week. This article is speculation on realistic options that they will have. And believe me, if they added Johnson and then had a chance to get Scott Crichton to team with Robison, that is a formidable rotation of pass rushers at the cost of a fifth round pick and some cash.

        • Erik Lambert

          Also, just to point out, the Bears traded two third rounders in 2012 for Brandon Marshall in free agency. Then they traded a fifth rounder in the draft to get Alshon Jeffery. Did that make sense?

        • Ken Tomlin

          Ok, I can see your point about ” doubling up”, but I’d say if you’re going to do that, do it at CB. Verner in FA, then draft Gilbert or Dennard in 1st or Desir/ Fuller in 2nd. You can NEVER have too many good CB’s. We’re the poster child for that!

          • Erik Lambert

            It’s really chicken or the egg. Do the pass rushers make the secondary look better or vice versa. Honestly either method would probably yield results but there is no question a Verner/Gilbert combination would have outstanding potential.

          • Ken Tomlin

            One thing I think we’re both assuming is that the VIKES will stay with the 4-3. If, they switch to a more 3-4 look, then I think that DT and OLB will have a bearing on who they target in FA and draft. If they go 3-4, then Griffen would probably be a better choice. He’s sd he’d like to play OLB. Then we’d need a big NT. Personally, I think switching could open up more holes to fill this year. Some players would be “playing out of position” so to speak. Not sure Robison and Floyd would make good DE’s in that Def.? Or Robison going to LB? Just some more ramblings.

          • Erik Lambert

            Shifting directly to a 3-4 is inadvisable at this point. If that is a plan, it should be a long-term. The better thing to do is install a sort of hybrid scheme with 4-3 and 3-4 looks. Zimmer has the experience to run such a scheme and then if they wan to go full 3-4 down the road they can draft and sign that way over the next few seasons.

  • Shane Flannagan

    Bears should sign Raji and Micheal Bennett and then concentrate the first 3 picks on the secondary.