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.
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.
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.
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.