NFC North weekend mailbag

I tried to address the timeliest of your mailbag submissions during the week, and most of the others will be moot once the NFL opens its free agent market in a few days. But there are a few other topics of interest so let's hit them while we have a moment. We'll stay clear of free agency given the fluid nature of player movement, but if you're looking for a fix, I suggest Matt Williamson's ranking of the top 50 available free agentsInsider.

Remember, we interact at various degrees of intensity through the mailbag, Twitter and Facebook.

On with it…

Greg of Nashville objects to coverage of the New Orleans Saints' bounty program, which has now ensnared both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers: Are we really to believe that this is news? You people who are supposed to be top notch journalist and you're reporting on something that has being going on ever since football began. Really, grow up.

Kevin Seifert: I, for one, have never claimed to be a top-notch journalist, but that's beside the point.

To me, it's been clear since the 2009 NFC Championship Game that the Saints were determined to get after quarterback Brett Favre, whether inside or outside the rules. That happens in many NFL games, but I truly question whether or not NFL teams and coaches have organized financial rewards for injuring opponents "ever since football began." It shifts the conversation from heat-of-the-moment violence to something that was premeditated.

That seems an obvious big deal, but don't take it from me. Journalist Joe Posnanski, one of the most eloquent sports writers of our generation, put it much better in a blog post this week. Posnanski noted that the Saints' bounty program was a form of gambling, that it was a rule-breaking attempt to alter games and approaches a crime.

If a baseball pitcher threw at the head of an opponent, and was later ruled to have been offered money for knocking the batter out of the game, would we hear the same "part-of-the-game" pushback? Posnanski doubts it, and I agree. Fans would be outraged. If anything, Posnanski argued, football has made us numb to anything that rises above its typical level of violence.

Posnanski:" "Is our love of pro football -- the spectacle, the violence, the thrills and sheer ferocity of it all -- so insatiable that nothing will ever shock or disgust us again?"

Sadly, it appears that way.

Jimmy of Philadelphia provides a clarification to our introduction of the "Madden 13" cover contest: Your article about Peyton Hillis beating out Aaron Rodgers for the Madden cover and experiencing the subsequent Madden curse is not completely factual. Aaron Rodgers didn't make the final voting stage, and was beaten out by Michael Vick, who was the other finalist alongside Hillis.

Kevin Seifert: Ah yes. I think that final fell in the category of a championship game forever shadowed by a historic earlier-round game. Think "The Catch" in the 1981 NFC Championship Game. It gave the San Francisco 49ers a victory and sent them off to Super Bowl XVI. Do you remember who the 49ers beat for the title? I had to look it up. (It was the Cincinnati Bengals.)

Matt of Michigan notes the New York Giants' successful renegotiation of quarterback Eli Manning's contract and writes: Why aren't we hearing more from teams like the Lions and Rams who have cap troubles now because of their high draft history restructuring deals with their top players. Eli just did it for NY so he can make more money later on when the next big TV contract comes in and the team has a higher cap figure to play with. Do you think the Lions will try to work something out with Ndamukong Suh and Matthew Stafford?

Kevin Seifert: It's a possibility, but keep in mind a few factors.

The Lions renegotiated the contracts of Stafford, receiver Calvin Johnson and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch last August to relieve their 2011 crunch. The changes weren't dramatic, but they did push some cap commitments into this year and beyond.

There are plenty of cap tricks to lower a given year's number, but eventually they come due. You're not eliminating a problem by renegotiating. You're pushing it forward.

To that end, the Lions are trying to stabilize their long-term prospects first by extending Johnson's contract, a method of spreading out his cap commitment naturally. If necessary, Stafford and Suh could re-arrange their deals to provide short-term relief. But the most successful long-term cap strategy is to absorb the biggest hits you're able to manage each year to maintain maximum flexibility.

WiBear434 of Kentucky wants to know if the Chicago Bears will give Chris Williams a chance to compete at left tackle, the position he was originally drafted to play in 2008.

Kevin Seifert: I guess stranger things have happened, but I doubt it. The big goal last season was to find a position for Williams and leave him there. He was a decent left guard in 2011, and while the natural tendency is to get greedy and hope he can hold down a more difficult position, it's now been almost two years since he played left tackle. That ship might have sailed.

Earl of Hawaii wants to know why there is no mention yet of any plans to try Everson Griffen at LB (middle or outside). One of the most talented & athletically gifted guys on the team needs to be starting on an older team that just went 3 and 13.

Kevin Seifert: As we've found in the case of backup quarterback Joe Webb, it's more difficult to change positions in the NFL than most fans think or hope. It's possible the Vikings could find some snaps for Griffen at outside linebacker on passing downs, but if they want to get him on the field, they might want to consider developing a more flexible rotation at defensive end.

Starters Jared Allen and Brian Robison played more snaps in 2011 than any defensive end duo in the NFL. Allen led all defensive ends by playing on 95 percent of the Vikings' snaps, while Robison ranked 11th at 84 percent. Griffen played 25 percent of their plays.

There would be nothing wrong with mixing in Griffen to a greater extent, keeping both Allen and Robison fresh over a 16-game season.