We're Black and Blue All Over:
Take a moment to breathe it all in. Monday is the final full day of the NFL's 2011 league year. The "New Year" will begin Tuesday at 4 p.m. -- the moment when all teams must be in compliance with the $120.6 million salary cap, when free agents can begin signing with new teams and trades can be officially consummated.
Some work remains between now and then, however. We are awaiting word on what restricted free agents were issued tenders, and which (if any) will be allowed to depart without compensation. And we'll need to see what the Detroit Lions do to shave more than $11 million in cap space.
The Lions were $11.55 million above the cap as of the end of last week, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. That roughly jibes with our recent cap conversations that had them close to $121 million before they committed another $10.6 million to place the franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril.
If the Lions can't lower their number by signing receiver Calvin Johnson to a contract extension, they'll need either to start releasing players or seek significant contract restructures. Stay tuned.
Skipping around the division on this merry Monday:
Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh needs to hire a driver, writes Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.
Defensive end Mario Williams should be the focus of the Chicago Bears' pursuits in free agency, writes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune.
Brad Biggs of the Tribune is expecting the Bears to be active at the start of free agency.
Will the Green Bay Packers need to dip their toes in free agency this year? Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette thinks they might.
Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel considers the Packers' options if free agent Scott Wells doesn't return.
The Packers have about $5.5 million in cap space available, according to Bill Huber of Scout.com.
Minneapolis officials are hoping that a new stadium at the Metrodome site will boost the surrounding neighborhood, according to the Star Tribune.
When it's all said and done, the Vikings will have more than $23 million in cap space available, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press looks at possible free-agent targets for the Vikings.
Pelissero thinks it's more likely the Vikings will pursue a B-level receiver than Vincent Jackson.