BBAO: Lions planning active free agency

We're Black and Blue All Over:

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew made a mildly surprising projection Thursday: The Lions will be an active player in the free agent market this offseason.

I think we would all agree the Lions need help at more positions than the draft can reasonably provide, especially considering how many of their defensive starters have expiring contracts. But the Lions' salary cap situation remains tight even after slashing $8.5 million in cap commitments this week. That got them to about $5 million under the expected $121 million cap, according to Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.

That can only mean the Lions plan to create some more space, quite possibly by extending the contract of quarterback Matthew Stafford to reduce his cap hit. Here's what Mayhew told reporters Thursday:

"We were a non-player in free agency last year, so we will definitely be a bigger player this year. We do plan to make some moves. Like I said before, we need to make some changes. Obviously, things aren't going in the right direction. They didn't go in the right direction last year. We've got to make some changes. We've got to improve our roster."

In hindsight, as we discussed before, the Lions overvalued their roster last season by standing pat. They can't afford to reverse course too much in free agency this year, but for most teams, the best team-building approach includes participation in every avenue available.

Continuing around the NFC North:

  • Neither Mayhew nor Lions coach Jim Schwartz would say that center Dominic Raiola will be on the 2013 roster, notes Anwar S. Richardson of Mlive.com. The Lions could get another $4 million in cap space by releasing him.

  • Mayhew on Stafford's contract, via Dave Birkett of the Free Press: "My thought on that is that we're going to try to extend him. There hasn't been a whole lot of dialogue about it at this point, but I think that's coming."

  • Mayhew acknowledged that receiver Titus Young had no trade value before he released him, notes Birkett in the Free Press.

  • Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley said Thursday that he thinks it's "50-50" that he returns to the Packers in 2013. Tyler Dunne of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has more. Finley: "It's the nature of the business. If there's a guy that's overpaid or that they think is overpaid, they'll ask for a pay cut. There's no doubt that I want to be there for life. But it's a business and the business will tell you otherwise. I would say on the business front, it's 50/50. But if it was up to me or anybody in my circle, I would love to be back."

  • Marc Sessler of NFL.com wonders if Packers receiver Greg Jennings will end up signing with the Minnesota Vikings.

  • The Vikings have narrowed down their construction bids to two companies for their new stadium, according to Doug Belden of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

  • The Chicago Bears' retiring strength and conditioning coach, Rusty Jones, is a pioneer. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune explains.

  • Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com looks at potential safeties on the free agent market for the Bears.

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune reviews the Bears' linebacker situation.