Mel Kiper Jr.: Replacing aging stars

To help muddle through our first weekend without football in six months, let's take a look at Mel Kiper Jr.'s NFC North-heavy analysisInsider of the top veteran players whose eventual replacement should comprise at least a part of his team's offseason. You'll need an Insider subscription to see the whole file, but I can pass along the three players Kiper listed with connections to us.

Jeff Backus, Detroit Lions left tackle

Seifert comment: We discussed Backus' status a few weeks ago. He will turn 35, just had major surgery to repair a torn biceps muscle and is a pending free agent. The Lions don't have an obvious internal replacement, making it quite possible they will bring back Backus for 2012. Still, it would make sense to at least start the process of acquiring a successor, either through the draft or free agency.

Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears middle linebacker

Seifert comment: Although he played at a high level throughout 2011, Urlacher will turn 34 in May and plays a high-impact position. As we discussed last week, the Bears have nothing close to an heir apparent on hand. Replenishing the Bears' defensive depth should be one of the top priorities of new general manager Phil Emery.

Charles Woodson, Green Bay Packers cornerback

Comment: Woodson played well enough to earn All-Pro honors for the third consecutive season in 2011, but he will turn 36 in October. We discussed the possibility of moving him to safety last month, if starter Nick Collins (neck) is forced to retire. But even if Woodson remains at cornerback for 2012, the Packers will eventually need reinforcement at the position.

Remember, Kiper -- as would any good general manager -- made his analysis based on the long-term horizon for each player and team. Backus, Urlacher and Woodson seem likely to play substantial roles for their teams next season. But it's better to be ahead of the curve than behind it.