Could the Lions be in trouble?

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Could the Lions be in trouble?

The popular belief is that the Detroit Lions could be the team to beat in the NFC North and will be perennial Super Bowl contenders for years to come. With a plethora of young players that have expiring contracts, it's going to be difficult for Detroit to keep their core in tact.

The first sign of this could be Calvin Johnson's 21 million cap hit. According to ProFootballTalk, Johnson will have a 14 million base salary in 2012, 4.5 million in roster bonuses due and more than 2.5 in allocations from past bonus payments. He also has a franchise tender of 25.2 million in 2013.

There's no doubt that Detroit will do everything they can to keep Johnson and rightfully so. He's arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL and the Lions' No. 1 option on offense.

By keeping Johnson, the Lions will be forced to cut ties with several veteran players starting this offseason. Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press talked to PFT Live on Tuesday and said that Nate Burleson and Corey Williams could be the first cap causalities.

Detroit will also be faced with finding a way to sign impending free agent Cliff Avril. After the season Avril had (11 sacks) and being only 25-years-old, the defensive end will be highly sought after around the league and could demand a salary the Lions can't afford.

Yes, Detroit has a great young nucleus to build around - Johnson, Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Brandon Pettigrew, Titus Young, Nick Fairley and last year's second round pick Mikel Leshoure - but at some point those rookie contracts are going to expire and the Lions are going to have some major decisions to make.

Without having the financial capability to improve the team via free agency, the Lions will have to hope they 'hit' on every draft pick, like they seemingly have for the past four seasons.

Do you believe the Lions pose as a legitimate threat to the Bears in the NFC North or do you think the Packers are still the team to beat? Let us know in the comment box below.

Bears announce release of Matt Slauson, Antrel Rolle

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Bears announce release of Matt Slauson, Antrel Rolle

The Bears announced the departures of a pair of veteran players Sunday, releasing offensive lineman Matt Slauson and safety Antrel Rolle.

"We thank Matt and Antrel for the dedication and leadership they brought to our organization," Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in the announcement. "Both men did everything we asked of them. Part of growing as a team is making difficult decisions like the ones we made today. We never take them lightly given the respect we have for everyone who has put on a Bears uniform. We wish each of them the very best as they move forward."

Slauson started 37 games during his three seasons with the Bears including all 16 last season, starting 12 games at left guard and four at center. Slauson spent four seasons with the New York Jets prior to joining the Bears.

Rolle's release was reported earlier Sunday afternoon, and the safety — who appeared in seven games in his lone season with the team in 2015 — tweeted the following shortly after the initial report came out.

Rolle spent five seasons with the New York Giants before joining the Bears last offseason. Bothered by injuries, he appeared in just seven games last season, recording 45 tackles.

Bears release safety Antrel Rolle

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Bears release safety Antrel Rolle

The Bears released safety Antrel Rolle on Sunday.

ESPN's Adam Schefter was the first to report the move. Rolle tweeted the following out minutes later.

Rolle battled injuries and appeared in just seven games with the Bears last season, coming to Chicago after five seasons with the New York Giants. He made 35 total tackles and recorded one pass defensed.

The Bears have six other safeties on their current roster and added two more during this weekend's draft, picking Miami's Deon Bush in the fourth round and William & Mary's DeAndre Houston-Carson in the sixth round.

NFL Draft: NFC North grades

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NFL Draft: NFC North grades

Rotoworld's Evan Silva graded every NFL team's 2016 draft. Here are his grades for the Bears and their NFC North rivals.

Chicago Bears

1 (9). Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd
2 (56). Kansas State G/C Cody Whitehair
3 (72). Florida DE Jonathan Bullard
4 (113). West Virginia ILB Nick Kwiatkoski
4 (124). Miami (FL) S Deon Bush
4 (127). Northern Iowa CB Deiondre' Hall
5 (150). Indiana RB Jordan Howard
6 (185). William & Mary S DeAndre Houston-Carson
7 (230). Western Michigan WR Daniel Braverman

Overview: Bears GM Ryan Pace wanted Floyd badly, sending a fourth-round pick (106) to Tampa Bay to climb just two slots and steal Floyd ahead of the Giants. Pace stayed active on day two, trading down and securing Buffalo's fourth-round pick in 2017. In addition to reeling off consistent value picks, Pace attacked needy areas on his roster and stockpiled quality football players who were productive in college. What Floyd lacks in floor he makes up for in ceiling as a long-armed, versatile edge player with the most explosive get-off in the draft. Whitehair needs to get stronger, but he profiles as a starting guard in a year or two. Bullard was one of the top value picks in the draft and legitimately could start as a rookie. A downhill bruiser at 6-foot, 230, it wouldn't shock me if Howard emerged as the Bears' lead ball carrier at some point this year. In Kwiatkoski, Hall, and Houston-Carson, Chicago added year-one special teams contributors with a chance to become more down the line. After having only six picks in his first draft, I think sophomore GM Pace hit a homerun here. It should also be noted that the 2016 Bears should finally get a fully-healthy Kevin White.

Grade: A-

Detroit Lions

1 (16). Ohio State OT Taylor Decker
2 (46). Alabama DT A'Shawn Robinson
3 (95). Michigan C Graham Glasgow
4 (111). Southern Utah SS Miles Killebrew
5 (151). Washington State OG Joe Dahl
5 (169). Georgia Southern LB Antwione Williams
6 (191). Michigan QB Jake Rudock
6 (202). Penn State DL Anthony Zettel
6 (210). Baylor LS Jimmy Landes
7 (236). Washington RB Dwayne Washington

Overview: This haul also includes second-year DT Gabe Wright, whom ex-GM Martin Mayhew selected in the 2015 fourth round in exchange for parting with Detroit's 2016 third-round pick. (Wright was a bit player as a rookie.) New GM Bob Quinn knocked out a big need with his first-ever pick, bookending Riley Reiff with 2015's Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. Albeit short on pass-rush skills, Robinson gives Detroit an immediate contributor in DC Teryl Austin's defensive line rotation. Glasgow will push ineffective C Travis Swanson to start, while Killebrew is a sneaky bet to earn early-career snaps across from FS Glover Quin. Dahl adds interior depth with OGs Laken Tomlinson and Larry Warford coming off disappointing 2015s. I wasn't a fan of Quinn's final five picks, none of whom profiled as impact NFL players in college. The Lions came out of this draft still weak at cornerback and defensive end, and with unsolved questions at wide receiver, center, strong-side linebacker, and safety.

Grade: B-

Green Bay Packers

1 (27). UCLA DT Kenny Clark
2 (48). Indiana OT Jason Spriggs
3 (88). Utah State OLB Kyler Fackrell
4 (131). Nebraska ILB Blake Martinez
4 (137). Northwestern DE Dean Lowry
5 (163). California WR Trevor Davis
6 (200). Stanford OT Kyle Murphy

Overview: A high-energy nose tackle with a wrestling background, Clark addressed a pressing need following NT B.J. Raji's retirement. Packers GM Ted Thompson coveted Spriggs, sending Indianapolis fourth- (125) and seventh-round picks (248) in exchange for a nine-slot climb in round two, where LT David Bakhtiari's new backup was selected. Fackrell should replace Mike Neal as Green Bay's swiss-army-knife linebacker. Despite it continuing to be Green Bay's biggest need, Thompson has refused to draft an inside linebacker before the fourth round in back-to-back offseasons. With the exception of Clark, this draft was all about depth and supplementing the back end of Thompson's roster, particularly in the trenches. I would have liked the class better had Thompson emerged with a legitimate starter at inside linebacker, which could have ensured Clay Matthews will move back onto the edge.

Grade: B-

Minnesota Vikings

1 (23). Ole Miss WR Laquon Treadwell
2 (54). Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander
4 (121). Western Michigan T/G Willie Beavers
5 (160). Missouri ILB Kentrell Brothers
6 (180). Germany WR Moritz Boehringer
6 (188). Texas-San Antonio TE David Morgan
6 (227). Vanderbilt DE Stephen Weatherly
7 (244). Clemson S Jayron Kearse

Overview: On top of the above eight players, GM Rick Spielman acquired Miami's 2017 third- and fourth-round picks by trading out of his third-round slot (86). Spielman checked off a huge need with the Treadwell pick, giving Teddy Bridgewater a big-bodied, playmaking possession target to fill the Z role opposite X receiver Stefon Diggs. Although cornerback wasn't necessarily a Vikings need entering the draft, Alexander was a terrific late second-round value and could become Minnesota's slot corner in the next calendar year. The Brothers pick stands out as solid on day three, but Beavers and (especially) Boehringer are developmental players. Morgan was a productive FCS tight end, but ran a 5.02 forty before the draft. Kearse's name is much bigger than his game, frequently shying away from contact. I did like Spielman's flyer on toolsy pass rusher Weatherly late in round six. The Vikings' grade gets a bump after Spielman swindled the Dolphins out of two quality picks next year.

Grade: B

For the rest of the NFC grades, go here. To check out the grades for the AFC, click here.