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NFC North Watch: Laying the Offseason Groundwork

So as we're painfully aware, it's the offseason. Which means sometimes there isn't enough Bears news to go around, so we're going to keep an eye or two or three (wait what?) scattered around the division. "Know thy enemy" is a very sage piece of wisdom in any competitive endeavor, and it continues to hold true in football, so as we started doing on a near-weekly basis last offseason, we'll share every-so-often what's going on with the guys the Bears play against a combined six times each season.

But first, I'll throw a quick link at you that slipped in past the Friday Den... ESPNChicago got Football Outsiders to reveal a snippet of their "needs" for each of the NFC North teams. Long story short (or short story shorter), the Lions need run-blocking, Green Bay needs pass rush, and the Vikings need to improve "perhaps 'the worse secondary in the league'."

Over in Lions land, they have their own version of the Matt Forte problem - defensive end Cliff Avril says he'll contemplate holding out if the team uses the franchise tag on him instead of negotiating a long-term deal.

"I don't want to be franchised," Avril told the newspaper. "That's basically what I got last year. The (restricted free-agent) tender was basically the same thing. I just want security and longevity."

General manager Martin Mayhew has said publicly he doesn't plan to use the franchise tag but the Free Press reported Friday, citing unnamed sources, that the Lions are likely to apply their franchise tender to Avril if they can't agree to a long-term deal.

Green Bay has its own problem, one that isn't exactly felt on the football field as of yet. The Packers' unique ownership situation is well-known, but in order to maintain pace with the league's wealthier teams, they've had to become more corporate. For a look at how they'll try to continue to balance the situation, a solid read here.

Also with the Packers, their 7th-round draft pick in 2008, Matt Flynn has said he wants to be a starter in the league. Really, who wouldn't.

"I'm a confident person but the element of the unknown makes you wish March 13 was tomorrow," Flynn said this week. "I've loved being a Packer, and it's not 100% sure I'm leaving Green Bay, but as a competitor and football player, that's what you play the game for -- to be a starter in the League. Hopefully some teams will be interested in me and I can find a good opportunity. I want to lead a team and I'm excited about it. But I can't talk to teams now. I don't know if I'm on their radar. It's going to be a long month leading up to that time -- waiting and wondering."

Remember when we were worried about Caleb Hanie getting starter offers after one "par" quarter-outing in the playoffs? Flynn has a couple starts with decent - okay, very solid results - but that's enough to pay him franchise tag money or hand him a starting job?

With the Vikings, they may well be homeless marauders no longer... and no, it doesn't involve Los Angeles. According to reports, the team, the state of Minnesota and the city of Minneapolis have reached a tentative deal on a $975 million stadium at or near the Metrodome site.

In other Vikings news, running back Adrian Peterson is set to start running at the end of the month, as he continues to rehab from injuring his ACL late in the season.