NFC North Notes: Levy, Lions, Waynes, Vikings

Lions linebacker DeAndre Levy is set to become a free agent at season’s end, leading Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press to wonder what an extension between Detroit and the 2014 second-team All Pro might look like. As of April, the two parties hadn’t even begun a conversation about a long-term deal, and Birkett thinks the club might be waiting for fellow OLB Lavonte David to work out an extension with the Buccaneers, and therefore set some sort of baseline for talks.

K.J. Wright is currently the highest earner among 4-3 outside linebackers, as he’ll make $6.75MM under the terms of his December extension. I think David should be able to top that figure, so Detroit (and Levy’s representatives) would need to decide if David’s potential AAV is a ceiling or a floor for Levy. The 28-year-old Levy graded as the third-best 4-3 OLB in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), but technically was the best off-the-ball linebacker, as the two players ranked ahead of him — Khalil Mack and Von Miller — aren’t typical 4-3 outside ‘backers.

Let’s look at some more notes from the NFC North, including more from Birkett on the Lions:

  • If the Lions can’t work out an agreement with Levy, the franchise tag would not be an option, per Birkett (via Twitter). It makes sense, as the linebacker franchise figure — inflated by edge-rushing LBs — is more than $13MM for this season. Levy isn’t worth that amount, so knocking out an extension is probably the only way for Detroit to retain him.
  • After making a series of transactions last week, the Lions‘ roster count now sits at 89, so they have one spot to add a player. Responding to a Twitter question, Birkett guesses that Detroit will use the vacancy to add either an offensive or defensive lineman.
  • Vikings first-round cornerback Trae Waynes is finding that the adjustment from college to the NFL isn’t so easy, as Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News writes. “It’s steep,” Waynes said of the learning curve. “It’s like a mountain, but luckily we have guys on the team and the coaching staff that are willing to help you out through that process.” Waynes also divulged that he’s been handling slot duties, as Xavier Rhodes and Terence Newman have been playing on the outside during practice sessions.
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