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NFC North Flavors 71-80 Group of's Free Agents

The 2017 Free Agency Primer series uses *'s Top 101 Free Agents list to break down this year's class. We will count down the groups of players until March 9 when free agency is scheduled to open. *

*Note: The list may end up changing prior to free agency opening, but this breakdown is updated to the time of post. *


1-10: Thursday, March 9
11-20: Wednesday, March 8
21-30: Tuesday, March 7
31-40: Monday, March 6
41-50: Sunday, March 5
51-60: Saturday, March 4
61-70: Friday, March 3
71-80: Thursday, March 2
81-90:*Wednesday, March 1 | Click here
91-101: Tuesday, Feb. 28 | Click

Pending free agents ranked 71-80 by have an NFC North flavor that includes Vikings receiver and return specialist Cordarrelle Patterson, Packers linebacker Datone Jones and center J.C. Tretter and Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer.  

Patterson was ranked at 72. Jones and Tretter are 76 and 77, respectively, and Hoyer is at 80.

Jones is one of three linebackers, along with Houston's John Simon and Buffalo's Lorenzo Alexander, who was named Defensive MVP of the Pro Bowl.

71. OLB John Simon, Houston Texans

45 games, 12 starts, 116 tackles (79 solo), 10 sacks, three passes defended, one forced fumble

After beginning his career with limited action in Baltimore as a fourth-round pick, Simon started 12 of the 27 games he's played in the past two seasons for Houston. Simon posted 5.0 sacks for the Texans in 2015 and followed with 3.5 in 2016.

72. WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota Vikings

64 games, 22 starts, 132 receptions, 1,316 yards, seven touchdown catches; 31 rushes, 333 yards and four scores; 134 kickoff returns, 4,075 yards (30.4 average), five kickoff return touchdowns

Patterson is second in NFL history in kickoff return average behind Hall of Famer Gale Sayers (30.6) and has led the NFL in the category in three of four seasons. The 2013 first-round pick posted a career-high 52 receptions in 2016 with an expanded offensive role over the previous two seasons.

73. C Nick Mangold, New York Jets

164 games, 164 starts, seven Pro Bowls, two All-Pro selections

Mangold went his first five seasons without missing a start, helping the Jets make consecutive appearances in AFC title games after 2009-10, and was named All-Pro after each of those seasons. The 33-year-old former first-round pick never missed more than one start in a season before landing on injured reserve and missing eight starts in 2016. He was recently released by the Jets after 11 seasons.

74. T Kelvin Beachum, Jacksonville Jaguars

59 games, 54 starts

A seventh-round selection by Pittsburgh in 2012, Beachum started 39 of the 44 games he played for the Steelers, including 28 of 31 from 2013-14 before missing 10 games in 2015. Beachum started 15 games for the Jaguars in 2016 after signing a one-year deal.

75. DE Andre Branch, Miami Dolphins

67 games, 24 starts, 139 tackles (96 solo), 19.5 sacks, 12 passes defended, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, one fumble return touchdown

Selected in the second round by Jacksonville in 2012, Branch started 13 of 51 games he played in four seasons, posting a career-best 6.0 sacks in 2013. He joined the Dolphins on a one-year deal and started 11 of the 16 games he played for the Dolphins, recording 5.5 sacks.

76. DE/OLB Datone Jones, Green Bay Packers

59 games, seven starts, 80 tackles (58 solo), 9.0 sacks, one interception, seven passes defended, two fumble recoveries

A first-round pick in 2013, Jones is at the end of his rookie deal. He started a career-high four games in 2016 and has only missed five games in four seasons. Teams must consider if Jones is best suited to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3.

77. C J.C. Tretter, Green Bay Packers

31 games, 10 starts

Tretter suffered an ankle injury that occurred in Green Bay's first organized team activity practice of 2013. The former fourth-round pick was in line to become the starter in 2014 but missed the first half of his second season because of a knee injury that occurred in a preseason game. Tretter played in all 16 games in 2015 and started all seven he played in 2016. He has experience at center, left guard and both tackle positions.

78. OLB Lorenzo Alexander, Buffalo Bills

143 games, 32 starts, 21.5 sacks, 249 tackles (176 solo), 12 passes defended, six forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and an interception

Alexander became the oldest player to record 10 or more sacks in a season when he posted 12.5 at age 33 in his first year in Buffalo, where he started all 16 games for the first time in 10 pro seasons. He recorded his lone interception and a career-best 64 tackles as a member of his fourth team in a five-season span (Washington, Arizona, Oakland, Buffalo).

79. RB Rex Burkhead, Cincinnati Bengals

42 games, one start, 87 rushes, 375 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, three touchdowns; 34 receptions, 288 yards, one receiving score

A sixth-round pick in 2013, Burkhead earned the bulk of his opportunity in 2016 when he had career highs of 74 carries, 344 yards and two scores on the ground. He also equaled his number of catches (17) from his first three seasons combined and set a new career high with 145 receiving yards. Burkhead's 4.6 yards per carry was nearly a yard higher than Jeremy Hill (3.8) and Giovani Bernard (3.7), who suffered a torn ACL last November.

80. QB Brian Hoyer, Chicago Bears

49 games, 31 starts, 16-15 as a starter, 714 of 1,199 passing (59.5 percent completions), 8,608 yards, 44 touchdowns, 26 interceptions, 84.8 passer rating

Hoyer replaced Jay Cutler because of injury and started five games for the Bears in 2016 before suffering a season-ending arm injury of his own. He posted 300 or more yards passing in fourth straight games before hitting the shelf. After journeying from New England (2009-11) to Arizona (2012), he landed in Cleveland and started 16 games for the Browns from 2013-14 before joining Houston in 2015. Hoyer went 10-6 as a starter in Cleveland. All other quarterbacks the Browns have started since 2013 are a combined 5-43.  

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