We’ve almost seen each of the free agents find new homes, and mostly figured out where each team is at going into the NFL Draft. We’ve got a roundup for each division after almost two full weeks (and most of the big signings in the books), and we’ll be putting them out over the next week or so. According to the NFL’s “Top 101 Free Agents” chart, 83% have found new homes, so we’ve got a solid look at who is going where.
Next up we’ve got the NFC North, which saw the usual Vikings and Cowboys duel, but the Lions took a jump up. Now, with each team looking to vault into the playoff discussion, and a rebuilding Bears team, who has added enough to take the banner from the ever-fluctuation North?
The Bears had an abysmal campaign in 2016 wrought with underachievement, injuries, and front office drama. This time, they decided to cut tape and start the rebuild. That means Jay Cutler is gone, and so too is Alshon Jeffery. That means the offense is taking a big step back. The rest of their QBs are gone too, with Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley bolting to San Fran. Mike Glennon is their replacement, and he got a big deal to be that savior. They brought in Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright to throw to, and they are serviceable glue guys. The defense also added some depth, notably Prince Amukamara. Still, this roster is just slight addition, and a slow pace toward competing again.
The Lions are one of those teams that are on that next tier that’s close to being a real contender, and that is on the shoulders (and arm) of Matt Stafford. The organization went into the offseason with the goal of adding depth to the two-deep, and to beef up the offensive line. They took some early losses on the line by losing Riley Reiff and Larry Warford, but actually got a better pairing in my estimation with two better pass-blocking guys in TJ Land and Ricky Wagner. Adding some depth to the defensive line in Akeem Spence and Jordan Hill, and got a solid corner in DJ Hayden. The Lions didn’t make any huge splashes, but with some added depth, they may not have needed to.
Green Bay Packers
We’ve come to love this Packers team, with Aaron Rodgers and those prolific offensive players and that abysmal defense. They’ve been up and down the last few years since winning the Super Bowl, but come in as year in and year out favorites. They’ve got a mountain to climb now. The Packers have by far lost the most of any team in free agency, adding just Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks and resigning Nick Perry from last year’s squad. But the losses are much more massive. Off the defense, they lost safety Micah Hyde, and two former starting linebackers in Datone Jones and Julius Peppers. And the offense is even worse: gone are JC Tretter and TJ Lang, a starting guard and backup center. Gone also are Jared Cook, one of Rodgers favorite targets, and running back Eddie Lacy. That means that a bulk of the offense is gone, and no one but Bennett and Kendricks to replace them. I do like that combo, and it adds some more targets that are desperately needed for Rodgers. But the holes at corner and running back are only getting larger. The draft may offer more answers, but for now, the Packers look like a team that’s suffered some serious attrition.
The Vikings had an admirable season given all of the horrible things that happened to them. The Sam Bradford trade worked out well, with Bradford playing as solid as he has at any point in his career. With Teddy Bridgewater likely still out this year, the Vikings are looking to beef up that offense. Adrian Peterson is likely gone, as is Rhett Ellison. They took some efforts to fix the offensive line, however, swapping out oft-injured Matt Kalil and adding Riley Reiff and Mike Remmers to the tackle spot. Case Keenum is a good QB3 as well, and Latavious Murray is a fine back to replace AP. Losing Cordarrelle Patterson doesn’t necessarily hurt either, with the coaching staff showing signs of burning out on his mental lapses. The defense picked up Datone Jones, but hemorrhaged Audie Cole and Captain Munnerlyn. Munnerlyn particularly hurts, as his play in the secondary has been solid throughout his time in Minnesota. They didn’t win the division already, but they look like the most rock solid team in April.