NFC North Offseason Needs: Lions, Bears, Vikings, Packers
The NFC North was one of the most competitive divisions in football last year, putting pressure on teams this offseason to make the right moves that can move them to the top of the division. Let’s take a look at the offseason needs for the Bears, Packers, Vikings, and Lions.
Chicago Bears – With Jay Cutler being re-signed and wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery likely to be one of the top receiver duos in the NFL in 2014, the offense is in great shape, which means the Bears need to turn their full attention to the defense. The secondary was atrocious last season, and the Bears could benefit from four new starters there next year, although if that’s not realistic they need at least one new safety to replace free agent Major Wright and one new starter at cornerback to replace Charles Tillman. Chicago devoted much of last year’s draft to the linebacker position, so that may not be a priority this offseason, unless they can add an impact player. However, the same can’t be said about the defensive line. The interior of the line could use an impact player, while Julius Peppers could become a salary cap casualty, forcing the Bears to spend money or a high-round draft pick on a pass rusher, meaning the defensive line will require a lot of attention this offseason.
Detroit Lions – Despite its collapse at the end of the season that prompted a coaching change, Detroit isn’t far away from being competitive if they can have a successful offseason. The Lions have one of the most talented defensive fronts in the NFL, but they leave a lot to be desired in the secondary. Detroit would be wise to bring in re-sign veteran cornerback Rashean Mathis to help solidfy the unit, but they should also sign a younger cornerback that can step into the starting lineup. They were forced to cut safety Louis Delmas for cap reasons, so the Lions may need to use an early-round draft pick on a safety, while also adding depth at that position later in the draft if they can. Detroit could also consider using a high draft pick on a wide receiver, taking advantage of the depth at that position to give Matthew Stafford a talented number-two receiver to complement Calvin Johnson, but right now the Lion’s offense isn’t as much of a priority as the defense.
Green Bay Packers – If the Packers can re-sign Matt Flynn or one way or another bring in a backup quarterback that they trust, the offense should be in good shape heading into next season. However, the Green Bay defense needs a lot of work, as it pales in comparison to the defenses of the other top teams in the NFC. Outside of A.J. Hawk and Nick Perry, the Packers don’t have much at linebacker, and they’ll need an infusion of talent at that position this offseason. Up front, Green Bay won’t miss B.J. Raji that much, but they will need to add one or two defensive linemen, possibly using an early-round pick to do so. In the secondary, the Packers need to do what they can to re-sign Sam Shields, but they’ll also need to add talent at the safety position, as well as depth throughout their secondary.
Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings will likely look to draft a new quarterback this year, but the top three quarterbacks could all be off the board by the time Minnesota is on the clock with the 8th overall pick, so that could make their pursuit of a signal caller complicated. If they can find a suitable quarterback at some point, then the offense should be in good shape, which would allow Minnesota to spend the rest of the offseason focusing on their defense. After a lot of good seasons, Jared Allen appears to be on his way out of town, so the Vikings will need a pass-rushing defensive end, which could be their biggest priority in the draft outside of quarterback. Minnesota also leaves a lot to be desired at linebacker and they may need to make a splash at that position in free agency if their top draft picks are used on a quarterback and a pass rusher. It might also be beneficial for the Vikings to add a piece or two to their secondary, although the future appears to be bright for cornerback Xavier Rhodes, which gives some hope for the future of their secondary.