LIONS INSIDER

NFC NORTH: Free agency updates around the division

Posted Mar 14, 2017

Tim Twentyman takes a look at how all four teams in the NFC North are faring in free agency so far.

Free agency is less than a week old, and the four teams in the NFC North have been very busy building their rosters for the upcoming 2017 season.

The Packers signed a key playmaker on defense. Detroit focused a lot of attention on boosting their offensive line. The Vikings also retooled their offensive line. And there’s a new gunslinger in Chicago.

Here’s a free agency recap so far for the four teams in the NFC North:

GREEN BAY

2015 record: 10-6 (won division)

Key free-agent signings: TE Martellus Bennett, OLB Nick Perry, OL Don Barclay, TE Lance Kendricks

Big free-agent losses: G T.J. Lang (Lions), TE Jared Cook (no longer in contact), OLB Julius Peppers (Carolina), DB Micah Hyde (Bills), C JC Tretter (Browns).

Best acquisition: Re-signing Nick Perry was a great move for GM Ted Thompson. Perry’s gotten over some injuries early in his career to become a productive player in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. He recorded 11 sacks last season and is an ascending talent.

Twentyman’s take: Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will have a new veteran tight end with a long history of production to throw to in Bennett. He caught 55 balls for 701 yards and seven scores in New England last season.

Losing Lang and Hyde will sting a bit, but teams can’t re-sign everyone. The Packers have been very good at having youngsters ready to fill holes, and they continue to win with that formula. Don’t expect anything different this season.

DETROIT

2015 record: 9-7

Key free-agent signings: RT Rick Wagner, G T.J. Lang, DT Akeem Spence, DE Cornelius Washington, LB Paul Worrilow, DE Kerry Hyder (exclusive rights), TE Darren Fells, WR Keshawn Martin

Big free-agent losses: LB DeAndre Levy (released), T Riley Reiff (Vikings), G Larry Warford (Saints).

Best acquisition: The combo of Wagner and Lang. The Lions lost the starting right side of their offensive line to free agency, and most would argue they upgraded at both spots with the additions of Wagner and Lang.

Twentyman’s take: GM Bob Quinn continues to focus on boosting the trenches and filling needs upfront, especially along the offensive line. He wasn’t kidding when he said after the season he wanted to bolster Detroit’s lackluster run game. The signing of Wagner, Lang and Fells should help immediately in that department.

The Lions still need playmakers on defense, and their numbers at linebacker are low, but this might be the best defensive draft class in the past decade. Quinn’s savvy signings in free agency filled holes and allows him to get the best players available on his draft board.

MINNESOTA

2015 record: 8-8

Key free-agent signings: T Riley Reiff, T Mike Remmers

Big free-agent losses: CB Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers), P Jeff Locke (Colts), T Matt Kalil (Panthers), WR Charles Johnson (Panthers), TE Rhett Ellison (Giants), LB Audie Cole (Jaguars)

Best acquisition: The Vikings needed to come out of free agency with at least one quality starting tackle, and they got one in Reiff. The Vikings played 12 different offensive linemen in 2016 with five different left tackles. Reiff isn’t a Pro Bowler, but he’s a pretty reliable starting-caliber left tackle in this league.

Twentyman’s take: The Vikings are still in the mix for a couple big names left in free agency, but GM Rick Spielman accomplished what he knew he had to, which was bolstering an offensive line that was Minnesota’s biggest Achilles heel last season.

It will be interesting to see what happens with Adrian Peterson. It seems unlikely a team will pay him more than what the Vikings probably would for a return to Minnesota. Will they make one more run at a title together, or will the Vikings move on and look for his replacement in a very deep draft class of running backs?

CHICAGO

2015 record: 3-13

Key free-agent signings: QB Mike Glennon, CB Prince Amukamara, WR Kendall Wright, WR Markus Wheaton, TE Dion Sims, S Quinten Demps, CB Marcus Cooper

Big free-agent losses: WR Alshon Jeffery (Eagles), QB Jay Cutler (released), QB Brian Hoyer (49ers), DE Cornelius Washington (Lions), QB Matt Barkley (49ers), OL Ted Larsen (Dolphins)

Best acquisition: The signing of Marcus Cooper was an under-the-radar deal that looks nice on paper. Cooper, 27, has great size at 6-foot-2, 197 pounds and had a breakout year in 2016, setting career-highs in games started (13), tackles (69) and interceptions (four).

Twentyman’s take: The Bears dolled out a lot of guaranteed money to the likes of Glennon, Amukamara, Wheaton, Sims, Demps and Cooper. Whether that was a wise move or not is yet to be determined.

Glennon, obviously, will make or break this free-agent class for the Bears. You can’t win without a quality quarterback. Just can’t do it.

After cutting or losing all of their starting quarterbacks to free agency, and then watching their top receiver walk out the door, the Bears had to retool at the offensive skill positions. They have a great young back in Jordan Howard to build around. They’re hoping Glennon can break out, and Wheaton and Wright recapture some old magic.