NFC NORTH

NFC North: Free agent additions and losses for Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

Posted Mar 27, 2013

Which teams are better off following the first two weeks of the free agent signing period?

Brian UrlacherLB Brian Urlacher (AP Images)

Where do the Bears, Packers, Lions and Vikings stand two weeks after free agency began?

CHICAGO BEARS

2012 record: 10-6

Key free agent acquisitions: TE Martellus Bennett, LT Jermon Bushrod. LB D.J. Williams, LB James Anderson, S Tom Zbikowski

Key free agent losses: LB Brian Urlacher, LB Nick Roach, LB Geno Hayes, QB Jason Campbell

Comment: Bennett is coming off a career season with the New York Giants in which he had 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns. In comparison, Bears tight ends produced just 29 catches for 297 yards and three scores.

Quarterback Jay Cutler now has a four-time Pro Bowl receiver in Brandon Marshall, a two-time Pro Bowl left tackle in Bushrod and a Pro Bowl running back in Matt Forte. With Bennett added to the mix, the Bears offense got better.

Anderson started 43 games over the last three years for the Panthers and D.J. Williams had 122 tackles in 2009, 119 in 2010 and 90 in 13 games in 2011. The pair should help stem some of the losses at linebacker for the Bears.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

2012 record: 11-5

Key free agent acquisitions: TE Jermichael Finley (re-sign)

Key free agent losses: WR Greg Jennings, LB Erik Walden, TE Tom Crabtree

Comment: The Packers usually go to one of two extremes in free agency: go big (i.e. signing Charles Woodson in 2006) or rely solely on the draft to build their roster and fill in the gaps. It’s been a pretty good strategy over the last four years. Over that span, the Packers have one Super Bowl title and two NFC North division titles.

Note: Charles Woodson is not on my list because he has yet to sign somewhere.

DETROIT LIONS

2012 record: 4-12

Key free agent acquisitions: RB Reggie Bush, S Glover Quin, DE Jason Jones, CB Chris Houston (re-sign), S Louis Delmas (re-sign)

Key free agent losses: DE Cliff Avril, LB Justin Durant, OT Gosder Cherilus, DT Sammie Hill

Comment: The additions of Bush, Quin and Jones fill three holes for the Lions. Don’t discount how important it was to re-sign Houston and Delmas.

The loss of Durant and Cherilus means the Lions are going to be inexperienced at one of the outside linebacker spots and at both tackle spots.

Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis are the main candidates to fill in for Durant. Riley Reiff, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox are likely to man two of the open tackle spots with the retirement of Jeff Backus added to the loss of Cherilus.

The Lions could draft highly at both positions.

The defense will miss Hill, resulting in the need to address depth at defensive tackle.

The Lions still have holes, but they’re a better team now than they were entering free agency.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

2012 record: 10-6

Key free agent acquisitions: WR Greg Jennings, RT Phil Loadholt, QB Matt Cassel, FB Jerome Felton (re-sign), LB Erin Henderson (re-sign), WR Jerome Simpson (re-sign)

Key free agent losses: WR Percy Harvin, CB Antoine Winfield, LB Jasper Brinkley

Comment: The Vikings traded Harvin for a nice bounty -- a first rounder (No. 25) and seventh rounder this year, and a third round pick next year. Picking up Jennings right afterward lessened some of the blow, though the Vikings will feel Harvin’s loss.

Cassel is an experienced passer in the NFL (62 starts) and could be called upon if Christian Ponder begins to struggle at any point this season.

Despite his age (35), Winfield played in all 16 games for the Vikings last year and finished with 101 tackles, three interceptions and defended 12 passes. The Vikings will look to Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson, Chris Cook and possibly the draft to help fill Winfield’s spot.

Jennings and Loadholt were terrific signings for the Vikings' offense.

Around the NFC North:

Hard to say if Tyler Eifert still a fit for Bears
Chicago Tribune

New Bears linebackers D.J. Williams and James Anderson ready to fill in gaps
Adam Jahns – Chicago Sun-Times

NFL teams usually in tough spot when ushering a star toward the sunset
Sean Jensen – Chicago Sun-Times

Browns sign former Bears quarterback Jason Campbell
ESPN.com news services

Bears agree to terms with Kelvin Hayden
Larry Mayer – chicagobears.com

Packers sign kicker Tavecchio to compete with Crosby
Pete Dougherty – Green Bay Press-Gazette

No changes on Finley's contract, gets $3 million bonus Tuesday
Pete Dougherty – Green Bay Press-Gazette

Multi-dimensional threats in demand
Tyler Dunne – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

HGH testing on hold as NFL, Union dig in
Mark Graig – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Vikings still looking for receivers
Louis Villaume – Minneapolis Star Tribune