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How Lions' 2018 opponents fared in free agency

The Detroit Lions know who their home and away opponents will be next season. The full schedule with dates and times is expected to be released later this month.

Free agency is now in its later stages, and the NFL Draft is quickly approaching. Some teams made big splashes in free agency, while others were more narrowly focused on filling needs and adding depth.

Whatever the strategy was for Detroit's 2018 opponents to build their rosters in free agency, we now have a pretty good sense of how they might be better off after the first wave.

Here's a look at the Lions' 2018 opponents, and how they fared in free agency:

Minnesota (home and away)

The two big signings for the Vikings were quarterback Kirk Cousins and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.

In Cousins, the Vikings have a former Pro Bowler, who's thrown for at least 4,000 yards in three straight seasons. He brings some consistency to a position that's been rather inconsistent over the years. Case Keenum had a fine 2017 season in Minnesota, but Cousins has a better track record of consistency over his career.

Minnesota's defensive line was already one of the best in football, and adding Richardson just further cements that status.

All three quarterbacks on last year's roster – Keenum, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater – signed with other teams, as did running back Jerick McKinnon.

Green Bay (home and away)

Like Minnesota, the Packers made one splash signing on both sides of the ball with tight end Jimmy Graham and defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. New GM Brian Gutekunst was aggressive in free agency, which we didn't see too often from former GM Ted Thompson.

Wilkerson joins Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark to form a nice trio upfront for Green Bay.

Graham is a touchdown machine (69 career), and is coming off a 2017 season in Seattle that saw him record 10. Graham, 31, is still very much a red zone threat for quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Losing safety Morgan Burnett (Pittsburgh) and receiver Jordy Nelson (Raiders) could sting a bit, but overall the Packers helped themselves in free agency.  

Chicago (home and away)

The Bears had the worst passing offense in the NFL last year, and used free agency as an opportunity to give second-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky some better weapons to throw to. Chicago signed veteran receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, along with tight end Trey Burton.

On defense, the Bears re-signed a few of their own players in linebacker Sam Acho and cornerbacks Prince Amukamara and Kyle Fuller.

Linebacker Christian Jones (Lions), linebacker Pernell McPhee (Redskins) and guard Josh Sitton (Miami) were a few key losses.

Los Angeles Rams (home)

There are teams that make a splash in the offseason. Then there's the Rams.

Los Angeles kicked off their offseason by trading for veteran cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. The cost was fourth and fifth round picks this year and a 2019 second rounder. Not bad.

The Rams then went out and signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in free agency to pair with Aaron Donald. The two could form one of the best interior defensive line tandems in the league.

Loosing receiver Sammy Watkins (Chiefs) is fairly substantial in that his deep threat opened things up for other Rams receivers, but the gains they made on defense certainly outweigh the loss of Watkins.

**Seattle (home)


The Seahawks didn't make any big splashes in free agency, but they did make a number of solid depth signings in defensive tackle Tom Johnson, defensive end Marcus Smith, running back Mike Davis, guard D.J. Fluker, wide receiver Jaron Brown, tight end Ed Dickson, linebacker Barkevious Mingo and safety Bradley McDougald.

Dickson steps in and helps fill the loss of Graham going to Green Bay. Seattle also lost backup tight end Luke Willson to Detroit, so tight end was on their free-agent shopping list.

The Seahawks lost defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson (Vikings), released veteran cornerback Richard Sherman (49ers) before the start of the league year, and traded defensive lineman Michael Bennett (Eagles).  

Lots of changes this offseason in Seattle.

Carolina (home)

One of Carolina's big-ticket signings, cornerback Bashaud Breeland, failed his physical, and the signing never became official.

The Panthers re-signed veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers, but lost defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (Bills) and guard Andrew Norwell (Jaguars).

The signing of cornerback Ross Cockrell and safety Da'Norris Searcy help bolster the secondary. Trading for receiver Torrey Smith gives them some needed depth at receiver.

Kicker Graham Gano got a new four-year deal, which was probably Carolina's best move of the offseason. It keeps one of the league's best kickers around for the foreseeable future.

New England (home)

As long as New England has Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, they'll be alright.

The Patriots' free-agent strategy was really to take care of some of their own players with the re-signing of running back Rex Burkhead, tackle LaAdrian Waddle, linebacker Marquis Flowers and special teamer Matthew Slater.

Signing defensive end Adrian Clayborn was New England's big splash outside their own roster.

The Patriots lost some significant pieces, however, with left tackle Nate Solder (Giants), running back Dion Lewis (Titans), receiver Danny Amendola (Dolphins) and cornerback Malcolm Butler (Titans) all signing elsewhere.

No matter what happens in the offseason, New England always seems to be able retool and make it work.

New York Jets (home)

Trumaine Johnson was one of the best cornerbacks on the market, and the Jets were able to lure him to New York. The Jets' secondary has real potential after re-signing cornerback Morris Claiborne to pair with safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.

The Jets also needed some talent at linebacker, and signed Avery Williamson away from the Titans.

Isaiah Crowell is a nice under-the-radar signing at running back, and the team also added Thomas Rawls at the position.

Quarterbacks Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater are on the roster, but the Jets could still look to add a youngster to the position after trading for the No. 3 overall pick.

San Francisco (away)

The 49ers have their quarterback of the future in Jimmy Garoppolo after he signed a massive contract this offseason. That's the key starting point for the franchise moving forward.

San Francisco further bolstered the offensive side of the football with the signings of center Weston Richburg and running back Jerick McKinnon.

The 49ers still have some work to do adding another receiver and improving the secondary, but those are likely to be addressed in the draft.

Arizona (away)

The Cardinals hope they've made the right improvements to their offensive line with the signings of guard/center Justin Pugh and tackle Andre Smith after allowing 52 sacks last season.

Quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon add depth to a roster that played three different quarterbacks in 2017 because of injury.

The additions probably don't outweigh the losses, however, after the Cardinals parted ways with defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, cornerback Tramon Williams, receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Xavier Williams.  

Dallas (away)

Using the franchise tag on talented pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence was job No. 1 this offseason. Re-signing defensive tackle David Irving (restricted free agent; tendered second round) was a close second.

Next was bolstering the offensive tackle position with the signing of Cameron Fleming and adding a couple receivers with the signings of Allen Hurns and Deonte Thompson.

The Cowboys lost cornerback Orlando Scandrick (Redskins) and linebacker Anthony Hitchens (Chiefs), but overall look to have done pretty well for themselves in free agency.

Miami (away)

There was a lot of turnover on this roster this offseason.

The team lost big-name veterans like Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, Mike Pouncey and Julius Thomas, but added guard Josh Sitton, receiver Danny Amendola and running back Frank Gore.

The Dolphins got a fourth-round pick and seventh rounder by trading Landry to the Browns.

Miami's season really comes down to the health and productivity of Ryan Tannehill, if they don't draft a quarterback early on.

Buffalo (away)

The Bills made the playoffs for the first time since 1999 last season but scored only three points in their Wild Card loss. The team has moved from Tyrod Taylor at quarterback to A.J. McCarron.

The Bills made a few impact signings in free agency by adding pass rusher Trent Murphy, cornerback Vontae Davis, defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, running back Chris Ivory, tackle Marshall Newhouse and defensive tackle Kyle Williams.

Buffalo's leading tackler last season, linebacker Preston Brown, signed with Cincinnati and cornerback E.J. Gaines is now a Brown. Those are two key losses on defense.

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