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NFC NORTH: 3 positions of need for each team

Only two teams are still playing football this week, which means the other 30 teams in the NFL are already into their offseason evaluations and preparations for the 2019 season. This includes all four teams in the NFC North.

As Chicago, Minnesota, Green Bay and Detroit begin the process of identifying their needs and preparing for free agency and the draft, let's take a look at some of the positions where upgrades could be on the menu:


Record: 12-4

3 positions of need:

1. Kicker: The Bears don't have a ton of needs, but no roster is perfect. There is speculation the Bears will part ways with Cody Parkey, who missed 11 kicks in his first season in Chicago, which included a 43-yarder (partially blocked) that would have given the Bears the win over Philadelphia in the first round of the playoffs. The team recently signed kicker Redford Jones. Parkey's 2019 contract is fully guaranteed, but a change might be needed there.

2. Safety: Adrian Amos is scheduled to become a free agent. He has played well enough in Chicago the last two years to earn himself a nice payday in free agency. Can the Bears afford to keep him? If not, they'll be on the lookout for a new strong safety to pair with free safety Eddie Jackson.

3. Defensive end: Akiem Hicks is one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in football, but imagine how much better the Bears' defense could be with a proven playmaker opposite Hicks at the other defensive end position. 

Stats pack: Chicago's field goal percentage of 76.2 percent ranked 27th in the NFL in 2018. The league average was 84.7 percent.


Record: 8-7-1

3 positions of need:

1. O-line help: Riley Reiff is a lock for one of the tackle spots, but a case could be made that the other four spots upfront are kind of in flux. Minnesota allowed the most quarterback pressures (188) in the NFL this season, according to Pro Football Focus stats. It's time for the Vikings to spend some draft capital and free agent dollars on upgrading their offensive line.

2. Outside linebacker: Anthony Barr is scheduled to become a free agent. If he leaves Minnesota, they'll have a significant hole to fill. The Vikings have some young players in wait, but they could look to add to this group early in the draft or with a veteran free agent, if they let Barr walk.

3. Defensive tackle: Like Barr, Sheldon Richardson is slated to hit free agency this offseason as well. Tom Johnson will be 35-years-old next season. The Vikings should be on the lookout for a starter next to Linval Joseph this offseason. 

Stats pack: Kirk Cousins is at his best when he has time to throw. Cousins was sacked 40 times this season, and the Vikings' 35.8 conversion percentage on third down ranked 26th in the NFL.


Record: 6-9-1

3 positions of need:

1. Edge rusher: The pass rush was incredibly lacking in Green Bay this season, and outside linebacker Clay Matthews is headed to free agency. Kyler Fackrell is a terrific talent (10.5 sacks), but Matthews, Nick Perry and Reggie Gilbert combined for just 7.5 sacks. The Packers need more help there.

2. Safety: The Packers need a quality starter to replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who they traded midseason.

3. O-line help: David Bakhtiari is an All-Pro left tackle, and Corey Linsley is a good center, but right tackle Bryan Bulaga has missed 13 games the last two seasons and is entering the final year of his contract. Green Bay could also look to upgrade both guard spots.

Stats pack: Opponents had a passer rating of 108.0 on passes that traveled at least 21 yards in the air on Green Bay's defense this season. Only San Francisco (112.0) was worse. Seven of those passes resulted in touchdowns, the fourth highest total allowed.


Record: 6-10

3 positions of need:

1. Edge rusher: The Lions generated 43 sacks and ranked in the top 10 in quarterback pressures (130), but those sacks were distributed among a lot of different players. Romeo Okwara led the team with 7.5. Imagine the impact a double-digit sack artist coming off the edge could have on a Lions defense that's proven it can generate pressure from a lot of different spots.

2. Cornerback: Veteran Darius Slay is one of the best in the business, but the Lions could look to add some talent at the position and promote some competition for the other outside cornerback spot. Starter Nevin Lawson returns in 2019, but Detroit could look to push him with someone who has better ball skills and the ability to create turnovers.

3. Tight End: The Lions released Eric Ebron last offseason and were never able to add enough talent to fill the void, though it wasn't for a lack of trying. This is a loaded tight end class in the draft, and there are also some quality players set to hit the free agent market. Look for the Lions to upgrade the position this offseason.

Stats pack: The Lions had just 14 takeaways all season, which were the second fewest in the NFL. They had just seven interceptions, also tied for the second fewest. They need to add some playmakers on that side of the ball.

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