The first wave of free agency has come and gone, and each of the four teams in the NFC North have to feel better about their roster than they did this time last week.
Here’s a look at what the Vikings, Lions, Packers and Bears have accomplished in free agency thus far:
2017 record: 13-3
Key free-agent signings: QB Kirk Cousins, DT Sheldon Richardson, QB Trevor Siemian (trade) and G/C Nick Easton
Big free-agent losses: RB Jerick McKinnon (49ers), QB Case Keenum (Broncos), QB Teddy Bridgewater (Jets), QB Sam Bradford (Cardinals), CB Tramaine Brock (Broncos)
Best acquisition: Cousins
Twentyman’s take: What a perfect situation to step into in Minnesota for Cousins. Not only does the veteran quarterback have one of the best receiver tandems in the league to throw to in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, but Minnesota’s offensive line played pretty well last year, and running backs Latavius Murray and Dalvin Cook are a nice one-two punch behind him at running back.
Then there’s the Vikings defense that ranked either first or second in every major statistical category last season, and didn’t lose any key pieces this offseason.
With the addition of Cousins, the Vikings should certainly enter the spring as the team to beat in the NFC North.
2017 record: 9-7
Key free-agent signings: RB LeGarrette Blount, LB Devon Kennard, LB Christian Jones, CB DeShawn Shead, CB Nevin Lawson, S Tavon Wilson, RB Zach Zenner, LS Don Muhlbach and G Kenny Wiggins
View photos of running back LeGarrette Blount. Photos by Associated Press.
Big free-agent losses: DT Haloti Ngata (Eagles), TE Eric Ebron (released), LB Tahir Whitehead (Raiders), CB DJ Hayden (Jaguars), TE Darren Fells (Browns) and S Don Carey (Jaguars)
Best acquisition: Blount
Twentyman’s take: In Blount, the Lions have acquired a 245-pound bruiser, who should immediately make an impact in the short-yardage and goal line situations where the Lions particularly struggled last season. Detroit converted just 50 percent (7-of-14) of their rushing attempts on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 last season, which ranked last in the league.
Blount isn’t just a short-yardage back, however. Just two seasons ago he rushed for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns for the New England Patriots.
Blount helped the Eagles to a Super Bowl title this past season rushing for 766 yards (4.4 average) while sharing the backfield with Jay Ajayi.
2017 record: 7-9
Key free-agent signings: TE Jimmy Graham, DT Muhammad Wilkerson, QB DeShone Kiser (trade; Browns)
Big free-agent losses: CB Damarious Randall (trade; Browns). WR Jordy Nelson (released)
Best acquisition: Graham
Wilkerson will immediately help the Packers' defense, but the possibilities for Graham are pretty endless playing alongside MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Graham is still one of the best red-zone threats in the league, and Rodgers has a way of making everyone around him even better. Graham had 57 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season, and has had at least 10 touchdowns in a season four times over an eight-year career.
Twentyman’s take: Graham and Wilkerson were two key free-agent signings for the Packers at two very big areas of need. Both should step in right away and have a big impact.
Wilkerson is coming off a 46-tackle, 3.5-sack season for the Jets, but is just two seasons removed from a Pro Bowl appearance and 12-sack season. He’s still only 28, and gets a chance for a fresh start in Green Bay.
The Packers have certainly gotten quality over quantity so far in free agency.
2017 record: 5-11
Key free-agent signings: WR Allen Robinson, TE Trey Burton, CB Kyle Fuller, CB Prince Amukamara, WR Taylor Gabriel, PK Cody Parkey, LB Aaron Lynch, QB Chase Daniels, LB Sam Acho and P Pat O’Donnell
Big free-agent losses: G Josh Sitton (released), LB Christian Jones (Lions), LB Jerrell Freeman (released), LB Pernell McPhee (released), S Quinton Demps (released)
Best acquisition: Robinson
Twentyman’s take: The Bears ranked last in passing last season. Their leading receiver was Kendall Wright with 59 catches and 614 yards.
Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky is entering his second season in 2018, and GM Ryan Pace had to get him some weapons to throw to. The additions of Robinson and Burton, and even Gabriel, really help in that regard. Don’t be surprised if Pace adds another receiver or two in the draft as well.
Robinson is coming off a torn ACL suffered Week 1 last season, but in the two seasons prior he caught 73 and 80 passes, respectively, for over 2,000 combined yards and 20 touchdowns.
Young quarterbacks need reliable weapons, and Robinson and Burton certainly look to be that for Trubisky.