After the first week of the NFL’s Free Agency period, let’s breakdown the moves that were made and how the NFC North shapes up pre-draft for the 2020-21 season.
– Chicago Bears (2019-20 Record: 8-8 / 3rd in Division) –
Gained: QB- Nick Foles, DE- Robert Quinn, TE- Jimmy Graham
Lost: OLB- Leonard Floyd, S- Haha Clinton-Dix, CB- Prince Amukamara, WR- Taylor Gabriel, RG- Kyle Long (retired)
2019-20 was a rough time to be a Bears fan. The team had extremely high hopes in following a wonderful NFC North Title year in 2018, as many expected Trubisky to grow into the offense while the new age ‘Monsters of the Midway’ brought hell down on any opposition they faced. The exact opposite happened last season, however, as Trubisky and the defense underperformed. Chicago finished with a letdown 8-8 record, finishing 3rd place in the division.
They are a bottom 10 team in the league when it comes to available salary cap, with a lot of problems to address and not enough money to go around. Big pieces of the formidable defense that are no longer on the roster include Prince Amukamara, Leonard Floyd, and Haha Clinton-Dix. Bringing in Robert Quinn to line up opposite of Khalil Mack does help in swallowing the rest of the aforementioned roster cuts, but signing veteran Tight End Jimmy Graham surely did not make any Chicago fan feel better.
Finally, the sun of the Mitchell Trubisky era has either already set or will be setting soon, as the Bears front office made a deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars to trade for former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. Chicago elected to pay the rest of the Quarterback’s salary moving forward, as Foles and Trubisky will battle it out for the team’s starting job. I’m leaning Foles as starter come Week 1, but this is Trubisky’s last shot to prove that he’s worth something in this league moving forward. It will be interesting to see if the Bears can get over the hump in what seems to be a semi-rebuild this offseason.
*Chicago Bears +300 to win NFC North*
The Bears will inherit the final three-years of Nick Foles' deal, which pays a base value of $50M. He slots in as their starter.
The Jaguars will take on a dead cap charge of $18.75M for 2020, while stockpiling another draft pick as they go through a franchise transition.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) March 18, 2020
– Detroit Lions (2019-20 Record: 3-12-1 / 4th in Division) –
Gained: CB- Desmond Trufant, QB- Chase Daniel, DB- Duron Harmon, DT Danny Shelton, LB- Jamie Collins, OT- Halapoulivaati Vaitai,
Lost: CB- Darius Slay, DT- Damon “Snacks” Harrison, DT A’Shawn Robinson, LB Devon Kennard, C- Graham Glasgow, RT- Rick Wagner
There’s really only one thing to say about the Lions…Detroit is just not an attractive place to go to or live in for free agents. The team has been terrible, Head Coach Matt Patricia has failed to instill a winning environment in the city, and Detroit is on the list places like Cleveland and Cincinnati that do not attract talent.
While they have a sizable amount of cap to spend, there’s not much desire from UFA’s to make any moves to the Motor City. Detroit has decided to move on from long-time lockdown corner Darius Slay, as well as several pieces of their defense and offensive line. Notable acquisitions include corner Desmond Trufant, tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and veteran Chase Daniel, who will serve as Matthew Stafford’s backup. Barring an expected splash signing, I don’t expect the Lions to make too many game-changing moves before the draft outside of what they did in the last week.
*Detroit Lions +1000 to win NFC North*
Don't sleep on Darius Slay's speed ?? @_bigplayslay23 @Eagles pic.twitter.com/9MpZFroH3Q
— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) March 19, 2020
– Green Bay Packers (2019-20 Record: 13-3 / 1st in Division) –
Gained: LB- Christian Kirksey, RT- Rick Wagner
Lost: RT- Brian Bulaga, LB- Blake Martinez, TE- Jimmy Graham, FB- Danny Vitale
The Green Bay Packers crushed any and all expectations set for them in Matt LeFleur’s first year as Head Coach, finishing NFC North Champions at 13-3, and were one win away from participating in Super Bowl LIV. They appear to be running it back and doing everything they can to keep on winning, as they approach the final years of the Aaron Rodgers window.
Due to all the heavy moves they made in the 2018-19 offseason, the Packers aren’t expected to make many moves outside of the draft. They have moved on from Brian Bulaga, Jimmy Graham, and Blake Martinez, which will save them big money moving forward. They threw their name in the hat for both Austin Hooper and Emmanuel Sanders but were unsuccessful in acquiring a second stud to create space for wideout Davante Adams.
It is unclear if they will attain a second start wideout, but in a receiver-heavy draft class, it is more likely that they use the draft to grow their receiver farm. Green Bay will expect to repeat its NFC North success, while continuing to try to get Rodgers his second Super Bowl ring.
*Green Bay Packers +125 to win NFC North*
Breaking: Jimmy Graham is going to the Bears on a two-year, $16 million deal, including $9 million guaranteed, a source tells @AdamSchefter. pic.twitter.com/imkn76IAmP
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 16, 2020
– Minnesota Vikings (2019-20 Record: 10-6 / 2nd in Division) –
Gained: NT- Michael Pierce, Franchise Tagged SS Anthony Harris, Extended QB Kirk Cousins
Lost: WR- Stefon Diggs, DE- Everson Griffen, DB- Xavier Rhodes, DT- Lindval Joseph, CB- Trae Waynes, DE- Stephen Weatherly
The Vikings are in a really weird spot, as they are still contenders for the NFC North and the NFC playoff picture in general, but they’ve taken quite a hit defensively this offseason. The departure of most of their defensive line and secondary are a little shocking, and outside of franchise tagging Anthony Harris, there hasn’t been much done to fill those holes. Trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo might be healthy for the team’s chemistry and offensive flow moving forward, but they’ll need a massive season out of Kyle Rudolph, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook in order to make up for the stud route runner in Diggs.
*Bills trade for Stefon Diggs*
Bills mafia in their living rooms right now: pic.twitter.com/L4YBb2Ljd5
— Shooter McGavin (@ShooterMcGavin_) March 17, 2020
Minnesota elected to give their money to Kirk Cousins and Kicker Dan Bailey, while also starting up extension talks with RB Dalvin Cook. They’ll look to move forward and contend with this core group of players in 2019-20, but if they underperform, things could get ugly the next few seasons.