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Free Agency Grades: NFC North

Nate Bouda April 2, 2012 Bears, Lions, NFLTR Features, Packers, Vikings No Comments

Chicago Bears

Additions: RB Matt Forte (F), WR Brandon Marshall, RB Michael Bush, DE Israel Idonije (R), CB Tim Jennings (R), TE Kellen Davis (R), WR Eric Weems, QB Jason CampbellWR Devin Thomas

Subtractions: S Brandon Meriweather, OT Frank Omiyale, QB Caleb Hanie, RB Marion Barber

It probably should have come sooner, but the Chicago Bears finally made the decision to remove GM Jerry Angelo and hand the job over to former Chiefs executive Phil Emery.

Right before the start of free agency, Emery cut a deal with the Dolphins that sent two third-round picks to Miami in return for WR Brandon Marshall, who will now be reunited with his former QB Jay Cutler. The Bears also added Jeremy Bates, who worked with Cutler while in Denver, so they definitely made it point to make things more comfortable for their quarterback.

Matt Forte has garnered a lot of coverage because of his current contract status, and the Bears decision to add a better RB compliment seemed to add to his frustrations. With that being said, they probably made the right decision in regards to what’s best for the team. Forte has been an amazing weapon in recent years, but there’s no question that they shouldn’t have been relying on him as much as they were. Bush should help with that. I really liked the signing of Jason Campbell a lot. Cutler has gone down in consecutive year’s, and while I’d be surprised to see that continue, Campbell provides a more than adequate backup option in comparison to Caleb Hanie. Tim Jennings and Kellen Davis were both solid moves to round out their roster.

As for the players lost, I can’t see them missing any of these guys next season.

Chicago appears to be comfortable with their current group of offensive linemen, but you’d have to think that would at least take someone in the draft that can give them some extra depth on their O-Line. There have been a number of rumors that the Bears could be leaning towards taking a defensive lineman with their first-round pick which makes sense considering that Israel Idonije isn’t that great of player.

B+

 

Detroit Lions

Additions: WR Calvin Johnson (R), DE Cliff Avril (F), LB Stephen Tulloch (R), OT Jeff Backus (R), QB Shaun Hill (R), RB Kevin Smith (R), CB Jacob Lacey

Subtractions: CB Eric Wright, QB Drew Stanton

Detroit came into the offseason with some pretty serious obstacles to address.

Cliff Avril was going to get a huge deal on the open market and maintaining a solid defensive front was one of their top priorities, so it wasn’t surprising to see them franchise him right away. They had limited cap space to work with so renegotiating Calvin Johnson‘s contract was an obvious move, considering that his cap number was close to $20 million for the 2011 season. On top of that, you’re not going to allow one of the games best weapons to leave during free agency, so addressing his long-term future with the team will at least shift the attention away from that heading into the 2012 season. I’m a big fan of Stephen Tulloch, who was an absolute steal for Detroit last year, and getting him for five-years at $25.5 million isn’t that bad when you consider that D’Qwell Jackson received five-years and $42.5 million and is two years older, with a serious injury history. Shaun Hill is another solid move for Detroit.

Losing Eric Wright, when they already needed help at the position with him, seems like an issue but it was probably the right move for them. Wright was considerably worse than Aaron Berry and Chris Houston, according to Pro Football Focus, so committing to him long-term could have been a terrible mistake.

As long as they address the position during the early portion of the draft, they should be alright. Finding a long-term solution at OT wasn’t going to happen in free agency so that too should be addressed.

B+

 

Green Bay Packers

Additions: TE Jermichael Finley (R), C Jeff Saturday, CB Jarrett Bush (R), DT Anthony Hargrove, DT Dan Muir

Subtractions: QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells

The Packers are a notoriously boring team during free agency, so the fact that they actually signed a few free agent’s is kind of a big deal for them.

Many assumed that re-signing TE Jermichael Finley early on would allow them to franchise QB Matt Flynn and trade him for draft picks, but the Packers may not have received anymore than a third-round for him. They’ll probably end up with a third-round selction next year now that he signed with the Seahawks. Things were getting pretty contentious with C Scott Wells, and it became quite evident that he would be playing elsewhere next season. Wells graded out as the #4 center in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus, so finding an adequate replacement was pretty important for the Packers.

Jeff Saturday is nearing 40, but has been remarkably solid in recent years and brings plenty of experience and leadership to what is still one of the youngest teams in the NFL. I actually like this move a lot for Green Bay. Signing DT Anthony Hargrove is another logical move considering that they had, arguably, the worst defensive front in the NFL last season. Hargrove will hopefully provide some of the interior pass rush that they sorely missed last year when they lost Cullen Jenkins.

The Packers have 12 draft picks to work with and their roster is deep at a number of positions, so I’m sure they be able to fix their remaining needs.

C-

 

Minnesota Vikings

Additions: LB Erin Henderson (R), G Geoff Schwartz, TE John Carlson, DT Letroy Guion (R), QB Sage Rosenfels (R)

Subtractions: G Steve Hutchinson, G Anthony Herrera, CB Cedric Griffin, TE Jim Kleinsasser

 

The Vikings are also starting anew this season with the hiring of GM Rick Speilman, but the results during free agency weren’t exactly inspiring.

Retaining Erin Henderson makes sense considering that he’s 25 and is coming off of a very solid for the team, but they chose to only sign him to a one-year, $2 million contract. They could easily have made that a three-year deal with an out in the third year, but it’s hard to argue when you’re paying a productive player a minimal salary. Geoff Schwartz could end up being a steal for Minnesota and is capable of playing both OT and G, and figures to take over for Steve Hutchinson. I can’t understand why they chose to give an often injured TE, that has yet to live up to his expectations, a four-year, $25 million contract that includes $9.1 million guaranteed. They’re obviously trying to create some mismatches with their tight ends, and Kyle Rudolph is going to be great, but that’s way to much money to commit to a questionable player.

The Vikings were rumored to have interest in CB Brandon Carr, who really could have helped their secondary out a lot, but they surprisingly showed very little interest in him. I know the Cowboys probably paid too much for him, but he’s a much better gamble than signing Carlson. Cutting Hutchison has more to do with the amount of money he was owed, paired with his age, but he was very effective last season and I’m sure the Titans are happy to have him under contract.

D

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