2014 Offseason Review: NFC North

Are the Bears Super Bowl bound?
Will a new coach be the difference for the Lions?
Can the Packers defense become a strength of the team?
Do the Vikings have a quarterback?

Let’s have a look at the offseason of the NFC North Division.

Chicago

Free Agency: An overhaul of the defense was in order, and that’s what the Bears did. The signing of young DE’s Lamarr Houston (Raiders) & Willie Young (Lions) are top notch moves. The Bears didn’t stop there as they also added FS Ryan Mundy (Giants) & SS Danny McCray (Cowboys) and veteran players such as SS Adrian Wilson (Patriots), LB Tim Dobbins (Texans) & DE Jared Allen (Vikings). The Offense was also addressed with the addition of C Brian De La Puente (Saints) and WR’s Domenik Hixon (Panthers) & Josh Morgan (Redskins). The combination of youth and veteran players gives the Bears exactly what they needed to become a strong team.

Grade: A+

Draft: Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller may not be the fastest player in the secondary but he adds a great physical presence that the Bears need. DT’s Ego Ferguson (Louisiana State) & Will Sutton (Arizona State) are not spectacular, but they won’t be asked to be day 1 starters. Minnesota FS Brock Vereen is a great 4th round pick & San Jose State QB David Fales becomes an intriguing player to watch in a very crowded position.

Grade: B-

Overview: Despite losing Julius Peppers, Devin Hester, Henry Melton, Corey Wooton, Major Wright & Josh McCown, the Bears have made improvements, and have fans clamoring for a Super Bowl appearance. Those dreams all lie with the performance of QB Jay Cutler, who has to be feeling the pressure of “It’s now or never.” Cutler has few excuses; with a reorganized defense, a good running game with Matt Forte, and one of the top WR duos in the NFL (Brandon Marshall & Alshon Jeffery), it is not difficult to see that the Bears should be strong contenders for the Super Bowl.

Detroit

Free Agency: WR Golden Tate (Seahawks) is now the compliment to WR Calvin Johnson. Whether he is up for the job remains to be seen. WR Naaman Roosevelt (Browns) was added as insurance. On defense, LB Darryl Tapp (Redskins) & SS James Ihedigbo (Ravens) are solid additions.

Grade: B

Draft: North Carolina TE Eric Ebron gives the Lions a much needed extra weapon at this position, as Ebron is a much better receiver than blocker. Brigham Young LB Kyle Van Noy is a versatile player and could have an instant impact this season. Arkansas C Travis Swanson adds great depth with potential starting ability & Princeton DT Caraun Reid is a most intriguing project player.

Grade: B

Overview: Former Colts offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell is now the man in charge of “Restoring the Roar” in Detroit. The Lions are a talented group, yet somehow have difficulty maximizing their true potential. If Caldwell can get the Lions to reach that point, watch out.

Packers

Free Agency: The Packers had very little money to spend after re-signing B.J. Raji, James Starks, Matt Flynn & Sam Shields. Yet they were able to land veteran DE Julius Peppers (Bears), whom they are hoping will give them that extra push on defense.

Grade: C+

Draft: Alabama FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is not an exciting player, but he gets the job done, which is what the Packers need. Fresno State WR Davante Adams is a welcome fresh face to an aging receiveing corps, as are WR’s Jared Abbrederis from Wisconsin & Jeff Janis from Saginaw Valley State. Southern Mississippi DT Khyri Thornton is a project player that might have to learn fast.

Grade: B-

Overview: What more can head coach Mike McCarthy do with this team? The addition of Peppers will help, but other defensive players have to step up. CB Sam Shields was locked up, and as long as QB Aaron Rodgers is around, the Packers will still be contenders. Yet they are no longer the only good team in the division.

Minnesota

Free Agency: DT Linval Joseph (Giants) & CB Captain Munnerlyn (Panthers) are great additions. The rest are less exciting. DT Corey Wootton (Bears), OG Vladimir Ducasse (Jets), LB Jasper Brinkley (Cardinals) & FS Kurt Coleman ( Eagles), give Vikings fans little to be thrilled about.

Grade: C-

Draft: UCLA LB Anthony Barr is a tremendous athlete, but comes with little experience at his position, making him a big risk. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater is the big story in this draft, as he appears to be the new heir apparent. Oregon State DE Scott Crichton was a late riser on draft boards due to his pass rushing skills. Stanford OG David Yankey could be a steal in the 5th round & Virginia Tech CB Antone Exum is a good late pick.

Grade: B

Overview: Matt Cassell, Christian Ponder & Teddy Bridgewater. That is what the Vikings QB situation has turned into, and it is not much to get excited about. RB Adrian Peterson will have to get ready to be the offense again, as the WR group is solid, but not spectacular. The loss of DL Kevin Williams & Jared Allen, RB Toby Gerhart, & OT J’Marcus Webb will definitely be felt.

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