For the past few weeks, there have been loads of speculation and rumors on what is going to happen once the league year starts March 18. The media has discussed whether Mitch Trubisky will be the starting quarterback in Chicago, what weapons will Green Bay add on offense, should the Vikings keeps the same roster going into next season and what the Lions have to do to keep Matt Patrica’s job. But no one has talked about what teams shouldn’t do this offseason. It is important to note what teams shouldn’t do this offseason if they want to fulfill their mission of either becoming a playoff team/Super Bowl contender or start their rebuild correctly. This is a list of what the NFC North teams shouldn’t do this offseason.
Chicago Bears: Not address their offensive line
Two years ago the Chicago Bears were a made field goal away from potentially making the Super Bowl. The Bears have a very complete roster. They need a number two cornerback and starting safety and some offensive line help. The Bears addressed their “biggest need” by bringing in Nick Foles at quarterback. He won’t be the starter, but with just Mitch Trubisky at the helm, it is hard to take the Bears seriously as a contender.
Trubisky has had a solid, but not great career. It only looks like he is an extreme bust because the two quarterbacks that were drafted after him were Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. But the Bears’ window to take advantage of their roster is slowly dwindling by the year and so is the job security of Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace.
One of the least talked about stories talked about by the NFL was the sudden retirement of guard Kyle Long. Long was a three-time Pro Bowler and former All-Pro. He was considered one of the best Bears’ offensive lineman and one of the best in the league when healthy. A problem through Long’s career was that he could not stay healthy. This left a gaping hole on this offensive line, which wasn’t that stable to begin with. After bringing in Foles and Robert Quinn the Bears do not have a lot of cap space to address their needs. But through the draft the Bears should overhaul bringing in offensive line depth to protect whoever their quarterback is between Trubisky or Foles. It would also help open up running lanes for David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen who both disappointed at times last season.
Detroit Lions: Take Tua Tagovailoa instead of a Defensive Player at #3
It is shocking that Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia are still in house for the Detroit Lions. They were brought in from the New England Patriots because they’re supposed to bring winning football to Detroit and instead they have actually managed to do worse than when Jim Caldwell was the head coach. They likely got bailed out because Matt Stafford was on pace to have a career year under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, until his season got cut short to only eight games because of injury. But the heat is on this regime to produce a winning product and a playoff team or they will be gone next offseason.
Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn need to do one thing in order to keep their jobs and it is rebuild their defense. They should also prioritize finding a replacement for Graham Glasgow and getting a veteran back up running back as an insurance policy for Kerryon Johnson, who cannot stay healthy. Matt Patricia should really focus on what got him the Lions head coaching job, which was bringing in the Patriots culture and building an elite defense. If the Lions really want to build this defense from the bottom up they need to add three new starters to the defensive line, figure out both safety positions and get a corner to replace Darius Slay who has been traded. To do all of this is unrealistic, but through free agency and with the third overall pick they can get the defense going in the right direction. That is unless they select Tua Tagovailoa with the third overall pick.
There has been rumbling of the Lions and Matt Stafford wanting to explore Stafford’s trade value and potentially move him elsewhere, but that might be the worst move the Lions could do this offseason. If Stafford is moved he will still account for $24 million against the cap. So what is the point of moving one of the better franchise quarterbacks in the league for a rookie who might not be 100% healthy if Patricia’s job is on the line? All the Lions need to do is select either Chase Young or Jeffery Okudah at no. 3 or if they feel comfortable trading down select Okudah or the defensive swiss army knife, Isaiah Simmons, in the first round. They cannot afford to overthink this pick.
Green Bay Packers: Prioritize Tight End over Wide Receiver
The Green Bay Packers were back among the league’s elite this year as far as the record goes. They went 13-3 and eventually lost to the San Fransisco 49ers in the NFC Championship. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers did not dominate teams in their usual fashion either. The Packers played very sloppy and messy football at times. New head coach Matt LeFleur emphasized the run game, turning Aaron Jones into a star and rebuilt their defense around star pass rushers Za’Darius and Preston Smith. However, Aaron Rodgers had arguably the worst year of his career. Though the stats might not show it, he did not look like the Aaron Rodgers that we have come to know over the years. There are two excuses for Rodgers’ downplay this year. The first is the fact that he is 36 years old and is starting to show mortality after sustaining multiple injuries over the past few seasons. The second is that his most reliable weapon Davante Adams missed most of the season and the rest of his receivers and tight ends are not the big time playmakers Rodgers is used to be playing with. Rather than address the inevitable wear and tear on Rodgers’ body, the Packers will focus on surrounding Rodgers with big-time playmakers on offense.
The Green Bay Packers released tight end Jimmy Graham who is now a member of the rival Chicago Bears. He was a huge signing for the Packers at the time who are not used to signing big-name free agents. This was possibly because they cut Rodgers’ favorite receiver and deep threat Jordy Nelson who had shown that he might be slowing down. On paper signing a Pro Bowl tight end after cutting an aging deep threat seems like a great idea, but it was doomed from he start. The reason why this signing didn’t work was because Aaron Rodgers does not throw to tight ends. Since Jermichael Finley, the Packers’ offense has not utilized or had the need for a big-time tight end to run the offense that Rodgers runs. Even when Finley played, he was good, but he was never the top guy on the offense. The Packers are in similar situation to two years ago where they can choose to bring in a deep threat or a tight end at a big salary for Rodgers. Hopefully, for everyone involved the Packers sign a deep threat receiver like Emmanuel Sanders or Robby Anderson then bring in a veteran like (the recently cut) Delanie Walker who played under LaFleur in Tennessee rather than overpay an Eric Ebron.
Minnesota Vikings: Change their identity
Mike Zimmer has built the Minnesota Vikings into a juggernaut in the NFC who look like Super Bowl favorites every season. After an adjustment season for Kirk Cousins, he brought the Vikings to the playoffs via the wild card. They even upset the New Orleans Saints in the first round, before getting destroyed by the San Fransisco 49ers the following week. The Vikings have already made some major changes this offseason. Starting with letting go of defensive coordinator George Edwards and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has left the team to take the Cleveland Browns coaching job. Personnel-wise the Vikings have let go of veteran defenders Linval Joseph, Everson Griffen and former All-Pro Xavier Rhodes. The Vikings now have some major holes to fill on defense. They have also moved Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills for a first-round pick and more. In positive news, the Vikings franchise-tagged safety Anthony Harris and extended Kirk Cousins two more seasons.
From looking at those moves and how the Vikings might address their needs in the draft, because they only have $14 Million is cap, it might be fair to say that the Vikings might try to transition from a defense-first team to a team carried on the backs of Kirk Cousins and Dalvin Cook. As good as Cook was last year and Cousins was after his rough start, it doesn’t seem wise to turn to them as the ones that will carry the Vikings to back to the playoffs and potentially the Super Bowl. Mike Zimmer is a defensive coach who knows how to develop young defensive players and build an elite defense. He has had success at every level he has been in the NFL because of the defensive units he has built. Due to health complications, Zimmer might not last long for the Vikings head coaching job, but this does not mean they can just give up on their defense. The Vikings are close to where they need to be as a contender in the NFC and shouldn’t continue to breaking down their team and change their identity. It is important to note that Zimmer essentially benches rookies and makes them learn the system and pace of the NFL game regardless of position before throwing them in and making them full time starters. Unless the Vikings feel they can draft two studs in the first round that Zimmer can develop on the fly this defense might be a lot different than we have come to know it over the years and so will the Vikings team.