While the Green Bay Packers have made relatively few moves since the lockout was lifted and the offseason officially started, their NFC North rivals have been busy.
In an effort to keep up with all the moves inside the division, let’s run down what the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings have been up to so far this offseason.
TRADES: TE Greg Olsen to Carolina Panthers for undisclosed 2010 draft pick
NOTABLE FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: WR Roy Williams, RB Marion Barber, DL Vernon Gholston, C Chris Spencer, TE Matt Spaeth, P Adam Podlesh, DE Amobi Okoye
NOTABLE RE-SIGNINGS: DL Anthony Adams, CB Corey Graham, LB Brian Iwuh
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: DE Mario Addison (Troy), CB Antareis Bryan (Baylor), S Anthony Walters (Delaware), WR Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State), CB Ryan Jones (NW Missouri State), C Alex Linnenkohl
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: TE Greg Olsen, C Olin Kreutz, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, DT Tommie Harris, LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, WR Devin Aromashodu
The Bears have certainly made some interesting moves, including the signings of two former Cowboys who’s career tracks are pointed downwards and a couple of former first round busts on defense.
Roy Williams had just 94 catches and 1,324 yards in 45 career games in Dallas after the Cowboys gave up three draft picks in ’08 to get him. He’s been nothing short of a colossal disappointment. The Bears hope he can bring a physical, red zone threat for Mike Martz’s offense, but he wasn’t that guy in Dallas. Martz thinks he can get Williams 70 to 80 catches.
Marion Barber, Williams’ former teammate, never rushed for over 1,000 yards in six career years, but for the first five, he provided the Cowboys with a punishing downhill runner. Last season, that player disappeared. Barber had just 374 yards and four touchdowns while dealing with several injuries. With the way he’s run over his career, you can’t be sure there’s much left in the tank.
The Bears did get two low-risk, high-reward signings in former first round picks Amobi Okoye and Vernon Gholston. While they haven’t showed anything at the NFL level to think they can be impact players in Chicago, the two do have untapped talentand each needed a change of scenery. They were worth the risk, especially with Rod Marinelli coaching the Bears defensive line.
Chris Spencer will likely start on the offensive line for Olin Kreutz, and Matt Spaeth could contribute at the tight end position. Trading Olson was a questionable move, as he’s always had the talent to be Chicago’s best receiving threat.
Overall, the Bears made plenty of moves but didn’t get increasingly better at any one position.
NOTABLE FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: LB Justin Durant, CB Eric Wright, LB Stephen Tulloch
NOTABLE RE-SIGNINGS: CB Chris Houston, QB Drew Stanton, LB Bobby Carpenter, DE Cliff Avril, T Isaac Sowells
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS SIGNINGS: TE Preston Dial (Alabama), LB Cobrani Mixon (Kent State), WR Jared Jenkins (UW-Stevens Point), DE Narada Williams (Fort Valley State), WR Dominique Barnes (Youngstown State)
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: WR Bryant Johnson, LB Jordan Dizon, LB Julian Peterson, LB Zack Follett
The Lions haven’t been overly reactive in free agency, but they’ve made some really sensical moves that will pay off next season.
Two of their free agent signings—Justin Durant and Stephen Tulloch—will be immediate starters and huge upgrades at linebacker. They’re both athletic guys who could thrive behind Detroit’s imposing defensive line.
Eric Wright, the team’s third signing, will get an opportunity for plenty of playing time in the Lions’ secondary. He had a miserable season in 2010, but if he can regain his ’09 form, Wright could be a impact player.
Re-signing Chris Houston and Cliff Avril were also important moves. Avril took advantage of the constant one-on-one matchups he saw last season at defensive end, and he could post 10 sacks in 2011. Bringing back Houston should help keep a sense of solidarity in an improving secondary.
By adding two talented linebackers and a potential starter at cornerback, the Lions head into the 2011 season with likely the most complete roster they’ve had in 10 or so years.
TRADES: Donovan McNabb from the Washington Redskins for a 2012 sixth-round pick and a conditional sixth-round pick in 2013.
NOTABLE FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: WR Michael Jenkins, OT Charlie Johnson, DL Remi Ayodele, WR Devin Aromashodu
NOTABLE RE-SIGNINGS: K Ryan Longwell, LB Erin Henderson, S Husain Abdullah, DL Fred Evans, S Eric Frampton, OT Ryan Cook, DE Brian Robison
NOTABLE UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT SIGNINGS: CB Devon Torrence (Ohio State), WR Andre Holmes (Hillsdale), RB Matt Asiata (Utah), OL Byron Isom (Auburn), CB Marcel Gipson (Wyoming)
NOTABLE DEPARTURES: OT Bryant McKinnie, WR Sidney Rice, DE Ray Edwards, QB Tarvaris Jackson, S Madeiu Williams, DL Jimmy Kennedy
The Vikings lost out big in free agency, as Sidney Rice, Ray Edwards and Tarvaris Jackson hit the open market and found new teams. Overall, what they brought back doesn’t nearly add up to what they lost.
Michael Jenkins has sure hands and a tall frame, but he was never a game-changer in Atlanta. His highest catch count was just 53 with a better Falcons team, and Jenkins won’t keep defensive coordinators up at night like a healthy Rice would.
The Vikings also placed a lot of hope in Brian Robison, as they let Edwards go and re-signed Robison earlier in the offseason. I have my doubts that Robison can be the same kind of player that Edwards was opposite Jared Allen. Minnesota’s defense is predicated on stopping the run on early downs and pressuring the quarterback in the passing game, but they took a step back in doing both.
Staying on the defensive side of the ball, keep an eye on the contract situations of linebackers Ben Leber and Chad Greenway. Leber hasn’t signed with another team but most doubt he’ll be back. Greenway, the Vikings best backer, wants an extension that he rightfully deserves and likely will get.
Minnesota was also forced into cutting monstrous left tackle Bryant McKinnie after he showed up to camp at nearly 400 pounds. Underlying health issues could keep him out of football next year. Either way, he was a liability last season on an offensive line that had a terrible season overall. Yet, arguing that Charlie Johnson is an upgrade over McKinnie would be a stretch at best.
Finally, the Vikings took a chance on Donovan McNabb, who they hope has a good year or two left in him. It was a smart move, as Minnesota had to give up very little to acquire him. He’ll help mentor rookie Christian Ponder, but the Vikings are a team that thinks they can still win football games this season. McNabb’s play next year will be a big part of that equation. But no matter how you slice it, he wasn’t good last year in Washington and there are legitimate question marks on him heading into the season.——————
Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.
You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.Follow @zachkruse2