NFC North Team Needs
February 5th, 2011 By Dwan Samuel
The Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers met in the NFC Championship game, proving that what many people felt was the weakest division in the NFC prior to the season, could arguably be the strongest.
Positions In Most Need Of - Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, and Outside Linebacker
The Bears have had major problems on their offensive line. The left side has proven to be especially weak. Chicago allowed more sacks during the regular season (56) than any other team in the NFL. LT Frank Omiyale has proven to be decent in run blocking, but in pass protection, he is definitely not cutting it as a LT. LG Chris Williams was the former LT, but struggled and was moved inside in hopes of creating better pass protection for QB Jay Cutler. That experiment obviously failed. The Bears will need to ensure that they resign C Olin Kruetz who will be a free agent this season or they will be forced to find a new center. Kruetz is older, but he has remained healthy enough to stay in games. He also is the best lineman that they have for pass protection. Kruetz was not the problem on the offensive line, but they will need to begin finding someone for youth and depth at the position. Devin Hester is a decent WR (improving a bit this season), but his calling is as a return man. Neither Johnny Knox nor Hester are true number one receivers. The Bears will have to find a WR that poses a threat either through free agency (with several being available) or the draft. OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa will be a free agent who has also had a several problems with his right knee. After injuring it twice in 2009, the knee continued to give him many problems, causing Tinoisamoa to miss practices and games. The Bears will likely find a new Sam to replace him.
Positions To Be Considered - Defensive Tackle, Punter, Running Back, Strong Safety, and Cornerback
DT Tommie Harris has struggled this season. Some of the younger players such as Henry Melton and Matt Toeaina have shown that they have the potential to replace Harris. Anthony Adams has been a mediocre DT this season. If he has another good to elite DT to assist him, his overall game could improve greatly. Adams has shown that his strength is against the run. Chicago must find a replacement punter. This should not be too difficult seeing as how Brad Maynard ranked 35th out of 36 punters at 40.1 yards per punt. Maynard will be a free agent and there is no need to retain his services. Even with such a strong defense, it will be difficult to win games next season if you are losing the battle of field position. Chicago’s running backs are solid, that is until they reach short yardage and goal line situations. Matt Forte will need some help from a RB other than Chester Taylor for those situations. SS Danieal Manning is a solid safety and the best free agent on the Bears squad. Not only has he proven to be a solid starting SS, but he is a good return man as well. Chicago will need to resign him. CB Charles Tillman had a good season, but Tim Jennings has left much to be desired especially in press coverage. The Bears need a CB who is able to jam receivers at the line of scrimmage to play the physical brand of football that the Bears are known for.
Notable Free Agents - DT Anthony Adams, RB Kahlil Bell (ERFA), TE Desmond Clark, QB Todd Collins, WR Rashied Davis, CB Corey Graham, QB Caleb Hanie (RFA), OLB Brian Iwuh, C Olin Kruetz, SS Danieal Manning, P Brad Maynard, and OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa
Positions In Most Need Of - Outside Linebacker, Offensive Tackle, and Cornerback
There will be much uncertainty at the OLB position. Julian Petersen has a contract that would allow him to receive $8 million this year, but his play does not reflect that of an $8 million dollar player. Zack Follett was placed on IR with a neck injury, so it is uncertain as to his success when he returns. DeAndre Levy has been a quality MLB and can improve if there is better talent surrounding him on the outside. OLB Landon Johnson was only a temporary bandage. He will need to be replaced. Jeff Backus can remembered as the LT who blew his assignment allowing Julius Peppers to sack QB Matthew Stafford causing his separated shoulder. Backus could be moved on the line to RT and the team could then find a legitimate LT to protect Stafford. CB Chris Houston is good, not great, but sufficient. If the Lions can grab an elite corner, then this will address the major flaw in the secondary. They will definitely need a number one CB to compete in their division. If an OT is not taken in round one, look for the Lions to either take a CB or trade down in order to grab a quality second round CB.
Positions To Be Considered - Wide Receiver, Offensive Guard, and Strong Safety
WR Calvin Johnson has proven to play well even while being double teamed so frequently. Nate Burleson has been useful to the offense, but in order to make use of the double teams, the Lions will have to find another receiver that commands the attention of defenses. Stephen Peterman has played poorly due to a foot injury. This could continue to present a problem in 2011 and the team will need to, at the very minimum, address the position for depth. Amari Spievey was moved from CB to SS. Spievey has proven to be more of a nickel back, but C.C. Brown is not the answer at SS either. The Lions will need to likely address some of its secondary issues in free agency because there are simply too many DBs that will be needed to address them all through the draft.
Notable Free Agents - DE Cliff Avril (RFA), OLB Zack Follett (ERFA), CB Tye Hill, CB Chris Houston, DE Turk McBride, and RB Kevin Smith
Green Bay Packers
Positions In Most Need Of - Outside Linebacker, Offensive Guard, and Defensive End
The Packers obviously had some depth because in spite of all of the injuries that they faced this season, they are still NFC Champions. They can afford to mostly due some fine tuning. Yes, they have Clay Matthews at OLB, but on the other side of him they have used Erik Walden. Walden is not a good enough Will for the long term. Another solid OLB will allow Matthews to do more damage than he already has this season. LG Daryn Colledge has been mediocre, but he is a free agent, so the Packers will have to decide if he is worth keeping around to develop at age 29 or if they should find a replacement. DE Cullen Jenkins is a free agent and his expected salary may not prompt the Packers to keep him around. His health could also cause doubts as to whether or not to keep Jenkins around. DE Johnny Jolly was indefinitely suspended by the NFL after his back and forth issues regarding his charge of possession of a controlled substance. His plea agreement before the season stated that the charges would be dismissed if he can stay out of trouble for a year. This does not guarantee him re-entry into the NFL and the Packers may opt to just move on from Jolly even if reinstated.
Positions To Be Considered - Running Back / Full Back, Offensive Tackle, Wide Receiver, and Kicker
The RB position needs to be addressed for depth. Brandon Jackson will be a free agent and he has been a serviceable third down back, but James Starks has been the back to bear the load of carries. John Kuhn has been the Packers’ goal line back, but is better as a FB when blocking. Kuhn will also be a free agent. OT Chad Clifton is aging and a young tackle should be brought in through the draft to address the position before it becomes an issue. Donald Driver is aging and retirement could be in the near future. James Jones will be a free agent, but is not consistent. K Mason Crosby will also be a free agent and he has not been the best or most accurate kicker this season anyway.
Notable Free Agents - SS Atari Bigby, G Daryn Colledge, K Mason Crosby, RB Brandon Jackson, DE Cullen Jenkins, WR James Jones, and FB John Kuhn
Positions In Most Need Of - Quarterback, Outside Linebacker, Offensive Line, Safety, and Cornerback
The Vikings are in a serious rebuilding process and they have over twenty players heading into free agency, this is a complete and total no-brainer. The Vikings certainly won’t be begging Brett Favre to return and the team placed Tarvaris Jackson on IR with turf toe in December. Now, Jackson will be back, but one can only wonder if the Vikings want him back or if they will look to trade him. Joe Webb definitely isn’t the answer. Jackson has potential, but between his injury, the team’s lack of confidence in him, and his lack of opportunities, he appears to be more of a question than answer. The Vikings can go for a veteran, but after their previous experience with a veteran QB, new HC Frazier may opt to find a new franchise QB through the draft. Ben Leber and Chad Greenway are both free agents. Greenway is likely to be retained, but Leber is aging and his future is uncertain with the team. Bryant McKinnie and Phill Loadholt cannot be trusted to pass protect for any QB. Favre, Jackson, and Webb would all agree. C John Sullivan was also a major disappointment. In order to fix the issues of the offensive line, the Vikings will need to find the best players possible through the draft and / or free agency and then readjust some of their current offensive linemen to find positions along the line that are better suited for them. SS Husain Abdullah is a free agent and FS Madieu Williams played poorly and will not be worth the $5.4 million that he is due. CB Antoine Winfield is a solid CB, but not a number one. CB Asher Allen definitely leaves much to be desired and is at best a backup. CB Cedric Griffin tore his ACL in his left knee, but made it back in time for the beginning of the 2010 season, but incurred a serious knee injury in his right knee with then HC Brad Childress alluding that it may be another ACL tear in his right knee. The Vikings do like Griffin enough to award him the Ed Block Courage Award on December 31, 2010 for rehabbing and getting back in time for the 2010 season. The Vikings may believe that he can do it again. Even if the Vikings keep him around, they will still need to fine a number one CB.
Positions To Be Considered - Tight End, Wide Receiver, and Defensive End
TE Visanthe Shiancoe was a major disappointment the entire season. He will go into free agency next year and with the way in which he played this year, the Vikings should begin looking for a younger replacement. WR Percy Harvin will be around, but with Sidney Rice being a free agent, it is hard to say if the Vikings will be willing to pay him what he will likely be looking for. They will need a healthy, number one receiver. Bernard Berrian will not be the answer as a number one. DE Jared Allen is solid at the position, but with Ray Edwards and Brian Robinson both free agents, Minnesota needs to find a replacement or at the minimum retain one of the two.
Notable Free Agents - SS Husain Abdullah (RFA), DE Ray Edwards, OLB Chad Greenway, QB Tarvaris Jackson, OLB Ben Leber, K Ryan Longwell, DE Brian Robinson, WR Sidney Rice, CB Lito Sheppard, and DT Pat Williams
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