By: Collyn Foster
Green Bay Packers
Grade : B+
(WR) Davante Adams (Four years, $58 million) (Extension)
(C) Corey Linsley (Three years, $25.5 million) (Extension)
(TE) Jimmy Graham (Three years, $30 million)
(DT) Muhammad Wilkerson (One Year, $5 million)
(QB) DeShone Kizer (Acquired in Trade)
(CB) Tramon Williams (Two years, $10 million)
(S) Morgan Burnett (Steelers)
(WR) Jordy Nelson (Raiders)
(LB) Joe Thomas (Cowboys)
The Packers signed one of the former most dominant defensive players in the league this offseason. Muhammad Wilkerson joins Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels on a Packers D-line that had a very solid season in 2018. The Packers are poised to have one of the best position groups in the league. Wilkerson is joining former defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whom he had his best season with statistically. The deal the Packers gave Wilkerson was a “prove it” deal that is extremely friendly to the team. This will allow Wilkerson to go out and prove that he is still one of the best defensive linemen in the league. And if he can do that, the Packers would be foolish not to sign him to an extension and continue to have one of the best defensive line units in the league.
The Packers failed to bring in a top dollar corner during this year’s free agency. The Packers came into this offseason with a few needs, most pressing of which was their secondary. They had a great opportunity to address this need and bring in a top flight corner to bolster their secondary but failed to do so. They still have a number of young, promising pieces in the secondary in Kevin King, Josh Jones, and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, but they are still in need of some help to continue their development. They did bring back cornerback Tramon Williams, and he will bring a much needed veteran presence, but he is also 35 years old. I expect them to continue to add to their secondary in the draft, but the fact that they missed out on top FA talent may come back to hurt them in the future.
The Packers had a very good offseason by all accounts. They did lose their primary deep threat and longtime top receiver Jordy Nelson, but they paid Davante Adams, who is capable of filling that role, the money to do so. They also added two veteran pieces that will help boost their units on both sides of the ball. I look for them to continue to add pieces to their secondary and playmakers on offense through the draft.
Grade : B+
(K) Kai Forbath (One year, $790,000)
(QB) Kirk Cousins (Three years, $84 million) (Fully Guaranteed)
(DT) Sheldon Richardson (One Year, $8 million)
(QB) Case Keenum (Broncos)
(RB) Jerick McKinnon (49ers)
(QB) Sam Bradford (Cardinals)
(G) Jarius Wright (Panthers)
(QB) Teddy Bridgewater (Jets)
(CB) Tramaine Brock (Broncos)
The Vikings defense was no doubt one of the best units in the league, both on paper and statistically. It’s a proven group that even arguably carried the Vikings to the playoffs. The team just added another good piece to the front 7 that could make a big impact. Sheldon Richardson is coming off of a year with one sack and twenty-eight QB hurries, according to PFF. Although this may not seem like elite level numbers, he was 7th in the league for interior linemen for hurries. He will add another element and depth to an already good line, and I look for this defense to again be one of the best in
Don’t get me wrong, I fully support the Vikings bringing Kirk Cousins in as their new franchise quarterback, but they guaranteed every dollar of his new $84 million dollar deal. That’s the problem I have with them signing Cousins. I think that the value of the quarterback market was overrated and that worked to the advantage of Cousins. He was looked at as the best quarterback in this free agent class and was being offered elite level money, and in my opinion he’s not an elite talent. I have no doubt that he could lead the Vikings to the Super Bowl, but it will be the talent around him that will do so, not his. I have a problem with the deal because a mid-top tier talent quarterback is being payed elite money, which will eventually hurt the rest of the roster when other players’ contracts are up. I still believe that Cousins is a step up from Case Keenum, but he is not $10 million better. Keenum was a player who knew the system and had taken the Vikings on a good run through the season and playoffs. Cousins is a player who has struggled at times, and while that may have been due to the lack of talent around him, I still believe he is not that much better than Keenum for the Vikings.
The Vikings took one step forward this offseason, and considering that they were one game away from playing a Super Bowl in their home stadium, this step might lead them back to glory. They filled needs along the defensive line and got themselves a franchise quarterback to stabilize the QB room. The Vikings went into this offseason with four different choices at the position, and they could have chosen one of the three that were on the roster already but decided to let them walk and bring in someone new. I believe that Kirk Cousins is going to be franchise changing — not with his play, but with his leadership. He will compliment what the Vikings already have on offense, but I don’t think that he is going to be far and away better for this team than any of the other three quarterbacks they had (besides Sam Bradford — he’s hot garbage). I think the team got better where they needed to and for one with very few needs, I expect them to continue adding offensive line help and possibly some secondary help. I think the Vikings did what they needed to do this offseason, and we’ll see if they’ve properly primed themselves for a deep postseason run.
Grade : C
(RB) Zach Zenner (One year, $1.05 million)
(OLB) Ezekiel Ansah (Franchise Tag)
(OLB) Devon Kennard (Three Years, $17.25 million)
(TE) Luke Willson (One Year, $2.5 million)
(RB) LeGarrette Blount (One Year, $4.5 million)
(CB) D.J. Hayden (Jaguars)
(LB) Tahir Whitehead (Raiders)
(TE) Eric Ebron (Colts)
(TE) Darren Fells (Browns)
(DT) Haloti Ngata (Eagles)
The Lions brought back their top pass rusher this offseason by putting the franchise tag on Ziggy Ansah. This move was beneficial to both parties in that it allows the Lions to see another season of action from Ansah and hope he stays healthy. Ansah will be looking for a massive deal after this season and if he does not produce like he has been, the Lions can move on. Ansah is an elite pass rush talent but is also 28 years old, so letting him walk in free agency and replacing him with younger talent may be a prudent move in the future. But for now, Ansah is the best option for Lions right now.
The Lions essentially traded out Eric Ebron for Luke Willson this offseason. Ebron was a young, talented receiver who was one of Matthew Stafford’s best targets. He was a first round pick but has yet to live up to his selection of 10th overall in the 2014 draft. He inevitably signed with the Colts and the Lions brought in Luke Willson. Although on paper this might not be the worst decision, I would much rather pay a 24 year old first round talent than someone like Luke Willson. Ebron did not have a very poor season compared to the past two, totaling 114 catches and 5 touchdowns compared to Willson’s 30 catches and 6 touchdowns. The truth is in the pudding (and the stats).
All in all, this offseason has been good, not great for the Lions. They successfully brought back their top edge rusher, brought in a few more weapons for Matthew Stafford, and might get their first 100 yard rushing game since Reggie Bush! The Lions seemed to stay stagnant in a division where everyone else got better. They are leaning on Matthew Stafford to pull them through, but they are not putting the right pieces around him to succeed. I believe that they will continue to try and add depth at running back and defensive line this upcoming draft. The Lions have some work to do if they want to start competing for the division.
Grade : A
(CB) Kyle Fuller (Four years, $56 million)
(CB) Prince Amukamara (Three years, $27 million)
(WR) Allen Robinson (Three years, $42 million)
(TE) Trey Burton (Four Years, $32 million)
(WR) Taylor Gabriel (Four years, $26 million)
(K) Cody Parkey (Four years, $15 million)
(OG) Josh Sitton (Dolphins)
(QB) Mike Glennon (Cardinals)
Getting weapons for their young quarterback was the goal of this offseason, and the Bears did that. They got two new receivers and a new tight end, paying a lot of money to do so. Last season, Trubisky showed flashes of what he could do with limited talent around him. This offseason the team addedAllen Robinson, who is a big physical target for Trubisky to target in the red zone, and Taylor Gabriel, a speedy playmaker in the slot. The addition of Trey Burton is a little risky in the sense that he has not yet proven that he can be a consistent starting TE, but overall I believe these moves will pay off in the end for Trubisky and the Bears.
The Bears matched Kyle Fuller’s deal with the Packers. The Bears division rival Packers offered Kyle Fuller a 4 year, $56 million deal, and because Fuller was a restricted free agent the Bears had a chance to match it and did so almost immediately. This was a bad decision on their part because of the size of the deal. He will be making $14 million per year on this contract, good enough for 5th in the NFL. Although he’s being paid like a top corner, he has not performed as one. They could have stuck the Packers with this large contract, making them strapped for cash down the line. But instead they decided to pay him, and we’ll just have to see how it goes.
This offseason the Bears had two jobs: get Trubisky weapons and bolster their secondary. They did both of those things, as they brought in a couple of good targets and also are bringing back almost the same secondary as last year that improved as the season went on. The young team is poised to continue its upward momentum and growth. I expect the younger veterans like Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, and Leonard Floyd to make a leap next year and for this team to begin competing for a possible playoff bid. Unfortunately it will be tough having the Packers and Vikings in the division, but the team has positioned itself well after this year’s free agency.