Free agency bargain bin hunting is in full effect. There have been several moves in the NFC North recently. Let’s summarize the major moves already discussed and talk about the bargain bin spending.
The Lions lost Calvin Johnson and Rashean Mathis to retirement, Isa Abdul Quddus (safety) to the Dolphins and Travis Lewis to the Vikings. The Lions are expected to cut Stephen Tulloch (ILB) if not traded. The Lions cut Joique Bell due to age and injuries. Jason Jones, James Ihedigbo, Daryl Tapp and Lance Moore are still free agents.
The re-signings of Tyrunn Walker (DT), Haloti Ngata (DT), and Tahir Whitehead (ILB) were Detroit’s major moves. Marvin Jones got a huge deal to be the number 2 WR in Detroit (8 per).
Rafael Bush and Tavon Wilson were also added early to bolster safety for Detroit. Johnson Bademosi (CB) was added to play special teams. Wilson can also play special teams well.
Stefan Charles was added from Buffalo for DT depth. Charles should be the 4th DT in the rotation and compete with 4th round pick in 2015 Gabe Wright.
The Lions have been very active the last few weeks of free agency. Slot WR Jeremy Kerley was added to compete with TJ Jones for the number 3 WR job. Kerley only had 152 yards and 2 TDs in 2015 but was fairly productive his other four seasons in the league. Kerley was good in the 2012 (827 yards and 14.8 YPC) and 2013 seasons (523 yards in 12 games) and will look for a fresh start with a good QB in Detroit (though Fitzpatrick was solid in 2015). Kerley has some punt return ability too.
Speaking of productive in 2012 and 2013, Stevan Ridley joins Detroit to compete for the power running back spot with Zach Zenner. Ridley played four years with the Patriots and is familiar with GM Bob Quinn. Ridley had 1,263 yards, 4.4 YPC and 12 TDs in 2012. Ridley notched 4.3 YPC and 7 TDs in 2013. Ridley did lose 3 and 4 fumbles in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Injuries derailed a solid career with a torn ACL in 2014. Stevan joined the Jets in 2015 but barely played behind Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell due to the recovery from the ACL injury. If Ridley is healed, he could be a productive back for Detroit.
Geoff Schwartz was added as a guard/right tackle. Schwartz has dealt with injuries the last two seasons with the Giants (and 2011 with Carolina) but has been solid when he has played. Schwartz had success with Carolina in 2009/2010, Kansas City in 2013 and the Vikings in 2012 in Peterson’s monster rushing year. He can play guard and right tackle which is great versatility for depth on the offensive line. Schwartz played in only 13 of 32 games for the Giants after signing a 4 year 16 million dollar deal prior to the 2014 season. If Schwartz can stay healthy, he could be a great find on a one year deal for Detroit.
Darrin Walls was signed to play CB for the Lions. Walls will compete for the 4th CB spot with second year player Alex Carter. Walls earned starting experience with the Jets and will turn 28 in June in his sixth season. DW is 6’0 and can play outside CB. Patrick Buchannon, Anthony Henry, Jacob Lacey, Josh Wilson, Drayton Florence, Eric Wright. The long line of Lions veteran one year deals for CBs continues. Crezdon Butler was also re-signed at CB for Detroit. Breaking up that two point pass in Lambeau, earned him a vet min deal.
Wallace Gilberry brings more 2012 and 2013 production for the Lions at the DE spot. Gilberry had 6.5 and 7.5 sacks for the Bengals strong defenses as a backup DE in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Gilberry is solid against the run. Gilberry was a 16 game starter for the Bengals defense in 2014. He averaged about 40 snaps per game in 2015 and will contribute for Detroit. Detroit needed a backup DE and they got a solid one from the Bengals. This should be an upgrade over Daryl Tapp.
Matthew Mulligan was signed on a one year deal to be a blocking tight end for the Lions. Mulligan has played for ten teams and can’t catch the ball very well. He could earn a roster spot with good blocking due to the ACL injury of Brandon Pettigrew. Mulligan will compete with practice squanders Jordan Thompson and Casey Pierce. Mulligan has good strength and experience in the league. Tim Wright was re-signed at TE too but is more of a receiving tight end.
The Lions re-signed back-up Dan Orlovsky but they must draft a developmental back-up QB with one of their 10 draft picks. Long snapper Don Mulbach was also re-signed on a veteran min deal.
The Bears bolstered their defense by adding ILB Danny Trevathan, ILB Jerrell Freeman and DE Akiem Hicks. Bobbie Massie was added to play right tackle from the Cardinals and move Kyle Long back to right guard. Zach Miller was re-signed after a strong finish at TE in 2015. Loud mouth but talented TE Martellus Bennett was traded to the Patriots along with a Chicago 6th round pick for the Patriots 4th round pick.
The Bears re-signed Tracy Porter (CB), Chris Prosniski (SS) and Sherrick McManis(SCB) in the secondary but upgrades must be made for Chicago.
Chicago franchised Alshon Jeffrey (WR) and must complete a long term deal by July 15. The Bears lost Matt Forte (stud RB) to the Jets.
The Bears signed former Lions and Broncos guard/center, Manny Ramirez. Ramirez is 33 but played well at both guard and center for the Lions in 2015. Ramirez is familiar with John Fox in Denver and was a good center for the Broncos under Fox. Ramirez will battle with Hronnis Grasu for the center job and provide depth to Kyle Long and Matt Slausen at guard. This was a good signing for Chicago despite his age.
Sam Acho (OLB) and Mitch Unrein (DE) were re-signed for defensive depth. Rob Housler (TE), Jacquizz Rodgers (RB) and Marc Mariani (WR) were also re-signed for offensive depth.
Jared Cook signed with Green Bay on a 1 year 2.75 million dollar deal. Cook was cut and won’t count against compensatory picks. Cook only had 481 yards and 0 TDs in 2015 but the Rams had major QB problems. Cook will be 29 this season and will try to regain his 500-700 production he had with the Titans and Rams in previous seasons. Cook isn’t very efficient but he can make some plays when called upon.
Green Bay re-signed Nick Perry (OLB), Letroy Guion (DT), James Starks (RB) and Mason Crosby (K). Green Bay lost Casey Hayward (CB) to the Chargers and BJ Raji (NT) to temporary retirement. James Jones, Mike Neal, Andrew Quarless and Don Barclay are still free agents.
The Vikings re-signed Andrew Sendejo (SS) and added Michael Griffen (FS) at safety from the Titans for depth. The Vikings added Alex Boone (LG) on a big deal to play guard. Mike Harris (RG), Terrence Newman (CB2), Rhett Ellison (TE) and Matt Asiata (RB) were all re-signed.
The Vikings signed Andre Smith to play right tackle. Smith was a good signing due to Loadholt’s torn Achilles recovery this season. Alex Boone, Andre Smith and the return of John Sullivan and Phil Loadholdt should boost the Vikings offensive line at least in run blocking. The pass blocking must improve from Kalil and Fusco in 2016. Smith and Loadholdt have been shaky in pass protection at times too but should be better than second year pro right tackle TJ Clemmings (starter in 2015).
Chad Greenway (WLB) re-signed for one more year with the Vikings. Greenway will continue to play weak side LB but the Vikings could use a youth upgrade at that spot. Emmanuel Lemur (ILB/OLB) (Bengals) and Travis Lewis (ILB/OLB) (Lions) were added by the Vikings at LB but both players are more special teams players.
There was a flurry of moves made in the NFC North. We will go over the draft needs for each team in a separate article but each team improved this offseason.