I’m going through each division and looking at every team’s biggest addition and loss in free agency. You can read the NFC East, NFC South and NFC West here. Today, I’m going to look at the NFC North to complete the entire NFC before moving onto the AFC.
Thanks to Pro Football Guru, we can look at every team’s additions and losses in free agency that’s updated on a daily basis.
Note: For the sake of these series of articles, I’m only looking at players who were on the roster in 2016 who will no longer be there in 2017. Likewise, I’m looking at guys who were not on the roster in 2016, but will now be in 2017 (in-house re-signings and draft selections excluded)
Green Bay Packers
The Packers very rarely make a splash in free agency, but they definitely lost and added some valuable players this year. They lost guys like Micah Hyde, Sam Shields, Datone Jones, and two offensive linemen in JC Tretter and TJ Lang. They added guys like Davon House, Lance Kendricks and Jahri Evans. But none of these names, in my opinion, are the most significant.
Loss: Eddie Lacy (Seahawks)
- The Packers said goodbye to Eddie Lacy after four years; it was likely the smart decision considering his recent production at an expendable position, but he’ll be missed. Lacy averaged a career-high 5.1 yards per carry before being sidelined for the season due to injury last year. He’s been a Packer since entering the league in just 2013; he had a bad year in 2015 after running for over 2,300 yards and a total of 20 touchdowns from 2013-2014. Despite his weight issues, Lacy produced well enough in those first two seasons for the Packers to consider signing him to a longer contract. Instead, they opt to stick with receiver-turned-running-back Ty Montgomery moving forward. I think Lacy will be missed as a bruising back despite being in a pass-first offense.
Addition: Martellus Bennett (from Patriots)
- The Super Bowl champion will join his fifth team in his 10th season, and he still has really good football left in him — especially with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Bennett is an athletic, big tight end who can block and catch well. The Packers let go of Jared Cook this offseason, leaving a hole in the tight end position. Bennett’s signing fills that void and should even upgrade the position, giving Rodgers another weapon in the passing game and offer protection of him up front.
The 2016 Lions were carried by eight game-winning drives from Matthew Stafford, and odds are that type of recipe to win won’t be reciprocated in 2017. While their free agency wasn’t “splashy,” Detroit certainly faces some major turnover on their roster heading into the season.
Loss: DeAndre Levy (released)
- The Lions opted not to pay their linebacker, instead focusing on getting younger and cheaper. Levy, an eight-year veteran of the Lions, had his best season in 2014 before missing most of the 2015 season after just 17 snaps resulted in a hip injury that required surgery. He then missed most of 2016 with a meniscus issue in his right knee before being cleared to practice in Week 11. He ended up returning three weeks later, but recently said “there’s no way I should’ve been back on the field last year.” He ended up needing another procedure to correct damages to his knee after being released by the Lions at the start of free agency. Despite a very sour ending to a good career in Detroit, he will be missed on the defensive side of the ball. Side note: The Lions will also miss multiple offensive linemen in Guard Larry Warford and Tackle Riley Reiff, but did a nice job of filling these holes in free agency.
Addition: Offensive Line help
- The Lions’ offensive line hasn’t exactly been stout over the years. They proved that claim by signing multiple lineman via trade or free agency. They signed Guard TJ Lang, Tackles Ricky Wagner, Tony Hills and Cyrus Kouandjio, and traded for Tackle Greg Robinson. They need to focus on protecting their franchise quarterback before having to sign him to a big contract after this season. They attempt to do exactly that by these signings.
The Vikings started the season 5-0 before their Week 6 bye, then things fell apart rather quickly. They had an interesting free agency period, one that resulted in saying goodbye to one of the best running backs the league has ever seen.
Loss: Adrian Peterson (Saints)
- The Vikings lost a ton of guys in free agency and to retirement, but Peterson wins by default. He’s one of the best running backs to ever play the game, and he’s played his entire 10-year career in Minnesota. He ran for over 1,250 yards and scored double-digit touchdowns in seven of those years, and a legendary career in Minnesota comes to an end this year. The Vikings also lost guys like Chad Greenway and Matt Kalil; they will be missed, but Peterson’s career numbers at running back speaks for itself.
Addition: Riley Reiff (from Lions)
- While the Vikings signed Latavius Murray to fill Peterson’s void, they also drafted Dalvin Cook. It’s a coin flip who will contribute more considering the position and considering the unknown in Cook, so I can’t say Murray is the key addition. But Reiff will be the day-one starter at left tackle, and Minnesota’s offensive line was a disaster last season. Him and Mike Remmers were key additions at the tackle positions.
The Bears face major turnover at the most important position in football. They likely won’t sniff the postseason in 2017, but still had some notable transactions.
Loss: Jay Cutler (retired)
- Despite losing some key players, it’s tough not to choose Jay Cutler as the biggest offseason loss for the Bears. Some may say it’s actually the best loss; Cutler hasn’t won anything in Chicago, never really seemed to care much, and only brought the Bears to one postseason in 2010. But he’s been their starting quarterback since 2009. Any team that brings in a new starting QB after eight years faces major turnover. Ultimately, it’s a good thing for the Bears; they need to start over and need to find their franchise quarterback. Other key loss: Alshon Jeffery. While Jeffery hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations thus far in his career (especially last year), he’d still likely be the best player on the Bears’ offense this year. The Bears will miss Jeffery more than Cutler, but I still put Cutler before him on this list because of the magnitude of the position.
Addition: Mike Glennon (from TB)
- Like Cutler, this choice has a lot to do about the position. Glennon is an unproven starter and hasn’t played in a couple years, but he was a pretty coveted FA QB nonetheless. He’ll likely start the season at the helm as rookie Mitch Trubisky makes the adjustment from college to pro; he’s likely going to be a project considering the lack of experience at the collegiate level. Glennon will be the day-one starter (unless something drastic changes, like Trubisky proving he’s ready in camp), and for that reason alone he’s the biggest addition to the roster heading into 2017. Other key additions: Kendall Wright, Dion Sims, Quintin Demps and Prince Amukamara. Wright and Sims will give Glennon some much-needed offensive weapons, while Demps and Amukamara will help salvage a weak secondary.