Now that the offseason is in full swing, front offices of all 32 NFL teams have begun to assess priorities for the coming months. What areas should each team address? This sounds like a job for Maurice Jones-Drew. The NFL.com analyst and former All-Pro running back tries his hand at general manager and identifies three areas each team should tackle this offseason. Today, MJD examines the NFC North:
The Bears made some huge moves in free agency last offseason, and trading for Khalil Mack days before the season opener was the icing on the cake. Thanks to all the bold moves, Chicago had one of the league's most complete rosters and found success in 2018. Now, this offseason should be all about adding depth.
1) Find a clutch kicker. Oh, Cody Parkey. His painful miss in the Bears' wild-card loss left the entire city of Chicago devastated. (Bears fans even attempted the 43-yard field goal Parkey missed. To no one's surprise, they failed miserably.) Parkey is still the team's kicker -- for now -- but the Bears did sign Redford Jones to compete with Parkey for the starting job this offseason. Whoever the Bears go with, he had better be able to come through in clutch moments. (UPDATE: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Friday that the Bears have decided to release Parkey at the start of the league year.)
2) Add depth in the secondary.Bryce Callahan did well as the Bears' nickel corner, but he will hit free agency unless the team applies the franchise tag or re-signs him. If they can't figure out a way to keep Callahan, finding a cornerback in the draft who can play nickel and outside will be key. Safety Adrian Amos is also poised to hit the open market, so this defensive backfield could have some legit holes to fill.
3) Sort out the backfield. I wanted to see Matt Nagy utilize Jordan Howard more last season. Howard is a good downhill runner, but honestly, Nagy didn't look all that comfortable using him in his scheme. The 2018 NFL Coach of the Year is used to backs who can run the rock and catch balls out of the backfield (SEE: Tarik Cohen, and Kareem Hunt during Nagy's time with the Chiefs), so maybe Howard isn't his guy. In that case, the Bears should trade Howard, who has one year left on his contract, and pick up another versatile back in the draft.
Detroit has talent sprinkled throughout the roster, but there are still quite a few holes on both sides of the ball. The Lions need to address the following if they want to compete for the division title:
1) Matt Patricia needs an edge rusher. Set to become a free agent, Ezekiel Ansah is a player the Lions must replace. Patricia's defense was a middle-of-the-road unit in his first year as head coach -- he needs to bolster the pass rush in order for the D to move up the ranks. I have Mississippi State's Montez Sweat going to Detroit with the No. 8 pick of my mock draft, which would be a great move for this team.
2) Find Darius Slay a partner in crime. Slay has been a staple of the Lions' defense for several years, but he needs a more capable cohort on the other side. Nevin Lawson has been OK at times, but Detroit needs more consistent play opposite Slay to stop the dangerous pass attacks of its division rivals.
3) Sign offensive weapons.Matthew Stafford and Co. seriously struggled to produce in 2018, especially after Detroit traded Golden Tate to the Eagles in October. The Lions' offense ranked 24th in yards, 25th in points and 30th in big plays (rushes of 10-plus yards, passes of 20-plus) last season. That's not going to cut it. Detroit needs to make big moves for talented skill-position players in free agency and the draft.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
1) Bolster the pass rush.Muhammad Wilkerson and Clay Matthews are notable pass rushers who could leave Green Bay in free agency. There are plenty of edge menaces available this offseason who could make this area of the Pack instantly better. An intriguing option in the draft is Louisiana Tech's Jaylon Ferguson, who just broke the FBS record for career sacks.
2) Get a consistent TE.Jimmy Graham had one of the least productive seasons of his career in 2018. Hopefully, Rodgers and Graham improve their chemistry and get on the same page this offseason. Regardless of whether that happens or not, the Packers should draft another tight end to compete for targets, especially with Marcedes Lewis and Lance Kendricks hitting the market.
Protecting Kirk Cousins and paving the way for the run game are necessary for the Vikings. They didn't do either consistently well in 2018, so boosting the offensive line is Priority No. 1. Speaking of the run game, Minnesota could lose Latavius Murray to free agency. Look for GM Rick Spielman to sign a back in free agency or draft a guy on Day 2 or Day 3.
1) O-line, O-line, O-line. Minnesota's offensive line was one of the poorest groups in the league last season. I'm not sure anyone would argue with that statement, as Cousins was often forced to get rid of the ball quickly or go off-schedule with little time in the pocket. This unit MUST be addressed, so the Vikings' offense -- which features many enticing pieces -- can reach its full potential.
3) Replace Anthony Barr. The Vikings locked up Eric Kendricks with a long-term deal last offseason, leaving Barr's future with the team hanging in the balance. It doesn't look like the four-time Pro Bowler will return for 2019, so finding another young linebacker -- possibly Deone Bucannon -- to play alongside Kendricks is a huge item on the to-do list this offseason.