Roster Reset: Packers stand apart in NFCN

Discussion in 'Chicago Bears' started by little bear, Apr 16, 2014.

  1. little bear

    little bear Head Coach

    Sep 6, 2008
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    The Green Bay Packers have high-class problems. The rest of the NFC North just has problems.

    After five straight playoff appearances and three straight division titles, Green Bay still stands apart in talent from their rivals. The Packers will never be more ripe to be dethroned than they were in 2013 when Aaron Rodgers missed seven games. Green Bay wasn't a particularly good team when they won the division; they were just fortunate to play in a division caught in a down cycle.

    Minnesota and Detroit are starting over with new coaching staffs, the telltale sign of franchises in transition. The Lions have the talent base and the quarterback to bounce back quickly, but they've only produced one winning season in the Calvin Johnson era. Chicago has a quality coach and quarterback in place, but their defense ranks among the league's worst groups.

    This free agency period hasn't changed the division dynamic dramatically. The Packers brought in Julius Peppers, but mostly focused on re-signing their own players. The Bears made big changes in an effort to re-make the roster, but it's still a team in transition. They lost almost as much talent as they signed. Minnesota and Detroit mostly made cosmetic changes.

    To truly make up ground in the division, someone other than Packers general manager Ted Thompson needs to hit a home run in the upcoming draft. The Lions, Vikings and Bears likely won't have the benefit of Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn starting games for the Packers this time around.

    In our Roster Reset series, Around the League will rank teams in each division based on how much they improved this offseason. The NFC North is up last.

    1. Green Bay Packers

    Why the rest of the division should worry: Rodgers isn't the only Packers starter returning to the field. Green Bay missed scores of games from Clay Matthews, Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Casey Hayward, Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy and more. Our roster reset exercise is about what teams have improved. The Packers got better by getting healthier, and re-signing more key players than expected.

    Cornerback Sam Shields cost a lot to bring back, but he was the team's best player at his position. Mike Neal is the type of young, promising player we expected to get more money elsewhere in free agency. B.J. Raji returned at a discount price, while James Starks and John Kuhn add depth to a suddenly dangerous backfield. Signing Julius Peppers was the type of high-risk, high-reward gambit Thompson rarely tries. And he made sure it wasn't too risky since it's essentially a one-year contract.

    Recapping Packers' offseason moves
    Key re-signings

    Key arrivals

    Key departures

    Sam Shields

    Julius Peppers

    James Jones
    B.J. Raji

    Letroy Guion

    Jermichael Finley
    Mike Neal

    Evan Dietrich-Smith
    James Starks

    Marshall Newhouse

    What's next:

    » More OL help: The Packers could be looking for a starter at center and it wouldn't be crazy to add another option at tackle. It's hard to count on David Bakhtiari as an indefinite solution on the blind side.

    » Safety: Micah Hyde could move to safety, but the Packers still need help here after giving up way too many big plays last year.

    » Sign a wide receiver long term: The Packers probably can't sign both Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson this offseason, but they should get one big contract done. The team's depth at wide receiver makes the current hole at tight end not look quite as bad.

    2. Chicago Bears

    Why they improved: The Bears knew what wasn't working on their defense. Lamarr Houston, Jared Allen and Willie Young are an upgrade on Julius Peppers, Henry Melton and Corey Wootton. Melton didn't play last year. The Bears' defense lacked an identity last season, unless that identity was "give up a lot of points." Now they have identified players to fix a broken defensive line, even if there are big problems elsewhere on the defense.

    Coach Marc Trestman's ability to teach quarterbacks will help whoever they bring in to replace Josh McCown as their backup quarterback. At safety, the Bears went with quantity over quality by bringing in Ryan Mundy, M.D. Jennings and Danny McCray. Devin Hester was an emotional departure,