Free Agents Around the NFC North

There are plenty of big-name players set to hit free agency across the NFC North, including a few former Packers starters.

This past Tuesday I highlighted one player for each division rival that could become a cap casualty. Today, I want to follow that up with players around the NFC North who are already  free agents, since, of course, cap space and free agency go hand-in-hand. There are a few familiar names on this list, as well as a few players who could make an impact for the Packers if their respective teams allow them to test the market. 

Starting with the Chicago Bears, the first name that will immediately jump out to fans is former Packers safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears during free agency last offseason, and he played well. Clinton-Dix started all 16 games for the Bears, had two interceptions (one that was returned for a touchdown), and five passes defensed. He also recovered two fumbles and had a combined 78 tackles. 

Clinton-Dix had a nice year opposite former Alabama teammate Eddie Jackson, and has expressed his desire to stay with the Bears for that reason, but he also is looking for a much bigger contract this offseason. Signing a $3 million prove-it deal last year, Clinton-Dix expects his next contract to be significant. The Bears don’t have a ton of cap space available to them with roughly $13.4 million to spend, so whether they’d opt to give Clinton-Dix the kind of contract he desires remains to be seen, especially with the long-term deal Jackson recently signed that made him the highest-paid safety in league history. 

To wrap up the Bears we have two players at the same position, inside linebackers Danny Trevathan and Nick Kwiatkoski. Trevathan is obviously the more well-known player for the Bears, but he’s only played a full season once during his tenure with Chicago and he’ll turn 30 this offseason. Rather than re-sign Trevathan to what would likely be a more expensive contract, the Bears could turn to Kwiatkoski, their fourth-round pick from the 2016 Draft who filled in nicely this past season in Trevathan’s absence. 

Of course, the alternative here is that the Bears opt to bring neither Trevathan or Kwiatkoski back and look to the draft or free agency to find a tandem for Roquan Smith in the middle of the defense, but as we’ve already noted, Chicago doesn’t have a ton of cap space available to go on a shopping spree. 

Packers fans have expressed interest in both free agent inside linebackers this offseason, especially with Blake Martinez entering free agency himself, so these are two names to keep an eye on should either or both make it to the open market. 

Next up, the Minnesota Vikings who, as we noted Tuesday, are actually in the negative currently when it comes to cap space. Minnesota has some work to do in order to get back under the salary cap, so it’s unlikely they’ll be able to make a splash in free agency unless there are some surprise releases or restructured contracts. 

The Vikings have two free agents in the secondary in cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Anthony Harris. Coincidentally, former Vikings defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was hired by Matt LaFleur to be the Packers’ new defensive backs coach this offseason. Harris is unlikely to see the open market given the career season he had in Minnesota, snagging six interceptions and tallying 11 passes defensed in 2019. 

Waynes, on the other hand, might be the more expendable player in the Vikings secondary, depending on what the Vikings end up doing with Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is locked in with Minnesota through 2023, but his lofty contract might be a quick way for the Vikings to get back under the salary cap. Given Minnesota’s cap situation, it’s unlikely to think both Harris and Waynes would come back, so a lot of the secondary shuffling will depend on both players’ value on the open market. 

The Packers could make a call about somebody like Waynes depending on what happens with Tramon Williams in free agency. Adding another veteran to the room isn’t a bad idea, and Waynes already has familiarity with Gray. Kevin King is also set to become a free agent in 2021, so the cornerbacks room isn’t locked in for much longer behind Jaire Alexander. 

A final name of interest for Minnesota is kicker Dan Bailey, but it’s hard to picture the Vikings parting with such a reliable player at what can be an unreliable position. Bailey finished his 2019 season making 93.1% of his kicks, and after the kicking carousel that surrounded Minnesota for the last few seasons, Bailey makes sense as someone the Vikings would want to hang onto. While the Packers also have a kicker entering free agency, I have a hard time seeing Green Bay moving on from Mason Crosby, so this whole thing is a non-starter, really. (But it makes for an interesting paragraph, right?)

Finally, let’s talk about the Detroit Lions, who have another familiar face set to enter free agency in Mike Daniels. Daniels signed a one-year contract with the Lions this past offseason, but unfortunately battled injuries for most of the season and only made two starts for the team. The Lions acquired Damon Harrison before the trade deadline this past season, but now Harrison is contemplating retirement, so the defensive interior in Detroit is pretty up in the air, especially if we factor in former second-round pick defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson and his pending free agency, too. 

Robinson is the youngest of the trio by a significant margin at only 24 years old, so it makes the most sense to think the Lions would prioritize his signing over Daniels, especially if Harrison does indeed retire this offseason. However, there are a few free agents on the market that could intrigue the Lions, like Chris Jones (though he’ll earn a massive payday), D.J. Reader, and Javon Hargrave, so it’s possible the Lions would move on from both of their in-house options and look to the open market for a big name stud along the defensive line, assuming any of the options listed actually make it to free agency. Detroit is in the best financial situation in the NFC North currently with over $45 million available to spend, so it wouldn’t shock me to see them make a splash and try to overhaul the defensive side of the ball. 

Are there any division rival free agents that have especially caught your eye? Let me know in the comments. 

 

Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and a podcaster for the Pack-A-Day Podcast. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (9)

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NickPerry's picture

February 14, 2020 at 07:16 am

I would think of all the Free Agents in the division Nick Kwiatkoski makes the most sense. How much money he made himself over a few games filling in for Trevation will be interesting. Salaries tend to get overblown a bit based on just a few good games...Just ask Nick Perry.

The cuts not only in the North but all over the NFL might be where the Packers find some help normally those players who get cut for cap reasons are older. The Bears have to exercise the 5th year option on Trubisky by May 5th if they plan on keeping him. With that ridiculous contract they gave Mack PLUS all the draft picks, that will be interesting to see what Pace does. Paying Trubisky $24 million or so in 2021is EXACTLY what I want to see happen in Chicago. If that happens the Bears are going to suck for at least a few more years. What an AWESOME thought to start the weekend with!

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dobber's picture

February 14, 2020 at 09:05 am

Just not a fan of Kwiatkowski. He's not an upgrade from Martinez except in 2020 salary cap hit. At this stage, I'm hoping the Packers can do better.

As for Trubisky, his will be the most interesting storyline of the NFCN this off-season. I'm all but certain the Bears bring in another QB who can at least compete with him, but it won't be a higher profile guy because they just don't have the $$ for it. Unless they make a big draft or FA acquisition that will replace Trubisky this off-season, Pace will be forced to give Trubisky his 5th year option...keeping in mind that they can rescind it any time until May 2021. He's the player that will either save or cost Pace's job.

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Monsmoy's picture

February 14, 2020 at 08:01 am

Lions may trade back round 1 for additional capital and as such may not get the widely mocked Okudah and they draft Derek Brown. Personally, I think that would be the best move for them anyway. If they want a CB, I wonder if they would trade for Jackson?

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CAG123's picture

February 14, 2020 at 08:28 am

Jackson wouldn’t fit Patricia runs a man heavy scheme if the Packers wanted to trade Jackson they should target teams that run more zone like Philly or The Chargers.

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dobber's picture

February 14, 2020 at 10:10 am

Besides, the Packers wouldn't get value back on Jackson. He's worth more to the Packers than to anyone else at this point.

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flackcatcher's picture

February 14, 2020 at 12:50 pm

I want to see Jackson in OTA and training camp next year. Recovering from a far tougher injury than what was reported, and shifting to a completely new position in Pettine's system. Looks like the Packers invested a lot to let him go that easy. (I wonder if he's going to the second slot DB or a Hybrid next year. Would fit in Pettine scheme...)

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mrtundra's picture

February 14, 2020 at 08:02 am

I do not want to see any of the players, that we moved on from, back in GB. HHCD would revert back to his watching the opposing player run past him for big gains. I also do not want anything to do with any viking FA, either. Did Trae Waynes learn how to hold from the old vikings/ new Packer's coach Jerry Gray? About the only division foe FAs I'd consider would be Nick Kwiatkowski from the Bears and Slay from Detroit. There is not a viking FA worthy of wearing the Green and Gold, IMO. Carry the G. It means something!

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stockholder's picture

February 14, 2020 at 10:54 am

Gute has a bigger problem then worrying about what other people do in this division. The split on Bulaga,Martinez and Williams is going to hurt the future of Bahk,King and Linsley. !. 12.5 mil goes to Clark 2. Bulaga wants 10 mil. 3. Crosby gets 5 mil. 4. Williams at least 5 mil. 5. Martinez still may get signed at 8 mil. 6. 7 mil. for Rookies etc. 7. Graham ?? 8. Taylor ? I don't believe anybody is going to be happy. And when we lose Bahk,King and Linsley people will really have something to bitch about.

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Lphill's picture

February 14, 2020 at 03:45 pm

I like Kwitnikowski but he might be the cheaper option for the Bears, as far as Ha Ha I don’t want him back but he may be looking for a Landon Collins type deal which was a big mistake for the Redskins, but either way he will get paid.

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