Roster Holes Around the NFC North

Now that the dust has largely settled on free agency and the virtual NFL Draft is only a little over two weeks away, we’re beginning to get a better look at the NFC North. Which rosters improved? (The short answer might be none of them.) What glaring weaknesses still remain for each team? That’s what we’re here to talk about today. 

Green Bay Packers

We’ve talked at length about this roster and how Brian Gutekunst could approach draft night, so I’ll try to be quick here. Green Bay said goodbye to its starting inside linebacker and stud right tackle in free agency, signing in their places a new starting inside linebacker and right tackle. While both Christian Kirksey and Rick Wagner come with injury concerns, their contracts allow the Packers a ton of flexibility in the draft and beyond, even if both are viewed mainly as bridge players these next one or two seasons. As is always the goal, now Gutekunst is able to draft the best player available, not for a glaring roster need. And that’s not to say he won’t still prioritize either of the positions listed, because they very well may be the best players available when the Packers are on the clock, but the point is it’s no longer a necessity. 

We know the Packers need a wide receiver, and the team has said as much. They aren’t going into the 2020 season with the current unit, despite signing Devin Funchess in free agency. So expect a receiver to come off the board early for Green Bay. Lastly, with Tramon Williams still an unsigned free agent, expect the Packers to look for some help behind Jaire Alexander and Kevin King. Not only is King entering free agency in 2021, but the remaining stable of guys are still unproven to a large extent, with Williams having played 73% of defensive snaps at 37 years old. Guys like Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, and Ka’dar Hollman certainly can take a jump, but expect the Packers to draft another corner as competition for that starting role. 

While Green Bay didn’t take any massive steps forward in free agency, the team didn’t really get worse, either, and with a strong draft the Packers should still be right in the mix come playoff season. 

Roster needs in no order: OT, WR, ILB, IDL, CB

Detroit Lions

The glaring needs on the Detroit Lions roster fall on the defensive side of the ball. The Lions said goodbye to Darius Slay in the secondary, arguably the team’s best corner, in favor of bringing in Desmond Trufant, Darryl Roberts, and Tony McRae. Of course, this need could immediately be remedied at the third overall pick in the draft if Detroit stays put and lands star corner Jeff Okudah. But at least for now, the secondary needs some work.

Next let’s talk about the defensive line, where the Lions lost Mike Daniels, A’Shawn Robinson, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison. They did add Danny Shelton, but given head coach Matt Patricia’s connection to the Patriots, it’s hard not to be skeptical of every former Patriot that finds their way to Detroit. (The same argument can be used with Jamie Collins at linebacker, another free agent signing for the Lions.)

There are still weapons on offense for Matthew Stafford, with Danny Amendola being re-signed to continue playing alongside Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr, though his protection will look a little different in Rick Wagner’s absence. The Lions instead opted to sign Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a massive contract (5 years, $45 million). But despite having solid protection along the line and weapons in the passing game, the Lions could use another running back to complement Kerryon Johnson, especially after Johnson missed half his season to injury in 2019. 

Perhaps the most intriguing signing came in the form of quarterback Chase Daniel who leapfrogs David Blough as the backup behind Stafford on the roster. While the Lions could still draft a quarterback early, bringing in Daniel alleviates some of that thought. 

Roster needs in no order: CB, DL, EDGE, S, RB

Minnesota Vikings

I hope Lizzo’s new man can play safety, that’s all I’m saying. 

Beyond Harrison Smith and Anthony Harris there are no safeties on the current Vikings roster. Yes, you read that right. And there are plenty of rumors swirling around that after franchise tagging Harris, he could be part of a trade on draft night. The Vikings also lost cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, and released Xavier Rhodes who all went to AFC teams this offseason, so the Minnesota secondary is getting a complete overhaul. To round out the defense, the Vikings swapped big bodies on the defensive line, releasing Linval Joseph to help clear cap space and signing Michael Pierce. 

Switching to offense, Minnesota traded away its top wide receiver in Stefon Diggs, sending him to the Bills for a crop of draft picks, including an additional first round selection. And while the Vikings did bring in Tajae Sharpe in free agency, it’s all but a given the team will be drafting a receiver high to pair opposite Adam Thielen in Diggs’ place. 

Amidst all of the roster churning taking place in Minnesota, the Vikings did manage to sign Kirk Cousins to a two-year, $66 million extension, so the Vikings have that going for them, which is nice. 

Roster needs in no order: CB, WR, S, OL, DL

Chicago Bears

Finally let’s talk about the Chicago Bears, who had one of the most interesting offseasons to follow. The team traded for quarterback Nick Foles and is now declaring an open competition between Foles and Mitchell Trubisky in training camp. 

The Bears are in a tough spot given the team’s remaining draft capital. While seven picks is an adequate amount, the team has two of those picks in the second round with the remaining five selections coming in the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds. 

A big priority for Chicago in this draft has to be wide receiver. Whoever starts at quarterback is going to need help, even if Anthony Miller continues to improve alongside Allen Robinson. The team already released Taylor Gabriel, so the need for another receiving threat is there. The tight end position is also entirely up in the air for the Bears, who signed Jimmy Graham to a two-year, $16 million contract with $9 million guaranteed. That brings the number of tight ends on the roster to 10. No, seriously. 

With Kyle Long retiring this offseason, the Bears will also need to find some help along the interior of the offensive line. It’s not going to matter who’s throwing the football in Chicago if they don’t have any protection. 

The Bears brought back Danny Trevathan at inside linebacker and said goodbye to Nick Kwiatkoski in free agency. Additionally, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix joined the Dallas Cowboys, leaving safety as another position of need for Chicago opposite Eddie Jackson. 

The biggest splash made by the Bears in free agency had to come in the form of pass rusher Robert Quinn. Quinn had a pretty dominant year for the Cowboys and now will be paired opposite Khalil Mack. Of all the moves made by the rest of the NFC North this offseason, the Bears landing Quinn is one of the best. 

Roster needs in no order: CB, IOL, WR, S, QB

 

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Maggie Loney is a writer for Cheesehead TV and podcasts for the Pack-A-Day Podcast and Pack's What She Said. Find her on Twitter at @MaggieJLoney.

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Comments (22)

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dobber's picture

April 07, 2020 at 12:20 pm

" so the Vikings have that going for them, which is nice. "

5 stars for the hidden Caddyshack reference!

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flackcatcher's picture

April 07, 2020 at 01:26 pm

NUTS!... Beat me to it...

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CoachDino's picture

April 07, 2020 at 03:50 pm

When I read the line I chuckled thinking it was from Caddyshack.
You know you're getting old when you quote Caddyshack lines and no one gets them...

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dobber's picture

April 07, 2020 at 05:58 pm

My students never do...

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Comfortking's picture

April 07, 2020 at 05:53 pm

Dalai Lama, big hitter...

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dobber's picture

April 07, 2020 at 05:59 pm

Gunga galunga!

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Lphill's picture

April 07, 2020 at 12:40 pm

Green Bay Packers glaring need , inside linebacker and stopping the run. The run defense right now is pathetic I don’t see it fixed from the draft. It’s no secret to other teams, no need to throw on the Packers ,run Forest run!

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cheesehead1's picture

April 07, 2020 at 07:44 pm

Our D has been average “at best” since our SB win. We need more talent and R. Gary was supposed to be able to provide that. I’m not writing him off by any means after just one year but as a #12 pick he must step up. Gute and Pettine has been hit and miss so far IMO. The NFC Championship was totally embarrassing. How would Jimmy Garoppolo have made out against Bosa and that D?...Easier said than done I know, but fix the D finally.

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TheKanataThrilla's picture

April 07, 2020 at 02:18 pm

With the draft often looking 1 year out I am thinking that even though our roster is currently great that RB is a need. With our cap issues in 2021 I can see us drafting a RB as insurance against either Jones signing elsewhere or not being able to afford him with all our other FA signings.

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mamasboy's picture

April 07, 2020 at 02:30 pm

Leave it to the f---ing Bills to hand the f---ing Vikings the best draft they've had for a while.

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splitpea1's picture

April 07, 2020 at 03:48 pm

Dumb Bears, smart Bears: I don't know what they could have possibly been thinking when they signed Graham. However, the Foles acquisition might be just what they need; for a fourth-round pick and a restructured contract, I don't think it was a bad deal.

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stockholder's picture

April 07, 2020 at 04:54 pm

Roster needs in no order: OT ? No Vacancy = RT has been Filled. WR ? No- Funchess was signed, and there is No guarantee's w/Reagor. Most are still in Love with Lazard @ WR, And were going to RUN, Right? ILB ! Yes- {No Goodson or Fackrell,} If you take a LB, You better take the best one you can get. IDL! Stats don't Lie. But in Guteys mind, is there a Vacancy? Will he face reality? CB No- Best case- Sign Williams again. RB- No,{ Williams and Jones Extension.} We all understood TTs philosophy. Draft and Next man up. But Gutey = No longer can disregard the Lb spot. The Lbs have been a revolving door since Ryan Left. (3yrs.) No matter how we may drool over the Wrs. The smart move is to fix the Lbs. Gutey needs Murray or Queen. Pettine may not trust any. But enough is enough. Wasted Picks, Lack of production, etc. The costs keep going up at ILB. And as long as we NEED one. Draft it.

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Fredrik87's picture

April 09, 2020 at 08:51 am

But are Murray and Queen really that good?
Murray was terrible in coverage in college and Queen is liability against the run.
Meanwhile the WR's in this draft are great so you could get a great player at 30 or at the top of the second in a trade down.

The sweet spot for drafting a LB is the 3rd and 4th round IMO.

Also Funchess is likely to do nothing to move the needle at WR struggles with drops and lacks speed.

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CDCDAVEretired's picture

April 07, 2020 at 06:48 pm

When I saw Russell Wilson in his senior season with the Badgers I knew he would be an exceptional quarterback in the NFL. When I saw Jonathan Taylor run for 3 years with the Badgers I know he will be an exceptional running back in the NFL. His excellent patience, vision, and speed are even more impressive than Melvin Gordon. Moreover: he can contribute immediately in his first year while a receiver rarely excels in their first year. Aaron Jones injuries: (2)2017 knee mcl sprains , 2018 thigh/hamstring pull, and 2018 knee mcl sprain. This will be his 4th year in the league.Time to move on. If the Packers do not choose JT with the 30th pick: I promise you Gutekunst and LaFleur will regret it for the rest of their lives! That's a fact Jack! Round 2 and round 3 WR and OT.

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buddrow53's picture

April 07, 2020 at 07:34 pm

I agree in the pick I like him a lot. He will keep the defenses honest, love his speed. He would gain Arods trust faster than any rookie wr.
I would take him first a good wr next then build the ol/dl with beef.

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Demon's picture

April 07, 2020 at 08:09 pm

And I had 500 people tell me that Jared Abbrederis was going to be the next Jerry Rice. I find it strange that you are not a scout or GM with your abilities.

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Cheesey51's picture

April 08, 2020 at 06:38 am

Nobody in the right mind(Raiders) should select a RB in the first round. JT has not been a consistent Pass catcher out of the backfield.
Agree with t your medical he on my Aaron Jones. He was a third or fourth rounder and can catch out of the backfield
Russell Wilson in his only year at wisconsin was exceptional and was and is a very good QB and would have looked good in Green and Gold

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Daren726's picture

April 09, 2020 at 07:19 am

Running backs are a dime a dozen. Gute can find one in the later rounds or for cheap in free agency. Not a high draft need.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

April 07, 2020 at 09:14 pm

MN lost Everson Griffen as well. They lost 3 CBs and have just 2 safeties on the roster. Lots of needs but they do have 5 picks in the top 105 selections and 12 picks overall. The Cousins contract is awful. 2021 looks pretty good for them with just Dalvin Cook and Elfein the main FAs. Still needs OL help as well.

CHI grossly overpaid for Quinn given his age but he is better than Leonard Floyd and cheaper as well. Still a tough team.

Detroit didn't get better but has 5 picks in the top 109, and has the 3rd selection in each of the first six rounds.

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Bure9620's picture

April 08, 2020 at 04:50 am

I still can't get over the fact the Bears are in cap hell with a QB on a rookie contract....whom they traded up one spot for and was not worth a first round pick........remember the Hadl trade?? I don't, I wasn't alive. Roster mismanagement can be humorous.

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dobber's picture

April 08, 2020 at 05:49 am

This is the situation they bought themselves with the Mack trade.

Burned up a lot of cap on guys like Robinson and Burton before the trade. Then sent their draft capital to the Raiders for Mack and gave him QB money...they're married to him for at least two more years.

Now they lack cap space to make major moves and have no high-end draft capital to bring in immediate help. Mismanagement, yes. Poor peripheral assessment of players they needed to step up in order to make a run? Yes. Ryan Pace swinging for the fences to try to save his job? Yes.

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Cheesey51's picture

April 08, 2020 at 06:32 am

Packers should be looking to trade for Robert Woods of the LA Rams and forget about Brandin Cooks and his concussions ?
Vikings looked to have quite a f ew holes to fill. Bears have. 10TE on roster.really.
Lions could be sneaky good with all the moves they have put together or be the Lions and self destruct
Bears. With Quinn and Mack could be fear she pass rush but offense ?

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