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NFC North Offseason Forecast
By Matt Horkman

Chicago Bears

Team Needs: The Bears desperately need safety help. They failed to address the position last off-season, so they’ll look to fill the void this off-season. They could look to free agency or use a high pick -- possibly their first rounder -- on the position. The team counted on Charles Tillman playing in 2014, but his season ended in week 2 when he tore his triceps. With Tillman’s time in Chicago officially over and Tim Jennings turning 32 in November, adding another corner is definitely in the cards especially when you play Green Bay twice a year.  Finally, don’t be surprised if the team targets a developmental quarterback in this year’s draft.

Free Agency: Chicago hit free agency hard in 2014, adding defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen. Whether or not new general manager Ryan Pace takes a similar approach is unknown. However, Pace’s hand might be tempted if either safety Devin McCourty or cornerback Darrelle Revis hits the open market.

Big Picture: What should the Bears do about Jay Cutler? Cutting him doesn’t seem to be an option, as he would count $19.5 million against Chicago’s salary cap. Trading him is a better option, but that requires finding a team willing to pay an aging quarterback $25.5 million over the next two years. Most likely, the Bears are stuck with Cutler. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look to the future, though. UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley would benefit from a year or two of development, and could be an enticing option on day two of the draft.

Detroit Lions

Team Needs: It’s unlikely that Detroit will retain both Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. They may not want the latter regardless of what happens with Suh. As a result, they could target at least one defensive tackle early in the draft. Running back Joique Bell is a good player, but he turns 30 this year. Reggie Bush may also be on his way out, so now is a gooNdamukong Suhd time to invest in a young running back. Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon and Georgia’s Todd Gurley are potential candidates. Finding a steady right tackle would stabilize the offensive line. 

Free Agency: If the Lions don’t like what they see via the draft, free agent running back C.J. Spiller would be an ideal replacement for Bush. The team would also score a major coup by signing Green Bay’s Bryan Bulaga to be their right tackle.

Big Picture: Detroit’s entire off-season revolves around whether they re-sign Suh. In most cases they’d franchise the former first-round pick, but that’d cost them nearly $27 million in 2015. They won’t do that. Suh’s heading for the open market, and losing him would be a major blow for a team that was minutes from their first playoff win in 23 years.

Green Bay Packers

Team Needs: You can count on the Packers addressing the middle of their defense. They will add competition inside at nose tackle, where B.J. Raji and Letroy Guion are pending free agents. They’re also likely to part ways with long-time inside linebacker A.J. Hawk, as defensive coaches scaled back his responsibilities in the latter half of last season. Both the free agent and draft class offer suitable replacements.

Free Agency: Ted Thompson isn’t one to wade into free agency, but he did sign Julius Peppers and Guion last off-season. Both were instrumental to the defense. Teammates even voted Peppers a playoff captain. Did last year’s free agent success pave the way for Thompson to act more aggressive in 2015?

Big Picture: Draft and develop has been Green Bay’s mantra under Thompson for 10 yeas now, and it’ll be its mantra regardless of his activity in free agency. Two of Thompson’s best draft picks, receiver Randall Cobb and tackle Bryan Bulaga, are pending free agents. Cobb, 24, caught 106 passes for 1,465 yards and 13 touchdowns in 18 games last season. Meanwhile, Bulaga is among the best right tackles in all of football. You could argue the Packers will have had a great off-season even if they do nothing but re-sign Cobb and Bulaga.

Minnesota Vikings

Team Needs: With Matt Kalil disappointing thus far, the Vikings may look to bring in competition at left tackle. It’s crucial the team gives quarterback Teddy Bridgewater a stud receiver going forward. Cordarrelle Patterson, who has caught just 74 passes in two seasons, doesn’t look like that guy. Look for them to target a cornerback and a couple of linebackers on defense.

Free Agency: There’s no shortage of free-agent receivers on the market. The Vikings could sign Randall Cobb away from Green Bay, in what would be the most trollish move they’ve made since bringing in Brett Favre. They could also opt for a bigger receiver like Demaryius Thomas or Michael Crabtree. 

Big Picture: What are the Vikings going to do with Adrian Peterson? They could make him available for trade. Depending what happens in the off-season, Dallas, New England and Seattle could all make a run at him. Ownership seems to want him back, likely envisioning a scenario that has a developed Bridgewater playing with a productive Peterson. The feeling might not be mutual on Peterson’s part, though. He may not want to wait around for Bridgewater to develop. Frankly, he may not have enough time as he turns 30 in November. Things could get complicated very fast.

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