How Lions’ NFC North rivals fared with offseason moves
Allen Park — An active NFL offseason can be root of optimism.
For the Detroit Lions, a healthy portion of hope for the 2019 campaign is steeped in the additions of free agents Trey Flowers, Justin Coleman and Jesse James, the selection of T.J. Hockenson in the draft and changes to the coaching staff, headed by new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.
Ideally, if those pieces fit the way they're envisioned, it could thrust the Lions into contention in the NFC North as the franchise pursues its first division title in more than a quarter-century.
But it can be easy to lose focus on the changes the other teams in the division have made during this period. With that in mind, here's what Detroit's rivals have been up to this offseason.
►Players added: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Cordarrelle Patterson, Mike Davis, Buster Skrine, Eddy Pineiro, David Montgomery, Riley Ridley
►Players lost: Jordan Howard, Josh Bellamy, Adrian Amos, Kevin White, Bryce Callahan
► Analysis: After an aggressive offseason a year ago, highlighted by the acquisition of All-Pro edge rusher Khalil Mack from the Raiders, the Bears didn't have the cap space or draft equity to make drastic roster upgrades in 2019.
The biggest changes for the reigning division champs come in the secondary and backfield.
In the back end of the defense, the Bears allowed two key contributors from last season's unit to walk in free agency, losing safety Adrian Amos to the Packers and nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan to the Broncos, where he'll play for former coordinator Vic Fangio.
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Chicago didn't try to fill those holes from within, opting instead to add a pair of experienced veterans in Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Buster Skrine — both solid players in their own right — while managing to save millions in cap space in the process.
With the running back rotation, the Bears dealt Jordan Howard to the Eagles, opting to replace the bruising north-south runner with dual threats who better fit the team's offensive scheme. The Bears signed Mike Davis from Seattle after he averaged 4.6 yards per carry last season and drafted David Montgomery out of Iowa State, one of the best receiving backs in the class.
The Bears are also working on making over their special teams, adding return man Cordarrelle Patterson and what seems like a half-dozen place kickers as they try to find the right man for that job. Eddy Pineiro, who came over in a recent trade with the Raiders, is the presumed front-runner for the gig.
The biggest challenge the Bears might face this offseason is replacing Fangio, who orchestrated the team's dominant defense from a year ago. Former Colts coach Chuck Pagano was brought in as a replacement.
Green Bay Packers
►Players added: Za'Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Adrian Amos, Billy Turner, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, Elgton Jenkins, Jace Sternberger
►Players lost: Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Randall Cobb, Bashaud Breeland
►Analysis: The biggest overhaul in the division wasn't in Detroit, but Green Bay. The Packers have a new coach to start a season for the first time in a dozen years, while the defense got a significant makeover.
Let's start with that defense, which bid farewell to longtime, yet recently ineffective pass rushers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry. That tandem was replaced with a pair of big-ticket signings in free agency in Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith.
To further bolster the rush, the team used the first of its two first-round picks on Michigan's Rashan Gary, banking on his elite athleticism translating into better production than he managed in college. Those three should pair well with the Packers' stellar interior tandem of Kenny Clark and Mike Daniels.
In the back end, the Packers made significant upgrades at safety, signing the steady Adrian Amos away from the Bears and drafting Darnell Savage, a rangy, hard-hitting ball magnet out of Maryland.
Surprisingly, Green Bay didn't invest much in new weapons for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, even after moving on from Randall Cobb. Rookie tight end Jace Sternberger is the closest thing to an impact pass-catcher and first-year players rarely make notable contributions at that position.
More was invested in protecting Rodgers, who has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. The team lured guard Billy Turner away from Denver with a four-year deal and added Elgton Jenkins, a second interior lineman, early on the second day of the draft.
The team is clearly banking on an offensive scheme change acting as a major catalyst for year-to-year improvement. New coach Matt LaFleur will call plays and serve as a testing ground for the Sean McVay coaching tree.
► Players added: Josh Kline, Shamar Stephen, Garrett Bradbury, Irv Smith Jr, Alexander Mattison
► Players lost: Sheldon Richardson, Latavius Murray, Andrew Sendejo, Marcus Sherals, Nick Easton, Mike Remmers, George Iloka
►Analyis: A year ago, the Vikings invested $84 million over three years to add quarterback Kirk Cousins. It's fair to say the franchise saw the ramifications of that big-money deal this offseason.
Strapped for cap space, the Vikings lost or let go of several pieces, including defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, backup running back Latavius Murray and return man Marcus Sherels. The team is currently at a stalemate with tight end Kyle Rudolph, who isn't interested in taking a pay cut, which could lead to his exit as well.
Of course it could have been worse for Minnesota. They were able to agree to a contract restructure with defensive end Everson Griffen, plus an 11th hour change of heart brought back Anthony Barr after he had reportedly agreed to a long-term deal with the New York Jets.
Given the team's cap situation, the Vikings were understandably modest spenders in free agency. They did manage to scoop up guard Josh Kline after he was released by the Titans, helping address an offensive line that badly needed upgrading.
The Vikings further bolstered that unit in the first round of the draft, selecting ultra-athletic center prospect Garrett Bradbury. And in the second round, they snagged Alabama tight end Irv Smith Jr., who could help offset the potential departure of Rudolph. Third-round pick, Boise State running back Alexander Mattison, should fill Murray's former role of backing up Dalvin Cook.
Thu., Aug. 8, New England, 7:30 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 17, at Houston, 8 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 23, Buffalo, 8 p.m. (CBS)
Thu., Aug. 29, at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 8, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Sept. 15, L.A. Chargers, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Sept. 22, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Sept. 29, Kansas City, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Mon., Oct. 14, at Green Bay, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Sun., Oct. 20, Minnesota, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Oct. 27, N.Y. Giants, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Nov. 3, at Oakland, 4 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Nov. 10, at Chicago, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sun., Nov. 17, Dallas, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Nov. 24, at Washington, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Thu., Nov. 28, Chicago, 12:30 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Dec. 8, at Minnesota, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Dec. 15, Tampa Bay, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sun., Dec. 22, at Denver, TBD (CBS)
Sun., Dec. 29, Green Bay, 1 p.m. (Fox)