They don’t call it the “Black and Blue Division” for nothing. Of course an NFL season could never be complete without the NFC North making waves, and 2014 was no different. The Green Bay Packers (12-4) won their fourth consecutive division crown but fell to the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
The Detroit Lions (11-5) return to the postseason was welcomed but short-lived. The Minnesota Vikings (7-9) took a huge step backwards. They groomed yet another new quarterback with rookie Teddy Bridgewater, and their offense was stagnant without the suspended Adrian Peterson.
The Chicago Bears (5-11) were the biggest disappointment in the league last season which cost both the head coach (Marc Trestman) and general manager (Phil Emery) their jobs at season’s end.
The Packers are looking for a way, or perhaps a player, to get back to the Super Bowl. The Lions are looking for a way to get past the Packers, the Vikings are back at square one while the Bears are rebuilding completely.
With that being said, here are the biggest offseason moves within the NFC’s Northern Division so far….
If the Packers hope to touch another Vince Lombardi trophy again then they’re already headed in the right direction. They re-signed their second best receiver in Randall Cobb. He was given a four-year, $40 million contract with $17 million of that guaranteed.
For the first time in his career last season, Cobb played all 16 regular season games. And in doing so, he amassed 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns. Aaron Rodgers just wouldn’t be the same without Cobb, so it was smart for general manager Ted Thompson to lock him up long-term.
It was a huge blow to the Detroit Lions when they lost defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to the Miami Dolphins in free agency (please link AFC East article), but they more than made up for it by trading for Haloti Ngata. The Lions sent fourth and fifth round picks for this year’s draft to acquire the 340 pound lineman.
After all, replacing Suh’s production would have been a chore in free agency or the draft. So the Lions did their team –and their fan base- right by getting a proven commodity. Since his rookie year in 2006, Ngata has totaled 281 career tackles, 25 ½ career sacks, and six forced fumbles.
Another upside with the Tongan pass rusher is that he doesn’t have the negative reputation that Suh does. If the Lions want to stop Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, this is a step in that direction.
The biggest move with the Minnesota Vikings so far is one that hasn’t been made yet. The team has been agonizing over whether or not to keep embattled running back Adrian Peterson. He’s been on the exempt list since being charged with child abuse at the beginning of last season.
Peterson has been battling the league for reinstatement but all the while, the Vikings have been mostly silent on the matter. The former college All-American running back has publicly speculated about the loyalty –or lack thereof- from Vikings management.
And because of that, there are rumors running rampant about whether or not he will stick around. If Minnesota chooses to part ways with the former Oklahoma standout, Jerry Jones and his Dallas Cowboys will be more than happy to have him.
They just lost Demarco Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles (please link NFC East article) in free agency, plus Peterson is a Texas native and Jones has never been afraid to sign players with past legal troubles.
Then we have the elephant in the room known as the Chicago Bears. Their struggles, trials and tribulations of the past two seasons have been well documented. There have been changes in the front office, changes in the coaching staff which have now lead to changes in the roster.
New general manager Ryan Pace and new head coach John Fox are ushering in a new era in Bears history. For the first time in franchise history, the Bears will be running a 3-4 defense (please link story: http://www.chicitysports.com/2015/02/23/current-bears-players-who-may-or-may-not-fit-into-a-3-4-defense/).
Aside from the block buster Brandon Marshall trade, the Bears have been putting the pieces in place for their new defense. The biggest piece thus far has been outside linebacker Pernell McPhee. He’s the perfect cornerstone for a new defense.
In just four seasons McPhee has gathered 92 career tackles and 17 sacks. Not bad for somebody who sat behind both Terrell Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. The Bears have only begun to make moves so expect more from them in the coming months.
There will be blood when the battle for the NFC North resumes in September.