Rating the 2021 NFC North free agency moves: Packers, Lions, Vikings are doing well as Bears spoil the biggest role


As the 2021 NFL Draft approaches, dozens of notable veterans remain unsigned. Many could still prove valuable during the summer and early fall. But most of the big waves of free agency have passed and most teams have already gathered their cores. So what teams got him out of the park? Which ones swayed and failed? We go division by division on CBS Sports to evaluate the 32 teams and their performance at the start of the offseason.

In the NFC North, three teams have performed quite similarly, while one has clearly missed the mark:

Notable additions / transfers:

Notable subtractions:

This offseason was always going to be all about the quarterback job for the Bears. They told everyone, both with their words (“we have a plan”) and with their actions (let Trubisky walk). The great result? Sign and immediately hand over the number one spot to Dalton, who hasn’t enjoyed a winning season in five years; He hasn’t played a full season in four; he has averaged less than seven yards per attempt since 2015; and he seemed totally replaceable in a far superior Cowboys offense in 2020. Can his personnel connections make him an improvement over Nick Foles? Maybe. But the Bears needed a bigger swing here, not a return to a low-ceiling stopgap.

Outside of QB, which will only be rectified with a surprise trade or draft-day addition, the rest of the Bears’ activity has been fine. Edwards and Attaochu bring stability up front, but Trufant is a downgrade from Fuller. Williams might be a nice complement as a running back, but offense’s best playmaker Robinson doesn’t seem any closer to signing in the long run.

Grade: D

Notable additions / transfers:

Notable subtractions:

On the surface, the Lions haven’t exactly introduced instant hope to Motown. Jamaal Williams is good, and Tyrell Williams can be, but it’s best to use both as complementary pieces. The same goes for Perriman and Brockers. And then there’s Goff, who was too often weakened leaving Los Angeles, who was so eager to ditch his bloated contract that he gave up two first-round picks as part of the Stafford deal. However, those two first-round players are the main reason the Lions get more than a passing grade here. Even in the plausible case that Goff (still only 26) doesn’t blink in a new setting, Detroit will be poised to add its own premium QB sooner rather than later.

Most of the Lions’ abductions, meanwhile, are closer to the additions on their way out: overpaid veterans whose value no longer justified their salaries. The only exceptions might be Stafford, which had yet to start over while its market was hot; and Jones, who was an underrated starter. Okwara returns at 25, fresh off a 10-sack season, for fair money from pass rushers, it’s a nice bonus.

Grade: C +

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Aaron Rodgers must be loving this, right? Green Bay wasn’t going to have much spending flexibility anyway, and retaining both Jones and restricted free agent Robert Tonyan is far from negligible. But still, this is a Packers team that is one win away from reaching the Super Bowl two years in a row. Despite Rodgers often lacks the weaponry of other contenders. Adding a single veteran receiver, be it Will Fuller or TY Hilton or JuJu Smith-Schuster, would have been nice. And while King’s deal is reasonable for a corner kick, the club could have stuck to adding competition there as well.

There’s nothing wrong with standing firm in free agency, where big spenders rarely find lasting talent or hype (unless their team also has Tom Brady). It’s not like the Packers aren’t good enough to make another deep run in 2021. But they are entering the draft with some legitimate questions at various key points, from the O line to the receiver to the secondary.

Grade: C

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Notable subtractions:

Like their quarterback, the Vikings have recently built a reputation for being good enough to make the playoffs, but not good enough to go much further. His moves this offseason don’t exactly mean a reversal of that trend, as we have a lot of part changes rather than clear improvements. However, at first glance, the decisions are quite respectable. Rudolph and Reiff had to start over, and both Tomlinson and Peterson are perfect additions to Mike Zimmer’s defense. The former is a prototypical gap-plugging force up front, and Peterson, though he’s no longer in All-Pro form, brings a steady hand to a young high school.

Still, it hurts to see Harris go into a reasonable deal with the Eagles, as Harrison Smith now finds himself facing a huge void at safety. And the Vikings still have work to do as a receiver, where Chad Beebe needs some serious competition at No. 3. The draft remains to plug other holes, but you have to wonder how much they have actually added to the 2020 building blocks.

Grade B-



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