It’s March. It’s getting a wee bit warmer. Slowly but surely, the snow is mostly gone (knocking on wood) and our up-next list contains The Masters, baseball and barbecues. Not really the time of year most people think about the NFL, but some offseason moves made in the NFC North ought to get us Midwesterners to pay a little closer attention to football instead of just wandering around and mumbling “ope!” when we run into people.
The Minnesota Vikings have, in my opinion, made one of the biggest offseason moves out of any team in the NFL, let alone the NFC North. I think the Vikings are going to enjoy their time with the new guy under center, straight outta East Lansing a few years back: Kirk Cousins. The Minnesota newcomer is raking in some serious cash with his new three-year deal worth $84 million. Not bad, Kirk.
The Vikings have won the North two out of the past three years and finished runner-up in the NFC this past season, barely missing a bid to face the Pats in the Super Bowl. After packing up his bags and moving 1,113.4 miles, Cousins will hit the practice field with a team that has arguably top-five odds to go to the Super Bowl in 2019. Don’t get me wrong: Case Keenum carried more than his share of the load last season, but having a more veteran QB like Cousins is only going to add to an already proven offense, along with a defense that held opponents to less than 20 points in 12 games last season.
The Green Bay Packers have also made their share of off-season moves. Most notably, the Packers signed former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jimmy Graham. The five-time Pro-Bowler led all NFL TEs last season with 10 TDs, which is his fourth season with at least 10 touchdown receptions, tying Antonio Gates for second. The new tight end will try to boost the Packers offense after seeing off Jordy Nelson, who went to the Oakland Raiders. If you ask me, I think it sounds like one guy who’s starting (or about to start) his decline replacing another guy who’s starting his decline. Obviously, a tight end doesn’t produce the same numbers as wideouts, but I think ultimately it’s six in one, half-dozen in the other.
Daaaa Bears. Chicago has one of the longest list of offseason deals out of any NFL team with 14 players signing, including two QBs, two WRs and four CBs. Without spending too much time on the least of the North’s threats, the Bears’ biggest move was signing all-star wide out Allen Robinson. Sure, the former Jaguar missed pretty much all of last season due to injury, but let’s not forget his 2015 season that showcased 1,400 receiving yards paired with 14 TDs, including a 90-yard touchdown catch. The newbie in the Windy City plans on making QB Mitch Trubisky’s life a little easier, and I don’t doubt him.
Finally, we have our beloved Lions. This offseason has kind of been like when you were a kid and got grounded to your room, only to sit there and watch all the other kids play outside. It seems like everyone else in the NFC North has been trading a lot of big names to ready up for next season, except Detroit. It seems the biggest news has been, and will continue to be, acquiring head coach Matt Patricia (see previous Flood Watch for my thoughts on him). However, one offseason move that I think could flip a switch for Detroit is signing running back LaGarrette Blount to a one-year, $4.5 million deal.
The Lions haven’t had a RB rush for 100 yards or more in a game in five years. For those of you who don’t know, that’s bad. Very, very bad. In fact, only two out of the eight RBs since 2013 have even broke 70 yards in a game. Yup, that’s true. Blount rushed for over 1,000 yards and led the league’s RBs in touchdowns in 2016. He collected his second Super Bowl ring last year in Philly. Not to mention that the former Patriot will be reunited with former New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn, both of whom he worked with in the organization in which Blount found his highest levels of success.
So it’s looking like 2018-2019 will pan out to be another year of interesting football in the NFC North. But enough of this football talk. There’s much more interesting things going on this time of year (cough, cough Tiger Woods).