Whew! The worst of it should be pretty much over. The first wave of NFL free agent signings has washed ashore. We all knew the Packers would have to sit it out. There is simply no money to compete for the top names. All we could do is wince and hold our breath and hope the other teams in the NFC North wouldn’t make enough significant moves to surpass Green Bay in talent.
The Vikings, Bears and Lions have been busy. But to the eye of this writer, the Packers remain the most talented team in the division. Let’s take a look at what’s transpired.
Minnesota has had an interesting offseason. They have a fairly impressive portfolio of free agent signings. The Vikes picked up cornerback Patrick Peterson, defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson, defensive end Stephen Weatherly and linebacker Nick Vigil. They lost tight end Kyle Rudolph, tackle Riley Reiff and safety Anthony Harris. They are desperately trying to rebuild on defense after last year’s youth movement didn’t work. Peterson has shown signs of slippage, else they never would have gotten him for $8 million on a one year deal. Weatherly is not an impact player. Minnesota will be stout on the D-line if they can field Tomlinson, Michael Pierce and Danielle Hunter, but there are reports that Hunter is unhappy with his deal and may request a trade. The offense thus far remains much the same, with explosive talent at the skill positions but many question marks along the O-line.
The Bears added quarterback Andy Dalton and defensive back Desmond Trufant. They have lost quarterback Mitch Trubisky, cornerback Kyle Fuller and defensive back Buster Skrine. They franchised receiver Allen Robinson. Hard to see the Bears being better by these moves. Dalton for Trubisky is no better than an even trade-off. Ditto for Trufant-Fuller. There are reports that Akiem Hicks has been given permission to seek a trade. His loss would be critical to the defensive front.
The Lions have the furthest to improve, so it’s not surprising they have been the busiest team in the division. They pulled the trigger on a complete rebuild by trading quarterback Matt Stafford to the Rams and getting LA signal caller Jared Goff in return. Among their free agent acquisitions are former Packers Jamaal Williams and Tim Boyle, receiver Tyrell Williams, tight end Josh Hill, receiver Breshad Perriman and trading for defensive lineman Michael Brockers. Besides Stafford, their losses include receiver Kenny Golladay, DB Trufant, offensive lineman Joe Dahl, defensive lineman Everson Griffen and tight end Jesse James. One would think the Lions can’t help but get better, but it all depends on the quarterback play. Regardless, this is a rebuild that will take a few more years.
So, as of now, let’s compare the Packers to their rivals in some key areas.
Rodgers clearly the best. Cousins second. Dalton third. Goff last.
Dalvin Cook first, Aaron Jones a close second. Deandre Swift third. AJ Dillon fourth. David Montgomery fifth.
1. Davante Adams 2. Allen Robinson 3. Justin Jefferson 4. Adam Thielen
1. Packers (with David Bakhtiari) 2. Lions 3. Bears 4. Vikings
1. Vikings (Hunter, Pierce, Tomlinson) 2. Lions (Flowers, Brockers, Okwara) 3. Bears (Hicks, Goldman, Edwards) 4. Packers (Clark, Lowry, Keke)
1. Bears (Mack, Smith, Trevathan) 2. Packers (Z. Smith, P. Smith, Gary) 3.Vikings (Kendricks, Barr, Dye) 4. Lions (Collins, Tavai, Reeves-Maybin)
Corners & Safeties:
1. Packers (Alexander, Amos, Savage) 2. Bears (Trufant, Johnson, Jackson) 3. Vikings (Peterson, Dantzler, Smith) 4. Lions (Okuda, Walker, Moore)
The Packers finished best in the division in total defense in 2020 and nothing has happened thus far in free agency to significantly change that. The Vikings have bolstered their D-line and secondary and may move ahead of the Bears, but the Packers have the overall best talent led by All Pro caliber players Kenny Clark, Za’darius Smith and Jaire Alexander, and a rising star in Rashan Gary. I’m not saying the Green Bay defense is great, but they are the best in the North.
There’s a lot of offseason yet to play out. Things could certainly change. There are low tier free agents still out there. Who knows? Maybe even the Packers will sign one! And then, of course, there is the draft.
But after the first blush of free agency, the Packers still have the best quarterback, the best receiver, a Pro Bowl running back, the best offensive line, the best cornerback and the best pair of safeties. I like their chances.
Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.