NFL Free Agency: Chicago Bears Reload, Packers Still Favorites in NFC North

Michael DulkaContributor IMarch 14, 2012

Jay Cutler's newest weapon, Brandon Marshall
Jay Cutler's newest weapon, Brandon MarshallKent Nishimura/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers remain favorites in the NFC North despite the Chicago Bears' busy day on the first day of free agency and the new league year. The day was typical of how the two franchises have taken different approaches towards building their ideal roster. 

While the Packers added zero players to their roster and lost Mike Neal to a four-game suspension, the Chicago Bears went out and traded for Brandon Marshall, re-signed Tim Jennings and signed quarterback Jason Campbell and linebacker Blake Costanzo.

The Bears definitely got better on paper today, but as has been the case in recent years, winners of March are rarely the winners in January and February. 

Since Jay Culter was traded to the Bears, the team has lacked a legitimate No. 1 threat at wide receiver. Many expected the Bears to go after one of the top free agents, especially Vincent Jackson. Instead, the Bears traded two third-rounders to reunite Cutler with his former teammate Brandon Marshall.

Adding Marshall, along with bringing back Matt Forte via the franchise tag, legitimizes the Bears offense, which was playing great football before Cutler broke his thumb and Forte injured his knee. Injuries were the downfall of the Bears playoff dreams and ultimately their 2011-12 season.

In order to solve that issue, the Bears signed Jason Campbell, most recently with the Oakland Raiders. Campbell provides the Bears will a great backup who is capable of keeping the Bears competitive if Cutler were to go down with another injury.

On defense, it is no secret that the Bears are aging. By re-signing Jennings and bringing in Costanzo, they are relying on an older, but experienced core of defenders.

HOUSTON - OCTOBER 09: Defensive end J.J. Watt #99 of the Houston Texans applies pressure as quarterback Jason Campbell #8 of the Oakland Raiders at Reliant Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite the Bears' frantic and busy day, they didn't make the leap from third in the division to favorites going into the 2012-13 season.

The Bears should be improved and will definitely compete with the Detroit Lions for second place in the division, but the Packers are still the favorites in the NFC North.

With a returning core of Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley, the Packers have no shortage of weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Packers offense, orchestrated beautifully by Rodgers, is one of the best in the history of the game. The moves the Bears made improved their offense, but not to a historic level.

The Packers were bad defensively last season, and that's an understatement.

They failed to get to the quarterback, which provided opposing signal-callers with months to find open receivers down the field. The Packers' ability to take the ball away made up for the deficiencies for much of the season, but ultimately came to be too large to mask.

When the draft comes, the Packers will do their reloading and find the glue that will stick together the large pieces the Packers already have in place. Ted Thompson has done very well when it comes to the draft and should add in another great class this year.

The Bears definitely went out and got better on paper during the first day of free agency. Whether it pans out during the football season will be revealed come September.

Even with the flashy moves and their name in the headlines, the Bears still have a ways to go to completely catch up to the Packers.