NFC North: Best Possible Free Agent Signee for Each Team in 2011
With the lockout still in affect, all we can do as fans is speculate as to who will stay or go once free agency opens up.
Every team has needs, from the league-worst, Carolina Panthers to the Super Bowl defending champion, Green Bay Packers. The NFL draft is always a way to add youth and future stars to a team, but really, free agency is the best way to add impact players immediately.
And whenever the new CBA is agreed on and we can resume regular NFL operations, there will be a plethora of player transactions. This offseason will be loaded with "Old Faces in New Places" stories.
I'd like to now give you my prediction for the best signee of each team within the NFC North, their contract and 2011 season record...
1. Green Bay Packers
As a Viking fan, it's hard to accept that the Green Bay Packers are loaded with talent and are truly set to be the next "Dynasty," but that's exactly what they are.
Not only did Green Bay win the Super Bowl last season, but they did it with 16 players on injured reserve. They have a team that has an average age of only 27, and they have stars on both sides of the ball. So how could they possibly be any better?
Spend some cash in free agency...
The Best Possible Signee: James Anderson, OLB Carolina Panthers
Clay Matthews is a beast at 3-4 OLB but opposite him, he really doesn't have anyone. Nick Barnett, who is older than his immediate replacement (Desmond Bishop) can't make the move to OLB and will most likely be moved or released due to salary.
So adding a guy like Anderson, the Packers could add another young stud who would be a promising edge-rushing nightmare for opposing offenses.
Contract: Six years, $65 million
2011 Season Record: 13-3, NFC North Champions
2. Chicago Bears
The Bears made a great run last season, with limited star players. They have an older, veteran defense and a young offense. But both carry talent. The front line is a force, but that has a lot to do with DE Julius Peppers.
The offensive line could use some pieces, but coach Mike Tice is doing a good job finding quality starters. Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator and Cutler would like some new toys though.
Best Possible Signee: Santana Moss, WR Washington Redskins
Moss, 32 (and pending free agent) is coming off a pretty impressive season in 2011 with Washington after setting a career high in receptions (93) and scoring six touchdowns. But given his age and his desire to be on a contender, Moss could very well choose a team like Chicago.
Plus, it would give Culter a clear-cut No. 1 WR that fits OC Mike Martz' system (smaller, quicker, deep-threat.) for a most likely reasonable price.
Contract: Four years, $25 million
2011 Season Record: 10-6, wild-card pick
3. Detroit Lions
Detroit had an excellent draft. It is finally moving in a positive direction from the Matt Millen era.
General manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz are doing a good job making the Lions relevant again. The Lions finished strong last year and only built on that momentum heading into this one.
With QB Matthew Stafford's arm back healthy (again) the Lions can finally utilize their former No. 1 overall pick with former No. 2 overall pick (2007) on a regular basis, while their newly revamped defensive line wreaks havoc on opposing offenses.
But the Lions have a few needs behind the line. They could really go a few directions this offseason, but really, so could any team. And since this is "Best Signee" I'll stick with just that one.
Best Possible Signee: Nnamdi Asomugha, DB Oakland Raiders
With an unkown void in his contract, Asomugha is expected to seek greener pastures this offseason, even with the recent signing of positions coach, Rod Woodson. Frankly, he deserves to.
The Raiders are just now starting to make noise, and they will be coming off a shortened offseason and could relapse at anytime this season.
And with Detroit's dire need in the secondary and Nnamdi's desire to be on a competitive team, this move makes sense (yes, Detroit is much better than Oakland right now).
Contract: Seven years, $42 million
2011 Season Record: 9-7, No playoffs
4. Minnesota Vikings
Head coach Leslie Frazier has seemingly ended the the Brett Favre drama and moved past the Tarvaris Jackson experiment in Minnesota by drafting QB Christian Ponder in the 12th spot in the 2011 draft.
Minnesota is loaded with free agents of their own. And will look to fill key holes. It seems like Frazier and General manager Rick Spielman have accepted their "re-tooling" stage.
However, with an aging but effective defense and a young yet explosive offense...not to mention, the NFL's best running back, Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings won't be nearly as bad as they were last season.
But they need to add some parts for improvement.
Best Possible Signee: Jared Gaither, OT Baltimore Ravens
Minnesota has a potential franchise quarterback in Ponder, the last thing they want to have happen is for him to be abused by opposing defenses. Left tackle Bryant McKinnie isn't cutting it and is earning WAY too much money for his performance, and on top of that, he's 31.
Jared Gaither, a young tackle (25) with amazing potential, could immediately replace him at LT and protect Ponder's blindside for years. He most likely won't be expensive (mainly because of his injury past), but it could pay dividends for the Vikings if they invested wisely in the potential franchise left tackle.
Contract: Six years $28 million
2011 Season: 8-8, No playoffs