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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / NFC North Early 2020 NFL Free Agency Outlook

NFC North Early 2020 NFL Free Agency Outlook

An overview
Publish Date: 03/09/2020
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

The NFC North sent two teams to the playoffs this past season, but all four teams could compete for the division crown in 2020. Even the Detroit Lions, who usually settle into the basement of the division, could make up a lot of ground with a well-run offseason.

Before getting into the article, a few terms need to be clarified. UFA refers to unrestricted free agents who hit the open market and can sign with any team they want. RFA refers to restricted free agents. RFAs can receive offer sheets from new teams, but their old franchises may match those sheets and retain the player.

ERFA refers to exclusive rights free agents who must sign with their current team if the organization extends an offer. ERFAs may not negotiate with other teams as their current clubs hold exclusive rights over them.

Those explanations about UFAs, RFAs, and ERFAs, skim over a lot of detail, but that’s enough information for readers to understand the implications discussed in this article.

NFC North

Chicago Bears

Biggest free agent- Ha Ha Clinton-Dix S (UFA)

Clinton-Dix’s strange NFL career will continue this offseason. The Green Bay Packers originally drafted the Alabama product with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Clinton-Dix made the Pro Bowl, and the Associated Press selected him as a Second Team All-Pro in 2016.

However, the Packers traded Clinton-Dix to the Washington Redskins in 2018. He signed a one-year, three-million-dollar deal with the Bears last offseason. Now, Clinton-Dix could be on the move again. He’s the third-best safety in free agency, trailing Anthony Harris and Justin Simmons.

The Bears could also lose Danny Trevathan and Nick Williams. Trevathan finished this past season on injured reserve (IR). He accumulated 327 tackles and six sacks during his four seasons in Chicago. Williams finished second on the team with six sacks this past season.

Besides some backup offensive linemen, the Bears will get their key offensive players back in 2020. The team will chase a veteran quarterback in free agency, especially since Chase Daniel’s contract ends this Spring.

The Bears released Taylor Gabriel and Prince Amukamara in late February. Amukamara played in Chicago for three years, reviving his career after a disappointing stint in Jacksonville. Gabriel performed well in 2018, but he missed time with injuries this past season.

Detroit Lions

Biggest free agent- Graham Glasgow G (UFA)

The Lions drafted Glasgow in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Since joining the team, the Michigan product has started 58 games and made 62 appearances. Outside of Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney, Glasgow represents the top option for most teams at guard. Logan Thomas, a backup tight end, is the only other pending free agent who impacted Detroit’s offense this past season.

After releasing Damon Harrison, the Lions could also lose Mike Daniels and A’Shawn Robinson along the defensive line. Daniels landed on IR after nine games this past season. His play declined rapidly, and he likely won’t return in 2020. Robinson never delivered on his potential as a second round pick.

Other potential defensive losses include safety Tavon Wilson and cornerback Rashaan Melvin.

On special teams, Detroit could part ways with punter Sam Martin and long snapper Don Muhlbach. Martin was a fifth round pick in 2013. Muhlbach made Pro Bowls in 2012 and 2018. He joined Detroit as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and is currently 38 years old.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest free agent- Bryan Bulaga RT (UFA)

The best available right tackle, outside of Jack Conklin, Bulaga should make a lot of money in free agency. Green Bay selected the Iowa product with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. While he never developed into an All-Pro, Bulaga did faithfully protect Aaron Rodgers for the last nine seasons.

Besides Bulaga, Green Bay could lose some questionable skill players on offense. Geronimo Allison, Jake Kumerow (ERFA), Allen Lazard (ERFA), and Marcedes Lewis all played limited roles this past season. The Packers will probably bring back Lazard since he finished second on the team in receiving yards.

The feeling around Green Bay is that Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez, and Tramon Williams will not return to the team in 2020. Kyler Fackrell recorded 10.5 sacks in 2018, but the team replaced him with more explosive stars this past season. Martinez records a lot of tackles. He has 443 over the past three seasons, but he’s a liability in pass coverage, and most of his production comes on the back end of plays.

Williams joined Green Bay in 2007. He spent a three-year stint away from the team before returning in 2018. Nearing his 37th birthday, Williams can only compete at an NFL level for so long. Green Bay will also likely say goodbye to B.J. Goodson as well, but retain Tyler Lancaster (ERFA).

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest free agent- Anthony Harris S (UFA)

While Harris only took over as a full-time starter within the last two seasons, he could become the highest-paid safety from this free agent class, especially since it seems like Denver will franchise tag Simmons. Spotrac values Harris at $13.8 million per year, which would make him the fifth-highest paid safety in terms of annual salary. Harris led the NFL with six interceptions in 2020.

Minnesota’s most significant free agent concerns center around their defense and special teams. The offense is sticking together for the most part, but the Vikings could lose huge sections on the other side of the ball. In the secondary alone, Mackensie Alexander, Jayron Kearse, Andrew Sendejo, Marcus Sherels, and Trae Waynes all need new contracts. Waynes started 14 games for Minnesota last season. The Vikings originally drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2015.

The Vikings could also lose Everson Griffen, Stephen Weatherly, and Eric Wilson (RFA). However, the Vikings fully plan on re-signing Griffen. After missing time with personal issues in 2018, Griffen recorded eight sacks, 24 quarterback hits, and made his fourth Pro Bowl in 2019.

On special teams, both kicker Dan Bailey and punter Britton Colquitt need new contracts. In his second year with the Vikings, Bailey made 93.1% of his field goal attempts.

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