NFC North offseason moves
The Packers certainly were not the only NFC North team who made big splashes in free agency, both gaining and losing valuable pieces. Here’s a list of notable free agent signings and departure and how it will affect the Packers’ chances at winning the NFC North.
Please let me know if I missed any:
Additions: DT Stephen Paea (R), OL Gabe Carimi (R), CB Corey Graham, WR Roy Williams, WR Sam Hurd, RB Marion Barber, DE Vernon Gholston, DT Amobi Okoye, P Adam Podlesh, C Chris Spencer
Subtractions: LB Hunter Hillenmeyer, DT Tommie Harris, WR Rashied Davis, S Danieal Manning, LB Pisa Tinoisamoa, C Olin Kreutz, P Brad Maynard, TE Brandon Manumaleuna
The Bears improved in a number of areas in the 2011 offseason, but at the same time will be relying on a handful of veterans to make immediate impacts. Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi was a steal at No. 28 in the first round of the draft and will start at right tackle from day one, while former Seahawk Chris Spencer will replace veteran Olin Kreutz, who left on bad terms after the Bears low-balled him on a one-year deal. Regardless of Kreutz’s struggles in 2010, Spencer is a downgrade and will need to prove his worth (and health) if the Bears are to compete.
The Cowboys will have a head start on their offensive scouting report for the Bears if the two meet in the playoffs, as Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Sam Hurd all join Chicago in 2011. Barber, who rushed for a career-low 374 yards (3.3 YPC), will replace Chester Taylor and act as a third down/goal line back to complement Matt Forte.
Williams, 30, re-joins offensive coordinator Mike Martz, where he enjoyed his best seasons as a pro in Detroit. He hasn’t topped 40 catches in any of the last four seasons but the Bears got him cheap and are hoping an increased role in the offense turns his career around.
Bringing back Corey Graham will help depth in the secondary and Podlesh, who punted in Jacksonville the last four years, ranked 15th in punting average a year ago. Maynard was a fan favorite but had run his course in Chicago, finishing last in the NFL with a 40.1 average in 2010.
The Bears still have major concerns on their offensive line, specifically left tackle J’Marcus Webb, but Carimi will help. Harris is the only major contributor to leave an already impressive Chicago defense, and second round pick Stephen Paea will impress in his rookie campaign.
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