2023 NFL offseason needs: NFC North priorities for Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings ahead of free agency

The 2023 NFL offseason is underway and free agency is on the horizon. Legal tampering begins March 13, when teams are free to negotiate with unsigned veterans, and deals — plus trades — can be finalized two days later. One division that seems to be very busy is the NFC North. The Bears are stuffed with money to build around their young quarterback. The Lions are fresh off a fiery playoff bid, aiming to take the next step. The Packers could rebuild around a new caller. And the Vikings should be busy trying to bolster their defense while defending the division crown.

As we approach the open market and all that comes with it, here’s a survey of the four NFC North teams, along with their top needs for the offseason:

Note: Projected space on cap courtesy of Over the Cap.

Chicago Bears

Main needs: OT, DE, WR, DT
Heading area: $94.4M (1st)
Top draft picks: No. 1, No. 54, No. 65

It starts and ends with Justin Fields, unless, of course, they deal with the young point guard to reset to QB with the No. 1 overall pick. This means prioritizing better protection and downline weapons for the caller. Starting right tackle Riley Reiff is poised to hit free agency, as are two of their inside depth plays. So they at least need competition there. A true alpha on the outside would also go a long way in helping Fields develop in the air. Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool are better suited to play supporting roles. On defense, they just need bodies to push the stack. Only one player on Matt Eberflus’ 2022 roster has recorded at least 10 QB hits. This needs to change, either with the power off, or in the middle, or both.

Potential veteran targets: WR Odell Beckham Jr., 49ers OT Mike McGlinchey, Raiders OT Jermaine Eluemunor, 49ers DE Charles Omenihu, Commanders DT Da’Ron Payne

Detroit Lions

Main needs: CB, DT, TE, QB
Heading area: $13m (11th)
Top draft picks: #6, #18, #49

Their secondary improved once Dan Campbell made a mid-season personnel shuffle, but the defensive backfield was their biggest weakness for a while. A truly reliable cover man would not only relieve former first-rounder Jeff Okudah, but help the pass rush led by Aidan Hutchinson. Hutchinson, meanwhile, could use a running mate in the trenches, where four different players are ready to hit the market and bags were hard to come by inside. While their receiving corps is young and spry, their offense could also use another safety valve with the ever-trusty TJ Hockenson since traded to Minnesota. As for QB? Jared Goff has shown resilience and he can still throw a pretty ball. But in today’s NFL, if you have the ability to land dual-threat talent, incorporating more unstructured play into your offense, you’re probably wise to do so.

Potential veteran targets: Bengals TE Hayden Hurst, Rams DT Greg Gaines, Chiefs DT Khalen Saunders, Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean, Raiders CB Rock-Ya Sin

Green Bay Packers

Main needs: TE, WR, S, OLB
Heading area: (-$4.7M) (20th)
Top draft picks: #15, #46, #79

With or without Aaron Rodgers, QB is tentatively located with the living arm of Jordan Love waiting on the bench. But the air armament still leaves much to be desired. Christian Watson was an exciting year-end revelation and could enter 2023 as WR1, but both usable but replaceable A-Rod buddies Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb are in free agency. Robert Tonyan’s red-zone magic from years ago has also worn to the bitter end. On “D,” starting safety Adrian Amos is due for the market after a slack season, while top passer Rashan Gary has just suffered a torn ACL. With defensive tackle Jarran Reed (14 hits) also set for free agency, they could afford to add more starters on that side of the ball. You can start to see where a potential Rodgers swap could come in handy, assuming it returns multiple premium draft assets.

Potential veteran targets: Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers, Cowboys TE Dalton Schultz, Saints OLB Kaden Elliss, Bills S Jordan Poyer, Giants S Julian Love

Minnesota Vikings

Main needs: CB, S, WR, DE/OLB
Heading area: (-$23.3m) (30th)
Top draft picks: #24, #88, #120

As porous as their defense was in Mike Zimmer’s final hurray, it was just as vulnerable on Kevin O’Connell’s first lap, hence the quick arrival of Brian Flores as the new coordinator. Corner and safety reinforcements would be a major help, with three regulars – CB Patrick Peterson, CB Chandon Sullivan, S Harrison Smith – set to enter free agency or exit as cap victims. Despite a long career as a fan favorite, Smith in particular needed to be upgraded. OLB Za’Darius Smith (10 sacks) is another potential big-money cut, but either way, Danielle Hunter can’t be the only commanding presence they’re relying on. You could argue that, like Detroit, they should also explore longer-term QB talent. In the meantime, however, securing Kirk Cousins ​​on someone other than Justin Jefferson would help ease the pressure on the No. 18 to constantly hit a home run; Adam Thielen still deserves a role, but if he stays, he’s best suited as the No. 3 of 33 guy.

Potential veteran targets: Chiefs WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chiefs DE/OLB Carlos Dunlap, Steelers CB Cameron Sutton, Cardinals CB Byron Murphy, Rams S Taylor Rapp

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