Chicago Bears: WR, Interior OL, FS, LB depth, DE, TE, CB depth
After making headlines and trading for Jay Cutler several seasons back, the Bears have done very little to make his transition to Chicago easy. Granted a lot of their resources were wiped out in that trade and cap space committed to the big free agent signing of Julius Peppers, there hasn't been too much offensive help brought in since then. At some point, if the Bears want to follow through with what they had hoped would happen, they'll need to bring in a true number one wide receiver. Cutler was at his best in Denver with Brandon Marshall. They'll also need to shore up their offensive line, for which they hope last year's first round pick Gabe Carimi will contribute to after missing much of his rookie year with injury. Further, the team likes the combination of Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth as their feature and blocking tight ends, respectively, but Davis is far from a proven commodity. It may make sense for them to hedge their bets with a mid-round pick in the draft. Defensively, age is starting to catch up to their four best players. Though there is still time left in the primes of their career, it wouldn't hurt to begin the multi-year process of getting younger as to ease the transition to the next generation of the Bears defense. At defensive end, Israel Idonije is a free agent and if they can't get him re-signed, it would sure jump their need for end up a notch. At linebacker, they have a solid starting threesome, but the lack of depth is concerning if injury were to strike the unit. Three free agents at corner will certainly having them eye the market and the draft. As young players, all three have shown some promise, but have lacked the consistency they would like. However, their biggest need on that side of the ball is at free safety, a position they attempted to address last year with Brandon Meriweather to no avail.
Detroit Lions: CB, LT, S, Interior OL, LB, DL Depth
There is a lot of uncertainty in the Lions secondary with no long-term contracts committed in the unit. With a strong pass rush, the Lions managed to collect a couple of cast-offs and made it work for a while. However, as injury ravaged the position, the Lions struggled. With a secondary full of players that haven't been consistently above average, it can't hurt to bring in more top notch talent, which would help alleviate many of their issues at the position. At safety, the team brought in Chris Harris midseason and had him start several games, but ineffective play suggests he'll walk as a free agent and they will most likely look for his replacement this offseason. Outside of the secondary, the Lions have a great future locked in. At linebacker, they could look to improve, particularly because they're relied heavily upon in stopping the run with a penetrating defensive line. And because of the importance of the line to this operation, depth there will always be important. On offense, the Lions could continue to get younger and more talented up front. Free agent left tackle Jeff Backus will be 35 a couple weeks into the season even if he returns. Inside, the Lions could potentially use a guard if one of starting caliber becomes easily available to them, but even so, Raiola is 33 and Peterman 30. Neither require immediately replacements, but late round picks may need some grooming before they're ready to step in. Under the new regime, the Lions have improved by leaps and bounds and done so primarily through the draft and picking up low key free agents. This offseason will probably be no different, but the Lions will continue to gather talent and depth at positions even if they may seem like relative strengths to outsiders.
Green Bay Packers: 3-4 OLB, 3-4 DE, Interior OL depth, DB depth, QB depth, RB depth
As much as any team in the league, the Packers will attempt to fill their holes through the Draft, but that isn't to say they'll do it in order of what are perceived as their biggest needs. A year after winning the Super Bowl with one of the league's top two defenses, the Packers hybrid defense gave way to a more typical Dom Capers' 3-4 with less success. Though it fared better in reality than its NFL-record in passing yards allowed, the pass rush was as bad, or even worse than advertised. Matthews' sack numbers halved from 2010, but he still bruised, battered, and hurried the quarterback at nearly the same rate minus the official numbers. If the defense is to approach their potential, they will need to greatly improve pass rushing production at both defensive end and outside linebacker while generating a better push up the middle. Secondarily, they will seek to bolster the depth at corner and safety with Woodson's age and Collins' health an uncertainty. They are fortunate enough where they should know whether Collins will be able to return prior to the draft. On offense, key free agents, Scott Wells, Ryan Grant, and Matt Flynn could all open voids at their respective positions. Interior line depth appear to be the most pertinent in the short term, especially if they can't come to terms with Wells. 3rd string quarterback Graham Harrell will have every opportunity to compete for the clipboard job, but the Packers will surely bring in rookies to intensify the competition.
Minnesota Vikings: CB, LT, S, OG, WR, LB, DT
With the releases of their guards and Cedric Griffin, the Vikings are just behind the Colts in dismantling their Championship-contending team from a few years back and moving into full rebuilding mode. They are now locked into Christian Ponder at quarterback and need to build an offense around him to compete with the other potent offenses of the North. The transition to the next era of the franchise is most apparent on the offensive line. The Vikings have a need at left tackle and inside at both offensive guard positions. Matt Kalil is an option in the first round, but it's unlikely their offseason of rebuilding the trenches will stop there. Outside, Percy Harvin is one of the best receivers in the slot, but Ponder could really use a bigger X receiver on the outside. Tight end Kyle Rudolph appears to be a good one and should only continue to get better. Adding on the problems of the offense, the Vikings had one of the absolute worst pass defenses in the league. Torched consistently by the great offenses, Minnesota stands no chance of winning ball games consistently until the play in the secondary improves. With Antoine Winfield turning 35 and Cedric Griffin becoming a casualty, the corner play doesn't figure to get any better this year without external reinforcements. And in 2011, the safeties on the roster were arguably even worse than the corners. Up front, the interior defensive line is no longer worrisome as it once was. Kevin Williams is still productive, but the 4-3 NT position is a weakness. Back-up tackles Letroy Guion and Fred Evans are set to become free agents. Likewise at linebacker, brothers EJ and Erin Henderson also have expiring contracts.
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