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AP Photo/Frank Victores

2019 NFL Offseason Blueprint: NFC North

The 2019 NFL offseason blueprints continue today with the NFC North. In case you missed it, you can check the NFC East blueprints here.


Chicago Bears


Keep Jordan Howard

There’s been a lot of talk about Jordan Howard dating back to when Matt Nagy took the head coaching job last year, and that talk has continued into the 2019 offseason. But you really can’t believe everything you read, especially during this time of year. Everything the Bears themselves have said—and their actions in keeping Howard—indicates they are happy with their bruising runner from Indiana. Nagy’s usage of his running backs varies week-by-week, but Howard keyed the Bears’ 4-0 stretch to end last season en route to an NFC North title, rushing for 323 yards and four touchdowns from Weeks 14-17.


Re-sign Adrian Amos

Adrian Amos was a steal in the fifth round of the 2015 NFL Draft, and he’s been a consistent producer for the Bears during his four NFL seasons. Last year was probably the Penn State’s product best season, and it came at a good time for him as he hits free agency. Amos shouldn’t have a shortage of suitors starting next week, but Chicago should do their best to keep him next to All-Pro Eddie Jackson on the back end of the defense.


Pick up Leonard Floyd’s fifth-year option

This is an easy decision for Bears GM Ryan Pace. Leonard Floyd’s sack production has gone from 7.0 sacks as a rookie to 4.5 sacks in 2017 and 4.0 sacks last season, but he’s a perfect complement to Khalil Mack on the other side of the defense. Floyd is one of the most versatile edge defenders in football, as he can smoothly drop back into coverage and has shown major flashes as a pass rusher. Chicago should want the former ninth overall pick for the long haul.


Detroit Lions


Target free-agent safeties

With a handful of pass rushers getting franchise tagged yesterday, safety looks like the deepest position in free agency. A couple of versatile former Alabama safeties, Landon Collins and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, are among the top options available and could intrigue Matt Patricia, who might probably value their experience under Nick Saban in college.


Add pass rushers in the draft

As mentioned, most of the top pass rushers are already off the board because of the franchise tag, but the draft should give Detroit opportunities to build a group of edge rushers with Ezekiel Ansah hitting free agency. Patricia coached Trey Flowers, who is just 26 years old, with the Patriots, so he’d be someone to target on the open market to potentially pair with a rookie—unless the price gets too high, as Flowers is now the top edge player on the board in free agency.


Commit to Kerryon Johnson as the offensive centerpiece

It sounds like the Lions are going with a committee backfield led by Kerryon Johnson, but I think they should go all-in with the former SEC Offensive Player of the Year as a clear workhorse and offensive centerpiece. Johnson was great as a rookie last season before a knee injury ended the campaign, carrying 118 times for 641 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and three touchdowns in ten games. He was the Lions’ first 100-yard rusher since Thanksgiving 2013. He should’ve earned the trust of the team to get 20+ touches per week moving forward.


Green Bay Packers


Acquire veteran receivers

Aaron Rodgers was clearly unhappy with the inexperienced receivers on the roster in 2018 dating all the way back to when Jordy Nelson was released and continuing throughout the summer and into the season. Randall Cobb might be headed elsewhere in free agency, but Green Bay should be careful trying to replace him with a first- or second-year player. Current players on the roster like Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling have upside, but I’d try to appease Rodgers by putting more veterans around No. 1 weapon Davante Adams.


Remain aggressive in free agency

The Packers were aggressive in free agency last year, and it didn’t really work out during the regular season—that shouldn’t stop them from remaining aggressive in 2019. I typically like building through the draft, but the Packers are headed in a different direction with a franchise quarterback into his 30s. And at linebacker and safety in particular, Green Bay can add difference-makers in their prime—though during the season, they traded arguably the best safety available (Clinton-Dix) to the Redskins, so we’ll see what happens.


Don’t be afraid to make a splash in the draft

Because of the nice move the Packers made in last year’s draft to trade back, still select cornerback Jaire Alexander (who arguably should’ve been a top-ten pick), and get an extra first-round pick for 2019, they are in a great position come April. The Packers have the ammo to easily move up if one of their top overall players in the class slips outside the first several picks, and they shouldn’t be afraid to pull the trigger if it’s a guy they feel very strongly about.


Minnesota Vikings


Build the offensive line

Minnesota’s offensive line still wasn’t good enough last season, and the talent they have all over the roster might not be enough to win a championship if the team isn’t better up front. The additions of Gary Kubiak as an offensive assistant and Rick Dennison as the offensive line coach were already a positive step in getting better play from the offensive line, but the Vikings need more depth and competition via free agency and/or the draft. Things would be made a lot easier on Kirk Cousins if he has time to sit back in the pocket.


Explore re-signing Latavius Murray

Latavius Murray wants to start, and he’s certainly one of the better running backs in the league, so he should again get that opportunity. However, if he’s not gaining traction as a clear starter during free agency for whatever reason, the Vikings should be very interested in bringing him back to pair with Dalvin Cook for another season. Murray knows how to punch the ball in at the goal line, and he can take a dozen or so touches per week while Cook still works as the leader in the backfield. The six-foot-three, 230-pounder is simply an excellent player that Minnesota should keep if they can.


Add more cornerback depth

The Vikings already have depth at corner, but that depth was tested too often in 2018. Last year’s first-round pick Mike Hughes will be coming off a torn ACL suffered in October, so there’s a chance he’s not 100% for the start of this season. Minnesota might have the best cornerback group in the league with Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander, so they should build on their strength to avoid it becoming a weakness in the event of another injury or two.


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