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Cheese Curds, 3/20: NFC North had a big first week of free agency

In particular, the Bears and Lions each made a flurry of signings to try to bolster struggling units.

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Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The four teams in the NFC North have each been the subject of very different narratives during the first week of the 2023 free agency period. While one of the franchises has primarily seen subtractions from the roster, the others have been adding significant pieces as one tries to become relevant again while the others look to maintain its ascending standing in the division.

Looking at one the latter teams described above, the Detroit Lions have made some big splashes, adding free agent running back David Montgomery to their offense and signing several defensive backs during the first few days of the league year. Detroit’s defense was bad in 2022, ranking last in total yards allowed, second-to-last in net yards per pass attempt, and fifth-worst in points allowed. That’s a big reason for the push to bolster the secondary, and they did just that over the last several days.

The last-place Chicago Bears also made some big additions, and although they lost Montgomery to Detroit, they did add a physical running back to try to help replace him. Chicago signed a former Packer (of course they did) in Robert Tonyan following the addition of two big-name linebackers and a likely starter on the offensive line.

In a bit more of a mixed bag, the Minnesota Vikings have both released several long-tenured members of the franchise while adding a couple of big names on substantial contracts. Five starters, including four on defense, were on their way out of Minnesota, but the team is trying to fill in for those departures with the additions of cornerback Byron Murphy and defensive linemen Marcus Davenport and Dean Lowry.

Then there are the Green Bay Packers, who have signed two outside free agents — a long snapper and a special teams ace. However, four starters have already signed elsewhere, including Lowry, Tonyan, Allen Lazard, and Jarran Reed. Those signings, if not canceled out by other outside additions, should net the Packers a trio of compensatory draft picks in 2024. Meanwhile, the team’s only notable re-signings are cornerback/kick returner Keisean Nixon and reserve safety Rudy Ford, though Yosh Nijman’s expected return should help as well.

Looking at the division as a whole, the Packers are predictably — and typically — quiet as free agency began, but the news around the team was anything but. Aaron Rodgers discourse has drowned out everything else going on across the division as the Packers and the New York Jets continue to work on settling on trade compensation now that Rodgers has made his plans clear.

Last week was a big one for all four teams in the division. Perhaps this week will be a bigger one for the Packers in terms of actual transactions rather than attention and debate.

5 things to know about new Packers S Tarvarius Moore |
The Packers' most notable addition from outside the building last week is Moore, a special teams ace who has filled in on the 49ers' defense on occasion.

Report: Chicago Bears Sign RB D’Onta Foreman to 1-Year, $3M Deal - Windy City Gridiron
The Bears were busy last week, with a late-week flurry of moves that included signing Foreman, former Packer Robert Tonyan, and defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

Details of Dean Lowry’s contract have been revealed | Vikings Wire
The Vikings are giving Lowry $8.5 million over the next two years with about half fully guaranteed and much of the rest guaranteed for injury.

Jordan Love, Packers will face rebuilt Lions secondary in 2023 | Packers Wire
The Lions signed S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson on Sunday, continuing to add to a secondary that has other new faces like Emmanuel Mosley and Cameron Sutton.

Cowboys trade for Texans WR Brandin Cooks | ESPN
Finally, the Cowboys acquired wide receiver Brandin Cooks from the Texans in exchange for two day-three draft picks, one each in 2023 and 2024.

How the first wave of free agency will impact the 2023 NFL Draft - The Athletic ($)
Here's a look at how several of the big moves from last week will impact the affected teams' draft plans.

Giant snails confiscated from traveler at Detroit Metro Airport | Detroit Free Press
Cornerbacks aren't the only thing that are being brought into Detroit in droves, but US Customs probably won't have as big a problem with them as they do with the snails.