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Biggest headlines in Minnesota, most change in Detroit

Posted Mar 19, 2013

A look at the comings and goings in the NFC North thus far


GREEN BAY—A quick review of the offseason activity in the NFC North indicates the Minnesota Vikings have made the biggest single acquisition in the division, while the Detroit Lions have undergone the most roster turnover so far.

Here’s the breakdown:

Minnesota Vikings

Last week’s signing of former Packers receiver Greg Jennings to replace the traded Percy Harvin (pictured, left) ranks as the biggest headline in the division to this point. A Pro Bowl-caliber player joining a rival is by no means unprecedented, but it does grab a lot of attention.

Aside from any personal feelings amongst fans, it was a move the Vikings had to make for their receiving corps after shipping Harvin to Seattle for a package of draft picks that includes a first-rounder. The Vikings also retained Jerome Simpson this offseason but clearly needed a No. 1 guy. That will now be Jennings.

Otherwise, the Vikings’ most significant moves were retaining right tackle Phil Loadholt and Pro Bowl fullback Jerome Felton and bringing in veteran quarterback Matt Cassel as a backup to Christian Ponder. Cassel likely would have given the Vikings a better chance at Lambeau Field in last year’s wild-card game than the overmatched Joe Webb.

The rest of Minnesota’s comings and goings so far have been on defense. At linebacker, Erin Henderson is back but Jasper Brinkley is not (Arizona). In the secondary, one safety has re-signed in Jamarca Sanford, while another in Hussain Abdullah has left (Kansas City). Veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield has been released but remains unsigned, and restricted corner A.J. Jefferson has received the lowest tender offer.

Detroit Lions

Change is hitting nearly every position group in Detroit, where the Lions are looking to get back to their 2011 playoff form after a disappointing 4-12 slide last season.

At the offensive skill positions, the Lions have signed Reggie Bush (pictured, right) and rid themselves of Titus Young. Up front, left tackle Jeff Backus has retired, right tackle Gosder Cherilus has signed with Indianapolis, and guard Stephen Peterman has been released.

On defense, a previously deep line that will now include Jason Jones no longer has Cliff Avril (Seattle), Sammie Hill (Tennessee) or Kyle Vanden Bosch (released) and also could lose Corey Williams (unsigned). The secondary was expected to undergo a similar overhaul but, in adding Houston’s Glover Quin, the Lions have also retained safeties Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey and cornerback Chris Houston. Only corner Drayton Florence (Carolina) has left thus far. At linebacker, DeAndre Levy was brought back.

Chicago Bears

The Bears’ moves to this point have been minimal in number but significant in meaning. A lot was invested to keep defensive tackle Henry Melton (franchise tag), sign a new left tackle in Jermon Bushrod (New Orleans), and replace tight end Kellen Davis with Martellus Bennett (N.Y. Giants).

The linebacker group could be undergoing the most change with the departures of Nick Roach (Oakland) and Geno Hayes (Jacksonville), while the future of Brian Urlacher remains in limbo. At cornerback, Zack Bowman was brought back, but D.J. Moore and Kelvin Hayden were not, though both remain unsigned.

Green Bay Packers

Losing Jennings to the Vikings made noise in what to this point had been a quiet offseason. The Packers also lost linebacker Erik Walden (Indianapolis) and backup tight end Tom Crabtree (Tampa Bay) while re-signing linebacker Robert Francois. Restricted free agents Sam Shields and Evan Dietrich-Smith have received tender offers.

 
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