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Know your enemy: How will the Packers, Lions and Bears approach free agency?

By Matthew Coller

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While Minnesota Vikings fans are focused on their team’s possibilities in free agency, one thing to keep an eye on is that the other NFC North teams all have big chunks of cash to spend as well. So let’s have a look at what the Packers, Lions and Bears could be thinking as we head toward free agency:

Green Bay Packers

Cap space: $40 million

Key Unrestricted free agents: OLB – Julius Peppers, RG – TJ Lang, RB – Eddie Lacy, OLB – Nick Perry

There wasn’t much positive to say for Green Bay’s defense in 2016 outside of the fact that they were pretty good at rushing the passer, finishing seventh in the NFL in sacks. Perry was ranked as the 19th best edge rusher by Pro Football Focus and will presumably be a priority for the Packers to keep. Lang is the most intriguing of the group as he was a top-rated guard last season but the price tag could be enormous to keep him.

Biggest need: Cornerback

Despite getting in quarterbacks’ faces, the Packers still gave up the most Yards Per Attempt (8.1) in the NFL and allowed the seventh highest opposing quarterback rating. They were consistently getting torched in the secondary

Potential free agent fix: Stephon Gilmore

Buffalo’s No. 1 corner slipped a bit from his previous two solid seasons, but, then again, the Bills did have Rob Ryan “helping” with their defense. Gilmore is a former first-round pick who has size and athleticism, making him a challenging matchup. While he might not be in the category of Aquib Talib or Richard Sherman, he can face off with top-end receivers and not get torched. That would be a major upgrade from what Green Bay had this year.

Detroit Lions

Cap room: $32 million

Top unrestricted free agents: RT – Riley Reiff, WR – Anquon Boldin, LG – Larry Warford

When the Lions elected to draft Taylor Decker and move Reiff to right tackle, they had to figure it that might cause him to look at the open market to find another left tackle spot. Since tackles are at a premium this year and there are very few good ones in free agency, Reiff will be looking for a monster pay day. Boldin proved that there is no age curve for size as he was still able to provide a red zone presence, but the Lions may move on to someone a little younger this year.

Biggest need: Pass rusher

Detroit produced the second fewest sacks in the NFL last season and allowed the best passer rating against of any team at at 106.5.

Potential free agent fix: Jason Pierre-Paul

Despite losing a finger in the offseason, Pierre-Paul came back strong, picking up seven sacks in 12 games. He was rated by Pro Football Focus as the 13th best edge rusher in the league last season and 10th best in pass rush.

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Chicago Bears

Cap room: $51 million

Top unrestricted free agents: WR – Alshon Jeffery, LG – Ted Larsen, QB – Brian Hoyer

Biggest need: Safety

For the rebuilding Bears there are needs all over the field, but the one that they can fix by spending big is the secondary. Chicago gave up the 10th highest QB rating in the NFL last year despite having a decent pass rush.

Potential free agent fix: Eric Berry

With loads of cash to spend and an uncertain quarterback situation, Chicago could be thinking about adding a big name to a long-term contract so they can start to compete by having a good defense and hope to find a long-term answer at quarterback via trade or the NFL draft. Berry is considered one of the elite all-around safeties in the league and would have an instant impact on the Bears’ beleaguered defense.

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The post Know your enemy: How will the Packers, Lions and Bears approach free agency? appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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