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Bleacher Report – Vikings

10 free agency signings that will shape the NFC in 2018

By Matthew Coller

As we slip into the slow point of the offseason between the red hot start of free agency and the NFL Draft, it’s a good time to reassess where the NFL stands following some of the biggest signings. So let’s have a look at 10 moves that could have a significant impact on next year’s standings…

1 – Vikings sign QB Kirk Cousins and DT Sheldon Richardson

The Vikings’ No. 1 offseason goal was to resolve a quarterback situation that has been unstable since Mike Zimmer debuted with Matt Cassel as his opening day starter in 2014. By inking Kirk Cousins to a three-year deal, the Vikings aim to guarantee themselves another shot at a Super Bowl. Last year they went 13-3 with Case Keenum, but the Vikings did not trust the odds of him recreating his magical season. On the defensive side, Richardson is one of the most dominant players at his position, which makes Minnesota’s front four even more dangerous than 2017 when they led the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

The two moves don’t quite guarantee the Vikings a spot in the Super Bowl, but they remove a lot of uncertainty and potential nightmare scenarios from the conversation.

2 – QB Drew Brees re-signs with Saints

Can you imagine if Brees had chosen another team instead of returning to New Orleans? What if he had gone to Jacksonville? Or Minnesota? Instead Brees not only elected to stay with the Saints, but to do so on a very reasonable contract. His return means New Orleans has another shot at reaching the Super Bowl, especially since they used the extra cash to add defensive players, including CB Patrick Robinson and LB Demario Davis.

3 – Rams trade for CB Aqib Talib

Los Angeles had a massive turnaround in Year 1 of head coach Sean McVay’s tenure. They went 11-5 and scored an NFL-best 478 points. They had the second best point differential, but still needed some improvement on the defensive side. The Rams lost Trumaine Johnson, but replaced him by dealing for a replacement shutdown corner. Los Angeles also kept LaMarcus Joyner on the franchise tag and is still in the mix for Ndamukong Suh. If they repeat last year’s offensive production and improve on defense, the Rams will be a favorite for the Super Bowl.

4 – Bears sign WR Allen Robinson and TE Trey Burton

Last year, rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky flashed some potential, but he seriously lacked the weapons to maximize his potential. The Bears will find out quickly whether he can be a franchise quarterback after adding a No. 1 wide receiver and mismatch tight end. Chicago already has a solid defense and a decent offensive line. If Robinson and Burton live up to their paychecks, the Bears could make some noise in the NFC North.

5 – Packers release WR Jordy Nelson, sign TE Jimmy Graham and DT Mo Wilkerson

For the first time in a long time, Aaron Rodgers will have a tight end who can go down the field. Graham has been one of the best pass-catching tight ends of the last decade. Over the last two years in Seattle, he grabbed 65 and 57 passes from Russell Wilson. Losing Nelson does balance out the positive element of the Graham move. The Packers’ defense has struggled for years, so Green Bay fans have reason for excitement with the Wilkerson signing, especially since he will play next to star DT Mike Daniels. If he returns to the form of 2015, the Packers’ D-line could dominate. But he hasn’t been great since then, so it’s more like a boom-or-bust move.

6 – Bucs trade for DE Jason Pierre Paul, sign DT Beau Allen and DE Vinny Curry

As Vikings fans well know, Tampa Bay’s defense was a disaster last season. They ranked 24th in points allowed, 26th in quarterback rating allowed and 23rd in rushing yards allowed. This offseason Tampa Bay has made huge strides on its defensive line. Even if JPP isn’t as effective as he was in his peak years, he still picked up 8.5 sacks last year. Both Allen and Curry played key roles in the Eagles’ defensive line rotation. The Bucs had an average offense last season, ranking 18th in points for and cracked the top 10 in Expected Points in the passing game, so with an improved running attack and stronger defense, they could have a chance to compete in a super tough division.

7 – 49ers sign CB Richard Sherman

Sherman has been dinged up, but if he gets back to 100 percent health, he can still be one of the better shutdown corners in the NFL. The 49ers were among the worst passing defense in the NFL last year, ranking 24th in passer rating allowed. San Francisco’s offense should be vastly improved with Jimmy Garappolo playing the entire season under center, but without a pass defense they wouldn’t be considered a legit contender. With Sherman leading the secondary, the 49ers could take huge leaps forward.

8 – Gaints sign LT Nate Solder

The Giants have been a drama machine over the past year – even as recently as the owner’s meetings. But whether Pat Shurmur succeeds in his new home or not could depend largely on the offensive line. We saw the Vikings improve greatly last year when they signed Riley Rieff and Mike Remmers, especially in the running game. Solder isn’t a superstar, but he is solid and a good run blocker. Adding him to the mix with Odell Beckham coming back and a defense that is still solid could give the G-men a shot at competing in the NFC East.

9 – QB Sam Bradford signs with Cardinals

Anther boom or bust signing. Arizona reworked its offensive line by signing Justin Pugh and Andre Smith and they will get running back David Johnson back from injury, giving Bradford a fairly competent group to work with. If he’s 100 percent healthy, Vikings fans know that he can give the Cards a chance to compete, depending on their defense. With Seattle slipping a bit this offseason, the door might be open for a wild card if Bradford has a big year. If he gets injured again, the Cards will be stuck in the desert with no water.

10 – 49ers sign RB Jerick McKinnon

Vikings followers might have been surprised to see McKinnon’s contract in the Bay Area, but the versatile runner has a chance to team up with one of the brightest offensive minds in the NFL Kyle Shanahan. McKinnon could end up being a huge part of San Francisco’s offense and make them a more dynamic and dangerous team.

The post 10 free agency signings that will shape the NFC in 2018 appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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