The most exciting event of the NFL offseason, free agency, is a little over a week away. Similar to most divisions, the NFC North figures to have a couple of teams using free agency to improve their roster.
This past season, the Green Bay Packers won the division after spending a boatload of money in last year’s free agency period. The trio of Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, and Adrian Amos were well worth the money, with the Packers making the NFC Championship game.
The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions were both NFC North teams that failed to make the playoffs. However, the Lions did noticeably worse as they possess the No. 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. As for the Minnesota Vikings, Kirk Cousins won his first playoff game, but is heading into a pivotal year in 2020.
There’s no doubt that all four of the teams mentioned are going to address some of their needs in free agency. With that in mind, here is one player that each team from the NFC North needs to sign in NFL free agency.
Chicago Bears — Marcus Mariota
Even though Mitchell Trubisky regressed for the Bears in 2019, the NFC North team announced that he would be the starter next season. However, that could be subject to change if Chicago is able to bring someone in to push Trubisky.
In his third season in the NFL, Trubisky threw for just 3,138 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. Due to Trubisky’s struggles, signing someone like Marcus Mariota would be perfect for the Bears next season in the NFC North.
Mariota was expected to be the starter for the Tennessee Titans in 2019 before being benched for Ryan Tannehill in Week 7. Despite being benched, Mariota is still a formidable backup in the NFL for a team in need of a veteran. Above all, Mariota is a quarterback that can be a contingency plan in case Trubisky regresses even more in the NFC North.
Detroit Lions — D.J. Reader
Following another disappointing NFC North campaign in 2019, some people believed that the Lions were going to part ways with Matt Patricia. Nevertheless, Detroit has decided to give him another year to turn the franchise around.
With an early first-round pick and a decent amount of cap space, the Lions need to shift their focus to fortifying the defense. Last week, Detroit released Damon Harrison, leaving a void in the interior of their defensive line.
To replace Harrison, the Lions should extend an offer to D.J. Reader when free agency gets underway. While Reader doesn’t bring much as a pass rusher, he’s a stout run defender at defensive tackle. Also, he had the best season of his career in 2019 and will only turn 26 years old this year.
Green Bay Packers — Cory Littleton
The Packers were unquestionably the best team in the NFC North in 2019, securing the division title. But in the upcoming offseason, Green Bay has to better the roster as the window to win another Super Bowl with Aaron Rodgers is rapidly closing.
On the defensive side of the ball, Blake Martinez is the most notable name set to hit free agency for the Packers. Instead of looking for a linebacker with the same skill set as Martinez, the NFC North team should sign Cory Littleton.
Littleton was an undrafted rookie in 2016 and immediately became a special-teams standout for the Los Angeles Rams. Then, after two seasons of mainly contributing to special teams, Littleton has evolved into one of the most versatile linebackers in the NFL.
Unlike Martinez, Littleton excels in pass coverage and can make plays sideline-to-sideline. For the Packers to have a chance of signing Littleton, they’ll need to make a couple of roster moves to clear some cap space and position themselves properly in the NFC North.
Minnesota Vikings — Kevin Johnson
Since Mike Zimmer became the head coach of the Vikings in 2014, Minnesota has played a physical brand of defense in the NFC North. However, that all changed in 2019, with Xavier Rhodes and others beginning to decline in production.
Despite needing to address the secondary, the Vikings don’t have much cap space available. Therefore, they’ll have to target some of the bargain options in free agency.
At the cornerback position alone, Minnesota is in jeopardy of losing Mackensie Alexander, Trae Waynes, and Marcus Sherels. Provided that, Kevin Johnson would be a viable, cheap option at cornerback for the Vikings.
Johnson, a former first-round pick, spent the 2019 season with the Buffalo Bills. Even though he isn’t an elite corner, Johnson could help fill the holes that are going to be left behind by Alexander, Waynes, and Sherels.