2024 NFC North Offseason Report Card: Key Additions, Subtractions, Final Grades

All four teams may be competing for playoff spots after making waves with their moves in free agency and the draft, but one club stands out among the rest.
Williams was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.
Williams was the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. / David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

C.J. Stroud and Micah Parsons recently had a viral debate on which division is the toughest in the NFL. Stroud argued for the AFC North and Parsons countered with the NFC East. 

The star players might have overlooked the NFC North because all four teams had strong offseasons. 

The Detroit Lions addressed their glaring roster need by adding a handful of talented cornerbacks to possibly give them one of the best rosters in the league. The fast-rising Green Bay Packers made a pair of splashy moves in free agency, one on each side of the football.  

The Minnesota Vikings made several noteworthy transactions to retool a roster that lost Kirk Cousins. They could be guided by first-round rookie quarterback J.J. McCarthy, who has the luxury of throwing to many standout skill players.

The same can be said for Caleb Williams and the Chicago Bears, who quickly rebuilt their roster after parting with Justin Fields. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the entire NFC North is competing for playoff spots in late December.

Here are grades and analysis for how the NFC North teams did this offseason.

Chicago Bears

Offseason grade: A

Key additions: WR Keenan Allen, S Kevin Byard, WR Rome Odunze, TE Gerald Everett, S Jonathan Owens, OL Coleman Shelton, RB D’Andre Swift, QB Caleb Williams

Key subtractions: QB Justin Fields, DT Justin Jones, WR Equanimeous St. Brown

Analysis: The Bears quickly built an ideal surrounding for Williams, leading many to believe they’re in store for a memorable 2024 season. But the Bears are more than just an intriguing offense, with a defense that made many strides under coach Matt Eberflus last season. 

Williams, this year’s top pick, will have the luxury of throwing to Allen, Moore and fellow rookie Odunze—three wideouts who are capable of being the No. 1 option on most teams. The Bears traded for Allen because of his reliable hands and elite route-running skills, but most importantly, he knows how to help a rookie quarterback. Allen was instrumental in the early success of Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert, who captured the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2020 with Allen as his top target. 

Odunze, the No. 9 pick, might not get a high volume of targets playing alongside Moore and Allen, but he should see many favorable matchups to aid in possibly delivering an efficient rookie season. With free-agent newcomers Everett and Swift, Williams will have plenty of playmakers to possibly end the Bears’ drought of never having a 4,000-yard passer in a season. As for one underrated move, the Bears were wise to add a versatile offensive lineman in Shelton to an offensive line that has had mixed results in recent years.

The Bears might have received an A+ this offseason had they added another proven edge rusher to help Montez Sweat. They’re thin on the edges, but the Bears were one of the best run defenses in the NFL last season. Depth isn’t a problem at linebacker and in the secondary. Chicago re-signed standout cornerback Jaylon Johnson and then signed a pair of veteran safeties in Owens and Byard. The Bears probably will be a trendy team to make the postseason in the NFC in 2024.


Detroit Lions 

Offseason grade: A-

Key additions: CB Terrion Arnold, Edge Marcus Davenport, CB Carlton Davis III, CB Ennis Rakestraw Jr., DT D.J. Reader, CB Amik Roberton, OG Kevin Zeitler  

Key subtractions: OG Jonah Jackson, WR Josh Reynolds, CB Cameron Sutton

Analysis: The Lions enter the season as Super Bowl contenders because of their playoff success last year and roster additions this offseason. It’s tough to find a weakness on GM Brad Holmes’s roster after he acquired three quality cornerbacks to possibly turn the secondary into a dominant unit. 

Building the secondary might have been the last piece to the Lions becoming a perennial powerhouse. Detroit won big in the draft after cornerback Terrion Arnold was available with the No. 24 pick. The team followed with the second-round selection of Rakestraw, whom many draft pundits viewed as a first-round prospect at cornerback. The Lions also added a veteran presence with the trade for Davis. In free agency, the Lions signed Reader and Davenport to help studs Aidan Hutchinson and Alim McNeill on the defensive line.  

The Lions’ dominant offensive line took a hit with the departure of Jackson, who joined the Los Angeles Rams in free agency. But the team recovered well with the signing of Zeitler. Jared Goff will once again have many playmakers, but he could have used another reliable pass catcher, with Josh Reynolds leaving for Denver and Jameson Williams struggling to find his footing since being selected in the first round in 2022. Overall, the Lions are loaded with star power on both sides of the football and might have a strong case for having a better roster than the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC. 


Minnesota Vikings 

Minnesota Vikings quarterback J.J. McCarthy
McCarthy was selected with the 10th pick in the draft. / Melanie Maxwell / USA TODAY NETWORK

Offseason grade: B

Key additions: LB Blake Cashman, QB Sam Darnold, Edge Jonathan Greenard, RB Aaron Jones, QB J.J. McCarthy, DT Jerry Tillery, Edge Dallas Turner, Edge Andrew Van Ginkel

Key subtractions: QB Kirk Cousins, Edge Marcus Davenport, QB Joshua Dobbs, LB Jordan Hicks, Edge Danielle Hunter, K Greg Joseph, DT Dean Lowry, RB Alexander Mattison, WR K.J. Osborn, Edge D.J. Wonnum 

Analysis: The Vikings will have a different look in 2024, as they head into the post-Cousins era with many key additions on offense and defense. For years, the Vikings were viewed as an offensive team due to the dominance of Justin Jefferson. But now the defense will be asked to help the offense, especially if rookie quarterback McCarthy wins the starting job over the veteran Darnold.  

If McCarthy, the No. 10 pick, is under center come Week 1, he’ll have a proven group of skill players and coaches to possibly get off to a fast start in the NFL. The arrival of Jones could improve the lackluster rushing attack of last year. If the Vikings go with Darnold, he could possibly have a Baker Mayfield-like revival with Jefferson, Jordan Addison and T.J. Hockenson as his targets. All eyes will be on Minnesota’s quarterback training camp battle this summer. 

The defense also underwent a drastic makeover after they said goodbye to Hunter, who joined the Houston Texans in free agency. The Vikings’ defensive front, however, could be better without the veteran edge rusher after the splash signing of Greenard, first-round selection of Turner and free-agent addition of Van Ginkel. But the Vikings didn’t do much to improve the interior of the defensive line. Cashman, the former Texans linebacker, could also help the defensive line if the interior linemen struggle this season. With a revamped defense and talented skill players, the Vikings should be in the mix for a postseason spot, but it will depend on McCarthy or Darnold. 


Green Bay Packers 

Offseason grade: B-

Key additions: S Javon Bullard, LB Edgerrin Cooper, RB Josh Jacobs, K Greg Joseph, RB MarShawn Lloyd, S Xavier McKinney, OL Jordan Morgan

Key subtractions: OT David Bakhtiari, RB Aaron Jones, OL Yoshua Nijman, S Jonathan Owens, OL Jon Runyan Jr., S Darnell Savage Jr.

Analysis: The Packers had somewhat of a quiet offseason, but that was expected with the success of their young offense led by Jordan Love, who emerged as a star during his first season as the starting quarterback. With the Packers getting positive returns on their homegrown offensive players, they didn’t make too many tweaks, but they did make one splash move in free agency. 

Jacobs, the former rushing champion of the Las Vegas Raiders, will be receiving handoffs from Love this season to give the Packers another dynamic offensive weapon. They might have overpaid for Jacobs after agreeing to a four-year, $48 million contract, but it’s essentially a one-year deal with most of the guaranteed money coming in 2024. If it doesn’t work out with Jacobs, the Packers could turn to Lloyd, whom they selected in the third round of this year’s NFL draft. Green Bay might be looking for a more balanced attack to cut down Love’s turnovers, especially in late-game situations. The Packers have concerns on the offensive line, but they created options for themselves with the first-round selection of Morgan, who can play tackle and guard.

Green Bay also made one splash move on defense after signing McKinney to possibly help out a secondary that hasn’t gotten much production outside of cornerback Jaire Alexander. The team double downed on safety help with the second-round selection of Bullard. With their first second-round pick, the Packers took Cooper, a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. 

The Packers have whiffed on their recent draft picks on the defensive side. If Cooper and Bullard make an immediate impact, the Packers could contend for the NFC North title in 2024.


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Gilberto Manzano

GILBERTO MANZANO

Gilberto Manzano is an NFL staff writer for Sports Illustrated. Starting off as a breaking news writer at NFL.com in 2014, he has since been the Raiders beat reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and covered the Chargers and Rams for the Orange County Register and Los Angeles Daily News. During his time as a combat sports reporter, Gilberto was awarded best sports spot story of 2018 by the Nevada Press Association for his coverage of the Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov post-fight brawl. Gilberto, a first-generation Mexican-American with parents from Nayarit, Mexico, is the co-host of Compas on the Beat, a sports and culture show featuring Mexican-American journalists. He also has been a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) since 2017.