The Bears have been the busiest team in the NFC North during the first few days of free agency, but some of their rivals have made impactful moves as well. Here is a breakdown of free agent additions, re-signs and losses for the rest of the NFC North.
NFC North Free Agent Signings
Green Bay Packers:
OLB Mike Neal (2-yr, $8M): The Bears were rumored to have interest in Neal as a DE, but the Packers moved quick to re-sign him. Neal can play either DE or OLB, has 10 sacks over the last two years, and led the Packers with 37 QB hurries last season. Good player with upside.
DE B.J. Raji (1-yr, $4M): I wonder how Raji feels about turning down that $20M deal (w/$8M guarenteed) that the Pack offered him last year? This deal at least gives Raji a chance to rebuild his value after a disappointing 2013 season.
TE Andrew Quarless (2-yr, $3M): Solid blocking TE who got a surprising amount of interest on the free agent market. I’ve seen at least three teams linked to Quarless but the Packers brought him back on a sensible 2-yr, $3M deal.
CB Sam Shields (4-yr, $39M): Whatever the opposite of sensible is, that’s the word for Sam Shields’ contract with the Packers. Shields, Pro Football Focus’ 52nd ranked corner, is now the 3rd highest paid corner annually in the NFL. Shields is guaranteed $21M over the first two years of the deal! Considering that CB Alterraun Verner signed for a little over $6M per year, giving Shields almost 10M per seems nuts. GM Ted Thompson is usually a pretty sharp talent evaluator though, so maybe this will look like a bargain in a few years.
C Evan Dietrich-Smith (Bucs): Aaron Rodgers has been stumping for Smith’s return, but the Packers management hasn’t shown any interest in bringing him back despite a solid 2013 season (14.2 grade) and familiarity with the offense. Dietrich-Smith was the 8th rated center in the NFL according to PFF.
OLB Frank Zombo (Chiefs, 1-yr): Reserve LB who started 6 games for the Packers last year, but won’t be greatly missed.
FS M.D. Jennings (Bears, 1-yr): Won’t be missed at all and some Packers fans consider the loss of Jennings addition by subtraction. It is similar to how Bears fans feel about Major Wright leaving.