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NFC North will face busy offseason

This NFL season saw some crazy things. We all believed the Minnesota Vikings were going to cruise into the playoffs after starting 5-0, despite the losses of Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson. Then, they finished 3-8, completely falling apart down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the Detroit Lions, who were universally picked to miss the postseason, began the campaign 9-4 and after 14 weeks, held the No. 2 seed in the NFC. As fate would have it, Detroit lost both its first-round bye and the North over the following three weeks. How? Because the Green Bay Packers went from 4-6 to 10-6, winning the division on their way to an NFC Championship Game appearance.

This offseason looks to be every bit as wild as the season itself. While the Lions don’t have too much going on in the way of free agency, even they have a couple of key offensive linemen up for new deals in Riley Reiff and Larry Warford. The other three teams are going to be infinitely busier, looking to either lock up players or create cap space by sending out big names.

In the case of the Vikings, it’s going to be the latter. Minnesota has some cap space to work with, but it could create a ton more by releasing both Peterson and Sam Bradford. Both have one year left on their respective deals and if the Vikings decide to move on from both, would save $36 million. If only one of them is cut, Minnesota would still retain $18 million.

The Chicago Bears are faced with a similar situation in Jay Cutler. Cutler is 33 years old and with Chicago trying to rebuild the team, it’s time to face facts. The Bears are not winning a Super Bowl with Cutler at the helm, and with such little trade value, general manager Ryan Pace is better off releasing him. Should that happen, the Bears will save $14 million against the cap, helping them spend some money in other areas.

Finally, we get to the Packers. Green Bay almost never goes after any outside free agents, but it will need to keep some of its own. Guard T.J. Lang and outside linebacker Nick Perry are at the top of the list, but there are other key players such as tight end Jared Cook, safety Micah Hyde, edge rusher Julius Peppers and running back Eddie Lacy. General manager Ted Thompson likely won’t keep all of them, but how many get to stay?

There’s also the sticky business of perhaps moving on from some big names. Thompson could release Clay Matthews Jr. and save $11.1 million. Randall Cobb could also be released if need be, saving $6.25 million.

It’s going to be a crazy, crazy spring in the NFC North.

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