A Look at NFC North Free Agency Thus Far

The free agency season hasn't been a terribly exciting one for the Minnesota Vikings thus far, save for the drama surrounding the potential signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh.  The Vikings have only made two moves to this point, and both moves were to re-sign guys that were on the team last year.

The Vikings signed TE Jim Kleinsasser to a three-year deal shortly after free agency got underway, securing the services of one of the best blocking TEs in the game and probably ensuring that big #40 will retire with Minnesota.  I've already expressed my pleasure with the Kleinsasser signing, so I won't re-hash all of that here.

The Vikings' other move was to retain LB Heath Farwell.  On Friday, Farwell signed a three-year, $7.75 million deal with the Vikings, approximately a third of which is guaranteed.  Farwell has made his mark in the NFL thus far as a special teams standout. . .and, as I've said before, with as far as the Vikings' special teams coverage dropped off without him last season, he may be the greatest special teams player ever.  I certainly hope that he is fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered in the pre-season opener last year and that he can deliver the same impact to our special teams again in 2009.

The rest of the NFC North has been relatively quiet during free agency, too.  Let's take a brief look at some of the new faces we'll be seeing around the division in 2009.

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The Lions have been the most active NFC North team in free agency thus far, having signed several new players to contracts.  They've signed former Atlanta Falcon and current tub of lard Grady Jackson to a three-year, $8 million deal.  They also inked former Buccaneers cornerback Phillip Buchanon to a two-year, $8.5 million deal.  Yesterday, they grabbed former Titan offensive lineman Daniel Loper as well, locking him into a one-year contract.

Give the Lions credit. . .at least they're trying to make their team better.  These signings, in addition to the signing of WR Bryant Johnson (a free agency flop last year with San Francisco), the signing of former Seahawks running back Maurice Morris, and the trade they made with the Dallas Cowboys to acquire CB Anthony Henry should help them get better.  Of course, having gone 0-16 last year, they can't help but get better, but these moves will definitely aid in the process.

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Over in Chicago, things have been even quieter than they've been in Minnesota.  In fact, the only transaction that the Bears have made since the beginning of free agency was to sign something called Frank Omiyale, formerly of the Carolina Panthers.  He will compete for, and more than likely win, the Bears' right tackle spot for 2009.  The Bears were rumored to have been interested in former Viking Darren Sharper, which would have been a nice upgrade for the Minnesota passing offense, but apparently nothing is going to come of that.  Much like the Vikings, it appears that the Bears are already looking forward to the 2009 Draft to fill out their team for next season.  Much like us, the fans over at Windy City Gridiron don't seem to be overly thrilled with this prospect.

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The Packers have, also, made all of one move in free agency this off-season, which was to sign former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Anthony Smith to a contract, the terms of which were not immediately released.  Smith, if you'll recall, was the guy that shot his mouth off in the days leading up to a 2007 game between the Steelers and the New England Patriots, basically intimating that the Steelers would knock off the Pats.  Smith then proceeded to go out and get lit up by Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Troy Brown, Irving Fryar, Hart Lee Dykes, Stanley Morgan, and pretty much everything else in a Patriot uniform.  The Steelers held Tom Brady just under 400 yards passing and managed to limit Randy Moss to seven catches, 135 yards, and two touchdowns, due largely to Smith's magnificent play at safety.

And that, basically, is free agency around the NFC North a little more than a week into the proceedings.  Can you feel the excitement?

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