After a 2021 season that sent just one team to the playoffs, the NFC North is officially in hibernation mode for the next eight months, which means the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, and Detroit Lions will all look ahead to 2022 with the hopes of getting back to prominence in 2022.
So far, the Bears and Vikings have already made major decisions, opting to clean house and start fresh in 2022. As we await the decisions made by ownership on who the next head coach and general managers will be in Chicago and Minnesota, the Packers were eliminated with a playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, while the Detroit Lions season ended after just winning three games.
As major changes loom, let’s take a look at an important decision that each franchise will need to make this offseason.
1) Chicago Bears: How will the organization commit to building around Justin Fields?
This is an important question to consider because whoever is the next HC/GM of the Bears will need to realize that putting Fields in a position to succeed is an absolute necessity when taking the Bears gig. The Bears are in need of an overhaul at key positions on offense, including wide receiver and center but with limited cap space and draft capital, how the Bears build around Fields will depend on what positions the new regime is willing to prioritize.
Fields had enough bright moments in 2021 that showed why the Bears finally have their answer at quarterback. Now it’s up to the franchise to figure out what the next steps are and surround Fields with enough talent to maximize his rookie contract over the next three seasons.
2) Detroit Lions: What to do with the second overall pick?
Despite winning just three games in 2021, the Detroit Lions battled and battled hard for first-year head coach Dan Campbell. Heading into year two of the Campbell era, the Lions are slated to pick second overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are a few directions that Detroit could go with this pick, knowing the entire roster needs an overhaul and has to be built from scratch.
Unless the front office and coaching staff feel like Jared Goff underperformed in 2021, Detroit should pass on selecting a quarterback, instead drafting and filling another need on the roster. For the Lions, adding a pass rusher to begin an overhaul on the defensive side of the ball should be a strong priority. Look for Detroit to do its homework on Adian Hutchinson (Michigan) and Kayvon Thibodeaux (Oregon), with the likelihood that both are selected back-to-back with the first and second overall picks.
3) Green Bay Packers: Is it time to blow it all up?
When former Bears kicker Robbie Gould eliminated the Packers from the postseason, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was seen walking back to the locker room alone. With another disappointing end, the Packers are at a crossroads in 2022. Rodgers’ holdout and silence last summer could indicate that he wants out while wide receiver Davante Adams is set to be an unrestricted free agent in March. As both continue to get older, they could decide that leaving Green Bay is the only way to a championship.
Looking at Green Bay’s salary cap situation, along with 2020 first-round pick Jordan Love waiting in the wings, the Packers are about to face a reality they haven’t faced in three decades: Is the time to start over truly now, or is the can worth kicking down the line for another year with the hope that Rodgers and Adams return.
4) Minnesota Vikings: Who will decide the future of QB Kirk Cousins?
How much football Cousins has left in him is to be determined by the state of the Vikings in 2022 but entering a contract season, along with a new regime set to take over means Cousins’ future is already decided. The Vikings can’t get out of Cousins’ contract, so the only option is to ride it out with the veteran and hope to find a contingency plan either this offseason or in 2023.
When the Vikings opted to fire Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman, it was ownership admitting the Super Bowl window had closed, and signing Cousins turned out to be a massive failure. As Cousins gets ready to turn 34 years old in August the new regime would likely do the same and start fresh, the Vikings will need to prepare for a life without Cousins and get ready to figure out the QB position once again in hopes of getting back to a Super Bowl.