Big moves, big losses in North

From the Packers' hiring of Dom Capers to the Vikings' loss of Matt Birk, we review the major offseason storylines.

Green Bay Packers

Biggest move: The hiring of Dom Capers as defensive coordinator. Although his name recognition came with stints as the first head coach for two expansion teams — the Carolina Panthers and the Houston Texans — Capers made his mark coordinating stingy 3-4 defenses with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Expecting the Packers to become masters of the new scheme this season is asking a lot. Capers, though, has some workable, talented pieces to revive a defense that was gashed by the run and rarely pressured the quarterback last season. Capers' biggest challenge will be to get Kampman to buy into the scheme. His pass-rushing abilities can continue to flourish, especially with mammoth first-round draft pick B.J. Raji occupying blockers in front of Kampman.

Key loss: Although Mark Tauscher's nameplate still hung in the team's Lambeau Field locker room during the offseason workouts, the veteran right tackle is as good as gone. Tauscher, a free agent, underwent surgery for a torn ACL in January, and the Packers soured on re-signing the beloved Wisconsin native because they didn't feel he would be ready for the start of the season. As such, the keys to the starting job that Tauscher held since 2000 have been handed to Allen Barbre, an athletic young player who will have to fend off competition in training camp.

Needs addressing: Firming up a replacement for Tauscher is among a few unsettled positions on the offensive line for the Packers as they head into camp. So far, it's Allen Barbre.

Former starting right guard Jason Spitz will battle incumbent Scott Wells at center. Spitz has the upper hand after taking all of the first-team reps in the offseason with Wells' recovering from shoulder surgery.

The jury is out on how much Chad Clifton, the starter at left tackle since 2000, has left to give after dealing with knee problems in recent years.

Chicago Bears

Biggest move: Jay Cutler's acquisition could wind up being one of the Bears' biggest moves ever. If it doesn't pay immediate and long-term dividends, it will be one of the worst ever. There are still some concerns about Cutler, given his acrimonious departure from Denver, but he has shown a willingness to do everything it takes to be a success in Chicago.

Key loss: The Bears really didn't lose anyone they needed, but if 2008 first-round pick Chris Williams can't cut it as the No. 1 offensive right tackle, they will miss John Tait, who retired after 10 solid years as a starter at both tackle spots with the Chiefs and Bears.

Needs addressing: The Bears still lack a proven No. 1 wide receiver. They say they have one in Devin Hester, but he has just 71 NFL receptions in two seasons at the position, and he is the most experienced wideout on the team.

Detroit Lions

Biggest move: The Lions committed to a new quarterback of the future when they drafted Matthew Stafford first overall and gave him a six-year contract worth a maximum of $78 million, with $41.7 million guaranteed.

Stafford has impressed with his strong arm and quick command of the offense, and the quarterback competition is expected to be hot in training camp. Veteran Daunte Culpepper has lost more than 30 pounds since coming out of semiretirement and joining the Lions at midseason.

"I think that's healthy," Stafford said. "That's great for guys to get out there and compete. That's what makes teams better and players better, is guys trying to get better and beat the guy out next to them. That's what you want."

Key loss: The Lions' secondary intercepted only one pass last season, and they released the player who picked off the pass: cornerback Leigh Bodden. Now Bodden is expected to start for, of all teams, the accomplished New England Patriots.

But Bodden was disgruntled in Detroit and due an $8.6 million roster bonus, and the Lions have made several additions to the secondary to compensate, including free-agent cornerbacks Phillip Buchanon and Eric King. They also traded Jon Kitna to Dallas for Anthony Henry.

Needs addressing: The Lions have a lot of work to do on both lines, especially because coach Jim Schwartz has talked about getting bigger and stronger and building from the inside out. The Lions have added veteran free agents like defensive tackle Grady Jackson and offensive tackle Jon Jansen, and free agent defensive end Kevin Carter remains a possibility. They drafted a big defensive tackle in Sammie Hill. But there is plenty of room to improve, especially on the interior at guard and defensive tackle.

Minnesota Vikings

Biggest move: It has been discussed, but it isn't on the official transaction log ... yet. That would be the expected addition of Brett Favre to a team that hasn't had a settled quarterback situation since Childress took over as coach in 2006.

Key loss: Center Matt Birk was not selected to the Pro Bowl last season but he did make five appearances in the all-star game over 11 seasons with the Vikings and proved to be an anchor on the offensive line. Birk, though, departed as a free agent for Baltimore and will be replaced by second-year center John Sullivan.

Needs addressing: Cornerback Antoine Winfield did not attend any of the Vikings' offseason practices in part because he's unhappy about not having a new contract. The veteran was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 10-year NFL career and is entering the last season of his deal. Talks between Winfield and the Vikings have been off and on and obviously the team would like to get the situation resolved.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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