Key Personnel Decisions: Part 1

Packer Report examines the possible impact of the biggest transactions from the Packers and their division rivals from this offseason. We're counting them down from 10 to one with a Packers spin.

Free agency and the draft are complete and offseason practices are under way. What were the biggest moves that will impact the NFC North race? Packer Report counts them down ...

10th: Lions move up to draft Best

There's no substitute for speed. And there's no substitute for an explosive running back to help a young quarterback. Jahvid Best's history of concussions is a major concern and is the reason why he went late in the first round and was the third running back off the board despite his immense talent and production as a runner, receiver and returner at Cal. The Lions moved up four spots, from No. 34 to No. 30, and swapped fourth-round picks with Minnesota. If Best can stay healthy, he'll become Matthew Stafford's best friend. The Packers, who have had their hands full with Calvin Johnson (six touchdowns in five games), now will have someone else to worry about.

9th: Bears acquire Harris and draft Wright

How's this for an astounding number? Since Lovie Smith became the Bears' coach in 2004, they have changed starting safeties a whopping 41 times. So, three years after the Bears traded Chris Harris to Carolina for a fifth-round draft pick, they reacquired him by trading linebacker Jamar Williams to the Panthers. Harris forced 12 fumbles in his three seasons in Carolina. He'll be challenged by third-round pick Major Wright, who picked off eight passes as a three-year starter at Florida. It will be interesting to compare the careers of Wright, taken at No. 75 overall, and Green Bay's Morgan Burnett, who the Packers grabbed at No. 71.

8th: Bears hire Martz

The Bears were a chic Super Bowl pick last year after acquiring quarterback Jay Cutler from Denver. Cutler, however, threw 27 touchdown passes against 26 interceptions. Chicago went 7-9, and in his three years as a full-time starter, Cutler's record is 22-26. Enter new offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who seems to be a poor fit for the traditionally conservative Bears. Martz doesn't seem to be a good fit for Cutler, either. Cutler is notorious for forcing the ball into coverage when under pressure — recall his three touchdowns vs. six interceptions against Green Bay last year — and Martz's quarterbacks have taken a pounding over the years. A quarterback who doesn't like pressure paired with a coordinator who lets his quarterbacks get pressured. Doesn't sound like a good combo.

7th: Vikings sign Sheppard and draft Cook

With rising young corner Cedric Grifffin's 2010 season in jeopardy because of a torn ACL sustained in last year's NFC title game, the Vikings landed 6-foot-2 Chris Cook in the second round and picked up veteran Lito Sheppard in free agency. Sheppard is a former Pro Bowler, but the Jets pulled the plug just one year after inking him to a four-year deal. Sheppard, who's only 29, had six interceptions in 2006 but only four since. With the status of Antoine Winfield also in doubt — he missed six games with a fractured foot — the Vikings' season might depend on one or both playing well immediately.

6th: Packers lose Kampman

It's no secret that Aaron Kampman didn't adapt well to the Packers' change in defensive schemes, but can they replace his pass-rushing ability? Kampman finished with only 3.5 sacks compared to 37 over the previous three seasons, but despite playing in only nine games, Kampman's 28 quarterback hits ranked second on the team. Plus, there is precious little depth behind presumed starters Clay Matthews III and Brad Jones.

Coming Wednesday: Part 2 of this story.


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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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