This past weekend was a big one for the NFC North division. The Chicago Bears made a huge splash by trading for defensive end Khalil Mack.
The Bears sent a package of draft picks, highlighted by two first round picks, to the Oakland Raiders. Shortly after the trade was announced, Chicago locked Mack up by way of a six-year, $141 million extension, with $90 million guaranteed, making him the highest paid defensive player in NFL history. This deal came a day after the Los Angeles Rams signed defensive end Aaron Donald to a six-year, $135 million extension with $87 million of that in guaranteed money.
So the Bears have their defensive cornerstone, who is in the prime of his career, and also believe they have the franchise quarterback in Mitchell Trubisky. Chicago was able to shell out this money to Mack due in large part that Trubisky is still in his rookie deal, which is team and cap friendly.
Mack was not the only player in the division to get a big extension. Last Wednesday the Green Bay Packers made quarterback Aaron Rodgers the highest paid player in NFL history with a four-year, $134 million extension with over $100 million in guaranteed money. He could possibly earn a total of $180 million once his deal expires.
That’s a lot of cheese.
While it didn’t happen within the past week, the defending NFC North champion Minnesota Vikings shelled out $84 million, all guaranteed over the course of three years to Kirk Cousins in the offseason.
The Vikings reached the NFC Championship game last season before ultimately getting trounced by the eventual Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles. By signing Cousins in the offseason, that shows that this team feels he can get them over the proverbial hump and to the Super Bowl.
Cousins is a quarterback who, despite everything thrown at him, has done well in this league. He has upgraded weapons in Minnesota in wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen. Getting Dalvin Cook back from injury will help this offense even more.
The Detroit Lions have finished 9-7 the past two seasons and are looking to take that next step and make the playoffs. Quarterback Matthew Stafford has been relied on to do entirely too much over the years and this year the Lions front office decided to try and alleviate that pressure by signing running back LeGarrette Blount and drafting Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round of this year’s draft. The defense will also need to step up and not put Stafford in comeback mode all the time.
If Rodgers is healthy, there is no reason the Packers can’t contend for the division and even the Super Bowl. He did lose his favorite weapon in the offseason as Jordy Nelson went to Oakland. He did get a new red zone threat in tight end Jimmy Graham. Regardless of who Rodgers is throwing to, he’s a generational talent who makes everyone around him better.
Minnesota is the deepest team in this division, which gives them the slight edge in who will be victorious for the title. Cousins puts them over the top on offense and that defense is still stacked. Rodgers will lead the Packers to a wild card berth. The Bears are still a year or two away, but the future is bright with Mack and Trubisky. The Lions never seem to catch a break and it doesn’t look like they will this year either, even if Stafford plays like a top-10 quarterback.