NFC North Notes: Packers, Vikings, Lions

While the league seems to be more focused on other positions, the Packers have elevated the importance of safeties, Scott Venci of USA Today writes.

My personal belief is that the tight end position on offense and the safety position on defense has now gone into that level of importance,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “If you look at the rule changes, you look at the matchups, you look at the body types, the league has opened up the middle of the field. So I think everybody’s conscious of that and from a personnel acquisition standpoint, it’s something that you see the trend. It’s been going on and the importance of attacking the middle of the field with big athletic football players. With that you’ve got to have people who can defend it. We’re very fortunate to have the safety group we have.”

The Packers’ philosophy has led to them having one of the best safety tandems in the NFL with Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett. In the long run, keeping both players will cost Green Bay. Burnett is under contract through the 2017 season with cap numbers of $5.95MM and $7MM in each of the next two years. Clinton-Dix is under his rookie deal through 2017, though the Packers can pick up his fifth-year option to retain him through 2018.

Here’s more from the NFC North:

  • The Vikings are proving adept at choosing free agents, Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune writes. For example, Minnesota added former Bengal Andre Smith in the spring and although he is not guaranteed a starting gig, he could prove to be a free agent steal. For his part, Smith says that he wouldn’t have come to Minnesota unless he felt like he could win with the Vikings. “I’ve made a lot of money in my career,” said Smith, who inked a one-year, $3.5MM deal with the Vikes in March. “If I’m going to go somewhere, I want to go somewhere I can win. This was the best place for me.” The Vikings also shored up the left guard spot by adding Alex Boone, who figures to be among the team’s more vocal vets.
  • The Lions are pleased with Riley Reiff‘s move to right tackle, Kyle Meinke of writes. Reiff, a 2012 first-round pick, was previously playing at left tackle and he’s now being asked to change positions in a contract year. In 2014, Reiff’s Pro Football Focus grade placed him in a tie for 23rd out of 84 qualified offensive tackles. Last year, PFF’s numbers (subscription required) ranked him No. 39 out of 77 qualified tackles.
  • On Monday morning, the Vikings made Harrison Smith the NFL’s highest-paid safety.
  • Last week, the Bears signed veteran offensive lineman Nate Chandler. The Bears also auditioned former No. 1 overall pick Jake Long, but it seems unlikely that he’ll sign in Chicago now that Chandler is on board.
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