Going into the Combine, the Bears are leaning toward keeping Justin Fields in place at quarterback. They are viewed as likely to trade out of the No. 1 overall draft slot, and Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reinforces that the rebuilding team is leaning against exiting the first round with a quarterback. Fields finished a historically successful season as a running quarterback, but significant questions remain about his potential as a passer. The Bears will still meet with just about every top quarterback at the Combine, Jones adds, noting questions also exist about whether the team view this draft class as having a QB option head and shoulders above Fields. While the belief is Fields will have a shot at a third season in Chicago, questions will persist until the Bears trade the pick. Doing so would make them the first team to move out of the No. 1 spot since the Titans did so in 2016.
Here is the latest from the NFC North:
- Aaron Jones‘ Packers restructure will ensure he plays a seventh season in Green Bay — rare territory for modern Packers backs — and it will create considerable cap space for the team. Jones’ cap figure will drop from $20MM to $8.2MM, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets. Jones’ base salary will drop from $8.1MM to $1.1MM. Jones took a $5MM salary cut in exchange for a $8.5MM signing bonus, keeping him tied to the four-year, $48MM extension he inked before free agency in 2021. In 2024, the final year of Jones’ deal, Demovsky adds (via Twitter) his cap number will rise from $16MM to $17.7MM. The void years from Jones’ 2022 restructure remain on the contract.
- Shifting to another 2017 running back draftee still on his second contract, Dalvin Cook will miss time this offseason because of shoulder surgery. The Pro Bowl Vikings back, whom Adam Schefter of ESPN.com notes underwent surgery this month, played shoulder pain for the past three-plus seasons, initially injuring it in 2019. Cook, 27, suffered a broken shoulder in 2019 and missed time in 2019 and 2021 as a result; he played all 18 Vikings games last season but battled a shoulder dislocation he sustained in Week 3. This surgery will likely knock Cook out for much of the offseason, with the Vikings announcing he is expected to make a full recovery “by the start of the regular season.” Two years remain on Cook’s five-year, $63MM contract.
- Dalvin Tomlinson‘s two-year Vikings pact was set to void last week, but the team bought more time on this front. The Vikes pushed Tomlinson’s void date to March 15 — Day 1 of the 2023 league year — according to Field Yates of ESPN.com (on Twitter). This keeps $7.5MM from hitting Minnesota’s cap, though that amount will move onto the payroll if no extension is reached by March 15. If an extension occurs before that date, the Vikings will only be charged with $2.5MM in dead money, Yates tweets.
- If Tomlinson does return, he will be a part of another 3-4 scheme. Minnesota had gone decades in a 4-3 alignment, but new DC Brian Flores confirmed (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson) the 3-4 look installed under previous leader Ed Donatell will remain in place. Although teams’ increased sub-package usage diminishes the importance of base sets, this is certainly notable given how long the Vikes were a 4-3 team prior to 2022, when their switch yielded disastrous results.
- Shaun Dion Hamilton will move up from defensive assistant to the Lions‘ assistant linebackers coach, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Hamilton is just 27, being one of the Lions’ cuts last summer, but moved quickly into coaching. Rather than hit the workout circuit, the former Washington sixth-round draftee opted to enter coaching early.
- The Packers‘ run of extensions last offseason included executive VP Russ Ball, Demovsky tweets. Green Bay quietly extended Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst, and Ball — a veteran cap guru elevated during the same offseason Gutekunst took over as GM — remains a key part of the franchise’s equation. Ball, 63, has been a critical part of the Pack’s front office since 2008.