Wednesday, March 10, 2010

NFC North: Da Bearz and Lions try to improve

I know, I know, that really is a bit of an oxymoron, isn't it? Talking about Da Bearz and Lions in the same sentence as the word "improve." C'mon, right?

Well, there is no doubt after the early days of free agency signings that the playing field will have changed when the Packers meet their division foes to the south and east this Fall. Da Bearz management somehow got ownership (i.e., the McCaskeys) to pry open their wallet and fork over what reports say could be up to $121 million for three players: defensive end Julius Peppers, tight end Brandon Manumaleuna and running back Chester Taylor. So, perhaps we'll see improved defensive line play in Chicago. Taylor was primarily a 3rd down back with the ViQueens and will spell Matt Forte at running back. Still, they have Jay Cutler at QB (how'd that big signing work out last season, by the way? Oh...right...) and still nobody for him to throw to. A shame, really, given that bucketload of money they gave to Cutler last season...and then there were all those draft choices they traded away as part of that deal, too. You can almost smell the desperation coming out of Chi-Town, can't you?

As for the Lions, the perennial bottom feeders of the division and league, they signed defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch and receiver Nate Burleson. They also traded a couple late-round draft picks for defensive tackle Corey Williams and cornerback Chris Houston. Interesting moves that should help the rebuilding process in Detroit. But they still have a long way to go.

As regards the ViQueens, the only thing that matters there -- or in the division, really -- is whether Ol' #4 decides to come back. Given that the 'Queens will let him come dancing back in for a few weeks of training camp prior to the season, my bet is we'll see Brett Favre under center for one mo' go 'round in that funky purple.

The Pack, of course, has really done little in the way of outside free agency signings. GM Ted Thompson seems to be more focused on keeping the best of his own roster on board, resigning LT Chad Clifton and S Nick Collins and letting DE Aaron Kampman walk away.

The only true free agent signing so far came yesterday in the form of WR Charles Dillon. Who? From the Packers own press release: "The Green Bay Packers have signed WR Charles Dillon. Executive Vice President, General Manager and Director of Football Operations Ted Thompson announced the signing Tuesday. A 6-foot, 202-pound first-year player, Dillon spent time with the Indianapolis Colts during training camp in 2008. A former Washington State letterman, he spent the 2009 season with the Spokane Shock in af2. He will wear No. 17." Ah, now we know.

A wide receiver issued #17. Kind of like a baseball pitcher being issued #91. Likelihood of sticking? You got it, not much, particularly with the Pack's already exceptional receiving corps as your competition. Unless, that is, Dillon's exceptional speed and apparent ability to find the endzone (at least on shortened arena league fields) gives him a shot as a returner on special teams. Ya never know.

Packers to unveil a third uniform this weekend
Perhaps some of the biggest news to potentially emerge this weekend during the Packers Fan Fest at Lambeau Field will be the unveiling of the official third "alternate" jersey and uniform for this season and perhaps beyond. The only scuttlebutt so far, confirmed on the Packers website, is that the look will derive from the Pack's first decade of existence. For those not up on their Packers history, that would be the 1920s. According to an article at, "In their first decade, the Packers wore navy blue jerseys with golden or canvas-colored pants and a brown leather helmet. The uniform to be unveiled Friday will be a re-creation of a uniform from that era, modified to adhere to current NFL guidelines regarding elements like jersey numbers and names."

Of course, there will also be merchandising opportunities galore that come along with the new look: "The third jerseys, as well as the accompanying sideline apparel that the coaches and support staff will wear during the game, will be available to fans in the Packers Pro Shop at a later date. Murphy anticipated that would be sometime around training camp or the start of the regular season."

So...keep an eye out...what's old is new again for Packer fans everywhere.