To the dismay of the other teams in the NFC North, Aaron Rodgers decided to return to the Green Bay Packers for the 2021 NFL season. However, fans from opposing teams in the division can rejoice as it will likely be his final year with the organization. Given the return of Rodgers, the Packers are the clear favorites to win the NFC North this season.
While Green Bay has some holes on their roster, the other teams may need to conduct some moves to catch up to the Packers. The trade deadline for the NFL isn’t until November, but that doesn’t mean we can’t speak about potential trades that could take shape in the future.
With every team in the division having positions on their roster that they need to address, here is one target for each team in the NFC North to target at the trade deadline.
Chicago Bears: Andre Dillard, OT, Eagles
Over the course of the offseason, the Chicago Bears got rid of some of their starting offensive linemen in hopes to upgrade at those positions. In the 2021 NFL Draft, they took Teven Jenkins early to address the offensive tackle position. However, Jenkins has been dealing with a back injury in training camp that will likely sideline him for a portion of his rookie season.
While Jenkins could be the future blindside protector for Justin Fields, maybe the Bears can manufacture a trade for Andre Dillard. Dillard hasn’t panned out for the Philadelphia Eagles, but we’ve seen offensive linemen improve with a change of scenery. And maybe moving Dillard to the right tackle spot would help him revive his career as a first-round pick from the 2019 NFL Draft.
Detroit Lions: Stephon Gilmore, CB, Patriots
Upon the hiring of Dan Campbell, it was evident that the Detroit Lions want to have a fresh start to rebuild in order to compete in the NFC North. The Lions want to have this persona of being a tough-nosed team that plays physical on both sides of the ball. The offense could undergo struggles with Jared Goff and a lackadaisical receiving corps. But D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson are two players who could have productive seasons on the offensive side of the ball.
As for the defense, there is a ton of work that needs to be done before they are one of the better groups in the NFL. The selection of Jeffrey Okudah in the 2020 NFL Draft was a sign that Detroit wants to strengthen their secondary by adding a potential premier cornerback. While Okudah needs time to develop, the Lions could conduct business with a familiar team in the New England Patriots.
Stephon Gilmore has been constantly mentioned in trade rumors, and with New England’s depth at cornerback, and they would likely be willing to move on from him at the right price.
Green Bay Packers: Sterling Shepard, WR, Giants
One of the stipulations that Rodgers had before returning to the Packers was that the franchise get Randall Cobb back on the roster. Cobb was then traded from the Houston Texans back to Green Bay, where he had a few successful seasons catching passes from Rodgers. Even though Cobb is still a solid slot receiver, the receiving corps of the Packers is still mediocre outside of Davante Adams.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard have failed to show consistency in recent years, and Amari Rodgers is likely going to replace Cobb as the slot option after this season. Devin Funchess shouldn’t be relied on as a top target, leading me to still push for Green Bay to acquire a wide receiver. Seeing that Rodgers is likely playing his final season with the Packers, Sterling Shepard — who has a potential out in his contract in 2022 — would be a stellar acquisition at the trade deadline.
Adding another dangerous weapon for Rodgers would improve the Packers’ chances of taking the NFC North again in 2021.
Minnesota Vikings: Tytus Howard, OT, Texans
It has been well-documented that the Minnesota Vikings need to address their offensive line to compete better in the NFC North. At the least, they did take Christian Darrisaw in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Darrisaw has had health issues throughout training camp, but he’s expected to be the future left tackle of the Vikings. But on the other side of the offensive line, Minnesota could use someone that gives them a long-term fix at right tackle.
I’ll continue to preach that the Texans are going to be major sellers at the trade deadline in 2021. We could very well see them gut their roster in an attempt to acquire plenty of draft capital to start from scratch next offseason. Taking that into account, Tytus Howard may be a name that becomes available for teams in need of a right tackle. A duo of Darrisaw and Howard could be a massive upgrade over what the Vikings have had in recent seasons.