After three straight years out of the playoffs and a very disappointing year in 2009, I was surprised to see Lovie Smith back in the Windy City. The Bears went out and inked Julius Peppers to a big-money free agent deal, a sure sign that another bad year won't be acceptable. Chicago then went out and raided Minnesota, getting running back Chester Taylor, a backup to Adrian Peterson who showed he's more than capable of starting. I also find the signing of backup San Diego tight end Brandon Manumaleuna to be of interest. He didn't get a chance to play behind Antonio Gates, but don't forget that when Michael Turner stepped out of the shadow of LaDanian Tomlinson and got a chance to start in Atlanta, he made the most of it. I suspect San Diego wishes they had him back now, and with Gates' health no longer reliable, I wonder if the same will be the case with Manumaleuna. We'll see if he can produce in Chicago.
Green Bay has also been active, although it's more been in the area of retention. The Packers re-signed defensive lineman Ryan Pickett, and also kept offensive lineman Steve Tauscher and Chad Clifton. But the most notable decision was who they let go. Aaron Kampman was a star not too long ago, but never did acclimate himself to playing in the 3-4 defense that Dom Capers installed last year, and he went to Jacksonville. Really not a bad deal for Green Bay--they're done with a player who didn't fit their scheme anymore, and he's out of the NFC entirely so he can't torment them.
Minnesota's been pretty quiet, as befits a team that has all the pieces in place and is just waiting on Favre. Detroit added some defensive backs and also got WR Nate Burleson away from Seattle. In the name game, they re-signed a guard named Manny Ramirez, ensuring the Lions will at least have someone capable of hitting 35 home runs and picking up 100 ribbies.
Our spring overviews continue again Wednesday with the NFC South.