We're Black and Blue All Over:
As we set to embark on an unprecedented week in NFL history, we already have a bit of lockout-related news: The agent for Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice said his client won't re-sign with the team before having an opportunity to test his market value in free agency, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Rice has four accrued seasons, which technically makes him a restricted free agent under the rules of an uncapped year in place as of today. But agent Drew Rosenhaus is no doubt expecting the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) to revert back to the previous system that would make Rice unrestricted, free to sign with any team and thus in position to negotiate a more lucrative contract.
The Vikings have already used their franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway and might not have a method for blocking Rice's movement under the new CBA. We're a long way from that moment, but that's my educated guess for why Rosenhaus has taken this stance.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier has informed Rice he wants him back, but business is business. Obviously the team hasn't hit a contract number that Rice and Rosenhaus would agree to. Rice has had only one healthy season in his four years with the team, and the microfracture surgery he had on his hip last summer was significant. As a result, the Vikings are approaching his situation more cautiously than you might expect.
Continuing around the NFC North:
Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune wonders if the camaraderie between Frazier and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman will last.
Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com on that dynamic: "In the long run, the Vikings hope for synergy. For now, they'll settle for civility."
Chicago Bears safety Danieal Manning rejected a three-year contract extension worth $6 million, including $2 million guaranteed, last December. According to ESPNChicago.com, Manning has now been tendered as a restricted free agent at $1.29 million.
Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz said he was "100 percent" in agreement with coach Lovie Smith to change schematic courses midway through last season, writes Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Martz on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, via Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: "He has got to keep getting better at what he's doing, and we have to continue to get better around him. We need to protect him better, the receivers need to get better. All those things are tied together. That's when he gets better, and he will. He was getting better throughout the season. I was very pleased with his progress. He's not where he needs to be, but he's making good progress."
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press looks at a couple of cornerbacks who could fall to the Detroit Lions at No. 13 overall.
Chris McCosky of the Detroit News wonders if Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith can be trusted.
Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com on the Lions' tampering case with the Kansas City Chiefs: "The Lions have until Monday to appeal the ruling and it's becoming something of a headache for general manager Martin Mayhew. While Mayhew simply wants to the turn the page on the unpleasant episode -- and that was reflected in his recent comments -- the Lions' coaching staff, most notably head coach Jim Schwartz and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham, are both livid because they don't believe they've done anything wrong."
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, via Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "I plan on winning another Super Bowl. Yes, I do."
The draft could finally help determine Packers offensive lineman T.J. Lang's long-term position, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.