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Saturday, May 30, 2009
Weekend mailbag

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Been a pretty busy week for the end of May, don't ya think?

We've had Chicago signing more than three-fourths of its draft class along with linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa. Detroit has continued to root around the personnel world, most notably by agreeing to terms with offensive lineman Jon Jansen.

Green Bay dealt with two reported contract disagreements, safety Nick Collins and receiver Donald Driver, as well as a suddenly silent linebacker in Aaron Kampman. Minnesota opened its mandatory minicamp without cornerback Antoine Winfield, who is missing practice because of a funeral but also happens to be at a stalemate in his own negotiations for a contract extension.

We also had a surprising outburst from former Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, who is angry at the possibility of Brett Favre signing with his former team. We'll consider that a cross-divisional story.

All of which gives us plenty of fodder for the weekend mailbag. Let's start with a question from our brand-new, white-hot Facebook page.

Lewis writes: Hey Kevin, big fan. I check the blog almost every day. What are the chances [Greg] Jennings and Collins get their contract extensions before training camp starts? Is there any chance the Packers extend Kampman, especially if he starts to get vocal about his hesitancy of switching positions in a contract year?

Kevin Seifert: I'd be surprised if the Packers don't get Jennings' deal done sometime this summer. The sides have been in discussions for some time, and the fact that Jennings is attending organized training activities suggests there are no major roadblocks. It seems to be a high priority for both sides, which makes a deal likely.

There has been very little progress with Collins to date. His contract will expire after the 2009 season, but the Packers don't seem to be in a rush with him. He almost doubled his career total last season with seven interceptions, and it's possible the Packers want to see if he can repeat his performance before committing long-term.

It's also possible that Green Bay is waiting to see how negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement play out. If there is no new deal, the league will go to an uncapped year in 2010. One of the new rules would be that players will need six accrued seasons to become an unrestricted free agent. Collins, therefore, would be a restricted free agent and thus have limited ability to seek employment elsewhere.

As for Kampman, I truly doubt his silence is a money grab. I don't think he's hoping to get an extension by portraying himself to be upset at his position change. That would be a surprising turn of events based on what I know about his character.


Sam of Athens, Ga., writes: I know everyone is high on the Bears this year after the Jay Cutler trade, but I don't see how using the Vanderbilt Commodores as their football equivalent to AAA baseball does this team any good. I'm still not sold on this team no matter how hard the media tries to push 'em on me.

Kevin Seifert: Easy on the Vandy shots, Sam -- although I do think you bring up a good point in one sense. I think the Bears' Vanderbilt connection might be a bit overvalued in some circles. Cutler might have good chemistry with receiver Earl Bennett, but that's not going to help Bennett get open any easier or run past NFL defensive backs any quicker. Bennett is still going to have to pull his weight in order to become a legitimate NFL receiver.

The same goes for right tackle Chris Williams and linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. It's nice that Cutler knows them, but I'm not sure how applicable their relationships will be on the field.

I think it's fair to consider the Bears the top team in the NFC North at this point in the offseason, as ESPN.com did in last week's power rankings. Chicago was only a couple games behind division-winning Minnesota last season, and the Cutler trade represents the most significant personnel improvement in the division this spring. It's reasonable to believe Cutler could mean two additional victories for the Bears.


Brett of Peoria, Ariz., writes: Hey Kevin, After reading your article about Randy Moss, I have a question for you. Who has been your favorite receiver (skill and to watch) of all time? I know Jerry Rice is the best in terms of skill, but after that who would be your favorite receiver? Thanks!

Kevin Seifert: In terms of watching the guy play, Cris Carter was amazing. If the ball got anywhere near his hands, he caught it. His catches were always so smooth because he never trapped the ball against his chest and rarely bobbled it. He just looked the ball into his mitts and absorbed its force. There were so many times when you would see the ball disappear into the air and realize he had just reached up and snatched it.

Cris was so good at making a catch in traffic. By the time I started covering him in 1999, he was like a veteran basketball player who knew all the tricks to help get his shot off. If you watched in slow-motion, Carter had all kinds of tricks to keep his body between the defender and the ball.

I know there were some people who didn't like Cris' attitude at times. But if I had to pick one receiver to make one catch to win one game, it would be him. He'd find a way. (Now I just need him to put in a good word for me at ESPN. Oh, wait....)


Sirron writes: You previously mentioned that the Lions still need some CB help. Any chance Pacman will be a choice?

Kevin Seifert: I would be absolutely stunned if Jim Schwartz decided to take on Pacman Jones in his first year with the Lions, especially given everything he must know about Jones from their time together in Tennessee.

There's little doubt Jones is a talented player. But it's hard to bring in someone with his risk factor as you start a program. Schwartz's past relationship with Jones would mak
e him Jones' unofficial sponsor. If something went wrong, the blame would go to Schwartz because he should know Jones as well as anyone.

I really doubt Schwartz, or any other rookie coach, would want to take that risk.