NFC North: 09 free agency
It's turned out to be a busy day at Chicago's Halas Hall practice facility. Not only has free agent offensive lineman Orlando Pace visited, but the Bears are also hosting free agent cornerback Ken Lucas. Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times has the story.
Carolina released Lucas this winter for salary-cap reasons. He's been a solid cover man throughout his career with the Panthers and in Seattle, and you would think he'd be the top candidate to start opposite Charles Tillman if he is signed. Currently, that position is manned by Corey Graham and Nate Vasher.
The clock is ticking on both Lucas and Pace. Typically, NFL teams suspend their free agent evaluations at some point as the draft approaches. Then they resume negotiations after determining their remaining needs after the draft.
The Bears have been pretty quiet thus far in the free agent market, but it's starting to be bargain time. Plugging two holes, at least in the short-term, would help them focus their draft strategy considerably.
You might not have heard of Karl Paymah before the free agent market opened -- and we're looking in the mirror here -- but chances are he'll be Minnesota's nickel back in 2009 after agreeing to a one-year contract Saturday worth $1.55 million.
ESPN's John Clayton reports the deal could exceed $2 million if Paymah reaches all of his incentives. Those aren't dime back/special teams contributor numbers. That's what you pay a player who you consider a likely candidate to be your third cornerback.
The Vikings have also re-signed both players who held down the nickel job last year, Charles Gordon and Benny Sapp. Each signed one-year deals: Gordon for $530,000 (plus $500,000 in incentives) and Sapp for $841,000. So I doubt the Vikings would have pursued Paymah and paid him what they did if they didn't think he represented an upgrade.
Want to know more about Paymah the player? Here's Scouts Inc.'s analysis as the free agent market opened:
Paymah has been a career backup who has five starts in his four-year career, while in Denver. He has more value on special teams than he does as a cornerback. He shows above-average, straight-line speed on coverage and willingness to throw his body around with abandon. He is an adequate athlete for the cornerback position and has the size and strength to press receivers at the line of scrimmage. He is inconsistent in off coverage, does not show great route recognition and will bite on fakes. He is a little stiff in the hips and comes out his pedal in stages. He lacks the premier top-end burst of speed to catch up when receivers gain separation from him, but enough speed to shadow most receivers on go routes. He is Denver's No. 4 corner, but does not have enough explosive quickness or agility to start in the league. He is getting to the stage in his career that he will be fighting for a job every year.
Posted by Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
The Detroit Lions' signing of Bryant Johnson makes a lot of sense for this organization. Despite their many needs, it behooved them to add yet another promising wideout during the offseason. Everyone knows about Calvin Johnson. He is amazing and will demand a ton of attention from defenses. Even double covered, Johnson will be the Lions' 2009 quarterback's (whomever that might be) best friend.
That's why the Lions needed more firepower. Bryant Johnson is not a dynamic game-changing player, but he is a former first-round selection with an impressive combination of size and speed. He's at a critical point of his career. He also proved that he is capable of being quite productive when he is teamed with super talented teammates, as he was during his time with the Arizona Cardinals next to Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald.
Neither veteran Daunte Culpepper nor University of Georgia prospect Matthew Stafford -- who is a very strong possibility to be Detroit's first-round selection -- is known for his pinpoint accuracy. Having big receivers with large catching radiuses is going to be very important to the Lions' quarterback, as it increases the size of the target to hit. No one in the league is a better example of this than Calvin Johnson, but Johnson brings much of this to the table as well. This signing makes a lot of sense for the lowly Lions. Don't be surprised if Johnson goes on to have a pretty respectable season with his new team.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
Tom Silverstein of the Journal Sentinel says the Packers free agency strategy of "letting the market establish itself" keeps them from overpaying players, but might leave them in the dust for free agents Colin Cole and Chris Canty.
The Detroit Free Press' Nicholas J. Cotsonika wonders why the Lions didn't make a play for recently traded quarterback Matt Cassel. The Chiefs acquired Cassel with the 34rd pick in the draft, but the Lions have the 33rd.
Cotsonika also reports that Albert Haynesworth, who signed with the Redskins Friday, would have considered a contract with the Lions.
The Star-Tribune's Mark Craig tried, but couldn't get excited about the Sage Rosenfels era.
The Vikings got a visit from free-agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh on Saturday, reports the Pioneer Press' Sean Jensen.
Brad Biggs of the Sun-Tribune says the signing of Frank Omiyale will add depth to the Bears' line.
Posted by ESPN.com's James Walker
Former Cincinnati Bengals receiver and free agent T.J. Houshmandzadeh is making his second trip of free agency. According to a report in the St. Paul Pioneer Press, 'Housh' is in Minneapolis to visit the Minnesota Vikings.
Recently Houshmandzadeh told ESPN that he would love to play for the Vikings, mainly because of tailback Adrian Peterson.
"If I can play with Adrian Peterson, can you imagine what I would do getting one-on-one coverage?" Houshmandzadeh said. "I'm going to win 98.6 percent of the time with one-on-one coverage with him in the backfield."
Houshmandzadeh's first visit was to the Seattle Seahawks on Friday, but he left without signing a contract. It will be interesting to see if Minnesota can seal the deal this weekend.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
- Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun Times reports the Bears are one of three front-runners to sign Bengals free-agent receiver T.J. Houshmanzadeh. Meanwhile, the Daily Herald's Bob LeGere suggests the team pursue the recently cut Laveranues Coles to fill its need at receiver.
- The Bears aren't likely to be big spenders in free agency, opines the Chicago Tribune's David Haugh.
- Tom Kowalski offers a position-by-position look at the Lions roster, including spots that need to be filled and some of the players who might be targets.
- Also from Kowalski: Now that the Lions' proposed trade for Ken Lucas has fallen through, they continue to pursue a cornerback in the trade market.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel doesn't think the Packers will make a big splash in free agency, but the team could fill some needs in their front seven.