NFC North: Ephraim Salaam
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette on the Packers’ 27-14 victory over Baltimore: “It wasn’t the prettiest performance, but the Packers aren’t in a position to worry about style points in their drive to earn an NFC playoff berth. They’ll take the hard-fought, if extremely sloppy win against the desperate Ravens, who were looking to make a playoff push of their own.”
- Packers cornerback Tramon Williams’ end-zone interception helped negate two pass interference penalties, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- The Packers defense wanted to prove itself in comparison to Baltimore’s defense, according to Jason Wilde of ESPN Milwaukee.
- Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press examines Minnesota’s options behind injured middle linebacker E.J. Henderson, beginning with rookie Jasper Brinkley.
- The Vikings’ on-field performance could impact their chances for a new stadium, writes Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune.
- Chicago missed out on three interceptions and four sacks Sunday against St. Louis, notes Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune in his weekly film review.
- The Bears will have to make several internal decisions before deciding how to approach the rest of the offseason, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Coaches film review credited Bears linebacker Jamar Williams with 20 tackles Sunday, notes Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago.
- Detroit’s secondary had its best game of the season Sunday at Cincinnati, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- The Lions signed veteran offensive lineman Maurice Williams and released lineman Ephraim Salaam, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.
Let's catch up on a busier-than-expected news day here in the Black and Blue:
- We'll start with Green Bay, where earlier Monday, the Packers re-signed tight end Tory Humphrey and released linebacker Kenny Pettway. Humphrey was scheduled to be a restricted free agent, but the Packers declined to tender him a contract in February. As Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette points out, the maneuver allows the Packers to re-sign Humphrey at a price lower than the minimum offer sheet value of $1.01 million for restricted free agents.
- Minnesota defensive tackle Fred Evans signed his restricted free agent tender, allowing him to participate in the start of the Vikings' offseason strength and conditioning program. The deal will pay Evans $1.545 million in 2009. Evans is a leading candidate to start the first four games of the season if Kevin Williams and/or Pat Williams is forced to serve an NFL suspension.
- Detroit re-signed offensive lineman George Foster and also signed free agent lineman Dylan Gandy. Foster opened last season at right tackle but lost his job to first-round pick Gosder Cherilus. The Lions also hosted free-agent offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam, but Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press suggests nothing will materialize on that front until after the draft. For now, Jeff Backus remains at left tackle.
Minnesota never appeared to join the intense bidding last week for quarterback Jay Cutler, who landed with an NFC North rival in Chicago. We left open the possibility that there was some under-the-radar involvement, but coach Brad Childress slammed the door on that idea in this interview with Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Childress didn't provide a direct reason for the Vikings' lack of interest but noted the challenge of fitting a new quarterback into an established scheme.
Childress: "He's a good player, and obviously I don't question his physical skills. But obviously it will be what he can do in relationship to the team to help the team. ... Are they going to be able to match their offense up to what he can do offensively? I think there's kind of a ferreting-out period."
Childress acknowledged the steep price the Bears were forced to pay -- three high draft choices plus quarterback Kyle Orton -- and added: "You always have to give something to get something. Time will tell whether the give was better or the get was better."
Reasonable people can debate whether, as Childress said, the "get" will be better than the "give." But the Vikings' decision to sit out the trade talks entirely represents one of two things: Either a stunning lack of ambition at the game's most important position, or simply a deep confidence in the combination of current quarterbacks Tarvaris Jackson and Sage Rosenfels.
Catching up on the weekend from around the NFC North:
- The Vikings and cornerback Antoine Winfield are in intense negotiations for a contract extension, according to Zulgad.
- But it's not clear when the sides will strike a deal, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- The Vikings open their offseason strength and conditioning program Monday, two weeks later than in previous years, Zulgad notes.
- Cutler is not afraid of confrontation, writes David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune. Haugh: "In three years in the league, that has become as obvious about Cutler as his rocket right arm."
- Carol Slezak of the Chicago Sun-Times takes the pulse of Cutler's hometown in Indiana.
- Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean compares Cutler's path to that of another Vanderbilt quarterback, Bill Wade, who was traded to the Bears and led them to the 1963 NFL championship.
- Virginia offensive lineman Eugene Monroe visited Detroit on Friday, according to David Birkett of the Oakland Press.
- Free agent Ephraim Salaam visited Detroit, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press. Salaam could be a short-term fix at left tackle if the Lions move Jeff Backus to left guard.