NFC North: L.J. smith
It will be interesting to see how Green Bay's decision to retain defensive back Jarrett Bush will impact its situation with cornerback Tramon Williams.
Bush now has a three-year contract worth $4.5 million, including a $1 million signing bonus and a $1 million base salary in 2009, after the Packers matched the offer sheet he signed with Tennessee as a restricted free agent. Williams is an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning he doesn't yet have the right to seek offers from other teams. But he was ahead of Bush on the Packers' depth chart last season and could be a rising star at the cornerback position.
Williams has been offered an exclusive-rights tender worth $460,000, but there have been reports indicating he will look for a longer, more lucrative contract. Will he be more likely to seek that deal and/or hold out after seeing Bush -- who has been primarily a special teams player in his career -- cash in?
It will be an interesting dynamic to follow as the Packers' offseason strength and conditioning program gets underway.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune lays out the reasons why the Bears should pursue Denver quarterback Jay Cutler. The highlight: "To sit idly by after Cutler officially has requested a trade from the Broncos would be professional negligence by the Bears. One day Kyle Orton still can develop into a solid NFL quarterback. Cutler already is."
- The Bears are expected to hold a private workout for North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Bears receiver Devin Hester speaks with Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune about being the Bears' No. 1 receiver.
- Free-agent tight end L.J. Smith remains a possibility to sign with Detroit, according to Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press.
- Former Minnesota safety Darren Sharper could sign soon with New Orleans, according to Brian Allee-Walsh of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Catching up on some NFC North odds and ends:
- Green Bay somewhat surprisingly matched the three-year offer sheet that defensive back Jarrett Bush signed Friday with Tennessee. The Packers must pay Bush, primarily a special teams player, $2 million this season under terms reported here by Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. You can only assume the Packers have bigger plans for Bush in 2009.
- Chicago confirmed that linebacker Nick Roach has signed his exclusive rights tender, making him eligible for mini-camp practices that start Tuesday. Roach figures to get plenty of work at outside linebacker with Hunter Hillenmeyer sidelined by injury.
- The Bears will have a number of veterans at mini-camp on a tryout basis, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. The group includes linebacker Tim McGarigle along with safeties Glenn Earl and Curome Cox. The arrangement allows the players to practice without having a signed contract.
- Detroit signed tight end Will Heller, who spent the past three seasons with Seattle. He has 36 receptions in six NFL seasons. It's not clear how the Heller signing affects the status of free agent L.J. Smith, who reportedly is no longer a candidate to sign with Atlanta. Smith visited the Lions last week
- The Lions released linebacker Anthony Cannon.
Wednesday is turning into a pretty busy day at Detroit's practice facility with a list of visiting free agents that continues to grow.
The Detroit Free Press just reported that defensive end Vonnie Holliday is en route to Allen Park, Mich., where he will join nose tackle Grady Jackson and offensive lineman Daniel Loper. The Sporting News has reported that tight end L.J. Smith, who spent the past six seasons with Philadelphia, could also arrive Wednesday for a visit. (The link to that story is no longer active, however.)
The Lions opened free agency with about $35 million in salary-cap space, and their strategy this offseason is now clear: Improve their roster from "depleted" to "functional" at as many positions as they can. Already, they've signed running back Maurice Morris, receiver Bryant Johnson and cornerback Eric King. They also acquired cornerback Anthony Henry in a trade with Dallas.
None of these players are so-called "first-tier" free agents, but as a group they can help the Lions improve in the short term. After a series of unproductive drafts under former general manager Matt Millen, the Lions had little choice but to take this type of approach to free agency.
Ultimately, the Lions will have to improve their draft production. But in the short term, this is a necessary approach.