NFC North: Ronald Curry
As far as I'm concerned, summer is over. It was a nice run. Vacation was great. Birds were singing. The sun was shining. People were laughing. Now, it's time to get back to business. It's really not that hard to come back from vacation when your job is to write about football.
As it turns out, I arrived just in time for what appears to be a successful conclusion to the negotiations between Minnesota and cornerback Antoine Winfield. I've preached patience as these talks have stopped and started during the offseason, and it appears that an agreement is imminent.
Agent Ashanti Webb was scheduled to arrive Wednesday night in the Twin Cities. That doesn't mean the deal is done, but it's rare for an agent to travel if a deal isn't within reach. It seems inevitable the Vikings will have an announcement before most players report to training camp July 29, and it could come as early as today. The contract will allow Winfield to finish his career with the organization and eliminates any discontent as camp approaches.
- A judge will decide by Aug. 7 whether Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams can continue their lawsuit against the NFL in Minnesota state court. The league believes its steroid testing policy should be subject only to federal laws. Brian Murphy of the Pioneer Press explains Wednesday's legal action.
- Detroit's trade of receiver Ronald Curry means Dennis Northcutt is the top candidate to be the Lions' No. 3 receiver, notes John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has been active on the trade market this offseason, writes Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press. He has acquired cornerback Anthony Henry, linebacker Julian Peterson, defensive end Orien Harris and Northcutt.
- Green Bay's agreement with rookie fullback Quinn Johnson leaves them with their two first-round choices as their only unsigned draft picks. I'll update our award-winning draft choice chart later Thursday.
- The NFC North blog makes an appearance in a David Haugh column in the Chicago Tribune. Haugh is among the roughly eight million people who disagreed with our quarterback rankings last week.
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago breaks down the Bears' safety position.
Posted by ESPN.com staff
NFC West blogger Mike Sando says the deal filled a similar purpose for the Rams, who didn't figure Harris to factor into the team's plans.
The Lions shipped Alexander to Jacksonville and managed to get a player that can probably help them this season. Receiver Dennis Northcutt isn't a Pro Bowl player, but like most of the Lions' offseason acquisitions, he is a serviceable veteran who can bring more credibility to his position. Detroit's receiving corps looks a bit more respectable with Bryant Johnson, Ronald Curry and now Northcutt competing for time opposite Calvin Johnson.
Alexander has recovered from a neck injury that limited him to five games last season, but he turned out to be the odd man out from a group that includes rookie Louis Delmas along with veterans Kalvin Pearson, Daniel Bullocks, Marquand Manuel and Stuart Schweigert. Delmas almost certainly will start at one of the safety positions, leaving the other four veterans to compete for the second role.
It's worth noting that Lions senior personnel executive James Harris signed Northcutt as a free agent in 2007 when Harris was the Jaguars' vice president of player personnel.
Let's take a look at what tickled your fancy this week. Remember, you can contact me in so many ways it's silly.
First off, there's the mailbag.
Then you've got our ceiling-breaking Facebook page.
We have Twitter for those who tweet.
You can even call me. My direct line is 555-0004.
Now, on with it:
On the aforementioned Facebook page, Zack asks about AccuScore's simulation of 10,000 NFC North seasons with and without Brett Favre. I provided the projected records for each team in both cases, but Zack wanted to know how many division titles each of the four teams won over those 10,000 seasons.
Kevin Seifert: I answered on Facebook but I should probably share the results on the blog itself. Remember, AccuScore created digital profiles of every player and coach in the NFC North and then ran 10,000 "seasons" through is computer based on the actual schedule of each team.
According to AccuScore, here were the results when Favre was the Vikings' quarterback:
- Minnesota won 42 percent of the seasons
- Green Bay won 30 percent
- Chicago won 28 percent
- Detroit won 0 percent.
- Green Bay won 34 percent of the seasons
- Minnesota won 34 percent
- Chicago won 32 percent
- Detroit won 0 percent
That's right. The fellas at AccuScore didn't have the Lions winning the NFC North title in any of the 20,000 total simulations run. I guess there's always next year.
Justin of Los Angeles writes: Kevin, in all the Chicago wide receiver talk, one name I haven't heard is Brandon Rideau. He was great last preseason and probably should've made the roster. He's now in his second year. He knows the system as well as Earl Bennett and is more talented than Rashied Davis. Yet he is getting NO publicity. Are the Bears even considering this guy? I think he is a major sleeper.
Kevin Seifert: Rideau has certainly been a fan favorite since the preseason last summer, but you're right, there hasn't been much buzz about him this spring. If anything, he's been overshadowed by the sheer number of young receivers the Bears are trying to get a look at.
If anyone created a spring buzz, it was rookie Johnny Knox. I didn't witness any of the Bears' organized team activities. But those who did, including Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times, report that Knox caught some eyes with his blazing 4.3 speed. Things could change once the pads come on, but it seems Knox got a lot of the same kind of attention Rideau did last year.
Zack of Kansas City writes: Your post about choosing the top ten building blocks from the division got me thinking: What about the coaches? So, what's your NFC North dream team of coaches look like? For me, I start by putting Lovie Smith at D-coordinator. Offensive coordinator: Joe Philbin. D-line: Rod Marinelli. O-line: Pat Morris. Special Teams: Dave Toub. I'm not partial to any of the head coaches, but if I have to chose, it's Mike McCarthy.
Kevin Seifert: Wow, interesting question. Maybe it's something I should consider for a future post. Nah, let's do it here. One rule I'll establish: A coach's current job description can't change. So, no picking Lovie Smith for defensive coordinator. OK, here's my first-blush list, subject to change. I'm leaving a few blank pending further thought and your feedback. I'll expand and explain during a post next week.
Head coach: Lovie Smith (CHI)
Offensive coordinator: Scott Linehan (DET)
Quarterbacks: Tom Clements (GB)
Running backs: Eric Bieniemy (MIN)
Wide receivers: Jimmy Robinson (GB)
Offensive line: TBD
Defensive coordinator: Leslie Frazier (MIN)
Defensive line: Rod Marinelli (CHI)
Linebackers: Fred Pagac (MIN)
Special teams: Dave Toub (CHI)
Joseph of High Point, N.C. writes: How do the Packers look at the Favre situation with Minnesota in regards to the charges of tampering last year? It seems very apparent (last year as well) that by the rules of the NFL, Minnesota should be guilty of tampering.
Kevin Seifert: I think the Packers want that whole episode behind them, so I'm not sure they would pursue tampering charges. But your question brings up an interesting conspiracy theory that we might never get resolved. (It's the only one of our five questions that Joe Buck didn't ask Brett Favre last Monday night.) Namely: Did Favre follow an elaborate pre-meditated scheme to get to the Vikings against the Packers' wishes?
As you might recall, over the winter we discussed the seemingly preposterous path Favre would need to follow to make himself eligible to sign with the Vikings. As the 2008 season ended, he was still under contract with the New York Jets, and the Jets remained under the terms of "poison pill" trade language that would have required them to send multiple first-round picks to the Packers if they ever traded Favre to an NFC North team.
So the only way for Favre to get to Minnesota was to somehow get out of his contract. Given the Jets' investment in him, it was unlikely they would simply release him with no return. I thought he might have to force the Jets' hand by threatening to file for reinstatement, backed by a salary cap figure that was too large for the Jets to handle.
Instead, the Jets drafted his replacement in April and then granted Favre's request to be released from his contract. That move made Favre a free agent.
As for tampering, the question would be whether Favre had contact with the Vikings before he was released. Did he seek that release because he knew the Vikings wanted to sign him? For me, however, the juicier question is whether Favre retired in February not because he thought he was finished playing, but because he hoped the Jets would move on wi
thout him and eventually consent to an enabling release.
Short of mind-reading, I don't know if we'll ever know the full answer. But it's the kind of thing that keeps we conspiracy theorists in business.
Rob of Winnipeg writes: Can you tell me why the Lions felt they needed to get rid of Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey? I know their numbers were way down, but other than Calvin Johnson, everybody's numbers were way down. Was it a locker room thing or was this just a move to make this Calvin Johnson's team?
Kevin Seifert: Both players had ties to former offensive coordinator Mike Martz and were probably best suited for his kind of passing offense, which the Lions dumped two years ago. Furrey spent a good part of last year at odds with the team over his health, and his fate seemed sealed when the Lions placed him on injured reserve.
McDonald has signed with Pittsburgh and could still be a productive player. But I think he got caught up in the team's desire to move on from its past. The Lions also seem interested in adding size at receiver. McDonald, at 5-10 is significantly smaller than newcomers Bryant Johnson (6-3) and Ronald Curry (6-2).
Continuing what feels like an all-Detroit day, we bring you this exciting news: The Lions announced they have signed free-agent receiver Ronald Curry and fullback Terrelle Smith to one-year contracts.
Curry and Smith both visited Detroit earlier this week. Both players should be available for the Lions' mandatory minicamp, which opens Monday.
Curry will get a chance to compete for the Lions' No. 3 receiver position behind Calvin Johnson and Bryant Johnson. Smith will compete with Jerome Felton for the top fullback job. Last year's starting fullback, Moran Norris, departed via free agency.
Some quick hitters on a Wednesday evening:
Detroit is considering every avenue to improve its receiving corps. The Lions signed Bryant Johnson early in free agency and on Monday claimed Will Franklin off waivers from Kansas City. Wednesday, according to Alex Marvez of FoxSports.com, the Lions hosted free agent Ronald Curry on a visit. No indication as of yet if the Lions plan to sign him, but we're getting close to that point where teams and players start holding off decisions until after the draft. Earlier this week, the Lions hosted free agent fullback Terrelle Smith, who spent the previous nine seasons with Arizona, Cleveland and New Orleans.
When news surfaced about Duke basketball player Greg Paulus working out for Green Bay last week, it wasn't immediately clear what position the Packers were evaluating him at. Paulus was a high school quarterback in Syracuse, N.Y., but it seemed unlikely that anyone would consider him a candidate to jump into the NFL at that position. Well, the football coach at Duke agrees. David Cutcliffe said Wednesday he had offered Paulus a chance to try out as a slot receiver but there was "no way" he could handle the transition to quarterback at a Division I level.
Detroit's Jim Schwartz is a rookie head coach, but he's a veteran at spewing total mumbo jumbo about the draft. Speaking to Detroit reporters Wednesday, Schwartz claimed the Lions haven't finished stacking their board and said: "You don't start at the top, you go by positions usually. Generally what you do is you start by positions. You'll go through there and then once all the positions are done, then you'll start going line by line. You guys ever hear the horizontal and vertical nature? Right now, we're still vertical. We haven't started going horizontal across positions yet." Whatever. (Seriously, I think the "horizontal" reference refers to teams ranking players who receive the same or very similar grades.)
Closing the book on the blockbuster trade that sent Green Bay long snapper J.J. Jansen to Carolina, ESPN's John Clayton reports the Packers will receive a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2011 draft. And before you ask, I have no idea whom the Packers might be targeting with that pick.