NFC North: Torry Holt
But then, two things happened. First, I tracked almost all of the first-team passes during the Bears' opening practice Friday. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw more often to receiver Johnny Knox, by far, than any other receiver.
Second, I jumped on ESPN 1000 Friday night with my friend Jeff Dickerson and ex-Bears quarterback Brett Basanez. We started discussing the Bears' receivers, and Basanez suggested that Knox's ability to "control" his elite speed makes him an ideal fit for this offense. In other words, Knox can get to top speed without losing his ability to run precise routes.
So will Knox be the Bears' No. 1 receiver this season? We should be careful about drawing conclusions after the first couple days of practice, but I think it's a possibility we should all consider.
I caught up with Knox after Saturday morning's light practice, and ahead of the Bears' scheduled full-pads practice Saturday night. He said he has been excited about this season from the moment Martz was hired.
"Just from watching him when he was with the Rams," Knox said. "I used to watch the Greatest Show on Turf. Getting him here, hopefully we can make this the Greatest Show on Grass now."
How do you like that one, Bears fans? The Greatest Show on Grass. Has a Bear-like ring, does it not?
Anyway, Knox was 13 years old when Martz's offense helped the St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title in 1999. While I'm not comparing him to Isaac Bruce or Torry Holt, I do think Knox has the physical skills that will give him a chance to be highly productive in this offense.
"Just watching Isaac Bruce and Tory Holt, they were guys around my size with the same speed," Knox said. "That's one thing that excels in this offense -- if you have speed and quickness."
As for Hester, I'm going to take a closer look at him during Saturday evening's practice and report back what I find. There is a line of thinking that Hester will need to refine his underdeveloped receiving skills in order to make this offense work for him, but I'm keeping an open mind.
One note: Bears safety Chris Harris left the morning practice soon after it started. Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune reports Harris has a back strain.
Ugh. All I can hear is Carole King in my head, and it's a straight-up curse:
So far away
Doesn't anybody stay in one place anymore?
It would be so fine to see your face at my door
Doesn't help to know that you're just time away.
While we navigate a cold end to spring and a long wait to the upcoming season, we can at least commiserate together via the mailbag, Facebook or Twitter. Not like we can go outside or anything. So let's dive into the weekend mailbag for some comfort food:
Jeff of Bloomington, Ind., writes: It's all well and good to pick the Packers to win the division, but I think at least one of your reasons is quite faulty. How exactly has Green Bay improved the "yin-and-yang" passing tree you talked about while the Vikings haven't? Sure, Jermichael Finley might have improved, but even if you're willing to predict Donald Driver won't regress a bit (a concession I disagree with), you certainly can't expect him to improve.
Meanwhile, Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin are probably going to improve in a second season with Favre guiding the offense, and Visanthe Shiancoe is at least comparable to Finley. Also, I don't see Bernard Berrian falling off any more than Driver. I just don't see how the Packers have improved while the Vikings haven't.
Kevin Seifert: Some fair points, Jeff, and they beg further explanation from me. We'll take it point-by-point.
First, my point on the Packers' "yin-and-yang" is based on where it stood during the first half of last season, when the Vikings swept the Packers, relative to the end. Let's republish the chart we first introduced in January. As you can see, Finley caught more passes than Driver or Greg Jennings over the Packers' final eight games. The Packers have a much more layered passing game now than they had while creating an early hole for themselves in 2009.
Second, it's fair to question Driver's sustainability at 35. But let's face it, the Packers have been transitioning toward Jennings for at least two years, and Driver's reception total has dropped in each of his past four years. He doesn't need to be a 70-catch player for the Packers' offense to run at a high level.
Third, one of the neat things we can do in this blog is compare the four teams relative to each other. I don't see the relevance in comparing the Packers' offense to the Vikings' offense. They don't compete against each other. My point was to compare the Packers' skill players in the passing game to the Vikings' defense, which as we noted, is in transition at multiple positions. And that was before Thursday's Hennepin County court ruling that made the suspensions of defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams more likely than ever.
David of New Haven, Ind., writes: What is your obsession with downgrading the Bears wide outs? Sure they are young and inexperienced but they also played under the worst offensive coordinator ever in Ron Turner. How are they going to get experience if the Bears sign a veteran? Were Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce stars before they played in Mike Martz offense? He knows what he is talking about so give them a chance before writing them off.
Kevin Seifert: David is referring to our discussion about some comments Gale Sayers recently made about the Bears. Quoting Sayers, one of them was: "They need a couple wide receivers." I noted the Bears have consistently expressed confidence in the current group, and their actions have indicated they mean it. I also suggested that their confidence is based on projections, not previously-demonstrated competence.
To me, there is a difference between healthy skepticism and your basic hatin'. When I look at the Bears' receivers, I see a slot man in Devin Hester and a possession guy in Earl Bennett. In Devin Aromashodu, I see a player who caught fire for the final four games of his fourth NFL season. And in Johnny Knox, I see a speedster who might have more potential than any of his teammates.
It could be a deep group, and the Bears should have some options. But here's where my skepticism clicks in: To this point, there are no hints of a legitimate No. 1 receiver emerging from it. Who among those players do you think will require double teams this season? That's the type of receiver most offenses need to succeed at a high level. All three NFC North teams have one: Jennings in Green Bay, Calvin Johnson in Detroit and either Bernard Berrian or Sidney Rice, depending on matchups, in Minnesota.
If someone of that nature emerges in Chicago, I'll be the first to acknowledge it. I'm absolutely willing to give this group a chance, but that doesn't mean anyone has to guzzle the Kool-Aid.
Mrs. Seifert of St. Paul, Minn., writes: Please quite ESPN. You are the worst blogger.
Kevin Seifert: There goes your Mother's Day present. And your spelling-bee trophy.
Via Facebook, Hans writes: What do you guys think of [Brandon] Pettigrew? I'm hoping he turns out to be like Vernon Davis, a really great blocker and an above-average pass catcher, although Davis drastically improved last season so maybe that's too high of a comparison.
Kevin Seifert: I'll chime in on this one. Davis caught 78 passes and 13 touchdowns last year. That's way above average. In fact, those numbers ranked No. 5 and No. 1 among all NFL tight ends in 2009. If Pettigrew emerges as that type of tight end, I think the Lions would be ecstatic. If he's as good of a blocker as the Lions have suggested, consistent 50-catch seasons would be acceptable.
But I think you're right to put Pettigrew's career arc on a high pedestal. He was a first-round pick last year, a relatively rare scenario for tight ends. He'll need to establish two-way production over an extended period of time to justify his draft position.
Alexdane436 of Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: What is your gut feel about the Vikings staying in Minnesota. Basically, stay or gone?
Kevin Seifert: In the end, I think they'll stay -- but not before an ugly confrontation with the state's political leaders.
The people I trust in this situation have long believed the Vikings' stadium situation won't be addressed until it reaches a crisis. That's what state leadership around the country has devolved to: crisis management. And in reality, this issue won't be a crisis until the Vikings have a legitimate option to move elsewhere.
That's simply not the case this year, and it's why their current bill has been gutted and largely dismissed by the state legislature. That option might not exist next winter, either -- especially if the NFL is focused on negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement rather than moving a troubled team (or teams) to Los Angeles.
The Vikings' lease expires in February 2012. If Los Angeles is a legitimate possibility at that point, then I think Minnesota state leaders will respond to that potential crisis. Perhaps the state's next governor, to be elected this fall, will take a different approach than incumbent Tim Pawlenty. But barring a game-changer like that, I think we're headed for a crisis that will be painful, ugly and expensive -- but will ultimately lead to a new stadium in Minnesota.
According to this dispatch form Mike Kaszuba of the Star Tribune, supporters removed most of the public financing options in order to get it approved. That includes all so-called user fees originally put in the bill, including taxes on hotels, rental cars and sports memorabilia. Those taxes had come under fire because they would include people who don't use the stadium.
The remaining financing mechanism would divert a sales tax used for paying off the Minneapolis Convention Center, one that has drawn criticism from Minneapolis city leaders who say the sales tax will be needed for convention center upkeep.
The new bill essentially requires the stadium to be built in Minneapolis, as opposed to the site-neutral approach the team originally took.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on Sirius NFL radio via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "Honestly, it crossed my mind and I've wanted change, but change is not always good."
- Detroit claimed receiver Marko Mitchell off waivers from Washington, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News. Mitchell was a preseason sensation last summer for the Redskins.
- The Lions never seemed to pursue Adam "Pacman" Jones after attending one of his workouts last month, writes Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press.
- Also from Niyo: Five players who will make or break the Lions in 2010.
- In case you hadn't seen it yet: Former Chicago running back Gale Sayers criticized Bears coach Lovie Smith, quarterback Jay Cutler and the front office. That about covers it.
- For Bears fans who wanted the team to sign receiver Torry Holt, Michael Wright of ESPNChicago.com writes Holt was "not even close to being the guy he used to be" last year in Jacksonville.
- In a chat on the Green Bay Press-Gazette website, Mike Vandermause writes: "I don't see [Brian] Westbrook signing with the Packers, either now or in the future. Why take a chance on someone who is one hard hit away from retirement?
@espn_nfcnblog Y wldnt Smith/Angelo trade 2011 1st rd 4 Marshall? Both r fired if they dnt win THIS year anyway, that content w/ WRs we got?
To translate from Twitter-ese: Please explain why the Bears didn't get involved with the sweepstakes for Marshall, who rose to Pro Bowl status while playing with current Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and would provide a legitimate No. 1 receiver to a group known mostly for its potential. If the gambit didn't work, the resulting damage would almost certainly be the problem of Chicago's next general manager and coach. Do general manager Jerry Angelo and coach Lovie Smith really have that much faith in the Bears' current group of pass-catchers?
Let's work through those issues as systematically as we can.
- Without a first- or second-round pick in 2010, the Bears didn't have the firepower in this year's draft to complete a trade. If they were really desperate, it's possible they could have swung a multi-team deal to get the Broncos a second-round pick this year. Or, they could have offered a package that included their No. 1 pick in 2011, a scenario that would have diminished their draft for a third consecutive year. That deficit would be tough for any franchise to overcome.
- Miami is poised to make Marshall the highest-paid receiver in the NFL, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald. That would mean a deal that averages at least $10 million per season. While there is no salary cap this season, every team has the internal limitations of a cash budget. The Bears added three premium contracts to their payroll last month in signing defensive end Julius Peppers, running back Chester Taylor and tight end Brandon Manumaleuna. Just a guess, but I'm thinking their budget is about tapped out.
- At every opportunity, the Bears' actions have demonstrated a strong level of confidence in their current group of receivers. Not only have they sat out trade talks for Marshall and Anquan Boldin, but they've also expressed no known interest in a list of available veterans that includes Torry Holt and Kevin Curtis. In and interview on the Bears' Web site, Angelo said he have investigated some free agent offensive linemen and at least one veteran safety, but made no mention of receivers.
As a group, the Bears' receivers showed flashes last season. And a number of football people I respect have offered positive evaluations of the group. But it's simply a fact to note that analysis is based on potential, not necessarily prior production. Let's close with a look at the career catches of the Bears' receiving corps, a list I think should include tight end Greg Olsen:
Greg Olsen: 153
Devin Hester: 128
Rashied Davis: 79
Earl Bennett: 54
Johnny Knox: 45
Devin Aromashodu: 31
Juaquin Iglesias: 0
Eric Peterman: 0
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
I like smoke and lightning
Heavy metal thunder
Racin' with the wind
And the feelin' that I'm under
Yeah Darlin' go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
Like a true nature's child
We were born, born to be wild
We can climb so high
I never wanna die
Born to be wild
Born to be wild
That’s right, folks! I’m heading down to Florida for Spring Break … er, the NFL owners meeting, which unofficially opens Sunday and continues through Wednesday. (Question: Does connecting Steppenwolf with Spring Break date me?)
I’m hoping to run in to a number of our NFC North heroes/owners/general managers/coaches during my time in Orlando, and I think have a pretty good idea of the questions you would want asked. If you want to make sure I know what you want to know, be sure to hit the mailbag, send me a Facebook message or Tweet me.
For now, let’s address some of your lingering questions and issues from last week.
Responding to our discussion on Chicago and free agent receiver Kevin Curtis, Steve of Herndon, Va., writes: Curtis caught 60 passes in Mike Martz's system but I feel like the Bears aren't going to sign any veteran wide receiver free agents. Fair or not, Marty Booker and Brandon Lloyd has left a bitter taste in Jerry Angelo’s mouth.
Kevin Seifert: Yes, nothing the Bears have done in the past 12 months suggest they are eager to add a veteran receiver to their talented but experience-shy mix. They want Earl Bennett to continue developing, they envision Devin Hester as a playmaking slot receiver and got some strong flashes from youngsters Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu last year.
But here’s where I’m coming from: Curtis (or Torry Holt for that matter) wouldn’t necessarily mean a loss of playing time for any incumbent. I just don’t think there is any harm in depth and, more important, competition. If Bennett, Hester, Knox and Aromashodu are ready to step up like many believe they are, let’s see them go to training camp and beat out a veteran receiver with experience in Martz’s system.
While all four incumbents have high ceilings, they aren’t established enough to enter camp with minimal competition. Let’s see them earn their roles, and ultimately they’ll be better for it. And if they’re not up to it, the Bears could plug in Holt or Curtis. There’s a big difference between counting on a veteran player, as the Bears did with Booker and Lloyd in recent years, and employing them as safety nets.
Second, it’s always worth keeping an eye on available players with connections to the current coordinator. Look at what’s happened in Detroit. Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan has been reunited with former Minnesota receiver Nate Burleson and quarterback Shaun Hill. Martz, meanwhile, made a point to bring quarterback J.T. O’Sullivan with him to San Francisco a few years ago.
Will it happen? I don’t see much urgency on the Bears’ part. Should it happen? To me, there is no downside.
Lucas of St. Paul writes: What do you think are the chances of the Vikings picking up Nathan Vasher on a one or two year contract to attempt to patch the secondary holes that the Vikes need to fill? And if the did get him would they still probably draft a CB in the first or second round?
Three minutes later, Adam of Madison, Wis., wrote: I'm sure this question has been asked to you already, but do you think Vasher could have a chance in Green Bay?
Kevin Seifert: I understand the question. Both teams are a bit thin at cornerback because of knee injuries to Cedric Griffin (Minnesota) and Al Harris (Green Bay). And sometimes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But in this case, I guess I would ask Vikings and Packers fans to tell me what they saw from Vasher the past few years that would suggest he would be a significant improvement over their incumbent depth?
Vasher really hasn’t been a factor since the Bears’ Super Bowl run in 2006. Chicago is no deeper than the Vikings or Packers at cornerback, and they chose to move on rather than even attempt to negotiate a lower contract.
Vasher is certainly a recognizable name. But I’m not sure I would trust him any more than I trust the younger players currently on each team’s depth chart.
Cal of Eau Claire, Wis., writes: When will they officially release the 2010 schedule?
Kevin Seifert: The exact date hasn’t been announced, but typically it comes in the first or second week of April. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, we should get a few high-profile matchups announced next week at the owners meeting. That could include a national season-opener pitting Minnesota at New Orleans.
Alex of Wausau, Wis., writes: This new punter Green Bay signed from the Australian Football League, Chris Bryan, is he from Australia or what? I can't find any info on him other than he signed a three-year deal with the Packers.
Kevin Seifert: Yes, Bryan is in fact an Australian native who has been attending an academy known as Prokick Australia in hopes of making the transition to the NFL. According to this Australian media report, Bryan has played Australian rules football since 2005.
At this point -- and I emphasize we have many more points to go -- Bryan is competing with Tim Masthay for the Packers’ punting job. There is some precedent for Australian punters making it in the NFL. Success stories include Arizona’s Ben Graham, Philadelphia’s Sav Rocca and Dallas’ Mat McBriar.
Kody of Orem, Utah, tells us to pipe down after noticing our blurb about five years passing since the last time a Lions backup quarterback won a game: The Pack haven't had a backup QB win a game for them since 1992.
Kevin Seifert: Well-played. I can’t think of a better way to describe stability for one team and chaos for another.
CuRay of Albuquerque, N.M., writes: I am a huge lions fan. Do you think Detroit will take a long look at signing Justin Fargas or wait until the draft to find a new running back?
Kevin Seifert: I suppose it’s possible, but the Lions already have one veteran runner on their roster in Maurice Morris. At this point, it’s just as likely that they’ll sit tight on available runners like Fargas and see if they can find a younger, fresher set of legs in the draft. Running backs are quickly-spent commodities. More than any other position, it’s best to get them young.
Cody of Minot, N.D., writes: In re-signing Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher, are the Packers sending the message to T.J. Lang that he is not a legitimate starter and is better off being a utility lineman? I myself am happy with what I saw out of Lang last year. I'm a little bit confused on this one. Sing the words of wisdom to me, Kevin.
Kevin Seifert: The hills are alive/with the sound of music… Oh, wait, you meant wisdom on Lang. I don’t think the Packers were necessarily sending him a message. I just believe they don’t want to enter the season with an unproven starter and no safety net. It’s still possible that Lang could end up starting in 2010. But unlike last season, the Packers will have both Clifton and Tauscher available for depth and competition.
You gave Holt mixed reviews. Well, here is another name: Kevin Curtis, whom Philadelphia released Thursday.
Curtis played for three years in Martz's system with the Rams, catching 60 passes in 2005. His fits well as a slot receiver, but there have been indications Martz plans to use Devin Hester in that role.
What say you? Do you like the idea of Curtis more than Holt?
Holt, in fact, is openly lobbying for Chicago to sign him so he can reunite with offensive coordinator Mike Martz on a team that could use a veteran's presence among its receivers. Holt told ESPN Radio in Los Angeles that the Bears would be an "obvious" choice and said he has expressed as much to them.
(Thanks to sportsradiointerviews.com for spotting the appearance and transcribing.)
Here's part of what Holt had to say:
"It sounds like that would be the obvious choice and that would be a quick pick-up. But again, they have to do their evaluations, they've got to see if I can even fit with what they're trying to do. [They've] got a lot of young receivers there. They're trying to groom those young receivers and trying to get those young receivers an opportunity to play.
"If I come in as a vet, I'm going to challenge those guys for a starting spot, and probably more than likely, beat quite a few of them out for a position to play on that football team. So I guess that's something that they would have to evaluate.
"But if you think of it, it would be a natural fit with coach Martz being there. I know the system, I was in the system for many years and had a lot of success within that system. So it sounds quite natural, but coach Martz doesn't make the final decision. Some of the other people in the organization are going to make the final decision.
"It's going to have to come from the head coach and [general manager Jerry] Angelo and that staff on pulling the trigger to bring me in. So I'm just kind of waiting to see, but I did express to them early on -- the week that I got released from Jacksonville -- that I do have some interest in playing there in Chicago. I feel I could go there and help and contribute to that football team to trying to get things turned around and be a playoff contender. So we'll see how it goes."
Holt, 33, played under Martz in St. Louis from 1999-2005. I'm not sure what kind of money Holt is looking for, but I can't imagine him not helping the Bears in some capacity. I like the bravado he expressed and think it would be a good fire-starter for some returning players.
Martz has suggested that Devin Hester will play in a slot role, leaving Earl Bennett as one outside receiver. Johnny Knox and Devin Aromashodu would conceivably compete for the other outside position. Both showed substantive flashes last season, but I don't think either is established enough to ignore the presence of a player like Holt on the open market.
There was plenty of clamoring for Chicago to pursue free agent receiver Torry Holt in the days following its acquisition of quarterback Jay Cutler. New left tackle Orlando Pace, among others, reportedly reached out to Holt in hopes of luring his former teammate to the Bears.
But as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times notes, Chicago's front office simply never showed any interest in Holt. He signed Monday with Jacksonville after also considering Tennessee.
Holt's three-year, $20 million deal is a pretty penny for a 32-year-old receiver, and a reasonable person could argue against paying him that sum. Nevertheless, the decision still leaves the Bears with an undermanned receiving corps for their new quarterback and limited prospects for immediate impact in the draft.
Continuing around the NFC North on a Tuesday morning:
- Jeff Dickerson of ESPN Chicago reviews the draft track record of Bears general manager Jerry Angelo here and here.
- Terry Foster of the Detroit News believes the Lions should listen to their fans and draft Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. Foster: "Curry is change because he represents what president Tom Lewand says the new logo represents: Tough, mean, strong and angry. Curry has claws and will put this team on his back."
- Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press offers the opposite take: "The easiest draft decision Saturday would be bowing to fan impulsiveness. Give them what they demand with the first overall selection -- anybody who doesn't play quarterback. But it would defeat the institutional change the Lions are seeking. If they're confident that Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford is their man, they should stand up to public skepticism."
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel examines why Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson has traded down 13 times on draft day in his Packers career. The short version: Thompson trades down when he determines there are a glut of players of similar value available at his pick.
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette addresses whether there is a point of diminishing returns to trading back for extra draft picks.
- Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune examines whether Minnesota will address its need at right tackle in the first round of the draft. Arizona's Eben Britton should be available at No. 22 overall.
- Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press predicts the Vikings will select a cornerback with one of their top two picks.
Chicago remains abuzz about the Bears' prospects for adding a veteran receiver to go along with new quarterback Jay Cutler.
Coach Lovie Smith didn't rule out the possibility of pursuing Torry Holt or Plaxico Burress, although the agent for Holt recently told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times that he doubted Holt will visit the Bears. Holt played for St. Louis when Smith was the Rams' defensive coordinator, and Smith told reporters Tuesday that Holt is a "great player, great guy." His comments on Burress were less expansive, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune.
Smith: "Would we like to get another receiver? Possibly. As for how we'll get it, free agency or the draft, we really don't know."
The Tribune's David Haugh suggests the Bears back off any interest in Burress: "Burress coming to town would be bad for everybody around here, except possibly bail bondsmen."
The Bears continue to seem more likely to pursue a receiver in the draft. According to the Sun-Times, receivers coach Darryl Drake put Oklahoma receiver Juaquin Iglesias through a private workout Tuesday. Drake is scheduled to work out Georgia receiver Mohamed Massaquoi on Wednesday. Both players are candidates for the Bears' second-round selection.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- Mike Vandermause of the Green Bay Press-Gazette names defensive end as the Packers' greatest position of need: "'Desperate' is not too strong a word to use when describing this position."
- Tight end Tory Humphrey's one-year contract with the Packers is worth $460,000, according to the Press-Gazette's Rob Demovsky.
- Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson reiterated he wants to gain 12 pounds during the Vikings' offseason strength and conditioning program, according to Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune. Peterson: "God willing [I will get to] 225, 230 just to see how it feels. Before the season starts I look forward to having my weight up so I will be able to see how it is when I run and cut and do different things like that."
- Detroit is scheduled to host Missouri receiver Jeremy Maclin, according to Scout.com via John Niyo of the Detroit News.
- Lions safety Gerald Alexander, who suffered a fractured vertebra last season, is on the mend. Nicholas J. Cotsonika of the Detroit Free Press has the story.
Will of Chicago, Pat of Green Bay and others have asked if and when an NFC North team would express interest in free agent receiver Torry Holt, who was released by St. Louis three weeks ago.
|Cary Edmondson/US Presswire|
|Torry Holt doesn't appear to be a target of NFC North teams.|
So far, the answer is a flat no. Holt visited Jacksonville earlier this month and is scheduled to visit Tennessee on Thursday, according to this report in The Tennessean. If Holt is on the radar of receiver-needy Minnesota or Chicago, I'm not aware of it.
Minnesota seemed interested in receivers during its pursuit of T.J. Houshmandzadeh earlier this spring, but Houshmandzadeh might have represented a highly focused target. Under vice president Rick Spielman, the Vikings have rarely pursued veterans older than 30 years old. (Houshmandzadeh will be 32 in September, while Holt turns 33 in June.)
Asked why he stepped out of his normal parameters to pursue Houshmandzadeh, Spielman said: "We just felt he was still a very good football player."
Holt, meanwhile, saw his streak of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons end in 2008 amid the Rams' offensive collapse. He still has some productive years left in him, but his days as a deep threat might be behind him. Houshmandzadeh was never a deep threat and thus projected better as a possession receiver as he advanced in years.
I feel less confident in saying the Bears won't make a late run at Holt at some point, not after their out-of-nowhere decision to host free-agent offensive lineman Orlando Pace and cornerback Ken Lucas on Monday. Like Pace, Holt played in St. Louis during Bears coach Lovie Smith's stint as the Rams' defensive coordinator. So the connection exists.
There will be a point soon where teams shut down their free-agent activity pending the results of their draft. We're not quite there yet. But to date, there have been no direct indications that an NFC North team is waiting to pounce on Torry Holt.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Kevin Seifert
The draft won't fix these wayward teams overnight -- unless, of course, they follow the advice of NFC West blogger Mike Sando and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
Kevin Seifert: Well, Mike, first off I'd like to thank the Seahawks and Lions for making our jobs a bit easier for the next six weeks. Before last weekend's trade that sent defensive tackle Cory Redding to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson, we were weighing the candidacies of too many players for the No. 1 overall pick in the April 25-26 draft.
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|Baylor tackle Jason Smith would help solidify the Lions' offensive line.|
Would the Lions take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? Would they capitalize on the strong tackle class and swoop up Baylor's Jason Smith? Or would they make a compromise selection and take the player considered the safest pick in the draft, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry?
Seems to me this trade has eliminated Curry from the Lions' mix. Don't you agree? I mean, would you draft Curry after giving up a promising defensive tackle (and also a fifth-round pick) for someone who plays the same position? I don't think I would. They say Curry could project as a middle linebacker in the NFL, but it would be awfully hard to justify drafting a middle linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick.
So that pretty much settles it, right? Wouldn't you agree that Curry is much more likely to wind up with one of your NFC West teams, whether it's St. Louis at No. 2 or Seattle at No. 4? If it were up to me, the Lions would take the best left tackle in the draft, and that would be Smith.
Mike Sando: I tend to see Curry landing with Kansas City in that third slot. The Rams could use him, sure, but they pretty much have to emerge from this draft with a starting offensive tackle. Can they find one after the first round? Probably, but 'probably' might not be good enough for a team that has invested so much in Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. Upgrading the offensive line was the No. 1 priority this offseason. Signing Jason Brown solved the problem at center, but Alex Barron is the starting left tackle now that Orlando Pace is out. They're talking about having Jacob Bell move from left guard to right tackle. That doesn't sound promising.
As much as Steve Spagnuolo wants to build that defense, I'm not sure the Rams can resist taking a tackle. Once Curry makes it past the Rams, the Chiefs would seemingly be a good fit -- which would put Seattle in an interesting position. They've got Matt Hasselbeck, but should they consider Stafford under our scenario?
After a two-week hiatus, the weekend mailbag returneth. Let's get to it.
Anton of Fayetteville, Ark., writes: Kevin, What's your good advice for Bears fans now? Should we just give up and stop watching the news of free agency? Is there any chance we will sign or even talk to a player of value soon?
Kevin Seifert: As I'm sure you know by now, the Bears did re-sign running back Kevin Jones on Friday afternoon. Of course, I have no idea why. Jones was inactive for five of the last seven games in 2008, and the Bears have been talking about using Garrett Wolfe as Matt Forte's backup. But I digress. As for your question, I would assume the Bears will get John St. Clair locked up in the next week or so, allowing him to slide over to right tackle in time for their mandatory minicamp next weekend.
Kurt of Chicago writes: Comparing ESPN's plausible destinations for Terrell Owens, and the teams that have come forward and said NO. We have Oakland, KC, TB, Bears, and Seattle. How likely do you think the Bears are to entertain adding TO?
Kevin Seifert: I would be absolutely, positively stunned if the Bears sign Owens. It just wouldn't fit the approach they've taken this offseason. They balked at approaching T.J. Houshmandzadeh once they found out what his financial demands were. Owens won't get Houshmandzadeh money, but I don't see the Bears wanting to make any kind of short-term investment in the position.
JZ of Bloomington, Ind., writes: I understand that T.O. and the Bears getting brought up is inevitable. But everyone is talking about the wrong former Dallas player going to Chicago. Is it just me, or should the Bears be jumping on Roy Williams to fill the hole that Mike Brown's departure leaves. At 28, Roy gives us an experienced guy that will more than likely play for quite a few more years at a high caliber. Why is no one talking about this?
Kevin Seifert: It's an interesting question. One semi-educated theorist suggests that the Bears are looking for a safety with strong coverage skills to replace Brown. The theory goes that Kevin Payne can be the physical, line-of-scrimmage type of safety -- as can Danieal Manning -- but neither of them is great in coverage. Unfortunately, Williams is the same kind of safety. This might be a position the Bears need to address in the draft. But I wouldn't rule out Williams at some point.
Joseph of Toledo writes: I know the Lions can't get any worse, but my question is during the offseason are they finally filling the voids the need most for some positive results? I'm not saying playoffs but a step in the right direction for once.
Kevin Seifert: I think the Lions have done what they needed to do: Spread out their salary-cap money over multiple positions. The way I put it earlier this week is that they are trying to improve their roster from depleted to functional. None of the players they signed are likely to make the Pro Bowl, but they should give the Lions at least some short-term improvement while they take on the task of re-stocking through the draft. Given the way things were last year, this is the only approach the Lions could have taken.
Scott of Burlington, Vermont, writes: Do you think the Vikings should get either or both Roy Williams and Terrell Owens? I really think they could use both, but TO scares me. For one season, however, it could be worth a shot. Now, can you please get the Broncos to trade Cutler to us?
Kevin Seifert: No way on Owens. Let's just say neither he nor Brad Childress are fans of one another. As for Williams, I think the Vikings want to give Tyrell Johnson a chance at the safety position opposite of Madieu Williams. They moved up in the draft last year to get Johnson for that role. As for Cutler, it's not up to me. I have no idea if the Broncos will make him available. But the Vikings should make every effort to find out.
Regan of Milwaukee writes: Almost every story I have read about the Packers in free agency says they are not being anywhere near aggressive in actually signing anyone. Why is it that the Packers act like a little kid dipping his foot into the water too afraid to jump into the pool when it comes to this years free agency and almost every other year?
Kevin Seifert: The Packers did sign safety Anthony Smith on Friday, but in general I understand what you're saying. I think it's fair to say at this point that Ted Thompson just isn't a big fan of competing on the free-agency market. He's had enough opportunities over the years to make us believe otherwise, and he hasn't. He prefers to build through the draft, plain and simple.
Mike of Robbinsdale, Minn., writes: From your vantage point, what exactly are the Vikings trying to do this offseason? To me, there are several positions that they need to address, the first and most obvious being QB (and no, Sage Rosenfels doesn't count). However, the Vikes also need a C, RT, and, in my opinion, they should also heavily invest in a CB and more depth at DT. Given all of those needs, how do you see the Vikings trying to fill them? Will they try to go mainly through the draft or are there any FA still on the market they might be interested in?
Kevin Seifert: At this point, anyone they sign on the free-agent market would be a secondary-type player with limited impact. Barring Jay Cutler or Donovan McNabb being made available, I don't see the Vikings making any more additions at quarterback. They're going to go with Tarvaris Jackson and Rosenfels. Right tackle will probably be a focus in the draft, and at center I believe they'll ultimately plug in John Sullivan -- a sixth-round pick last year -- to replace Matt Birk.
Jason of Lincoln, Neb., writes: Kevin, let's move past T.O. and consider a wideout that the Black and Blue might look at: Torry Holt, who just asked for his release. I would think that, given their pursuit
of Houshmandzadeh, the Vikings would have to kick the tires on Holt, right? He'd be cheaper, coming off a down year, but he's the same age as Houshmandzadeh and probably still has some gas left in the tank.
Kevin Seifert: I wouldn't rule it out, but it's hard to know for sure if they would be interested until Holt is in fact available. He's a great receiver but different from Houshmandzadeh, who is a classic complementary No. 2 receiver. Holt's style is more similar to Bernard Berrian's. I'm not ruling it out, but I think Houshmandzadeh might have fit a very specific profile as the type of receiver the Vikings were looking for.
Nick of Sydney writes: Hi Kevin, hope you're well Any chance that now Kurt Warner is locked in at the Cards for two more years, that the Lions or Bears (or anyone else) thinking QB in the first round call Arizona and trade their pick for a Heisman winning, National Championship winner with 3 years of training in an NFL scheme and 15 odd starts? I know he hasn't lit the place up yet but he hasn't stunk it out either and he must be a safer bet than the college juniors who would all have been ranked way behind him had they come out in the same year? Am I missing something? The guy is behind a Hall of Famer and was line ball to start over him this year. Surely that's worth more than what Stafford and Sanchez have shown.
Kevin Seifert: Interesting question, Nick. I've wondered if Matt Leinart was going to sit patiently through the Warner years or if he'll try to find another home. I think it's worth a call, especially for the Lions. As a rookie, Leinart played well in an offense that is similar to what the Lions are expected to run under offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
Glenn of Bellingham, Wash., writes: Is there any evidence that the Vikes are trying to trade for Jay Cutler ... or are you just trying to spur them on?!?!
realistic odds at this point that we will land Cutler and at what price?
Kevin Seifert: I think the Vikings talked about it internally. What we don't know is if the Broncos ever considered trading Cutler after the Matt Cassel discussions fell through.
Let's take a tumble through the mailbag as we mourn the first non-football weekend of the NFL offseason.
Brandon of Dallas writes: I saw that the Jags released Joey Porter and I have heard rumors that the Rams may release Torry Holt. You said in a previous blog that the Vikes probably wouldn't sign another wr to a major contract. Do you think either of these guys could be picked up at a reasonable price? If so, do you think the vikes would be interested?
Kevin Seifert: Porter should be available for a song considering his flameout in Jacksonville. Holt can still play and I would imagine it will take some up-front cash to get him. I don't see Porter fitting in with the Vikings, and Holt would probably prefer an offense with more of a downfield passing game.
Joe in Baltimore writes: I was wondering if there are any more details on the Williams lawsuit with the NFL. I haven't heard or read anything about it lately. Also how will this affect the Viking's draft/free agent strategy. I'm sure they would prefer to know something fairly soon and I would think that they (the Vikings) would be pushing this along so that they know how to prepare for '09.
Kevin Seifert: The Vikings really don't have much pull in this situation anymore. It's in the hands of the courts. Nothing has changed in the past two months. We're waiting on the Minnesota judge to either issue a ruling or make a request for more testimony. The Vikings would be well-advised to make a contingency plan in case either player is held out of the first four games. But it doesn't need to be dramatic. They'll just have to make sure their backup defensive tackles can play. That should be their goal every offseason.
Jordan of Austin, Texas writes: Hey Kevin it seems that looking at the draft there really isn't a guy that stands out enough to be a surefire number 1 pick so i was wondering what you think about the Lions trading that pick to say the bucs? They have the cap room for a first pick and it opens up the possibility of the lions giving up the picks needed for Asomugha. Anyways keep up the good work, I definitely enjoy the blog.
Kevin Seifert: Thanks Jordan. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Lions try to trade down from the top pick. But in order to do so, they have to find a partner that believes there is a player who is worth trading up for and paying No. 1 money to. This year, that team might be hard to find. It's not just a salary cap issue, it's a cash flow problem as well. The top pick, especially if it's a quarterback, will be in line for more than $30 million in guaranteed money.
Tyler of Indiana writes: Don't you think that the Packers need an explosive player on offense? I mean they have good players, but since Favre left they haven't had the explosiveness on offense that they need to win football games. I'm not saying they need a new Quarterback because Rodgers does put up some pretty solid stats, but last season he couldn't win a football game in the last two minutes like Favre could. Their defense is solid from top too bottom when everyones healthy, and they kept them in alot of games this past season. Although I do think they need another big pass rusher. They just need that spark on offense like AP gives to the Vikings or Larry Fitzgerald gives to the Cardinals.
Kevin Seifert: Every team wants a player like Adrian Peterson or Larry Fitzgerald. But I think Greg Jennings can be pretty explosive. To me, this is not the Packers' biggest problem. They need to focus on building their offensive line more than acquiring playmakers.
Christopher writes: What prevents the Jets from simply releasing Favre? How complex a decision is if from the Jets standpoint?
Kevin Seifert: As long as Brett Favre remains retired, the Jets have no incentive to release him. He is now on their reserve/retired list, which means he doesn't count against their salary cap. Only if he decides to play again will they have a decision to make: Squeeze his cap number back on the roster or release him.
San Diego writes: YOU ARE AN idoite !!!!!!!!!!!!!
Kevin Seifert: Thanks for keeping it real.
Juan of Moorhead writes: Other than a quarterback, what do the vikings need to make a superbowl run? they have good players. what are they lacking and why is there defense not stingy like the steelers with all the good players we have? thanks.
Kevin Seifert: First off, I don't think there should be an "other than" in front of "quarterback." It's the most important position in sports. From a personnel standpoint, there aren't many other holes. They probably could improve themselves at right tackle. As for the defense, the Steelers were the top-ranked defense in the league in 2008. No one was as stingy as them. I think the Vikings' defense is good enough to sustain a deep playoff run.
Shawn of Columbus writes: I'll put in the names and can you tell me why i'm stupid or why this couldn't work or otherwise. (cb's)Nnamdi Asomugha, Dunta Robinson. (lb's) Ray Lewis not so much as a backer, but for the team locker room(pride), Bart Scott, Jonathan Vilma, Karlos Dansby, Terrel Suggs. (d-line) of course Haynesworth, Tank Johnson, J.Peppers. and thats for the Detroit Lions. Thanks.
Kevin Seifert: In general terms, Shawn, I don't think the Lions will be big-time shoppers in the free agent market. Everything Tom Lewand and Martin Mayhew have said suggests they are looking to build with -- and use their cap money on -- draft picks rather than veteran free agents. Of all the names you listed, the one that is actually intriguing is Tank Johnson. He's got his problems, but he's the type of player the Lions really need: A big nose tackle who can plug up the interior of the line. Call me crazy.
Jeff of Indiana writes: What is your opinion on Chicago's moving the mini camp up before the draft? Is there precedence for such an early camp? Is it fair to assume that this is an attempt to figure out what top priorities should be for the draft? To give Marinelli a chance to work with the D-line to see if he thinks he can improve pass rush with the existing talent? A chance to look at Basanez and Hanie and see if there is a #2 worthy guy between them? There will undoubtedly be
free agent signings prior to camp and it would always be nice to get a good idea of how new acquisitions might fit in. So what do you see as the driving impetus for the pre draft mini camp? Are there other key factors that you see? Thanks.
Kevin Seifert: There is precedent for a pre-draft mini-camp, but typically it occurs with new head coaches who want to get a sense of the roster before making draft decisions. New head coaches also have the luxury of being able to schedule two mandatory mini-camps. Returning coaches can only call one, and so this will eliminate the possibility of integrating rookies into the Bears' one mandatory gathering of the offseason. This tells me that Lovie Smith is really placing an emphasis on his established veterans to make a playoff push in 2009. I also think part of his motivation is to set a tone for the offseason. This will require players to be in better shape than they normally are in mid-March.
Shawn of Sterling, Va. writes: If you were GM of the Bears, would you wait a year to draft a QB or go with one of the supposed "lesser" talents that are coming out this year?
Kevin Seifert: I wouldn't panic and take a quarterback this year if I didn't believe he had a good chance to develop. But it's also folly to look ahead to a class a full year in advance. A lot can change over the course of the college season. The Bears should evaluate this year's class in a vacuum rather than compare it to the possibilities of next season.