NFC North Hot News

Following their signing of <!--Default NodeId For Kordell Stewart is 664678,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:664678]>Kordell Stewart</A> the Bears turned their attention toward next month's draft. However, the rest of the division is still active in the free agent market.

Hot News compiled from Vikingupdate.com, PackerReport.com and LionsFans.com.

DETROIT LIONS
Millen hoping LB is rejuvenated The Lions' search for a strongside linebacker might have ended in their own back yard with the re-signing of Brian Williams. Williams, 30, played just three games last year before suffering a broken leg that put him out for the rest of the season. Although his injury left the Lions with serious linebacking problems, team president Matt Millen feels the year of rest and rehab might have rejuvenated Williams, who was coming off a knee injury suffered in 2001.

Diggs signs offer sheet
Green Bay Packers' linebacker Na'il Diggs has reportedly signed a four-year offer sheet with the Detroit Lions, worth $10 million, with a signing bonus close to $2.8 million.

Diggs, 24, visited with the Lions last week, and according to LionsFans.com Insider Mike Fowler, Detroit attempted to structure a deal that would make it difficult for Green Bay to match. The deal would have likely been front-loaded, according to Fowler, forcing the cap-strapped Packers into a disconcerting position.

A three-year veteran from Ohio State, Diggs tallied 84 tackles last year (67 solo) and only appears to be getting better. If Diggs joins Detroit, he would likely play outside linebacker, opposite Barrett Green.

Bryson signs with Detroit
The Detroit Lions have signed three year veteran running back Shawn Bryson (6, 1", 228-lbs), an unrestricted free agent, to a one-year deal with terms undisclosed. It is believed that Bryson's deal is an incentive laden one at or above the veteran minimum.

Detroit believes that Bryson will be completely healed from an anterior cruciate ligament injury that limited him to just six games with the Buffalo Bills in 2002. Bryson had his best season as a rookie out of Tennessee rushing for 591 yards on 161 carries including back-to-back one hundred yard rushing games vs Atlanta and New York, both on the road.

Streets: Jets, Patriots, Lions interested
The New York Jets, New England and Detroit are all interested in acquiring WR Tai Streets. Streets is a restricted free agent, and the 49ers would technically be owed a first-round pick as compensation, but San Francisco might be willing to accept less.

Brown didn't waste any time
Ray Brown didn't wait as long to re-sign a contract with the Lions as originally expected. Brown, 40, sat out all of the 2002 training camp and was signed by the Lions on Aug. 20. Within a matter of days he was their starting right guard and started all 16 games, playing as well or better than anyone on the offensive line. At the end of the season, he hinted he would wait and re-sign late in the summer again next year but the Lions convinced him to get his name on the dotted line this week. Coach Steve Mariucci, who also coached Brown in his only Pro Bowl season at San Francisco in 2001, and Lions president Matt Millen have made it clear they do not expect the senior citizen offensive lineman to wear himself out in training camp. GREEN BAY PACKERS

Holliday may visit with Chiefs
The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks have submitted offers to Vonnie Holliday, but he is considering other alternatives, according to the Arizona Republic.

Holliday's agent, Brian Levy, said the defensive end probably will visit Kansas City after the owners meetings, which are being held this week.

Eagles waiting on KGB answer
The Eagles want Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. Now, they're just waiting to find out whether Gbaja-Biamila wants the Eagles. The Eagles brought the free agent defensive end and his family in for a visit last week, gave him a tour of their state-of-the-art training facility and their spanking brand new stadium across the street, showed him around Philadelphia, and wined and dined him. Sometime in the next few days, KGB's agent, Bruce Tollner, will inform the Eagles whether his client, a restricted free agent with the Packers, has any interest in signing an offer sheet with the NFC East club.

"He said all the right things when he was here," an Eagles source said. "We're hopeful. But we'll have to see." The Packers tendered Gbaja-Biamila, who has registered 25-1/2 sacks the last two seasons, a $1.3 million offer at the start of the free agency signing period, which means they'd receive a first-round pick from any club that signs KGB. But the Packers also have the right to match any offer he receives. They've been trying to re-sign the 25-year-old end to a long-term deal. The Eagles have more than $15 million in cap space, which is considerably more than the Packers, who have just under $5 million. They easily could put together a heavily front-loaded deal that would be next to impossible for the Packers to match. But first, they need the go-ahead from Gbaja-Biamila to even make an offer.

"Kabeer is very happy in Green Bay," his agent said. "As a restricted free agent, it was worth looking at other situations. Philly is a great organization, and he decided to evaluate that. It's a situation where he's very happy where he is and, in order to think about another situation, he needed to see it."

The Eagles didn't make an offer to Gbaja-Biamila during his visit. But Tollner told club president Joe Banner that his client would be looking for the same kind of up-front money that the Washington Redskins recently gave another restricted free agent, wide receiver Laveranues Coles. Coles received a $13 million signing bonus from Washington.

The Eagles' pursuit of Gbaja-Biamila came just days after they waved bye-bye to their three-time Pro Bowl defensive end, Hugh Douglas. The 31-year-old Douglas signed a five-year deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars that included a $6 million signing bonus. Douglas had 12 1/2 sacks last season, but because of his age and the questionable condition of his knees, the Eagles were reluctant to give him a large signing bonus. Douglas didn't practice at all during the second half of last season because of his knees. He had just 1-1/2 sacks in the Eagles' final five games. At just 255 pounds, Gbaja-Biamila is a bit undersized and isn't really suited at this stage of his career to be an every down end. But the thought of his speed on the edge has defensive coordinator Jim Johnson salivating. If they sign him, he likely would rotate on the right side with Derrick Burgess, who missed most of last season with a broken foot.

"Nasty kid" visits with Packers
Offensive lineman Grey Ruegamer, an unrestricted free agent from New England, was in Green Bay for a visit. Ruegamer, 6-4 and 302, was Miami's third-round draft choice in 1999 and also spent time in Pittsburgh. He has started three games at center in his 33-game career but can also play guard. At Arizona State, he started at both tackles and center over four seasons. Former Green Bay guard Rich Moran, who serves as Ruegamer's agent, said his client had drawn significant interest from the Packers since the visit. Moran described him as "just a tough, mean, nasty kid."

Said an NFC scout: "He's right on the bubble. If you need him to start you got a starter. If not, you've got a solid swing guy. He's a better athlete than (Bill) Ferrario. Smart. Versatile."

Couldn't pass Packers' physical
Last week, after electing not to match the four-year, $6 million offer from Washington for restricted free agent Matt Bowen, the Packers brought in backup safeties John Keith and Bobby Myers seeking his replacement. However, the Packers' medical staff rejected both players because of previous knee injuries. Neither player received a qualifying offer last month and became free agents. Myers, Tennessee's fourth-round draft choice in '00 from Wisconsin, won the Titans' free safety job in '01 but blew out a knee in the opener. He tried to come back in '02 but the knee wasn't sound and he needed additional surgery.

Bengals match
LB Armegis Spearman will stay with Cincinnati after the Bengals matched Green Bay's offer sheet of three years.

How Wayne's departure went down
The Packers cut linebacker Nate Wayne last week. Wayne was summoned to the office of coach Mike Sherman Monday shortly before what the team believed was the deadline for payment of a $750,000 roster bonus.

"Nate was shocked, upset, hurt," agent Harold Lewis said. "He said he thought this was the team he would play for the rest of his life." On Friday, Wayne flew from Green Bay to Philadelphia for a press conference in which he was introduced as the newest Eagle. He agreed to a four-year, $13.23 million contract that contained a signing bonus of $4 million to replace Shawn Barber on the weak side. Wayne also had been aggressively pursued by Detroit and Cleveland. By releasing Wayne the Packers voided his $1.5 million base salary and $750,000 roster bonus. However, he still will count $1.125 million this year based on acceleration of his remaining pro-rated signing bonus.

Wayne replaced Brian Williams as the weak-side starter in 2000 and played well in 2001. But then he suffered three major injuries in less than 12 months and wasn't as effective in '02, although he did lead the Packers in tackles with 132.

"Nate's a good football player," Hatley said. "He's been productive for us but he probably didn't have one of his better years last year. Was Nate going to be back at the level he played in 2001 or is he going to play the way he did in 2002?"

Wayne led the team in "turnover" plays with eight, including three interceptions for the second year in a row. But he also missed 12 tackles, had just 3 1/2 tackles for loss and allowed 5 1/2 plays of 20 yards or more, most by a linebacker. On Monday morning, it appeared to one of Wayne's agents that the Packers intended to pay the $750,000 and keep Wayne. Lewis said he proposed various cap-friendly options to keep Wayne in Green Bay, but with the Packers were interested in Wayne only at about $1.25 million, compared to $2.25 million, and both sides ultimately walked away.

"You do your research, make a decision, pull the trigger and just hope it's the right thing to do," Hatley said. "There's some linebackers out there that we like. Whether we'll get them, who knows."

Minnesota Vikings Signs two-year deal with Vikings
Four-year veteran middle linebacker Chris Claiborne signed a two-year deal this evening with the Minnesota Vikings. Claiborne even agreed to play the strong side linebacker position for Minnesota, something he didn't want to do, in order to get a deal done with the Vikings.

CB signed
CB Ken Irvin has agreed to a deal with Minnesota. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.

Vikings could have interest
Viking Update has been told that the Vikings have been in contact with the agent for DT Sam Adams. If the Vikings could sign Adams, it would be a clear indication the team will trade down in the first round of the draft. If they stay at No. 7, they will almost assuredly take a defensive tackle. Adams has also received extensive interest from the Bengals and Bills.

Accepts pay cut
The Vikings will have some more money to play with at the WR position. VU has been told Derrick Alexander will accept a pay cut to veteran minimum for 2003 -- thus being spared the indignity of being released for the second time in 12 months.

Moving closer to deal with Vikes?
The Vikings remain optimistic of their chances of signing Miami WR Oronde Gadsden. The team was impressed with him during his visit over the weekend and hopes to get a deal acceptable to both parties completed soon.

Signs with Jets
The Jets signed unrestricted free agent kicker Doug Brien, who has played in the NFL for nine years with five teams. He'll replace John Hall, who signed with the Redskins. He began last season with the Vikings, but was cut in October.

Off to the Vikings
The Giants, who had already lost starting right guard Jason Whittle to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers via unrestricted free agency, learned Friday morning that they had also lost starting right tackle Mike Rosenthal to the Minnesota Vikings, another unrestricted free agent who decided to take a walk. Rosenthal, 6-7 and 320, is a four-year veteran who emerged last season after several false starts (no, that's not a pun) in his first three years. Now the former Notre Dame produc becomes the newest O-lineman the Giants must replace. The Giants, who had decided to strengthen their defensive line in the draft, will perhaps have to adjust their sights and begin seeking high-round help for the offensive line, too.

Changes course, re-signs with Seahawks
OL Jerry Wunsch was prepared to sign with Minnesota before giving Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren a courtesy phone call to tell him he was leaving. According to the Seattle Times, Holmgren upped his offer by $200,000, convicing Wunsch to return. The deal is for two-years and $1.8 million, with a $400,000 signing bonus.

Happy for opportunity elsewhere
The Vikings managed to accommodate Todd Bouman's request for a trade, in the process removing a potential public relations problem in the process. Bouman has been named as at least a potential witness in the sexual assault that occurred at a fund-raising snowmobile rally in central Minnesota weeks ago. Bouman, who was due a $1 million roster bonus early next month, was clearly not going to be back with the Vikings; Tice had gone on record saying he wanted his backup quarterback to be more of a mentor to starter Daunte Culpepper. Still, the Vikings were able to draw a sixth-round pick for Bouman, who has played little over the years. Bouman renegotiated his contract with the Saints before the deal was consummated. "It basically came down to going to a place where I was 100 percent wanted," Bouman said. "New Orleans has wanted me for a few years."


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