NFC North Hot News

At this point in free agency most of the major moves have been made. Leaving teams to fill out their rosters with a few acquisitions and turning their attention toward the draft.

Hot News around the NFC North Division from LionsFans.com, PackerReport.com and VikingUpdate.com.

DETROIT LIONS

Signs two-year deal
MLB Wali Rainer has signed a two-year, $1.875 million deal that includes a $475,000 signing bonus. The move likely means Barrett Green will remain at outside linebacker inside of sliding to the middle.

Signs with 49ers
Former Lions DT Travis Kirschke has signed a one-year deal with San Francisco. Financial terms were not disclosed, but he will compete for a roster spot alongside Bryant Young, Jim Flanigan and Josh Shaw.

Broncos' RB expected to visit Detroit
According to the Denver Post, Broncos' running back Olandis Gary may visit the Detroit Lions on Friday, or during the course of the weekend. Gary, 5-11, 220 pounds, rushed for just 147 yards in two starts last season. He has visited with several teams thus far, and it has become public knowledge that he will not re-sign with Denver after losing his starting position to rookie standout Clinton Portis in 2002.

The report did state that the Jacksonville Jaguars were the lead team for Gary's services -- but only in a back-up role.

Visits with Lions
Cleveland Browns' linebacker Dwayne Rudd visited with the Detroit Lions on Tuesday, an announcement that came on the heels of Detroit's signing of Jaguars' free-agent middle linebacker Wali Rainer.

Rudd, who will be entering his seventh NFL season, is an outside linebacker that would compliment both Rainer and Barrett Green, meanwhile instantly solidifying the previously depleted linebacker corps.

The 6-2, 240 pound Alabama product started 15 games for Cleveland last year, tallying 51 tackles and one sack. He had 72 tackles in 2001.

It is not known whether or not the Lions offered Rudd a contract, but the team does have a wealth of salary cap space to accomodate Rudd's services, if they want to.

Released
WR Jacquez Green was released Wednesday.

Out 6-8 weeks after surgery
LB Josh Thornhill had foot surgery on Friday, and did not participate in the team's minicamp this week. He's expected to return in 6-8 weeks.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Helps team by restructuring bonus
Andrew Brandt, the Packers vice president of player finance, said the Packers converted cornerback Mike McKenzie's $1.75 million roster bonus into a signing bonus earlier this off-season. The bonus will be prorated over the remaining four years of his contract instead of counting entirely on this season's salary cap.

The Packers are about $3 million under the salary cap limit of $75.3 million, Brandt said.

Making progress in recovery
Packers coach and general manager Mike Sherman said defensive end Joe Johnson has made great strides in his comeback from the triceps injury that limited him to only five games last season.

Johnson traveled to Green Bay from his off-season home of St. Louis a couple of weeks ago to meet with trainers. He will be ready to participate in the team's first off-season minicamp beginning April 29.

Door to Green Bay all but closed
Vonnie Holliday's chances of re-signing with the Packers all but disappeared Wednesday when Green Bay re-signed Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to a $37.3 million contract. With Joe Johnson and Cletidus Hunt signed to big contracts, the Packers likely will not pursue any big-name free agents for the defensive line.

"I never close the door on anything," Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman said. "But, obviously, the numbers would have to be right."

Holliday is weighing offers from the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks. He also visited the Kansas City Chiefs on Wednesday. Holliday turned down a deal from the Packers in September that included a $5 million signing bonus.

May need elbow surgery
Offensive tackle Chad Clifton may need to have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow, according to Packers coach Mike Sherman.

"(Clifton) may have a little bit of a bone chip in his elbow," Sherman said. "They're (team doctors) are waiting for it to move a little bit. If not, he may have to get scoped on the elbow."

Clifton is rehabbing from a severe pelvic injury sustained last Nov. 24 when he was flattened from a blind-sided block by defensive tackle Warren Sapp. Clifton also underwent arthroscopic knee surgery in January.

Staying with Packers
DE Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila will stay with Green Bay after flirting with the Philadelphia Eagles. He agreed to a seven-year, $37 million contract that includes a $13 million signing bonus, according to an ESPN.com report.

Acquired from 'Skins
OL David Brandt, who recently returned to the Redskins after leaving the team before the start of last season, has been acquired for a conditional seventh-round pick next year.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Not guilty on DUI
DE Kenny Mixon was found not guilt of third-degree drunken driving stemming from a Jan. 3 arrest.

Extension talks still ongoing
The Vikings are still trying to work out an extension with quarterback Daunte Culpepper and have the salary-cap space (an estimated $14.5 million) to put a good portion of his signing bonus on this year's tab, but a deal doesn't look to be forthcoming in the immediate future.

Seeking trade or long-term deal
The agent for Cory Withrow has asked that his client be traded or given a long-term deal to back up Matt Birk. Withrow has said on numerous occasions that he wants to start -- he has the talent to start for many teams. If a trade can't be worked out, his agent would like to get a long-term deal done to have Withrow back up Birk as well as fill in at the guard spots as a backup. Withrow is a good mix in the Vikings locker room, so the trade request isn't viewed as a contentious item.

Agrees to two-year deal
Tight end Hunter Goodwin, who had spent the last month mulling offers from the Vikings and Raiders, agreed to a two-year, $1.5 million contract to stay with the Vikings.

Will be back in 2003
Restricted free-agent running back Doug Chapman agreed to terms on a contract for 2003. The Vikings had previously tendered Chapman, a former third-round pick, an offer, and he is expected to again push Moe Williams for limited carries behind starter Michael Bennett.

Signed to compete for spot
QB Kevin Thompson will be given a shot to earn a spot on the roster after agreeing to a one-year deal.

Still on Vikings' radar screen
Rumors continue to circulate that the Vikings will make a strong push for defensive end Vonnie Holliday if he remains available after the draft. However, it's unlikely he will still be on the free agent board. Holliday, who looks unlikely to return to the Packers, is mulling over offers from the Chiefs and Cardinals and has also had contract discussions with the Seahawks and Eagles. The odds of him being available for the Vikings after the April 26-27 draft would seem remote.

Close to deal with Washington?
Former Vikings nose tackle Darius Holland is close to signing with the Redskins, according to a source in Washington.


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