NFC North Update

Will the Lions use their franchise tag on Pro Bowl LB Chris Claiborne? Also, the Vikings' are looking to dump a quarterback and a wide receiver, while the Packers could be forced to released one of their top flight corners. Check this info, and more, in our NFC North Update!

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Negotiation status in the air
Little progress has been made towards reaching an agreement for a long-term contract with free agent tight end Jimmy Kleinsasser, the team's top re-signing priority. Without an agreement, Kleinsasser would be free to sign with another team Feb. 28. Unless, of course, the team decides to put its transition tag on him. It is something the team doesn't want to do, but will consider if negotiations don't improve. They have until Feb. 20 to make that move.

Scatback added to Vikings Roster
The Minnesota Vikings signed free-agent running back/kick returner John Avery. The former first-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins from the University of Mississippi in 1998 could move to the top of the depth chart for returning kickoffs. Avery played in 23 career NFL games with the Dolphins and Denver Broncos in 1998 and '99.

Quarterback Notes
Head coach Mike Tice said he had decided to look into trade opportunities for backup QB Todd Bouman long before Bouman was mentioned in a police investigation of alleged incidents at the recent Arctic Blast charity event. Tice didn't say, however, if Bouman would be released by April 15 if a trade wasn't worked out. Bouman is due a $1 million roster bonus if still with the team on April 15. Tice said if a trade isn't worked out, Bouman would be welcomed back as his No. 2 QB.

Head coach Mike Tice reiterated his support of his starting quarterback. Tice maintained that Daunte Culpepper is the team's No. 1 QB now and in the future, hinting that contract talks to lock him long-term will be made in the off-season.

WR to be released?
Wide receiver Derrick Alexander could be released as early as a week from Friday. His odds of staying with the team are minimal, and clubs can start releasing players under contract Feb. 20. Alexander played in eight games with five starts last season before being placed on injured reserve on Nov. 6. He had only 14 catches for 134 yards and one touchdown in 2002.

Detroit Lions

Going to Berlin
Wide receiver Pierre Brown as been allocated to NFL Europe and was assigned to Berlin, where he will play this spring.

Headed to Barcelona
Safety James Lewis has been allocated to the NFL Europe, where he will play for the Barcelona Dragons this spring.

To tag or not to tag?
The popular thought is the Lions might not use their franchise or transition tags. If they do, the most likely player to be slapped with one is linebacker Chris Claiborne. Putting the franchise tag on him would cost over $5.5 million for one season. If Claiborne is not given the franchise tag, it appears unlikely he will return next season.

Making progress on hip
Az-Zahir Hakim suffered a season-ending hip injury but the Lions say he is making good progress toward a return for the 2003 season. The question is whether the injury will take away his quickness, and for a small receiver that could be disastrous.

Deadline looming
WR Germane Crowell was unable to complete his comeback from last year's knee injuries and the Lions must decide by March 1 whether they're going to dish out the $2 million roster bonus called for in his contract.

Expected to re-sign
Free agent defensive back Bracy Walker, a valuable special teams player, suffered a lacerated kidney in the final game but probably will be re-signed.

Worth keeping
Free agent OLB Clint Kriewaldt is a good special teams player who would have been the strongside linebacker except for injuries, worth keeping.


Does he have what it takes?
Darrell Bevell, the Packers' new quarterbacks coach, spent most of last season as rookie Craig Nall's personal tutor. Does the fifth-round draft choice from Northwestern (La.) State have what it takes to become a starter?

"That's a hard thing to say at this point," Bevell said. "He's done a great job in drills, but you've got to go from the drills to the field. He hasn't had that many reps in practice and we haven't seen him in a game. "We've filmed his release, his ball carriage, everything. He's come a long way, a long way. The one good thing is he worked really hard this past off-season. He has very good tools."

CB on the market?
Cornerback Tyrone Williams is due a $4 million roster bonus on March 1, but the Green Bay Packers are not expected to pay it to the veteran. The Packers likely will release Williams prior to March 1 or negotiate a new contract.

Williams signed a five-year deal in 1999 that was back-loaded. He said last fall that the final year was for salary cap purposes and will be voided before the start of free agency.

Favre milestones
Quarterback Brett Favre became only the fourth player in NFL history to surpass 300 career touchdown passes and the eighth player to top 40,000 career passing yards during the 2002 regular season.

Favre, entering his 12th season, has thrown for 314 touchdowns during the regular season and 42,285 yards.

NFL alumni honor tight end
Bubba Franks, who was named to his second straight Pro Bowl, was honored recently by NFL Alumni as the "2002 Tight End of the Year."

Franks led the NFC with seven touchdown catches. He finished 2002 with a career-high 54 catches for 442 yards, falling two catches short of Paul Coffman's club single-season record - 56 in 1979.

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