Detroit LionsShortly after the 2009 season, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew gave a frank assessment of the NFL's worst pass defense.
"When we rushed four, we couldn't get there," Mayhew said. "When we brought pressure, we couldn't hold up on the corner. So that was probably our weakness defensively."
Mayhew has overhauled his defensive line and secondary since, and he likely will continue doing so in the NFL Draft. He could start by using the No. 2-overall pick on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a sack machine at Nebraska.
Cornerback Chris Houston certainly hopes he does. Asked whom he wanted the Lions to draft, Houston said: "A defensive tackle. It would make my job more easy." Asked if he had any names in mind, he laughed but didn't hesitate to say "Suh." Asked if he thought he would get his wish, he said: "Yeah, I do."
A good defensive line can make the secondary look better, putting pressure on the quarterback, forcing bad throws, creating opportunities for interceptions. The Lions already have added end Kyle Vanden Bosch and tackle Corey Williams. Vanden Bosch will start at right end. Williams will play the three techniques.
The secondary needs all the help it can get. The Lions went through so many defensive backs last year, it was difficult to keep count. And they haven't stopped shuffling. They have parted with three corners: Phillip Buchanon, Anthony Henry and Will James. They have added three others: Houston, Jonathan Wade and Dante Wesley.
Still more might be coming. The Lions have investigated Adam "Pacman" Jones. They have visited with Lito Sheppard. At least three defensive backs have come for pre-draft visits: Connecticut corner Robert McClain, Florida State corner Patrick Robinson and Virginia Tech safety Kam Chancellor.
"Everybody's just going in to compete," Houston said. "The best man will be here. Apparently, the Lions are making changes, and they want the best players out on the field. So that's who's going to be on the field when things come down to an end."
Not only do the Lions need talent, they need depth. Coach Jim Schwartz pointed out that teams dress players at defensive back more than any other position.
"The other thing is that defensive backs get hurt at a higher rate than just about any other position on the field," Schwartz said. "The reason is, other positions have gotten bigger and bigger while defensive backs have stayed basically the same, especially corners. It's not a matter of if somebody gets hurt and has to miss a game. It's a matter of when. You have to be prepared.
"One person in the secondary who doesn't play well and makes mistakes can make the whole secondary look bad. It's how the whole secondary plays, and if there's one weak link in that chain, the whole group can look bad. And offenses are really good at finding that one guy and exploiting him."
Green Bay PackersThe Packers told Ahman Green that they wouldn't move on possibly re-signing him as an unrestricted free agent until after the April 22-24 draft.
The prospects of another available Pro Bowl running back playing in Green Bay also could hinge on what the Packers accomplish in the draft.
The team reportedly has put out feelers with Brian Westbrook, the dynamic but injury-riddled veteran released by the Philadelphia Eagles in February.
While Westbrook would be an upgrade over what the Packers have behind starter Ryan Grant, the team doesn't appear to be in a rush to make a serious run at him.
Plenty of questions remain about whether Westbrook, 30, will be healthy enough to play again and make an impact after he suffered two concussions last season. Westbrook also has been hampered by knee and ankle injuries.
Westbrook is determined to play this year and would be a natural fit for the Packers' West Coast offense, which the Eagles have long used under coach Andy Reid.
The purported interest in Westbrook comes after Packers coach Mike McCarthy gushed in late March about Brandon Jackson's progression as the team's top understudy to Grant.
Jackson excels as a pass blocker, but Westbrook would be more valuable in a third-down role with his playmaking abilities as a runner and a pass catcher.
This year's draft class is short on impactful running backs. Unless Green Bay is in position to take Cal's Jahvid Best, Fresno State's Ryan Mathews or Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer with its picks in the late first and second rounds, Westbrook could be targeted as reinforcement.
Minnesota VikingsThe Vikings have at least one restricted free agent who won't be spending much time at Winter Park this offseason.
Defensive end Ray Edwards made it clear that he doesn't plan to sign the first-round tender he received from the team until the last minute. That means he won't be at the team's offseason workouts or camps.
Edwards, who led the NFL in sacks with four in the playoffs last season, received the one-year, $2.5 million tender from the Vikings, instead of a getting the first- and third-round tender of $3.2 million. That turned out to be a good move by the Vikings, considering Edwards did not receive an offer sheet from another team.
The amount of the tender is not what upset Edwards most. He is mainly steamed by the fact the NFL's soon-to-expire collective bargaining agreement stopped him from becoming an unrestricted free agent after four seasons. Instead, a player needed six years of service to become unrestricted.
"My frustration is that I signed a four-year contract. I didn't sign a six-year contract," Edwards said. "There's nothing you can really do about it, so I'm just waiting my time, see what I can do to better my situation. I do need to take care of myself and my family. Don't get me wrong, we definitely get paid a nice amount of money, but let's be fair here. So that's my thing about the whole situation.
"I'm not mad at the team, not at all. They gave me a chance to live my childhood dream of playing in the NFL, so I can't really be mad at them. In part, they can do what's right on their end. But it's a business decision. They are doing their best to [make] the business decision that they feel is best, so we'll see where that goes."
Thursday marked the final day that restricted free agents could sign an offer sheet with another team.
After that, Edwards' rights belong solely to the Vikings. But that doesn't mean he has to sign the offer the Vikings extended to him right away. That won't need to be signed until June 15. It's at that point the Vikings can drop their tender offer to 110 percent of Edwards' $1.01 million base salary from last year.
Edwards said there have been no discussions of a long-term deal with the Vikings. "I'm not talking to any of those guys," he said. "If they want to talk to me, they talk to my agent. For the simple fact, we want to get the deal done. I worked my four years here, the length of my contract, so we just want to get our market share."
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NFC North News and Notes: Apr. 16
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