What's Up with Holmes?

Get the lowdown on the goings-on involving Steelers' free-agent LB. Plus, Browns looking at a new Barber and a decision forthcoming on the direction of the o-line.

Just a few points to note -- as we've been told -- on the ongoing Earl Holmes saga:

  • As of late last night, the Browns had not made a solid offer to Holmes or his agent. Yes, numbers have been tossed around between the two sides, but nothing concrete as of yet.
  • While Holmes had a tremendous visit with the Browns, he is, according to a source close to the LB, very, very intrigued with the idea of staying in a 3-4 defense. The Texans, of course, will employ the 3-4 as their base defense.
  • Holmes is expected to make a decision no later than Thursday on his destination. As of 11:30pm last night, Holmes while being impressed in his visits to Cleveland and later Houston, was leaning toward the comfortable surrounds of the 3-4 defense
  • Holmes would also not be opposed to re-signing with the Steelers, although that seems to be the longest shot at this point. Should Holmes find the contract offers on the open market aren't to his liking in the coming days, the source said, he could very easily wind up back in Pittsburgh.
  • One Cleveland-area newspaper reported this morning that Holmes had canceled his visit to the Texans yesterday. That's patently false, unless he had a damn good body double stand in for him with the reporters in Houston.
  • On the canceled visit front, Holmes may have been inclined to pass, or at least delay, his visit to Houston yesterday to remain in Cleveland to potentially get a deal done, but his representatives persuaded him to continue with the original plan and see the Texans. You would not be wrong in thinking that the agents are attempting to get the Browns and Texans -- and to some extent the Steelers -- involved in a bidding war over the client, which is something that both Cleveland and Pittsburgh, at this point, are not willing to do.
  • Holmes is still very unhappy with his agents for advising him to pass up a long-term, multi-million dollar contract extension with the Steelers last year. Right now, it looks as though Holmes won't even approach that figure in free agency, unless a bidding war between two or more teams drives up his price, thus saving his representation firm some face.
THE BARBER DID IT: In a story directly related to the Earl Holmes saga, The Insiders has learned that the Browns have begun very preliminary contract talks with free-agent linebacker Shawn Barber.

Talks between Cleveland and Barber will not reach the serious stage until there is a resolution to the Holmes situation, a Browns source said.  Barber's agent, Brian Mackler, confirmed to The Insiders that there have been contract numbers discussed with the Browns.

Mackler also added that the presence of Foge Fazio as the Browns' defensive coordinator "certainly would help Cleveland's cause."

Barber visited the club on Monday, and left yesterday for a two-day visit in New York with the Giants.  It's believed that the Giants are Barber's top choice, but the cap-strapped club may not have the space to make the LB an offer he can't refuse.

A third team, the Vikings, surfaced yesterday as a potential destination for the four-year LB. Minnesota phoned Barber's agent, Brian Mackler, late yesterday morning and, though a solid date was not set for a visit during the conversation, there is strong interest on the part of the Vikings.

A visit could be scheduled for later this week or early next week, pending the outcome of his visit with the Giants and the ongoing talks with the Browns.

While the Redskins have an interest in re-signing Barber, it's highly unlikely, given the signing of Jessie Armstead, that they will be anything more than a minimal player.

WHAT TO DO: Sources tell The Insiders that the Browns are deciding if they are willing to sign offensive lineman Todd Washington to an offer sheet or take the non-compensation route and offer a contract to offensive lineman Chris Naeole.

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