(ALLEN PARK) - Yesterday afternoon the Detroit Lions received a welcome visit from restricted free agent linebacker Na'il Diggs of the Green Bay Packers. Diggs, just 24, patrolled the strong side of the Green Bay defense last season recording 84 tackles, 1 forced fumble and 2 interceptions.
The former Ohio State standout is looking to jumpstart negotiations on a new contract while the cap-strapped Packers are facing a major decision. While Green Bay clearly doesn't want to lose Diggs, they are even more concerned about losing pass rushing specialist Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, also a restricted free agent.
The problem for Green Bay is that despite releasing Nate Wayne to clear cap room they had to replace him with someone. That someone turned about to be former Carolina Panthers linebacker Hannibal Navies.
The deal with Navies left the Pack only about $5 million under the cap, hardly enough to afford two players the caliber of Diggs and Gbaja-Biamila, especially if their offer sheets contain large base salaries.
The Packers are going to have to make a decision on which player they need the most.
That's where the Lions fit in. They likely would need to sign Diggs to a prohibitive offer sheet to keep Green Bay from matching. Because Green Bay tendered Diggs with the lowest offer sheet available under the CBA, his compensation would only be a fourth-round draft pick. That is very palatable to Detroit.
Diggs' agent, Mitch Frankel, said he expected negotiations for his client's service to "heat up" this week according to several published reports.
Despite their cap constraints, Green Bay is seriously considering offering a contract to restricted free agent Dhani Jones of the New York Giants.
If Detroit lands Diggs and returns its own free agent Chris Claiborne it would give Detroit a group of young speedy linebackers who could gain experience together and form the nucleus of a solid corps for years to come.
DEAD END STREETS?: The New York Jets elected to allow restricted free agent Lavernaeus Coles to walk away and join the Washington Redskins. The Jets will use the cap money they will save on Coles to re-sign young franchise quarterback Chad Pennington to a new deal.
However, New York was unable to come to agreement on a deal to acquire Tai Streets, a restricted free agent after the San Francisco 49'ers demanded at least a second-round pick from New York. "The Jets offered us a third (round draft pick), and we're not going to do a deal for a third, and nobody's going to give us a
second(-round pick)." GM Terry Donahue told the Contra Costa Times.
The Detroit Lions were also interested in Streets, but the loss of even a second-round pick would likely be prohibitive to the Lions brass.