Rain(i)er Days Ahead? Claiborne signs with Vikings

The Lions are suddenly in need of an experienced middle linebacker now that Chris Claiborne has become the latest Lions draft choice to exit via free agency. Claiborne signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings

(ALLEN PARK) - Just as the Lions were plugging one hole in their linebacking corps another gaping hole blew open. Detroit's linebacking corps just got thinner after middle linebacker Chris Claiborne signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings.

A four-year veteran, just 24 years old, Claiborne recorded over 100 tackles his first year playing his natural position, the middle linebacker spot and seemed poised for even brighter days.

But a season-long rift with Lions president and GM Matt Millen appears to have spelled the end for Claiborne's tenure in Detroit. The first salvo was Millen's very public displeasure with Claiborne's playing weight which irritated the young star.

Second was Millen's faux pas in Chicago, when he appeared on a syndicated radio talk show with former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka and referred to an undisclosed player as a "devout coward."

The remark went over like a lead balloon in the Lions locker room and when Millen apologized and attempted to sweep it under the rug, Claiborne challenged Millen to appear before the team.

Finally, at a hastily called team meeting, Millen apologized and attempted to clear the air on a number of issues, but Claiborne took exception to Millen and his attempts to replace him with Oakland Raider free agent Greg Biekert. He accused Millen of being disloyal to the players in the locker room.

The two exchanged words and no love was lost between the pair from that point forward. Claiborne often spoke to the press about how he looked forward to compiling great stats for free agency, but he didn't get the reception he expected once he became free.

Still, his departure leaves the Lions looking to fill the void and free agent Wali Rainer of the Jacksonville Jaguars could be a top candidate. Detroit is also known to be interested in veteran linebacker Charlie Clemons of the New Orleans Saints, an unrestricted free agent.

Detroit now has to hope that the Green Bay Packers do not match the offer sheet they tendered for restricted free agent Na'il Diggs, a young strong side linebacker they are hoping to plug into their corps.

If Green Bay matches, Detroit would then need to fill two of their three starting linebacker positions.


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