Lions replace Claiborne with Wali Rainer

This week's minicamp moves notwithstanding, the Detroit Lions reached agreement with veteran linebacker Wali Rainer on a two-year deal. The news was followed by an announcement that the team had entertained Browns' free-agent linebacker Dwayne Rudd.

(ALLEN PARK)- This week's minicamp moves notwithstanding, the Detroit Lions reached agreement with veteran linebacker Wali Rainer on a two-year deal.

The deal is two-year contract worth $1.83 million and includes a signing bonus of $475,000 and base salaries of $530,000 and $750,000. There is also a $75,000 roster bonus in 2004.

The move helps fix one of the Detroit's most glaring weaknesses and adds depth to a depleted corps.  Rainer, just 26, had his best season as a rookie when he recorded 137 tackles and six passes deflected playing the middle for Cleveland.

However, the veteran was dealt to the Jacksonville Jaguars in a draft day trade that allowed the Browns to move up three spots in the third round and Rainer was replaced by veteran Dwayne Rudd, acquired as a free agent. 

The move incensed Rainer who lashed out at Browns coach Butch Davis for failing to give him a chance to keep his job despite his outstanding production.

In the just compeleted two-day minicamp, Detroit head coach Steve Mariucci started with weakside linebacker Barrett Green in the middle and Green responded with a good outing.  Detroit also used Donte Curry sparingly at the position. 

Rainer has good versatility with the ability to play both the middle and the strongside.  The Lions will likely use their next minicamp to determine who plays where.  The move also likely set up a battle between Curry, holdover Brian Williams and veteran journeyman Jeff Gooch for the remaining position with Curry getting the early edge.

Rainer was being courted by the Tampa Bay Bucs to replace veteran Alshermond Singleton, who moved to the Dallas Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent, but sources tell that the Bucs appear to have been settling on former Browns linebacker Dwayne Rudd. Tampa Bay will face a challenge in retrieving Rudd's services, however, as the Lions recently entertained the young linebacker.

Rainer decided to jump at Detroit's offer rather than take a chance on the Tampa situation. 

JAMES JONES REDUX?:  There have also been rumors that Detroit will release veteran defensive tackle Luther Elliss after June 1, to clear cap room if efforts to re-negotiate his deal do not bring results in the next 10 days. 

Elliss likely remembers how Detroit dragged veteran defensive tackle James Jones through the entire training camp session before cutting him on the eve of the team's first game, despite Jones previously going to the team to volunteer and then take a pay cut.  The move soured many of the teams veterans on management and Elliss appears reluctant to re-do his deal.  He will collect nearly $5 million in base salary all of which count against the Lions 2003 salary cap.

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