DRAFT TALK: 49ers, Titans likely to match

Linebacker <B>Brad Kassell</b> of the Tennessee Titans celebrated his eighteen tackle performance in a season-ending win over the Detroit Lions. Little did he know Matt Millen was impressed and would sign him to an offer sheet three months later. But will the Tenneseee Titans let the talented backer walk for a difference of $350k?

ALLEN PARK - With just five days to go before Saturday's NFL draft, the Lions are still awaiting word from San Francisco and Tennessee to find out if they'll have either Brad Kassell or Kyle Kosier on their roster this fall. Chances are slim on both.

Detroit signed Kosier to a one-year $980,000 offer sheet and inked Kassell to a one-year, $1 million deal in the hopes that neither team would match and Detroit would find some dirt cheap talent that can really play.

Kassell was a revelation against Detroit in the final game of the 2004 regular season, recording an astounding 18 tackles against the Lions to wind up with a career-high 102. If the restricted free agent is allowed to walk away from Tennessee, he could end up as Detroit's starting middle linebacker. Detroit's Earl Holmes recorded 111 tackles (91 solo, 20 assists) last year, but at 32, questions arise regarding how long he can be productive as essentially a two-down player. Detroit often lifts Holmes in passing situations for speedy Teddy Lehman.

Kassell, 6-foot-3, 242-lbs from North Texas, had been penciled in by Titans coach Jeff Fischer as Tennessee's starting middle linebacker. He had been tendered at 650,000 by the cap strapped Titans, but look for them to scrape up the extra $350,000 to keep a player they're depending heavily on being in their roster. Next year Kassell, who will be an unrestricted free agent, could be among the top free agent linebackers on the market.

Detroit is considering Texas linebacker Derrick Johnson, the consensus best linebacker prospect in the draft as their first round pick, 10th overall. Johnson is the odds-on favorite here, to have his name called if Detroit doesn't trade the pick.

After Stockar McDougle's departure to the Miami Dolphins, Detroit hoped signing Kosier to an offer sheet would take the pressure off the right tackle position. A former seventh-round pick from Arizona State, Kosier, 6-foot-5, 309-lbs, developed into a valuable depth player for the 49ers the last two seasons and looked as if he would compete for a starting position.

Detroit wants to use their first round pick on a playmaker and not another offensive lineman. If the 49ers passed on Kosier, the Lions would be elated because they know he has the ability to play at least on a part-time basis unlike second-year player Kelly Butler and third-year player Victor Rogers. Detroit could then use a later round pick, third round or lower, to find a player to battle Kosier for the starting position. But it is unlikely that the 49ers, as talent strapped as they are, would allow a quality player -and a possible starter-to leave for a salary less than $1 million.

If Detroit doesn't land Kosier, they are likely to use their second-round pick to land a tackle from a group of three players, Syracuse's Adam Terry, Florida State's Ray Willis and Oklahoma's Jamaal Brown.

While it would be great for Detroit's draft plans to add these two quality restricted free agents to the roster, don't hold your breath hoping that either will be wearing Honolulu Blue and Silver this fall.

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