Lions will have to fight for Colvin; Okeafor in

Where do the Lions go now in free-agency? Lions' insider Mike Fowler breaks down the next step in free-agency for Detroit, and that seems to be in the direction of linebacker. The small interest league-wide in middle linebacker Chris Claiborne has allowed Detroit to put him on the backburner. More inside information, plus possible FA visits.

(ALLEN PARK)--The deepest position in the free agency pool is drying up quickly. 

Linebackers signed at a furious rate over the weekend, leaving the Detroit Lions wondering if they'll be able to meet their needs and their set goal of signing "five or six" quality free agent players.

Detroit is expected to host Chicago's Roosevelt Colvin and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Chike Okeafor, a native of Grand Rapids, MI.

Detroit moved quickly on the interest shown by former St. Louis Rams corner Dre Bly, inking him to a five-year deal.  The next step in the free agency game plan set up by Lions president Matt Millen and coach Steve Mariucci is to grab a free agent linebacker.  

In no particular order the team had eyes for Indianapolis' Mike Peterson, Chicago's Colvin, Tampa's Shelton Quarles, Washington's Shawn Barber and Kansas City's Mike Maslowski among others.

But Maslowski signed a surprisingly low-ball six-year deal to return to Kansas City, Barber also joined the Chiefs and Peterson appears to have other teams higher on his wish list than Detroit.  He has scheduled visits to Buffalo and then to St. Louis but has not rescheduled with Detroit as of yet and indications are Detroit has cooled on him.

That leaves Colvin and New Orleans' Charlie Clemons as the front runners on Detroit's list. Colvin is the headliner now and is said to be looking for a contract that averages close to $5 million per season.  He might get it.  The New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers all are interested in Colvin, a linebacker with ability to get to the passer.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Seahawks are expressing interest in Detroit's Chris Claiborne.  Claiborne, at just 24 years old has a huge upside, but so far has drawn little interest on the open market.  The Seahawks are pondering whether to return Isaiah Kacyvenski to the position or make an offer to Claiborne.

Detroit, it appears, has put the fourth-year veteran on its back burner while attempting to lure in a big play outside backer.  If Detroit is unable to either re-sign Claiborne or land Colvin, the next option is Tampa Bay pro-bowl linebacker Quarles.  Quarles has not scheduled any visits with other teams, clearly because he wants to finish his career in Tampa Bay.  The Bucs cut two players to try to clear room to sign either Quarles or Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson.  They decided to let Jackson walk but with little progress in getting the kind of numbers he desires, Quarles may start visiting elsewhere and Detroit is interested. 

"We're talking," said Quarles' agent Jim Steiner of his discussions with Tampa.  "We've got proposals going back and forth but we may have to make some visits.  A couple of teams have called. We'll have to see what happens.''

BARGAIN BASEMENT
Detroit doesn't appear to be interested, but free agent safeties might be had at bargain basement prices.  Such top talent as the Saints Sammy Knight, the Bucs Dexter Jackson, Chargers Rodney Harrison and Steelers Lee Flowers are all out, hat in hand, looking for offers, but so far, their have been few takers.  For an average $2 million per season salary, Detroit might be able to land a pro-bowl caliber guy like Jackson.

HORDING THE MARKET?  Redskins' owner Daniel Snyder has raised eyebrows by signing eight free agents, including four guards off the market in the first 10 days, but buyer beware.  Snyder is using up a lot of cap money to fix the guard position, something routinely filled by journeymen and converted tackles.  Some personnel people feel Snyder has just enough rope (cap room) to hang himself... again.  He's getting very little bang for his buck.

PRISCO'S PROBLEM?  You think that media types in Detroit have been tough on Matt Millen?  Well CBS Sportsline Pete Prisco has been all over Millen since he came to Detroit, including this little number he published for CBS Sportsline, "Say hello to that stupid team: the Detroit Lions. In one of the quickest strikes in the free-agent market, the Lions signed Bly to a five-year deal that averages close to $5 million per season with a signing bonus of $6.5-million. There is no better indication that president Matt Millen belongs back in the television booth than this signing, for this type of money. ...He wasn't even a starter until the 2002 season. What's worse is that he doesn't run that well, which means the Lions have a $5-million a year corner without speed."

YIKES, Pete!

PAWS FOR THOUGHT:
The Lions free agency game plan was to grab a corner, then a linebacker and a wide receiver.  With other teams gobbling up linebackers and with only Seattle showing any interest in Chris Claiborne, here's wondering what it would take to lure the youngster back into the fold?  Both sides need each other at this point, how about a one-year $2.75 million offer?

Here's also wondering why Detroit hasn't shown interest in David Boston, the big-play, super sized receiver from Arizona?  So far, other than his old team Arizona, only the Baltimore Ravens have expressed interest.  It appears that Boston's off-field antics, including reportedly testeing positive for marijuana and cocaine, according to Phoenix


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