Packers retain Diggs for four more years

The Green Bay Packers, as expected, matched the Detroit Lions' offer sheet for linebacker Na'il Diggs. Diggs, a restricted free agent, received a four-year deal, which includes a signing bonus of $2.8 million.

Diggs' new contract is worth $10.5 million. He signed an offer sheet from the Lions on March 16. Despite Diggs' desire to not have the Packers match the Lions' offer, he remained a Packer. Coach/GM Mike Sherman said he spoke with Diggs prior to the team matching Detroit's offer and indicated that the linebacker is happy with his situation in Green Bay.

"There have been some sources out there that have suggested Na'il Diggs was less than happy as a Green Bay Packer," Sherman said. "In my conversation with Na'il, this message has not been communicated to me, so I don't put much stock in second-hand comments. "I must admit, however, that this process has been a positive one since it has become completely clear to Na'il wherehe stands with me, and what I see as his role on this football team. He has played and will continue to play a very significant part in our success."

Green Bay is seeking a third starting linebacker since the Packers are not expected to re-sign veteran Hardy Nickerson. The Packers signed free agent linebacker Hannibal Navies earlier this month and plan to start him in the middle. Diggs likely will occupy the strongside position he has started in since his rookie season in 2000. Third-year pro Torrance Marshall also may get a shot to start at the weakside linebacker position vacated by Nate Wayne, who signed with Philadelphia.

"We made him an offer and we wanted him on our team - that's how it goes," Lions coach Steve Mariucci said. "When free agents are restricted, the club has the first right of refusal, so to speak, they can match any offer and they simply chose to match it. Evidently they wanted him as badly as we did."

Earlier this month, restricted free agent safety Matt Bowen signed accepted a four-year, $6 million offer from the Washington Redskins that the Packers did not match.

The Packers also are trying to sign defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila to a long-term contract. Gbaja-Biamila also is a restricted free agent who was tendered the second highest of three tender levels by the Packers. Both sides are reportedly negotiated at length during the NFL owners' meetings this week in Phoenix.

Diggs has started as Green Bay's strongside linebacker since his rookie season in 2000. He started all 16 regular season games and each post-season game for the second straight season, finishing with a career-high 111 tackles. He also had three interceptions, three sacks and two forced fumbles in arguably his best season. The Packers are reportedly about $3.4 million under the $75.3 million salary cap, according to reports.

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