The Bengals have made re-signing Artrell Hawkins one of their top offseason priorities, but the Steelers may have thrown a wrench in their division-rivals' plans.
Pittsburgh made a contract offer to the free-agent corner late this past week, and could be close to landing the hometown kid.
Hawkins is also drawing interest from the Raiders, but Oakland will hold off on offering a contract pending a resolution of their interest in fellow free-agent corner Duane Starks. It's believed that the Raiders have the inside track on Starks and will only seriously pursue Hawkins if they fail to land Starks......
LB RACE: The Steelers are still considering stepping up their pursuit of linebacker James Farrior, but will place those plans in a holding pattern until the situation surrounding Earl Holmes reaches a conclusion.....
OL IN TACT?: The Insiders has learned that the Steelers do not want to release offensive lineman Rich Tylski and are in the process of evaluating possibilities to retain his services......
BROWN OUT!: The same can't be said for kicker Kris Brown. Brown signed an offer sheet from the Houston Texans, in which the Steelers have seven days to match the offer. Early indications relayed to The Insiders are that while the team hasn't seen the contract offer, the team isn't expected do 'work very hard' at making room for the three-year veteran......
AFC NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS: Terrence Wilkins, who has spent all four years of his NFL career with the Colts, is expected in Berea at some point next week, most likely following the conclusion of the league owners' meetings in Orlando on March 22. The University of Virginia product has already visited the Dolphins, and also has a visit scheduled with the Rams in the near future. Wilkins, while listed as a wide receiver, is known mainly for his ability to return both punts and kickoffs. Last season, the 5-8, 178-pound restricted free agent finished in the top seven among AFC returners in both categories. The Browns have been sorely lacking in the return game since their rebirth three years ago, particularly their punt-return unit. ... Ravens free-agent wide receiver Patrick Johnson paid a visit to the Dolphins last week, but, as of yesterday, had not received an offer from the club. ... The Bengals have been in contact with the agent for cornerback Donnie Abraham since his release from Tampa Bay Thursday, The Insiders has learned. The Bengals are still looking for a veteran corner to add via free agency after losing Walt Harris to the Colts. A source close to Harris tells The Insiders that the thrifty Bengals offered the corner a contract that was "substantially lower" than he eventually received from the Colts. ... The Vikings will continue negotiations with the agent for defensive end Keith McKenzie even as they plunge into this week's owners' meetings, although no deal is on the horizon. It's believed that McKenzie is asking for considerably more in the form of guaranteed money than teams feels he's worth, which is the reason the Browns allowed McKenzie to test the free-agent market and signed fellow DE Kenard Lang to replace the veteran. The Browns have held a couple of conversations with McKenzie's representatives since the start of free agency, but would only be willing to bring him back if his price bottomed out. Thus far, only Minnesota and Cleveland have expressed more than a tepid interest in the defensive lineman, with the Vikings sitting as his lone visit.
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES: Quarterback Jeff Blake hopes to decide within the next 48-72 hours where he will play in 2002, The Insiders has learned. Blake, released by the Saints earlier this month, wrapped up a visit with the Redskins on Friday after visiting with the Bills a day earlier. While the Baltimore and Houston have also shown interest, it's believed that Washington and Buffalo are Blake's top two choices. The Blake camp has tossed around some very preliminary contract numbers with both teams, but, as of last night, Blake had yet to receive a solid contract offer from either club. That, however, is that's expected to change in the very near future. It's believed that the Bills have a slight advantage over the Redskins in the race for Blake, mainly due to the fact that Blake would be all but guaranteed the starting job heading into training camp. 'Skins head coach Steve Spurrier has made it perfectly clear that no one will be guaranteed a starting job, even one of his hand-picked Gator Boys ... The three-year, $5 million contract signed by New England's Adam Vinatieri yesterday makes him the third-highest paid kicker in the NFL. The hero of this past February's Super Bowl falls in financial line behind Tampa Bay's Martin Gramatica and Miami's Olindo Mare, who both average $2 million a season on deals signed in the last year. ... Offensive tackle Barrett Brooks, who was released by the Browns during training camp last year, signed a one-year deal with the Broncos over the weekend. ... Kudos to the Jets for their signing of offensive lineman Dave Szott late last week, not necessarily for size of the deal -- a three-year, contract worth $4.2 million -- but for the concessions to Szott's personal life that allowed the agreement to be finalized. Szott's son Shane suffers from cerebral palsy and attends school in New Jersey. Szott, who signed with the Redskins last offseason to be closer to home, requested that he be allowed to spend a minimum of three nights a week at his home in Morristown, New Jersey. The Jets were more than amenable to that stipulation and landed a quality locker room presence and a solid performer on the field. ... The Bears have begun talks on restructuring the contract of offensive tackle Blake Brockermeyer. Last week, the two sides agreed to push back the date Brockermeyer was slated to receive a $500,000 roster bonus from March 15 to April 1. ... The four-year, $4.68 million contract linebacker Mike Caldwell signed with the Bears on Friday will include a first-year cap number of $1.0875 million. The signing of Caldwell gives Chicago veteran insurance against the possible loss of Warrick Holdman, a restricted free agent who has yet to receive an offer sheet from any team he has visited. ... The 49ers, Packers and Saints were the first teams to contact the agent of Johnnie Morton following the receiver's release from the Lions last Wednesday. Word out of Detroit is that Morton's preference is Green Bay and San Francisco, in that order. ... Linebacker Shawn Barber, who signed Friday with Philadelphia, would have preferred to sign with the New York Giants, but the cap-strapped club simply did not have the kind of space to even offer the veteran a bare-bones contract. The Eagles still acquired Barber for the bargain-basement price of $1.5 million on a one-year deal. ... The signing of Barber was the Eagles' second "major" defensive acquisition in two days as they also added veteran safety Blaine Bishop on Thursday. Bishop received a three-year deal that could be worth in excess of $6 million. .
Sunday Morning Massacre
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