Pathon, Trotter in Rumor Mill

Vikes set "deadline" for Pathon; trotting out the LB dope; plus random news and rumors from around the National Football League

VIKINGS NOTES
According to a source close to free-agent Jerome Pathon, the Vikings have set a semi-solid deadline of Friday to make a decision on whether or not he wants to make a deal with them.
Pathon is leaning toward signing with New Orleans at this moment, the source said, but has yet to make a final decision on where he will play in 2002. The Vikings reportedly have about $10 million in available cap space and could conceivably trump any offer another team would make.
Pathon has been the Vikings' number one target at the receiver position this offseason, which will not change despite the fact that fellow WR D'Wayne Bates is now officially on board. A medical check late last month erased any lingering doubts the organization had regarding Pathon's health and only served to increase their interest in the talented but oft-injured veteran.
In addition to the Vikings' interest, Pathon is also being heavily pursued by New Orleans, where he visited last week. The Colts would also like to re-sign Pathon, but will likely not pay top dollar after signing Qadry Ismail and expending a first-round pick last season on Reggie Wayne......
Barring a change in either the philosophical position of the Vikings organization or Jeremiah Trotter's price dropping precipitously, Minnesota will not be a serious contender for the middle linebacker's services, a league source tells The Insiders.
It's believed that, even at this stage of the free agency game, the 25-year-old Trotter is looking for Ray Lewis-type money, which translates into a deal that averages around $6 million a season. At that price, the Vikings -- and most other teams for that matter -- will stalk the fringes of the Trotter situation, looking to pounce if and when he rinses the multi-multi-million dollar signs from his eyes.
That is not to say, though, that the team is not more than seriously interested in Trotter, released from the franchise tag designation by the Eagles last week.
"Of course [Minnesota] is very interested, but only if the dollars he's looking for comes way, way down. He would help the middle of that defense tremendously, but you have to be smart, which [the Vikings] are being," the source said.
The source then pointed to Cleveland and the situation involving Earl Holmes. The former Steelers LB was at the top of the Browns' MLB wish list, but only if he came down from his initial asking price of $5 million per season.
Cleveland's patience was eventually rewarded after Holmes found the open-market conditions very desert-like and eventually signed a $17.5 million contract that included a "meager" $2 million signing bonus and a first-year cap figure of less than $1 million. The Vikings are hoping, the source said, that history repeats itself and Trotter becomes the Earl Holmes of the latter portion of free agency......
NORTH-SIDE TIDBITS
In addition to the Vikings' interest in Jeremiah Trotter, two other NFC North teams have taken an initial shining to the talented linebacker. The Packers and Bucs have recently been in contact with Trotter's agent, but have yet to schedule a visit. The Texans, meanwhile, have already scheduled a visit with Trotter as the LB will be in Houston today to meet with the club's top brass. Green Bay would dearly love to add Trotter to their defensive mix, but must first rid themselves of wide receiver Antonio Freeman and his $4.3 million base salary. Until the Freeman situation is resolved, the Packers simply do not have the cap space to add a free agent such as Trotter......
LEAGUE-WIDE BAUBLES
Despite pronouncements by Ravens senior vice president of football operations Ozzie Newsome, that running back Jamal Lewis will be "full go" for the start of training camp, a league source tells The Insiders that may be wishful thinking on Newsome's part. Although Lewis' rehab from a second torn ACL in three years is going reasonably well, the talented back will likely be limited throughout training camp and deep into the preseason. The source stated that Lewis will likely be anywhere from 75 to 80 percent healthy for the start of camp in July, and will not be 100 percent healthy until the 2003 season, barring a setback this season......
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, Bengals quarterback Akili Smith will likely be ready for the start of training camp when it opens in July. Smith is continuing to rehab his injured hamstring, which required offseason surgery and left his availability for the start of camp in doubt. "I'm about a month ahead of schedule. They're thinking I'll be ready to go full speed by June," Smith told reporters yesterday following a workout at Paul Brown Stadium. If Smith is indeed 100 percent, he will be penciled in as the No. 2 QB behind starter Jon Kitna......
As further evidence that a deal may be brewing between New England and Buffalo involving Drew Bledsoe, The Insiders has learned that the Patriots have allowed the quarterback's agent, David Dunn, to begin discussions with the Bills about a restructured contract. Talks between the two sides regarding Bledsoe have heated up in recent days, which led to the Bills requesting permission to speak to Dunn. The Patriots, sensing that their AFC East rival could be the only viable trade option, quickly granted them permission. While talks have intensified, there is still no agreement on the terms of a trade......
With the recent signing of Chris Naeole, the Jaguars will attempt to switch Zach Wiegert from guard to tackle in the coming months. During his seven years in the NFL, Wiegert has started 55 games at right guard and 24 at right tackle. Wiegert, a first-round draft pick of the Rams in 1995, is also close to reaching an agreement on a restructured contract that will cut his current cap number of $2.8 million nearly in half......
The revamping of the Colts defense under new head coach Tony Dungy continued late last night as free-agent linebacker Greg Favors reached an agreement on a two-year, $1.9 million contract. The 27-year-old Favors spent the last three seasons with the Titans and started 13 games in 2001......
DRAFT STUFF
The Bills have apparently dropped out of the running for free-agent defensive tackle Grady Jackson, which has led some to believe that the organization is leaning toward an interior lineman with the fourth overall pick of the upcoming draft. The signing of offensive tackle Trey Teague last week opened up several avenues for Buffalo to travel on April 20, not the least of which is addressing their porous interior line play on the defensive side of the ball......
There are some rumblings that Boston College offensive tackle Marc Colombo, originally projected to be a second- or third-rounder, may slide into the latter portion of the first round. One NFC scout tells The Insiders that Colombo has been "very impressive" this offseason and several teams, after heavily studying game film of the 6-7, 311-pounder, could make a run at him earlier than most had expected......
The Jets may have an eye on the cornerback position with their first-round pick, and the player most often associated with the club is Florida's Lito Shepperd. New York would like to address the defensive tackle position in the first round, but feel that the top DTs will be gone by the time they pick at 22, and those close to the club do not feel that tackles like Washington's Larry Triplett are worthy of being taken in the opening round......
If the Seahawks fail in their quest to land free agent Shannon Sharpe, the club will take a very long look at using their first-round pick -- 20th overall -- on a tight end. It's expected that the consensus top TE available in the draft, Jeremy Shockey, will fall no further than #15 and the New York Giants. That would leave Seattle hoping that Dan Graham of Colorado, the only other TE who carries a first-round grade, somehow slides to them......

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