Houston, We've Hurt the NFC North

The Houston Texans were active in the free agent market Friday, taking away a pair of starters that were key components of NFC North teams in 2005 -- Sam Cowart of the Vikings and Mike Flanagan of the Packers.

On draft day, no team will be more discussed than the Houston Texans. With the first pick in the draft, the Texans are expected to take RB Reggie Bush. But, in the meantime, the Texans did their best to hurt the teams in the NFC North Friday – taking a pair of players away from the Vikings and the Packers.

The Texans signed former Vikings middle linebacker Sam Cowart – whom the team effectively acquired from the Jets in aftermath of the Randy Moss trade. While the Vikes made little in the way of overtures to retain Cowart, the Texans made Packers center Mike Flanagan an offer he didn't refuse and the Pack opted not to match.

Those who had held out hope that Cowart would return to the Vikes may be disappointed, but the team was clear on its intent to go with younger players on defense in the new Tampa-2 scheme – a defensive philosophy that didn't include an aging vet like Cowart.

* One of the hallmarks of the free agent signings made by the Vikings over the past couple of weeks has been that they are players with good character. The Chiefs spoke to that with a statement released by General Manager Carl Peterson on the Vikings' signing of fullback Tony Richardson. He was so loved by the organization that, in a release fired off after his signing, Peterson disclosed that he had discussed Richardson joining the Chiefs family as either an assistant coach or front office person when his career ended. The release let it be known that, despite leaving for the Vikes, that offer still stands – testament to the type of player the Vikings have added to their roster.
* From the "Let's Swap" Department comes this: After failing to sign kicker Adam Vinatieri to a contract, the Packers have turned their attention to former Viking Paul Edinger. Apparently a couple of game-winning field goals got their attention in the same way Ryan Longwell got the notice of the new regime at Winter Park.
* As if the five-plus games stipulation in Nate Burleson's offer sheet wasn't enough to get the Vikings to pass on his seven-year, $49 million offer sheet, a second stipulation says that his average contract per season must be less than any running back on the Vikings roster during his contract. Don't be shocked to see the NFL try to step in to circumvent future "poison pills" in contracts on free agent players in the future. The Vikings and Seahawks have seemingly forced each other to either play nice or take a time out. At least the Vikes will get a third-round draft pick when they refuse to match the Seahawks' insanely high offer on Burleson.
* The Vikes signed RB Admimchinobe Echemandu to an exclusive rights tender offer for 2006 of $425,000.
* After listening to a free agent offer from the Vikings, Patriots guard Stephen Neal opted to re-sign with the Pats.

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