Detroit Lions: The Lions re-signed long snapper Don Muhlbach to a one-year contract on Thursday. He’ll enter his tenth season with the team, and he’s missed just one game over the last seven seasons. … New defensive lineman Jason Jones may not be viewed as a starter by the team, but instead as an inside pass rusher out of the nickel defense. The Lions will see what they can piece together the rest of the offseason before determining that, though. … Longtime left tackle Jeff Backus announced his retirement on Thursday. He played 12 seasons, missing just one game over that span. Detroit now has openings at both tackle spots. 2011 first-rounder Riley Reiff will certainly man one of the positions. Jason Fox, Corey Hilliard, or a high draft pick will likely get the other.
Green Bay Packers: While GM Ted Thompson kicks back and watches, Packers fans are wondering what he is doing to improve the team. It’s a yearly thing in Green Bay. Thompson never gets deeply involved with free agency, and the fans get in a tizzy. Running back Steven Jackson-to-Atlanta is just another example of this. Thompson isn’t going to pay substantial money for aging players unless they’re the team’s own veterans. He won’t even do that sometimes. … The Packers are still keeping a watchful eye on free agent receiver Greg Jennings. He was being wined and dined by the Vikings on Thursday night. … Green Bay reportedly still feels good about running back DuJuan Harris. We’re a fan of Harris, but he’s not a workhorse back. Expect the Packers to add someone else to the mix. Free agent Peyton Hillis was mentioned on Wednesday.
Houston Texans: Owner Bob McNair picked free agent safety Ed Reed up in his private jet on Thursday, and things are looking positive on that front. Reed was staying the night in Houston as the sides try and inch closer to a deal. Receiver Andre Johnson and center Chris Myers are both University of Miami (FL) alums like Reed, and they are part of the recruiting effort. We should know something on Friday.
Indianapolis Colts: Owner Jim Irsay kept on spending money on Thursday. Defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois inked a four-year, $22 million deal with the Colts. Jean-Francois was a coveted free agent despite not being a starter during his four-year career with the 49ers. He’s valuable because he can play any position on the defensive line. We expect him to play an end spot opposite Cory Redding and next to nose tackle Josh Chapman in the Colts’ 3-4 defense. … Indianapolis is reportedly interested in free agent cornerback Antoine Cason. You can never have enough corners, but we’re not sure where Cason would fit. He did play under coach Chuck Pagano’s brother, John, in San Diego last season.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars’ lone move of the day was re-signing cornerback Antwaun Molden. He played in three games for Jacksonville last season, registering one tackle. Molden has the length – 6-foot-1 – that coach Gus Bradley likes his corners to have. He’ll fight for a roster spot this summer.
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs finally released quarterback Matt Cassel on Thursday. That wasn’t their biggest move. Cornerback Sean Smith signed a three-year, $18 million contract with Kansas City. The $6 million annual average is lower than what Smith was expected to get, but the market hasn’t spewed out much money to corners and pass rushers. A big, press-man cover corner, Smith joins Brandon Flowers and Dunta Robinson to form one of the league’s top cornerback trios. Javier Arenas is in the mix for slot duties, as well. The Chiefs have put together a nice roster this offseason.
Miami Dolphins: Miami hosted four players for free-agent visits on Thursday. They were defensive end Michael Bennett, tight end Dustin Keller, linebacker Thomas Howard, and guard Lance Louis. None of the four were signed to contracts. Bennett actually signed with Seattle. Keller left without a contract because Miami wasn’t willing to offer a multi-year deal. Howard and Louis are both coming off torn ACLs. If signed, Howard would likely play the weak side, and Louis would probably compete with John Jerry and Richie Incognito for the two starting spots. … The Dolphins confirmed that new linebacker Dannell Ellerbe will play the middle. Typically, 4-3 outside linebackers aren’t paid $7 million per season, so this makes sense. … The Dolphins have shown interest in free agent cornerback Antoine Cason, but they have reportedly cooled on him. GM Jeff Ireland is blowing all his money on linebackers, but he desperately needs cornerback help.
Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings wined and dined free agent receiver Greg Jennings on Thursday night, and they put the full-court press on him. In attendance at dinner were head coach Leslie Frazier, GM Rick Spielman, and defensive end Jared Allen. The Vikings and Jennings’ representatives will exchange numbers on Friday, and chances are good that we’ll know something before the weekend. … Quarterback Matt Cassel was signed to a one-year, $4 million contract mere hours after being released by the Chiefs. Cassel did well by getting that much money. Christian Ponder’s starting job is said to be safe, but that could change if he shows signs of regression or struggles for a long stretch of games.
New England Patriots: Free agents receiver Donald Jones and return man/running back Leon Washington visited the Patriots on Thursday. Washington was signed to a one-year deal and will handle kickoffs and punts. We’re not sure what it means for free agent Danny Woodhead, but we wouldn’t think the two are as connected as some might think. Jones played a lot of slot receiver with the Bills in 2012, and he’d be a nice No. 4 for the Patriots. … New England has set up two more free-agent visits for Friday. Safety Adrian Wilson and defensive end John Abraham will come to town. Wilson is strictly an in-the-box safety at this stage of career. He was pulled off the field in nickel while with Arizona last season. Abraham would add some juice to the pass rush. He had ten sacks with the Falcons in 2012.
New Orleans Saints: The Saints made a big-time signing on Thursday by inking cornerback Keenan Lewis to a five-year, $26 million contract. Lewis is from New Orleans, and his acquisition is huge for what was a flat-out terrible pass defense in 2012. Lewis played a lot of press-zone in Pittsburgh. He’ll likely be asked to play more man under DC Rob Ryan, but he has the size – 6-foot, 208 – to match up with the bigger receivers in the division. … New Orleans is reportedly high on free agent outside linebacker Victor Butler’s wish list. He played under Ryan in Dallas for the last two seasons. Butler was stuck behind DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer with the Cowboys, though. He was drawing some heavy interest from the Steelers on Thursday.
New York Giants: The G-Men are rumored to be interested in a pair of free-agent linebackers: Rey Maualuga and Justin Durant. New York is looking to overhaul its linebacker corps after cutting Michael Boley and not making much of an attempt to bring back Chase Blackburn. Maualuga could play the middle, or he could play the strong side. Durant has been a strong-side ‘backer for the last couple of seasons in Detroit. If either is signed, it might allow the Giants to move Mathias Kiwanuka back to defensive end. Keith Rivers was re-signed to a one-year deal on Thursday, and he could be an option for a starting job, too. He was mainly a backup with the team last season. … The Giants signed safety Ryan Mundy on Thursday. He’ll be the team’s third safety behind Antrel Rolle and Stevie Brown, filling Kenny Phillips’ old role. … New York has approached right tackle David Diehl about a pay cut. He’ll have to slash his $4.475 million salary somehow if he wants to return. … Free agent tight end Dustin Keller’s agent could reach out the Giants in the coming days. New York likely isn’t ready to hand the starting job over to Adrien Robinson, so there could be a match with Keller. He’d be a massive downgrade on Martellus Bennett, though.