Black and Blue all over: The return

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
I'm baaaaaaaack. Whether you noticed I was away from the blog is another question. Thanks to those who filled in some posts while I was attending a lovely -- and warm -- wedding south of the border.

With internet access restored, I've spent some of Monday's wee hours trying to catch up on the free-agent happenings around the NFC North. It seems that Minnesota wants another big-time receiver, Green Bay is patiently waiting for the right price and Chicago's top target was an offensive lineman who can play tackle or guard. Oh, and Detroit reportedly was involved in trade discussions that would have netted Denver quarterback Jay Cutler while also signing a starting-caliber receiver and acquiring two cornerbacks.

That's what I gleaned in a nutshell, and I'll return later Monday with some more detailed thoughts on those topics. For now, let's get ourselves back to even and catch up on the Black and Blue's latest news, starting with a holding pattern in Minnesota for free agent receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh:

  • Judd Zulgad and Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune report Houshmandzadeh met with Vikings officials for nearly six hours Sunday at the team's facility. But as of Sunday evening, agent Kenard McGuire said no deal had been reached. The Vikings are competing with Cincinnati and Seattle for Houshmandzadeh's services.

  • Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reviews some of the factors that could be complicating the Houshmandzadeh negotiations. Among them: Would the Vikings offer more than they gave current No. 1 receiver Bernard Berrian, who received $16 million guaranteed last year?

  • Lions defensive end Cliff Avril said he is praying for teammate Corey Smith, who is among four passengers missing from a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Here is a report from the Detroit Free Press.

  • Former Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky signed with Houston on Sunday, where he will be the clear backup to starter Matt Schaub. The Lions offered Orlovsky a chance to compete for their starting job, but Orlovsky was wary of his chances, according to John Niyo of the Detroit News.

  • Green Bay had hoped to host free agent defensive end Chris Canty on a visit, but Canty signed Sunday night with the New York Giants. According to Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette, Packers general manager Ted Thompson wouldn't commit to a ballpark offer prior to scheduling a visit.

  • The Packers also passed on pursuing defensive tackle Colin Cole, who got $6 million to sign with Seattle. After losing out on Cole and Canty, Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the Packers will shift gears and pursue San Diego defensive end Igor Olshansky.

  • Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times casts serious doubt on the possibility of the Bears acquiring Cutler.

  • Former Minnesota safety Darren Sharper told Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune that the Bears have expressed interest in signing him. New Orleans seems the likeliest target for Sharper.