We noted Friday that Detroit coach Jim Schwartz showed up on the doorstep of free agent defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch moments after the free agent market opened. As it turned out, Schwartz wasn't the only Lions coach who made a recruiting trip.
On a last-minute whim, Schwartz sent offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to Seattle to meet and have dinner with free agent receiver Nate Burleson. Linehan had coached Burleson in Minnesota for two years, but Burleson said the visit "spoke volumes" and accelerated his decision to sign with the Lions.
"He didn't need to sell me," Burleson said. "It was more the effort of him coming to Seattle and showing that he really wanted to make a personal connection, even though I know Scott, it spoke volumes. For that reason, I was very appreciative."
(Many thanks to Lions public relations for connecting me with the Lions' media availability Saturday.)
According to Schwartz, Linehan had often used Burleson to illustrate the type of receiver he wanted to add to the Lions offense.
"He would come into my office and he would say, 'You know, we need a guy like Nate Burleson,'" Schwartz said. "So many times, he would say, 'We're going to need a guy like Nate Burleson. You know, Nate Burleson had this. This is the way I used Nate Burleson.' ... I didn't have a whole lot of experience with him, but when we were getting ready to play Seattle last year, all of a sudden I knew what Scott was talking about."
Burleson's instincts and natural ability to get open make him a strong complement to No. 1 receiver Calvin Johnson, much in the way Burleson once was with Randy Moss. Those skills shot Burleson's name to the top of the Lions' free agency wish list. Thursday morning, Schwartz watched every catch of Burleson's 2009 season one more time before calling Linehan into his office.
"I told him I was planning to go to Nashville to [recruit Vanden Bosch]," Schwartz said. "So I said, 'Why don't we get you on a plane to go make a pitch to Nate?' I think that personal touch made a big difference."
General manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand signed off on the idea, which mirrored that of New York Jets coach Rex Ryan; last year, Ryan visited free agent Bart Scott -- whom he once coached in Baltimore - immediately after the market opened.
Only time will tell how improved Detroit will be with Burleson and Vanden Bosch on the roster. But as the first week of March draws to a close, we can say with confidence that the Lions left nothing to chance after identifying their primary targets.