Black and Blue division going green

Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has signed a contract extension worth $132 million over seven...

Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson has signed a contract extension worth $132 million over seven years. (REUTERS)

John Kryk, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:57 PM ET

Lions and accountants and Bears -- oh, my!

And Vikings and Packers, too.

Ten newly signed, or re-signed, players to the NFL's "Black and Blue" division (the NFC North) on Wednesday afternoon found themselves up to their necks in green -- enough to rival any resident of the Emerald City, to keep The Wizard of Oz analogies going.

And judging by their news conferences, they're all over the rainbow in giddiness, too.

Can you blame them?

Leading the way, of course, is Detroit Lions wideout Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, who on Wednesday morning signed a contract extension worth $132 million over seven years, $60 million of it guaranteed.

It's the most lucrative contract in NFL history for any non-quarterback.

"What a tremendous blessing this is," Johnson said to open his news conference.

Well, yeah. For him.

And now that the Lions have him safely secured, they're going to the free-agent mall to shop, Johnson said.

"It could be to get one player, or two players, that get us over the edge," he said.

Detroit, at 10-6, finished second in the division last year to 15-1 Green Bay. Chicago was 8-8, Minnesota 3-10.

Megatron's mega-deal is emblematic of the competitiveness in the NFC North. The ferocity with which the Packers, Lions, Bears and Vikings wage their on-field wars is legendary. All those NFL Films slow-motion images come to mind.

Dick Butkus. Alex Karras. Ray Nitschke. Bud Grant. George Halas. Vince Lombardi. Mike Singletary. Mike Ditka. Muddy faces. Bloodied elbows. Steamy breath. Frozen tundra. All that.

This week, their wars merely have spilled into the free-agency arena. Black and Blue also fairly describes just how beat up these four clubs' owners and accountants are.

Get this.

This week, between free-agent signings and re-signings, the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings together already have coughed up more than -- would you believe? -- $300 million.

Almost a third of a billion bucks. Probably close to $100 million of it is guaranteed. (Not all contract figures have been made public.)

And they're all not done yet!

The Bears have been ridiculously active since free-agency signings began Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT.

They acquired star Miami wideout Brandon Marshall in a trade on Tuesday. They re-signed clipboard-holding QB Josh McCown and cornerback Tim Jennings. They inked free agents Eric Weems, a kick returner from Atlanta, and special-teams expert Blake Costanzo, a linebacker from Frisco.

Oh, and for a change the Bears decided they needed a backup to starting QB Jay Cutler who can, like, actually play, so they lured deposed Oakland Raiders starter Jason Campbell with a one-season deal worth $3.4 million, $2 million of it guaranteed.

The Vikings, meantime, dived in big-time on Wednesday and signed far and away the most coveted free agent tight end this year, former Seahawk John Carlson, to a $25-million, five-year deal with $11 million of it guaranteed. Earlier, the Vikes re-signed backup quarterback Sage Rosenfels.

For their part, the catbird-perched Packers earlier locked up their star tight end, Jermichael Finley, for two more years ($14 million). But they have gigantic holes on defence to fill.

The Bears were still hot to sign more, bigger-name players -- at defensive tackle, at defensive end, and maybe even at running back, as there were reports that impressive running back Michael Bush, formerly of the Raiders, was coming for a visit.

$400-million threshold, here they come.

What's more, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers must still think they're in the Black and Blue division, because they're throwing around cash like Michael Jordan at a roulette wheel.

By Wednesday morning the Bucs already had signed three free-agent stars-- the league's best guard Carl Nicks, wideout Vincent Jackson and cornerback Eric Wright -- to five-year deals.

The combined payout? A cool $141 million, $72.5 million of it guaranteed.

But, hey, times are tough.

 

Free-agent signings and re-signings by NFC North teams, as of Wednesday afternoon, according to teams and reports:

 

DETROIT

WR Calvin Johnson, seven years, $132 million, $60 million guaranteed

 

CHICAGO

(via trade) WR Brandon Marshall, three years, $28.1 million, none guaranteed

KR Eric Weems, three years, guarantee undisclosed

LB Blake Costanzo, two years, guarantee undisclosed

CB Tim Jennings, two years, guarantee undisclosed

QB Jason Campbell, one year, $3.4 million, $2 million guaranteed

QB Josh McCown, one-year, financials undisclosed

 

MINNESOTA

TE John Carlson, five years, $25 million, $11 million guaranteed

QB Sage Rosenfels, one year, financials undisclosed

 

GREEN BAY

TE Jermichael Finley, two years, $14 million, guarantee undisclosed

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

@JohnKryk

blogs.canoe.ca/KrykSlants


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