The Detroit Lions were one of the more active teams Friday, striking the first deal of free agency by agreeing to a four-year, $25 million contract with wide receiver Nate Burleson. They also set their sights on defense, agreeing to a four-year, $26 million deal with end Kyle Vanden Bosch and acquiring tackle Corey Williams in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz, Vanden Bosch’s former defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans, visited the two-time Pro Bowl lineman shortly after the free-agency period began at midnight ET. Schwartz traveled to Vanden Bosch’s Nashville-area home for the meeting.
“It was a strange deal,” Vanden Bosch said on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday morning. “I was talking back and forth with my agent all day, trying to figure out what to expect. So I was waiting, waiting, waiting. Then 11 o’clock (midnight ET) came and my phone rang and it was Coach Schwartz, who said, ‘I’m down at your gate, I want to come talk to you.’ Coach Schwartz, my wife and I were up until about 2:30 just talking.”
A league source told NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora that Vanden Bosch will be paid $10 million in the first year of the contract.
Williams cost the Lions a fifth-round pick in April’s draft, but they also received a seventh-round choice from the Browns. Williams made 18 starts in two years for Cleveland, but he wasn’t happy in coach Eric Mangini’s 3-4 defense last season.
“I never felt comfortable at end — I like it a lot more inside,” Williams said. “Everything happens a lot quicker at tackle — it is less about thinking and more about reacting.”
Lions general manager Martin Mayhew praised the addition of Williams, who said he hopes quarterback Brett Favre stays with the Minnesota Vikings for at least one more season. Williams and Favre played together with the Green Bay Packers from 2004 to 2007.
“I’ve never had a chance to sack Brett,” Williams said. “He’s a great quarterback, and I’ve always wanted a shot at him.”
The Lions hope Vanden Bosch and Williams can fortify what was a woeful defense last season. The team ranked last in the NFL in average points allowed (30.9), total yards allowed (392.1) and passing yards allowed (265.6), and it was 25th in rushing yards allowed (126.6).
Burleson drew significant interest from many teams, and the Seattle Seahawks wanted to keep him. However, Burleson accepted a Lions deal that includes $11 million guaranteed, a league source told NFL.com’s Steve Wyche.
The Lions wouldn’t comment about any Burleson deal, and the receiver’s agent, Ken Sarnoff, didn’t return a message left by The Associated Press.
Burleson played in 13 games for the Seahawks last season, finishing with 63 catches for 812 yards and three touchdowns. He has 263 receptions for 3,547 yards and 27 touchdowns in his seven-year career with Minnesota and Seattle.
The Lions also released veterans Phillip Buchanon and Grady Jackson, who were signed before last season.
Jackson, a defensive tackle, became expendable when the Lions acquired Williams, and the team is expected to take either Oklahoma’s Gerald McCoy or Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh with the second overall pick in the April draft.
Buchanon failed to hold a starting job last season, and his departure, along with that of Will James and Anthony Henry, means the Lions don’t have any starting cornerbacks on their roster.