NFC Notes: Bears, Lions, Seahawks, Saints

The Bears and receiver Alshon Jeffery didn’t agree to a multiyear contract by the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players, meaning they won’t be able to negotiate a new deal until the end of the season. Despite a report that the Bears aren’t keen on giving big money to Jeffery, general manager Ryan Pace is “optimistic” the two sides will eventually work something out (via Kevin Patra of Jeffery will first have to stay healthy in 2016, though, Pace said. Jeffery accomplished that from 2013-14, appearing in all 32 of the Bears’ games, but he missed six as a rookie and seven last year.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • The four-year, $50.2MM contract extension the Lions and cornerback Darius Slay agreed to Friday is a win for both sides, opines Kyle Meinke of In the 25-year-old Slay, the Lions finally have a shutdown corner, one who has rapidly improved since his rookie season – 2013 – thanks in part to his strong desire to get better, Meinke writes. Further, the Lions didn’t break the bank on Slay, whom Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked as the league’s second-best corner last season. For Slay, the deal provides financial security and pays him like a top seven corner, which is exactly the type of money he was seeking before signing the contract.
  • The Seahawks remain on the lookout for quarterback help, GM John Schneider revealed Friday (per Curtis Crabtree of Pro Football Talk). “Yep, absolutely. And we do that with every position. We’ll have one, two, three guys like on standby.” Schneider also talked up undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin, the current favorite to serve as the No. 2 behind Russell Wilson. “Great athlete, tons of arm strength,” said Schneider, who believes Boykin would’ve been a third- to fifth-round pick if not for off-the-field trouble last season at TCU. Along with Boykin, Seattle has Jake Heaps, an undrafted free agent in 2015. Boykin and Heaps make up a less-than-ideal tandem from at least an experience standpoint, which would explain why the club tried to land Connor Shaw via waivers earlier this month. The top free agent signal-caller available is the recently released Nick Foles, though reports haven’t connected the Seahawks to him.
  • Between auditioning for the Saints in May and signing with them Wednesday, receiver Hakeem Nicks stayed on the team’s radar by texting head coach Sean Payton on a weekly basis, the 28-year-old said Friday (via Josh Katzenstein of Some of those texts included workout videos, according to Nicks, which apparently paid off for the former Giant, Colt and Titan. “We were real familiar with him just because on two different occasions we had him in for workouts. Plus, he wouldn’t stop texting me,” commented Payton, who added that Hicks’ personality “could be infectious and help the room.”
  • The Falcons’ offseason signing of center Alex Mack is their biggest pickup since the drafting of receiver Julio Jones in 2011, contends Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Mack could singlehandedly turn the Falcons’ offensive line from a weakness to a strength, writes Schultz, who notes that Atlanta has struggled since it jettisoned now-retired center Todd McClure after the 2012 season. In regards to joining the Matt Ryan-led Falcons, Mack told Schultz, “It was enticing to come here knowing they had a quarterback.” The 30-year-old spent the first seven seasons of his career with the bottom-feeding Browns, whose quarterback play was consistently woeful. Mack held his own, though, making three Pro Bowl trips before securing a five-year, $47.5MM contract with the Falcons in free agency.
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