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Redding remains a Lion Seven-year, $49-million deal makes him richest DT in league

Nicholas J. Cotsonika
Free Press Sports Writer
This is how badly the Lions wanted to keep Cory Redding: Owner William Clay Ford called.  President Matt Millen flew to Houston to have dinner with Redding and his agent.  Coach Rod Marinelli couldn't come because he had hip replacement surgery.  But Marinelli called Redding constantly -- every third day, every other day, whatever it took to recruit him and keep an open line of communication.
Then Monday the Lions gave Redding a contract that, by some measures, makes him the highest-paid defensive tackle in the NFL.  The seven-year deal is worth about $49 million.  It includes about $16 million guaranteed and will pay him about $20 million over the first three years.
"If ever a team were to show how to appreciate a player, this is the blueprint," said Redding's agent, Kennard McGuire.
One view of the deal is that the Lions were aggressive in securing an important player for their future.  Redding plays under tackle, a key position in the Tampa Two defense, and is Marinelli's kind of guy, a relentless competitor.  He moved from end to tackle six games into last season and racked up eight sacks -- enough to leaved that team for the season.
Another view of the deal is that the Lions overpaid for a player who not only has never made the Pro Bowl, he hasn't even played a full season at his position.  Redding, a third-round pick in 2003, had only four sacks in more than three seasons as a defensive end.
"One thing I know and I believe: You can never overpay for the attitude, the effort, the want," Marinelli said.  "He's a talented man.  He's a big, physical man.  He's extremely tough, a hitter. ... A big part of defense is attitude, wanting to be great, being disciplined, doing what you're supposed to do, being smart.  and he fits that mold."
Redding said that he wasn't worried about living up to the contract.
"It's good pressure for me," Redding said.  "I welcome it.  And that's how I play. ... I don't even dwell on everythign that's going on.  I play the game.  That's what it's all about.  So I'm glad we got these numbers and all this stuff out of the way so I can focus on football and do what I love to do and my passion is about."
Redding was frustrated at the end of the 2006 season.  The Lions were losing again, and while Marinelli was saying he had to have him back, management wasn't meeting his demands.  Redding said there was "a little hiccup" about who was doing the negotiations.  Asked if Redding ever expressed a desire to leave Detroit as a free agent, Marinelli said: "I think initially when we first started talking that was in his mind."
The Lions tagged Redding as their franchise player Feb. 21, essentially keeping him off the free-agent market.  They had to offer a one-year deal for $6.775 million  -- the average salary of the five highest-paid defensive tackles last season -- but got the right to match any offer he received or let him go for two first round picks.  Marinelli kept recruiting him, and assistant general manager Martin Mayhew took the lead on negotiations.
Redding said things went smoothly with Mayhew.  Still, the deal didn't get done until shortly before Monday's 4 p.m. deadline to sign franchise players to long-term deals.
Marinelli "told me from the beginning, 'I'm going to stay on top of this until it's done,' " Redding said.  "And I held him to that word.  And I told him, 'You hold up your end of the bargain, and i'll come in camp under my weight and I will tell you right now that I'm dedicating my time my effort and everything.' rod Marinelli knows he'll get it out of me 100%."
Redding didn't participate in the off-season program but said he would be ready to report to training camp July 25.  He studied his playbook while taking classes at the University of Texas.  He worked out with the Longhorns and is uner this target weight of 295 pounds.  And defensive line coach Joe Cullen event flew down to give him a two-hour tutorial.
"It's been a long seven month, fellas, and I'mgetting that itch to hit somebody," Redding said.  "I can't wait to get back."