Around the NFC West: Rams' hard choices

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' relatively tight salary-cap situation could lead them to release higher-priced players such as Torry Holt and Orlando Pace. The Rams would save $6.65 million in salary and $1.25 million in roster bonus by parting with Holt, whose cap number exceeds $10.2 million if he stays on the roster. Thomas: "So in essence, the Rams would double their cap room -- from $14 million to $28 million -- by dispatching Pace and Holt. These would not be easy decisions. ... But with the arrival of [coach Steve] Spagnuolo, the franchise is two coaching tenures removed from the 'glory days' of Rams football. Will the wave of change sweeping over Rams Park extend to Pace and Holt -- a pair of Hall of Fame candidates?"

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers will want to resolve Alex Smith's contract situation by the start of free agency. He also thinks the Seahawks' Leonard Weaver could help the 49ers' offense even though he isn't a prototypical blocking fullback. Weaver is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent. Barrows: "Weaver definitely is talented. But he may not be the sledge hammer-style blocker Raye is looking for. That being said, Weaver is a good runner and a very good receiver out of the backfield. If the 49ers are looking for a big back to compliment Frank Gore, why not Weaver in that role?"

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals linebackers coach Bill Davis would be the leading in-house candidate to replace Clancy Pendergast as defensive coordinator. Secondary coach Teryl Austin also might get a look. Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler could emerge as a leading candidate if Pittsburgh gave the Cardinals permission to speak with him. The Steelers denied permission on Butler when Ken Whisenhunt became the Cardinals' head coach before the 2007 season.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks Kurt Warner wants to play in 2009, particularly if the Cardinals can maintain offensive continuity following Todd Haley's departure. Urban thinks Warner wants Anquan Boldin to return as well.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at NFL teams' preference for younger head coaches, noting that the Seahawks are saving money with Jim Mora as head coach instead of Mike Holmgren. Boling: "I haven't read if Raheem Morris and Josh McDaniels -- two of the NFL's newest head coaches -- are friends or not. But I suspect they keep up with each other on their Facebook pages. Or maybe they skateboard around some of the same mall parking lots during the offseason."

The Associated Press looks at Gus Bradley's quick rise from North Dakota State assistant to Seahawks defensive coordinator.