- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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Steve Wyche of NFL.com says the Rams could be within a couple tweaks of winning the NFC West. Wyche: "St. Louis hasn't been too involved in signing big-money free-agents, but part of that could have been because the team was for sale. Now that deep-pocketed Stan Kroenke owns the team, he could try to make a few splash moves. With the need to upgrade passing targets, players like wide receiver Sidney Rice and tight end Marcedes Lewis (if they aren't franchised by their respective clubs) could be on the radar (Vincent Jackson could be a target, too, but the Chargers placed a franchise tag on the receiver). St. Louis could also add a wideout, like Alabama's Julio Jones, through the draft. The Rams also have to look hard at getting a play-making, pass-rushing outside linebacker, depth along the offensive line and some help at running back behind Jackson. The Falcons' big-play, but injury-prone, running back Jerious Norwood seems headed for the open market and he could be an inexpensive option for tailback depth and in the kick-return game." The Rams have a head start on the division because they're set at quarterback for years to come. Will the labor situation allow them to make the necessary upgrades around Sam Bradford?
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers Rams-related thoughts via a chat transcript. On quarterback Sam Bradford: "In 2010, Bradford made a base salary of $320,000 (the rookie minimum), and got a roster bonus of $2.88 million in August. He's due a $17.974 bonus sometime before the start of the 2011 season."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are the only team to have used the franchise tag in each of the four previous offseasons. O'Neil: "Whether they will again is an open question with defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and kicker Olindo Mare the most reasonable candidates."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a positional look at the Seahawks' roster. On running backs Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington: "Lynch is signed through 2012, but by achieving some minimal-level playing requirements the final year would void, making his contract over at the end of the 2011 season. Forsett’s rookie deal ends in 2011. I think the Cal products still provide a nice, 1-2 punch for Seattle. Washington is an unrestricted free agent, and the Seahawks likely want him back. But he might find a better fit elsewhere with a team that will use his services more on offense."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says new Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton must bridge some of the communication gaps that seemed problematic on defense last season. Somers: "Maybe those were legitimate explanations for the defensive problems. Or maybe they were excuses given by players who just weren't doing their job. Either way, one of new defensive coordinator Ray Horton's biggest tasks will be not only introducing his philosophy, but also making sure it is taught consistently in every defensive meeting room. If there was a disconnect last year, it was happening in the secondary, judging by the staff changes this off-season."
Also from Somers: Louis Cioffi rounds out the Cardinals' defensive coaching staff.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com passes along comments from 49ers leadership, including coach Jim Harbaugh, as delivered during a fan forum. Maiocco: "What kind of defense does Harbaugh plan on running? Harbaugh said they'll be a multiple 3-4 defense, meaning a lot of different schemes. They'll blitz and play coverage -- all those things will be part of the package, he said. He said it would be similar to the aggressive styles of Green Bay and Pittsburgh. The defense is in good hands with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, Harbaugh said."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Harbaugh offered specific thoughts regarding Frank Gore's role. Harbaugh: "Having studied our team, our personnel and other backs across the league, I really think Frank Gore is one of the best running backs in the National Football League, the most complete back. To talk about his carries, Frank Gore's a guy that doesn't want to come out. He wants to be in there every single down. But I believe you make a great point. And that's, can he have more production by coming off the field at times? And I think (Anthony) Dixon did a tremendous job last year. I think his productivity has grown and will be even more elevated this year. So I think he'll be able to take some of those carries. Now Frank may not want to hear that, but I think your point is a valid one. And that's being fresh, alternating backs at times ... But it won't be the type of thing where we're going to have Frank coming off the field too much because he's one of the best backs in the league in my opinion."
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Harbaugh made more nice comments regarding Alex Smith.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes Harbaugh as saying Smith is "definitely" in the race to start at quarterback in 2011. It's not much of a race at this point. The dynamics will change before training camp.