Around the NFC West: Awaiting Manning

The Arizona Cardinals, aggressive in free agency one year ago, watched from the sideline Tuesday while other teams signed players.

They had fewer perceived needs, for one, but they also needed to know whether Peyton Manning planned to sign with them.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the team will remain in a holding pattern until the Manning situation gains clarity. Their approach to creating room under the salary cap hung in the balance. Somers: "If he picks the Cardinals, the team likely will let Kevin Kolb go, saving itself from paying the bonus [$7 million to Kolb by Friday]. If Manning chooses another team by then, the Cardinals probably will keep Kolb and pay the bonus. If Manning hasn't picked a team by then, the Cardinals have a difficult choice. Do they let Kolb go and gamble that they will get Manning? How confident would they be entering the season with John Skelton and Rich Bartel as the only quarterbacks on the roster? Or, do they keep Kolb and end their pursuit of Manning?" Noted: Kolb would obviously be out if the team signed Manning. But the bonus payment is large enough to raise questions independent of any decision Manning makes. Paying the bonus would be more difficult if the Cardinals werent' sure whether Kolb would be better than backup John Skelton, who is scheduled to earn $490,000 in salary for the 2012 season.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' needs transcend any one position. Also: "I don't think Gregg Williams' status will impact free agency. By now it seems obvious that the NFL will wallop Williams hard with a lengthy suspension. Even with the bounty-system scandal, Williams is popular, and will remain popular, among NFL defensive players that have worked for him. Sure, that could be a selling point. But it's not as if the Rams have a coaching staff of wallflowers out there. Fisher, Dave McGinnis and other assistants, including Chuck Cecil, are live wires. They'll have no problem creating the kind of jacked-up, tough-guy mindset that appeals to defensive players. And if McGinnis takes over as defensive coordinator, let's just remember that he's always been a respected and admired coach in the league. And we'll say it one more time: money tends to buy loyalty."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' were aggressive in landing Cortland Finnegan, but the situation at receiver remained unsettled. He says the Rams were trying to set up a visit with Robert Meachem before the free-agent wideout from New Orleans reached agreement with San Diego.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com looks at recent Rams roster moves.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis updates the Rams' outlook in free agency. Balzer: "The Rams are expecting a visit Thursday from Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill and possibly tackle Eric Winston, who was released Tuesday by the Houston Texans."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' apparent interest in Chad Henne came as a surprise. O'Neil: "Henne, 26, is scheduled to visit Jacksonville before departing for Seattle, where he's expected to arrive Wednesday. Henne had a 13-18 record as the starting quarterback the past three seasons in Miami."

Also from O'Neil: What is David Hawthorne worth to Seattle? O'Neil: "Maybe the Seahawks plan to go young at that position. K.J. Wright -- a fourth-round pick last year -- is the only starting linebacker currently under contract for 2012, and then there's Malcolm Smith, a seventh-round pick who runs well, but has had trouble staying healthy. In two years, we've seen that Seattle is willing to tighten its belt and make changes, but we haven't seen what kind of linebackers the Seahawks want to invest in and keep around. In that regard, Hawthorne's free agency is something worth watching."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers a quick free-agency scorecard for the San Francisco 49ers. Maiocco: "The 49ers' defense appears to be set with the late push Tuesday night to re-sign cornerback Carlos Rogers. ... The only change to the lineup in 2012 is the anticipated promotion of outside linebacker Aldon Smith to take Parys Haralson's starting job at right outside linebacker. General manager Trent Baalke said the 49ers plan for Smith, a pass-rush specialist as a rookie in 2011, to take a full-time role."

Also from Maiocco: various 49ers notes, including one about special-teams ace Blake Costanzo, who signed with Chicago. Maiocco: "The 49ers want their special-teams players to be able to play defense, too, and the personnel department did not consider Costanzo as an option at inside linebacker, if he were needed behind Patrick Willis or NaVorro Bowman."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee runs through the 49ers' first day of free agency. Barrows: "Day One of free agency began and ended without a deal for quarterback Alex Smith, another player the team wants back. For the first time since the 49ers drafted him in 2005, Smith has no formal contract or deal in hand with them, although there is a three-year offer on the table. Team president Jed York on Monday seemed confident the two sides would reach a compromise but said the 'ball's in his court,' an indication the 49ers feel Smith and his representatives are the ones holding up a contract."