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Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Around the NFC West: Cards face scrutiny

By Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals face many key decision in the offseason -- decisions that could redefine perceptions or possibly reinforce old ones. Somers: "Ownership and management have received considerable credit for the Cardinals' improvement the past two years. And justifiably so. Key players, such as strong safety Adrian Wilson and Kurt Warner have been re-signed, although not always on a timetable preferred by players and fans. Just as players and coaches are graded each weekend in the fall, ownership and management are tested throughout the spring and summer. How the Cardinals fare on that exam this off-season will have long-term ramifications."

Darren Urban of says the team released linebacker Ali Highsmith to address depth at safety following Matt Ware's injury.

Also from Urban: Cardinals punter Ben Graham surged into first place in fan voting for the Pro Bowl.

More from Urban: The Cardinals have generally avoided serious injuries this season, although the knee injury Larry Fitzgerald suffered against the 49ers initially appeared serious.

Jim Moore of says the Seahawks could come out ahead from letting Mike Holmgren pursue a front-office job with the Browns. Moore: "On a personal level, I love Holmgren. As a coach, he's a lock for the Hall of Fame. As a general manager, he's done nothing that makes him the overwhelming choice to run anyone's team, even Cleveland's. But the Browns threw a ton of money at him thinking that he'll get the job done, and he might. It's also reasonable to think that he might not. I get the love affair with Holmgren the coach, but not the one with Holmgren the GM. However it came down, I'm thrilled that the Seahawks let him go or did not hire him, whatever your take is on that. If they low-balled him or didn't offer him enough authority, that's fine by me -- it's time to look for a new leader elsewhere, preferably a younger guy we've never heard of with a fresh set of eyes."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks need Matt Hasselbeck to bounce back from a poor performance.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks could be looking for a general manager to fit the following criteria: "a hands-on manager who would report directly to CEO Tod Leiweke, has a strong background in talent evaluation, and would be a good fit with current head coach Jim Mora."

John Morgan of Field Gulls evaluates the draft choices the Ravens have made while potential Seahawks GM candidate Eric DeCosta has worked for them. Morgan: "What excites me most about DeCosta is not his drafting record, but the prolific picks he secures. Few teams enter draft day so consistently stocked with picks throughout the draft, and unlike other GMs that will burn those picks to move up and select their guy, DeCosta stands pat and picks many players. He has benefited immensely from trawling the draft and seeing what value shakes out. His high profile and history of finding offensive line talent should make him a favorite for the Seattle position."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams tentatively see Ndamukong Suh as the best player in the 2010 draft. Thomas: "There are plenty of reasons Suh would make sense for St. Louis. For one, the Rams have a defense-oriented coach in Steve Spagnuolo, who made his reputation with deep, talented defensive lines as defensive coordinator of the New York Giants. For another, defensive tackle is a big area of need. Realistically, the Rams have one bona fide starter in Clifton Ryan and a rookie with some potential in Darell Scott. Former first-round pick Adam Carriker is on the injured reserve list, and the Rams have no way of knowing right now whether he'll be a factor in 2010 and beyond."

Jeff Gordon of says Keith Null has earned a roster spot, but not much more, with the Rams in 2010.

Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' Joe Nedney is hurting from a hamstring injury suffered on a third-quarter kickoff against the Eagles. Meanwhile, cornerback Nate Clements could return for Week 17.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers a chat transcript emphasizing how much the 49ers value continuity. Barrows: "I think there's a definite "change-fatigue" in the organization. That is, the 49ers have had so much turnover in recent years that they yearn for continuity even if they might not be continuing with the best people."

Taylor Price of offers a heads up regarding NFL Network's plans to re-air the original January 1982 broadcast of the Cowboys-49ers game featuring Dwight Clark's famous catch from Joe Montana. Price: "The 49ers won Super Bowl XVI two weeks later. It was the first of San Francisco’s four Super Bowl titles in the 1980s. This NFL Classic Games telecast features the complete CBS broadcast with announcers Vin Scully and Hank Stram calling the action along with all of the network’s original graphics."