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Thursday, July 21, 2011
Around the NFC West: Cards ready to deal

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and says no Cardinals player is off-limits for trade when it comes to landing a new quarterback. Somers: "The possibility of swapping Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for Kevin Kolb, however, is more than just the work of minds idled by the lockout. Those discussions will take place whenever the teams are able to discuss the trade, according to NFL sources. Mike Jurecki of KGME-AM (910) reported earlier this week that the Cardinals would offer Rodgers-Cromartie as part of a deal to acquire Kolb. The deal makes sense for both teams." I haven't seen a quote from Whisenhunt specifically saying no players were off-limits, but his comments provided here do nothing to discourage the notion that Arizona would in fact part with Rodgers-Cromartie in a deal for Kolb.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com passes along quotes from Jurecki's recent interview with Cardinals receiver Steve Breaston, who says he's recovered from a knee injury that bothered him last season. Urban: "Breaston said the knee that hampered him all season is fine now, but he also didn’t want to talk about it much, saying it meant nothing for him to say he was OK -- only that he needed to prove it on the field. Of course, he’ll have to sign somewhere before he can really show that. He’s been working out with teammates like Adrian Wilson and said he is stronger in his legs, and admitted last year was inconsistent, in part because of the knee. He didn’t have any further surgery, but the rest made a big difference."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' coordinators face challenges this season. Ray Horton: "I like the phrase ‘Water finds the path of least resistance.' I’ll learn on the fly that this guy doesn’t like to be yelled at, this other guy likes to be pushed. I’ve got to be real fluid, real understanding. I have to be on my toes, don’t oversaturate these guys with too much information and that’s a fine line. Mentally I think I am ready. I already know what I don’t want to do. If we miss however many days of training camp, I already know what I’m not going to do. That’s the best thing. Now, I don’t know what we can do, but … we’re going to be fine."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects the Rams to have between $12 million and $15 million in salary-cap space once the lockout ends and the cap is set between $120 million and $130 million. That number is lower than the one published on ESPN.com this week. Recent high draft choices Sam Bradford, Chris Long and Jason Smith could carry larger cap numbers thanks to escalator clauses that will hit the books when the league year finally does begin. Salaries for restricted free agents also must be taken into account. Thomas: "So at first glance, it appears there won't be much money to sign outside free agents. But that's not exactly the case. Assuming the old cap rules are in place, only the 51 highest-paid players on the roster count against the cap during training camp and the preseason. With exactly 51 players on the roster at the moment, that means for every player the Rams sign once the lockout lifts and the new labor deal is in place, they'll get to subtract a contract from their 'top 51' cap count."

Also from Thomas: a big-picture look at the Rams. Thomas: "Despite the informal offseason work done by Sam Bradford and the receivers during the lockout, it wasn't the same as being out on the practice field during OTAs and minicamp with the coaching staff and the full squad. So the biggest question of camp is how quickly the Rams can assimilate Josh McDaniels' system? Will McDaniels have to tone it done and simplify it some because of the lockout? Or can a still-young receiver corps get it down, and get it down quickly?"

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times, writing for Sporting News, says a return to the playoffs might be a stretch for the Seahawks this season. O'Neil: "The Seahawks won’t repeat their numerous roster moves of a year ago, but this roster is hardly settled, either. The Seahawks were barely good enough to win the worst division in the NFL and likely won’t see a return to the playoffs, especially given the uncertainty at quarterback. Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are rebuilding this franchise through the draft, and that takes time. A winning record will be asking a lot this season, maybe too much in a division that will be much improved if only because it’s hard to imagine the NFC West getting any worse."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com looks back at the 2009 season, the one and only for Jim Mora as head coach of the team. Farnsworth: "T.J. Houshmandzadeh, the team’s big free-agent addition during the offseason, led the club with 79 receptions. But he averaged only 11.5 yards on those catches and scored three touchdowns. Matt Hasselbeck passed for 3,000 yards, for the sixth time in eight seasons. But he had only 17 touchdown passes and, worst yet, threw a career-high 17 interceptions. Julius Jones led the team in rushing for the second consecutive season. But he had only 663 yards and averaged 3.7 yards a carry. Second-year tight end John Carlson led the team with seven touchdown catches. But he had fewer receptions (51) and receiving yards (574) than he did as a rookie (55 for 627)."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com takes a look at the 49ers' salary situation for 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers will re-sign quarterback Alex Smith to a new contract once the new CBA is ratified by the players and owners, and the lockout officially ends. The club will also pursue agreements with many of their other pending free agents, including center David Baas, safety Dashon Goldson, defensive end Ray McDonald and inside linebacker Takeo Spikes."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with NFL Films' Greg Cosell for thoughts on free-agent cornerbacks in relation to the 49ers, offering this regarding Nnamdi Asomugha: "Cosell says that Asomugha is clearly the best press/man-to-man cornerback available. He didn't doubt whether Asomugha was capable of playing zone defenses but noted that he simply has not done that in his career. He also questioned whether Asomugha had the build to be a factor in run support. That is, Cosell wondered whether teams that involved their cornerbacks in the running game -- like the 49ers have in previous years -- would value Asomugha as highly as other teams." Asomugha is 6-foot-2 and 208 pounds. Dunta Robinson, the cornerback Houston drafted in the first round when new 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was on staff, goes 5-9 and 182. Size isn't the only key variable in determining how a cornerback plays, particularly against the run. But if improving their coverage in the secondary is the goal, Asomugha would obviously help.

Mike Rosenberg and Howard Mintz of the San Jose Mercury News assess to what degree a new NFL labor deal could help the 49ers get a new stadium built. Rosenberg and Mintz: "In the ongoing drama of whether the Santa Clara stadium actually will receive enough funding to get built -- at least in time for the 2015 football season -- the league's contribution may be the most important factor. The 49ers front office has never said how much money it expects to get from the league but has remained adamant that it needs at least some help to get the project going. Around the country, the last 13 teams to build new stadiums have done so with league funds, according to a study by Vanderbilt sports economics professor John Vrooman. On average, the NFL has funded 14 percent of the cost to build those stadiums. If that rate holds steady, the 49ers could expect to get $125 million to $140 million from the NFL for its Santa Clara stadium. In the past, NFL loans have been capped at $150 million per team in big markets and were dependent on team owners chipping in at least twice as much of their own cash, usually by selling the rights to premium seats."