Thursday, March 15, 2012
Around the NFC West: QBs step to front
By Mike Sando
NFC West subtractions trumped additions on the second day of NFL free agency.
Robert Gallery's release from the Seattle Seahawks and Richard Marshall's departure from the Arizona Cardinals were the big stories. Quarterbacks should come into focus soon. Peyton Manning's long-awaited decision, Kevin Kolb's scheduled bonus, Matt Flynn's visit to Seattle, and Alex Smith's as-yet-unsigned contract come to mind.
One lingering question is whether the St. Louis Rams can find an impact wide receiver in free agency or by trade.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has the latest: "They were involved with Robert Meachem, and as surprised as anyone when he ended up signing with San Diego and not Buffalo. They were in on the Pierre Garcon sweepstakes, but bowed out when the price topped $8 million a year. Garcon ended up with Washington in a five-year deal that averaged $8.5 million a year. They also were in the mix with Josh Morgan (who signed with Washington), and apparently Harry Douglas (who re-signed with Atlanta) as well. By Wednesday evening, the shelves were basically picked clean with Brandon Lloyd, Mario Manningham, Eddie Royal and a couple of older wideouts (such as Deion Branch) the only notable remaining wide receivers." Noted: Using the franchise tag for Lloyd would have set his value at around $9.5 million, higher than the annual average the team declined to pay Garcon.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a deeper look at the wideout situation. Miklasz: "The Rams have pretty much neglected the position since Holt and Bruce began to fade. ... The new regime at Rams Park shouldn't be blamed for the mistakes made in the past. Fisher and GM Les Snead have to be given time to set a course, and the trade with Washington was a great start. The Finnegan signing made perfect sense. But if the organization remains ambivalent over the WR position, it wouldn't make sense, given the $50 million in guaranteed money the Rams have invested in Bradford. At some point, you have to get him a couple of wide receivers that can consistently outrun defenders, get open, and catch the ball. An impact player."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sets modest expectations for Flynn's visit Thursday. O'Neil: "He's still a largely inexperienced quarterback, and there's a very real question of just how much the Seahawks will offer a quarterback with two career starts. Is Seattle convinced enough of Flynn's potential to offer a deal that is significantly more than the two-year, $8 million contract that Seattle has used as its baseline for a quarterback it sees as a potential starter down the road? ... A year ago, Seattle wasn't willing to make the kind of financial commitment that Kevin Kolb got from Arizona or part with the draft picks it would have taken to acquire him, and Kolb had more experience than Flynn."
Steve Wyche of NFL.com expects Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe to visit the Seahawks after Seattle lost tight end John Carlson to the Vikings. Noted: Shiancoe's former offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, has the same job in Seattle now. The fit could be right.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic has this to say about the Cardinals' deal with 49ers offensive lineman Adam Snyder: "The Cardinals talked to Snyder about playing right guard, but his position will be determined later. ... The 6-foot-6-inch, 325-pound Snyder was drafted in the third round by the 49ers in 2005. He played in 107 games, started 69, including at both tackle positions and both guard positions. Snyder, 30, played a few snaps at center this season."
Also from Somers: Arizona will miss Marshall. Somers: "Marshall would have competed with Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson and perhaps others for a starting job. He would have been an integral part of passing packages, either as a nickel corner or safety. His ability to play safety in the absence of Kerry Rhodes was a key factor in the Cardinals' success over the second half of the season. For that, coordinator Ray Horton called Marshall his most valuable player."
Clark Judge of CBSSports.com says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has shown no fear this offseason by signing Randy Moss and Perrish Cox. Judge: "Both are talented, and both have histories that back off teams that could be ... should be ... interested, which means both have warnings attached. But that's where Harbaugh comes in. He's as confident as he is competent, never shrinking from a test as a player or coach. So he takes over a Stanford program when people said it was destined for mediocrity ... and he takes it to the Top 10. And he takes over the 49ers when Miami seemed a better -- and more lucrative -- option, and takes them to the NFC Championship Game. Harbaugh knows what he wants, and what he wants now is someone, anyone, to help a group of wide receivers who combined for one catch and 3 yards in the conference title contest. So he takes on Moss when critics say it won't work, and asks why not."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle looks at contract lengths for the 49ers' defensive starters. Branch: "It’s not hard to see them keeping one of the league’s most dominant defenses intact again in 2013. Of this season’s 11 projected starters, nine are under contract for the next two seasons. The exceptions: nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga and franchise-tagged safety Dashon Goldson, who has until July 16 to work out a long-term deal."