NFC West: 2014 NFL owners meetings

The past week saw the St. Louis Rams finally dip their toes into the free-agent pool, signing a pair of veterans in defensive tackle Alex Carrington and quarterback Shaun Hill and taking a flyer on under-the-radar youngsters in cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

It was also a busy week for coach Jeff Fisher, who spent most of the time discussing potential rule changes and alterations at the owners meetings in Orlando. Fisher also spent some time chatting with reporters in Orlando, offering some thoughts on a variety of issues.

A look back at the week that was:

  • [+] EnlargeTavon Austin
    Tony Avelar/AP PhotoThe Rams are hoping to get more out of receiver Tavon Austin in his second season.
    After trading up to the eighth pick in the NFL draft last year, the Rams selected receiver/returner Tavon Austin in hopes that he'd provide a spark to an offense in desperate need of one. In his rookie year, Austin certainly flashed that game-changing ability, especially against Indianapolis and Chicago, but missed time at the end of the year with an ankle injury and fell short of the many lofty outside expectations for him.
But the Rams have no concerns about that. In Orlando, Fisher expressed confidence Austin would take the next step in 2014 and the team would have a better idea of ways to best use him.

“We’re not disappointed in what his production was last year at all," Fisher said. "One of the things that was misleading was he had two or three returns called back -- one against Dallas --and then he got hurt. I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you’ll see more production. I think we’ll do a better job of using him now that we know what he’s capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from year one to year two.’’

  • Signing Carrington was no surprise in that the Rams were looking for help on the defensive line. It was a little more of a surprise that he was the team's first free-agent addition from another team. St. Louis saw great value in Carrington, who has the ability to play all over the line and signed a relatively cheap one-year deal.
“We just wanted rotational depth at the tackle spot," Fisher said. "We’ve had over 100 sacks the last two years, so we can rush the passer, I think we can continue (that). We just wanted some more experience at that spot. It will take a little of the draft pressure off us at some point. Alex has been injured, healthy now and has played a lot of different positions in a number of schemes in the last couple years and hasn’t been able to settle down. We liked him coming out, we thought he would be a disruptive type pass rusher and run defender and we’d like to give him a chance to do that.’’

Carrington is coming off a torn quad but the Rams have no concerns about his health moving forward.

  • It's no secret the Rams have interest in help on the offensive line as many have linked them to the top three tackles: Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. The first two are expected to go in the top six or so but Lewan's status is a little more of a question mark given some off-field issues.
Fisher didn't want to speculate on how that might change the way the team views Lewan but said it will require a deeper look.

“It doesn’t cause you pause in evaluating, but it certainly going to cause to do more background and research on it,’’ Fisher said.

  • Finally, anytime a player like receiver DeSean Jackson comes available, the obvious question is whether the Rams would have interest in him. Clearly, the Rams could use a No. 1 type of receiver and a proven one like Jackson might make even more sense than taking a chance on even the most talented receiver in the draft.
Jackson is scheduled to visit Washington first and Oakland and Buffalo have also expressed interest. Indications from the Rams are that they won't be involved in this particular conversation in any sort of serious way. While the Rams could use the help, they don't have a lot of salary cap space to use on a player who would probably require another big cap number. Theoretically they could give him a smaller number in the first year but that would require them to backload the deal more than they'd like and eat up valuable space that could be used on extensions for current players in the next few years.

There's also the idea that Jackson would be a bit redundant with Austin, which is to say they are both smaller receivers with games built on speed and change of direction. Not that both players couldn't succeed but it still may not be the best fit.

Beyond all of that, there's the larger X-factor of why, exactly, Philadelphia released such a productive player under contract in the prime of his career. One way or another, the Eagles had their reasons and, like Fisher mentioned with Lewan, there will need to be some major legwork done by any team looking to add Jackson.
The past week saw the St. Louis Rams finally dip their toes into the free-agent pool, signing a pair of veterans in defensive tackle Alex Carrington and quarterback Shaun Hill and taking a flyer on under-the-radar youngsters in cornerback Greg Reid and linebacker Etienne Sabino.

It was also a busy week for coach Jeff Fisher, who spent most of the time discussing potential rule changes and alterations at the owners meetings in Orlando, Fla. Fisher also spent some time chatting with reporters, offering some thoughts on a variety of issues.

A look back at the week that was:

  • [+] EnlargeTavon Austin
    Tony Avelar/AP PhotoThe Rams are hoping to get more out of receiver Tavon Austin in his second season.
    After trading up to the eighth pick in the NFL draft last year, the Rams selected receiver/returner Tavon Austin in hopes that he'd provide a spark to an offense in desperate need of one. In his rookie year, Austin certainly flashed that game-changing ability, especially against Indianapolis and Chicago, but missed time at the end of the year with an ankle injury and fell short of the many lofty outside expectations for him.
But the Rams have no concerns about that. In Orlando, Fisher expressed confidence Austin would take the next step in 2014 and the team would have a better idea of ways to best use him.

“We’re not disappointed in what his production was last year at all," Fisher said. "One of the things that was misleading was he had two or three returns called back -- one against Dallas --and then he got hurt. I think another year in the program, in the offense, OTAs, training camp, you’ll see more production. I think we’ll do a better job of using him now that we know what he’s capable of doing. Kind of looking forward to see him improve from year one to year two."

  • Signing Carrington was no surprise in that the Rams were looking for help on the defensive line. It was a little more of a surprise that he was the team's first free-agent addition from another team. St. Louis saw great value in Carrington, who has the ability to play all over the line and signed a relatively cheap one-year deal.
“We just wanted rotational depth at the tackle spot," Fisher said. "We’ve had over 100 sacks the last two years, so we can rush the passer, I think we can continue [that]. We just wanted some more experience at that spot. It will take a little of the draft pressure off us at some point. Alex has been injured, healthy now and has played a lot of different positions in a number of schemes in the last couple years and hasn’t been able to settle down. We liked him coming out, we thought he would be a disruptive type pass rusher and run defender and we’d like to give him a chance to do that."

Carrington is coming off a torn quad but the Rams have no concerns about his health moving forward.

  • It's no secret the Rams have interest in help on the offensive line as many have linked them to the top three tackles: Auburn's Greg Robinson, Texas A&M's Jake Matthews and Michigan's Taylor Lewan. The first two are expected to go in the top six or so but Lewan's status is a little more of a question mark given some off-field issues.
Fisher didn't want to speculate on how that might change the way the team views Lewan but said it will require a deeper look.

“It doesn’t cause you pause in evaluating, but it certainly going to cause to do more background and research on it," Fisher said.

  • Finally, anytime a player like receiver DeSean Jackson comes available, the obvious question is whether the Rams would have interest in him. Clearly, the Rams could use a No. 1 type of receiver and a proven one like Jackson might make even more sense than taking a chance on even the most talented receiver in the draft.
Jackson is scheduled to visit Washington first and Oakland and Buffalo have also expressed interest. Indications from the Rams are that they won't be involved in this particular conversation in any sort of serious way. While the Rams could use the help, they don't have a lot of salary cap space to use on a player who would probably require another big cap number. Theoretically they could give him a smaller number in the first year but that would require them to backload the deal more than they'd like and eat up valuable space that could be used on extensions for current players in the next few years.

There's also the idea that Jackson would be a bit redundant with Austin, which is to say they are both smaller receivers with games built on speed and change of direction. Not that both players couldn't succeed but it still may not be the best fit.

Beyond all of that, there's the larger X factor of why, exactly, Philadelphia released such a productive player under contract in the prime of his career. One way or another, the Eagles had their reasons and, like Fisher mentioned with Lewan, there will need to be some major legwork done by any team looking to add Jackson.
In an Insider piece, ESPN analyst Louis Riddick looks at whether the San Francisco will and should extend the deal of quarterback Colin Kaepernick this offseason or wait until after his contract expires after 2014 season.

Jones
Kaepernick
Riddick makes some interesting points. But by hearing the words of the 49ers’ brass this week at the NFL owners meetings, the decision has been made.

The 49ers want to secure Kaepernick as soon a possible. In fact, on Tuesday, San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said the team hopes to get a deal done for Kaepernick by the time training camp starts in late July.

It was significant because it was the first time the team put a timeline on the negotiations and it signified the team has seen enough -- they want him for the long term. Coach Jim Harbaugh and CEO Jed York echoed Baalke’s thoughts this week.

This is what Harbaugh said Wednesday morning, via ESPN Jacksonville Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco: “I think we all know what Colin’s earning potential is. We all pretty much know what the numbers are … We all look at it that way. He deserves that. That’s what he deserves. That’s what the market pays for that job. Nobody attacks it more than he does. Nobody wants to be great like he does.”

That means the 49ers are preparing to pay Kaepernick a long-term deal that will likely average, at least, $18 million a year. It is a load of money, but Kaepernick is going into this season set to make just above $1 million. The kid is 21-18 as a starter and he has been to two NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl in less than two seasons as a starter.

Quarterbacks get paid. Kaepernick is an upper level quarterback and he deserves to be paid like it. It looks like it’s going to happen sooner rather than later.

'NaVorro Bowman Rule' passes

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
12:10
PM ET
The "NaVorro Bowman Rule" has passed.

NFL owners passed a new rule that will expand replays to include the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play. The previous rule was that such plays were not reviewable to keep officials from reviewing routine post-fumble scrums. This sort of play was a crucial one in the 49ers NFC Championship game loss at Seattle in January. Bowman appeared to have stripped the ball during the play at the goal line in the fourth quarter at Seattle.

The play was not reviewed and Bowman tore his ACL on the play. San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh called the lack of a review on the play a "loophole." Yes, the 49ers voted to pass the rule.

As for Bowman’s recovery, Harbaugh offered reporters in Orlando an update.

“(49ers’ general manger Baalke) Trent talked to him last Wednesday and he’s doing really good, according to Trent. Also talked to Drew Rosenhaus (Bowman’s agent) just the other day here and apparently NaVorro is doing really well, which is no surprise because he’s such a tremendous athlete you just knew if anybody would be doing really well at this point it’d be him.”

In February, Harbaugh said the 49ers are prepared for Bowman to be out for up to half of the 2014 season.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is in favor of a couple of the proposed rule changes for 2014, but not in favor moving the kickoffs to the 40-yard line.

“If they move it to the 40, they won’t have any [returns],’’ Carroll said Monday on Sirius Radio at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando. “I don’t think that’s what the league wants. And we want to have a chance to return some with Percy [Harvin] back there.”

Harvin returned the second-half kickoff for a touchdown in the 43-8 Super-Bowl victory over Denver. He also had a 58-yard return against Minnesota in last November.

Carroll is in favor of allowing teams to suit out 49 players for each game instead of 46, but he wants to take it a step further.

“Why don’t we have all 53 guys [suited out]? Carroll asked. “They’re all getting paid. I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t. Why not let them all play?”

Carroll also is in favor of adding to the list of plays a coach can challenge in a game. New England coach Bill Belichick wants to be able to challenge everything except scoring plays, which already are reviewed.

“We could revisit some of those,’’ Carroll said. “You won’t have any more challenges, so it won’t change the rhythm of the game.”

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