NFC West: Aldon Branch

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers will not be "major players" in free agency following the lockout, according to general manager Trent Baalke. Baalke: "Just because somebody goes out, makes a lot of acquisitions, doesn't mean all those acquisitions are going to pan out the way the media thinks they're going to pan out." The media has indeed played up some free-agent signings -- think Albert Haynesworth -- but NFL teams are the ones that have made the mistakes. Not so much lately, however. The 49ers and other teams have done a better job re-signing their own players and showing restraint in free agency. There simply haven't been many excellent players available. This offseason could be different. The pool of available players will likely be larger.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers rookie Aldon Branch isn't worried about a rookie wage scale.

Bob Padecky of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers hope Joe Montana's name can help them get a stadium built.

Also from Padecky: Count former 49ers lineman Bob St. Clair among retired players upset with labor negotiations. He wants more protections for former players. St. Clair: "I am really lucky, luckier than most of the guys. The helmets when I played didn’t provide any protection at all. Concussions? We’d get concussions every game. I know I am having trouble with my memory. But I go to golf tournaments and I see guys I played with and against in wheelchairs, unable to walk. Dementia, crippled bodies, there’s no question it’s caused by the sport. No question."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects Chilo Rachal to face competition for the starting job at right guard. Maiocco: "Assuming center David Baas re-signs, Rachal is the 2010 starter whose position for the upcoming season is the most tenuous. Adam Snyder, the backup at right guard a year ago, helped Joe Staley organize all the work for the offensive linemen during the player-led workouts. Snyder knows the terminology and line calls as well as anyone right now."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says talk of high salary floor as part of a new collective bargaining agreement could affect how the 49ers spend money. Could the team have an easier time paying more to nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, for instance? Barrows: "Why not spend it on players you know and trust and who allow your best defensive player, Patrick Willis, to make plays? One of the issues is Willis, who signed a contract extension last year. Would re-signing Franklin mean that Franklin is making more than Willis? And if so, would that cause problems? (My guess is that Willis would have no problem with that as long as the difference is within reason. But money issues inside the locker room can be tricky)."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits the team's final season under coach Mike Holmgren. Farnsworth: "By the time the season ended, 26 players had missed a combined 163 games -- and the 14-player injured reserve list included Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, Pro Bowl defensive end Patrick Kerney, wide receivers Nate Burleson and Ben Obomanu and starting offensive linemen Chris Gray, Chris Spencer, Rob Sims, Mike Wahle and Sean Locklear. Matt Hasselbeck missed nine games, wide receiver Deion Branch eight and linebacker Leroy Hill four. So a better question might be: How did the Seahawks manage to win four games?"

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune looks at the Seahawks' struggles in pass coverage last season. Williams: "Pete Carroll wants to play more press coverage because it takes away the quick, rhythm passing game and forces the offense to make tougher throws down the field and outside the numbers. It’s one of the reasons Seattle drafted big corners in Stanford’s Richard Sherman and Clemson’s Byron Maxwell, along with bringing in Oregon State product and CFL Star Brandon Browner with a futures contract. And it’s why the Seahawks chose to trade 5-9 defensive back Josh Wilson and likely will not bring back Kelly Jennings in free agency. Carroll wants bigger, more physical corners on the perimeter that can force opposing quarterbacks to make more precise throws on the perimeter of the defense."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts on Sal Paolantonio's suggestion that the Redskins could have interest in Hasselbeck. Huard thinks Hasselbeck's value is rising as the lockout continues because teams will want veterans capable of running their offense on short notice. Also, the Redskins' offense is similar to the one Seattle ran last season, so Hasselbeck could step in pretty quickly. Unlike some of the other teams needing quarterbacks, the Redskins did not use a high 2011 draft choice for one. Would they commit to Hasselbeck beyond the 2011 season, and would that be enough for Hasselbeck to sign with them?

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell, who has continued to pursue interests in comedy writing. Young: "Campbell said he has been working out several hours a day to be ready to roll when a labor settlement is reached and training camp opens, but he also spent time in Los Angeles visiting the set of Will Ferrell's web-based show 'Funny or Die' and meeting with the writers of 'Family Guy.'"

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com took notice when safety Adrian Wilson provided footage from a recent workout. Urban: "Wilson tweeted out a video from today’s workout. Narrated by wide receiver Stephen Williams (and with a cameo from Beanie Wells), Wilson shows his ability to rep four big plates on each side of the bar on the incline bench press. Crazy. Say the bar is 45 pounds and the plates 45 pounds each, that’s 405 pounds. Yikes. Not that it’s a shock, really. Wilson lives for the weight room. As an aside, safety Rashad Johnson, who is spotting for Wilson, looks like he’s put on significant muscle."

Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly lists Ben Leber, Barry Cofield and Quintin Mikell as players who could make sense for the Rams in free agency. Arkush: "Mikell played under Steve Spagnuolo in Philly when the head coach was an assistant with the Eagles, Cofield played under Spagnuolo in New York along with Fred Robbins and Leber has a history worth noting with Rams linebackers coach Paul Ferraro, who previously coached Minnesota's special teams. All three players could figure as potential instant starters at positions widely considered to be in dire need of more depth."

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