NFC West: Beanie Wells

Three things to watch for Friday night in the Arizona Cardinals' 2013 exhibition opener against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field (8 p.m. ET):

1. Palmer's debut. Carson Palmer's addition via trade stands as the most significant offseason move in the NFC West. It's not that Palmer was the best player acquired this offseason. Rather, he stands to make the greatest impact through the nature of his position and because the Cardinals have been so bad at quarterback recently. Arizona posted by far the lowest Total QBR score (26.8) and NFL passer rating (65.7) over the past three seasons. So, while we're not going to obsess over how Palmer looks in his Cardinals debut, some level of competency would be reassuring for Arizona. How he connects with Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and Rob Housler is of particular interest.

2. Mathieu and the DBs. The Cardinals are building their secondary around Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson and 2013 third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu, who figures to play a safety/corner role this season. Peterson has already demonstrated extreme playmaking ability. The Cardinals think Mathieu can also make impact plays with flair. Mathieu's debut carries considerable interest as he starts fresh following a tumultuous run at LSU. Will he stand out right away? Peterson, meanwhile, has been getting reps at wide receiver. It's unclear whether the team will try him in that capacity against Green Bay.

3. Running back picture. Coach Bruce Arians is betting on Rashard Mendenhall reemerging as an every-down back. Mendenhall is scheduled to start against the Packers, and he's a heavy favorite to be the starter this season. Backups Ryan Williams and Andre Ellington are injured and not expected to play. That could lead to additional playing time for Alfonso Smith and rookie Stepfan Taylor. Can one or both of them allay depth concerns at the position? The Cardinals need to be healthier across the board this season, but particularly at halfback, where the team used four starters last season (Beanie Wells 7, LaRod Stephens-Howling 5, Williams 3 and William Powell 1).
Aaron Curry's recent signing with the New York Giants invites a look back at the 2009 NFC West draft class, painful as it might be in some cases.

Four of the 29 players NFC West teams selected in that draft remain with their original teams: Michael Crabtree in San Francisco, James Laurinaitis in St. Louis, Max Unger in Seattle and Rashad Johnson in Arizona.

Unger is the only one of the 29 to earn Pro Bowl honors. Unger and Laurinaitis are the only ones to receive long-term contract extensions from their original teams.

NFC West teams have fired the head coaches and general managers associated with those 2009 selections.

Reasons for those firings went far beyond the 2009 draft, of course. Still, the massive turnover since that draft reflects poorly on what was, by most accounts, a weak class across the league. It also shows how frequently personnel turns over in the NFL. The league has 21 new head coaches and 19 new general managers since the 2009 season concluded.

Curry was widely considered the "safest" choice in that 2009 draft as a fearsome linebacker from Wake Forest. Seattle would trade him to Oakland for seventh- and fifth-round picks before Curry had finished his third season.

Jason Smith, chosen second overall by St. Louis in 2009, supposedly had a mean streak and was a natural leader. The Rams would trade him to the New York Jets for Wayne Hunter after three disappointing seasons.

Beanie Wells came to the Cardinals in the first round of that 2009 draft pretty much as advertised: highly talented, but not very durable. The Cardinals released him this offseason, and Wells remains unsigned amid questions about his knee.

2009 was also the year Arizona sought to upgrade its pass-rush by selecting Cody Brown in the second round. The 49ers tried to improve their depth at running back by using a third-round choice for Glen Coffee. Brown would never play in an NFL game. Coffee would retire after one season.

The chart shows how many regular-season NFL starts each 2009 NFC West draft choice has made, regardless of team.
College graduation dates can affect whether a rookie draft choice participates in his team's offseason program, and to what extent.

Beanie Wells (2009) and Isaiah Pead (2012) are two higher-profile examples from the NFC West. Rules prevented both from reporting to their teams until mid-June simply because their colleges held graduations later than is typical.

Every NFC West team has a rookie minicamp scheduled for May 10-12. Rookies are eligible to attend those initial camps no matter when their colleges hold final exams or graduations.

But the June 16 graduation date for Stanford will prevent Stepfan Taylor, the running back Arizona selected in the fifth round, from participating in other aspects of the offseason program until after that date. The team's final minicamp ends June 13.

That puts Taylor at a disadvantage initially.

Graduation-related guidelines to consider, courtesy of the NFL:
  • Players who participated in college football in the 2012 season as graduate students, or who have already graduated or who will graduate prior to May 13, may not participate in any activities other than the three-day minicamp until May 13;
  • If final examinations at a player's school conclude prior to May 13, the player may not participate in any activities other than the three-day minicamp until May 13, even if the player has left or leaves school;
  • If final examinations at a player's school conclude after May 13, the player may not participate in any activities other than the three-day minicamp until after the player's final day of examinations. If the player has left or leaves school, he may not participate in any activities until after the final day of examinations at his school. These restrictions do not apply to a graduate student, who is permitted to report to his club and participate fully in a Rookie Football Development Program beginning on May 13.

The San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams do not hold organized team activities (OTAs) before May 20. An unofficial check of graduation dates suggests the players those teams drafted should be in the clear by then.

The Arizona Cardinals hold their first OTAs from May 14-16.

An unofficial check of graduation dates suggests Cardinals draft choices Jonathan Cooper, Earl Watford, Ryan Swope and Andre Ellington attended universities with graduations scheduled before May 14. Cooper has already graduated from North Carolina.

Cardinals draft picks Kevin Minter and Tyrann Mathieu attended LSU, which lists May 16 as its graduation date. Minter has already graduated. Alex Okafor (May 17-18), Taylor (June 16) and D.C. Jefferson (May 19) attended universities with later graduation dates.

Update: Stanford has final exams scheduled for June 7-12, according to this schedule. The language from the league refers specifically to final exams, not commencement ceremonies, so in some cases the timetables could shift slightly.

A morning run through NFC West headlines brought to my attention Football Outsiders' annual look at how well NFL players break tackles.



Beanie Wells had zero broken tackles with the Arizona Cardinals last season by Football Outsider's charting. Zero!

Repeat: Wells, who could be one of the NFL's most physical runners when he ran with attitude, had zero broken tackles on 89 touches during the 2012 season.

Now, before we call into question Wells' toughness or attitude, we should point out that injuries diminished Wells' capabilities and sent him to the sideline for much of the season. The blocking in Arizona was also substandard.

Still, zero?

The Pittsburgh Steelers' Isaac Redman had 24 broken tackles in 129 touches. The San Francisco 49ers' Frank Gore had 27 broken tackles, the Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch had 26 and the St. Louis Rams' Steven Jackson had 21.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had 13 of them, second-most among quarterbacks. Percy Harvin led all receivers with 19, and his new Seahawks teammate, Golden Tate, tied the 49ers' Michael Crabtree for third on that list with 14.

The Cardinals released Wells this offseason. They are moving on with Rashard Mendenhall, Ryan Williams and two recently drafted rookies at the position. I'll be watching to see how frequently they break tackles.

Wells, meanwhile, remains unsigned. His knee troubles could be concerning to teams in need of help at the position.
Adam Snyder's release from the Arizona Cardinals made him the sixth player to leave the team's roster this offseason after starting at least 10 games for the team in 2012.

Paris Lenon, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Snyder and Adrian Wilson each started at least 14 games last season before departing the roster. D'Anthony Batiste, an unrestricted free agent, started 10 games.

Quentin Groves, Beanie Wells, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and LaRod Stephens-Howling were part of a group of former Cardinals to start between five and seven games for Arizona last season.

Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Lindley, Pat McQuistan, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Reagan Maui'a, Nick Eason, Vonnie Holliday and Todd Heap started between one and four games for the team before leaving the roster.

You get the point. The Cardinals have a new head coach and new general manager. They weren't very good on offense last season. Some of their players' contracts reflect what the team's previous leadership once thought of those players. They've become outdated. And so the Cardinals are turning over a pretty fair percentage of their roster by design.
The NFL draft becomes a blur on the final day as teams select lesser-known players one after another.

By the end, it's helpful to take a look at the bigger picture.


The chart above shows which general positions NFC West teams targeted. Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers are listed as skill players. The other group names are self-explanatory.

Seattle Seahawks seventh-round pick Jared Smith played defensive tackle at New Hampshire. He will play guard for Seattle. The chart reflects that change. There will be other tweaks and distinctions as we learn more about how teams plan to use players.

A few thoughts initially based on available information:
  • RB picture: NFC West teams loaded up on running backs. That position was already evolving with Steven Jackson's departure from the St. Louis Rams and Beanie Wells' departure from the Arizona Cardinals. Spencer Ware, the running back Seattle selected from LSU in the sixth round, projects at fullback to some extent, coach Pete Carroll said.
  • WR shifts: Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Early Doucet, Randy Moss and Ben Obomanu are among the veteran wide receivers to leave NFC West teams this offseason. The division added Anquan Boldin and Percy Harvin before selecting five wideouts in the draft, four in the first four rounds.
  • DT focus: Seattle drafted three players listed as defensive tackles, not counting Smith. No other team in the division drafted one. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters the team could address that position in free agency.
  • Safety numbers: Every team in the division but Seattle needed a safety. The 49ers took Eric Reid in the first round. The Rams took T.J. McDonald early in the third. The Cardinals did not take one, but they plan for early third-round choice Tyrann Mathieu to play a hybrid safety-corner role. Mathieu is listed as a cornerback.
  • Front seven: Think the 49ers wanted to help their front seven, which wore down last season and needs to develop players for the line in future seasons? San Francisco drafted three players listed as defensive ends. Tank Carradine is 275 pounds with versatility. Corey Lemonier, at 255 pounds, is more of an outside linebacker type. Quinton Dial is 318 pounds and a pure lineman.
Our latest NFC West chat ended with a discussion on Mel Kiper Jr.'s recent success projecting first-round selections to the Arizona Cardinals. Turns out Mel did not have the Cardinals taking Michael Floyd at No. 13 in his final 2012 mock Insider.

Still, the projections have been pretty good. Kiper had the Cardinals taking Dan Williams 26th overall in 2010 Insider, when he also nailed both first-round choices for Seattle (Russell Okung and Earl Thomas). He had Arizona taking Patrick Peterson fifth overall in 2011 Insider.

Going back to 2009, I noticed Kiper had the Cardinals taking Beanie Wells with the 31st pick in his mock from March 12 Insider. However, he changed that pick to Everette Brown in his final mock Insider. Arizona did take Wells.

Dion Jordan is the projection for Arizona in the first round Insider this year, although Mel notes that Jonathan Cooper is another player he thinks the Cardinals would consider strongly. Kiper also made a couple post-publication changes to his 2013 mock, including one affecting the NFC West. He now has the San Francisco 49ers using the 31st pick for safety Eric Reid. That pick lines up with the one I made for the 49ers in our recent blogger mock draft.

Programming note: We've got a full night ahead. I'll be driving over to Seattle Seahawks headquarters shortly and getting set up from there. See you in a while.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each NFC West team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals set a low bar in free agency and cleared it pretty easily. They weren't in position to attack the market aggressively because they had some salary-cap and player-valuation issues to address in the immediate term. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim parted with Kevin Kolb, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Beanie Wells and Early Doucet. Some of those moves cleared significant cap room, but the dead money left over was enough to crimp the Cardinals' style. The first nine players Arizona signed in free agency (Frostee Rucker became the 10th on Wednesday) counted $12.9 million against the salary cap in 2013. That was about how much the team cleared by releasing Kolb and Rhodes. Call it addition by subtraction and give the Cardinals a passing grade in free agency under difficult circumstances. Quarterback Drew Stanton and running back Rashard Mendenhall are the only offensive players added to this point in the process. Arians thinks better health will restore the offensive line. He also loves the talent at that position in the draft. The team is setting itself up to draft for offense, it appears.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are losers in free agency if you think they "lost" Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Gibson and Robert Turner. The team was willing and sometimes even eager to move on from most of those players, however. The Rams plan to develop their younger players while acquiring more of them through free agency and the draft. They paid big money for two free agents, and both are relatively young, a plus. Tight end Jared Cook is not quite 26 years old. Left tackle Jake Long could be an old 27 based on recent injuries, but he's right around the league average for age. We could mark down St. Louis for losing both starting safeties (Quintin Mikell was released for cap purposes) and failing to land a replacement. The draft appears strong at that position, however, and Mikell could be re-signed at some point. We're only 10 days into the process, and the Rams haven't made any ridiculous moves. Getting Long on a relatively short-term deal (four years) seemed like a positive.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers watched longtime contributors Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga and Dashon Goldson sign elsewhere. That was the plan given the price tags associated with all three players. The 49ers knew they couldn't pay premium dollars to those players after fielding the NFL's most expensive defense last season. Their disciplined approach to the market has served them well in recent seasons. This year, it helped them find room on the balance sheet for receiver Anquan Boldin, acquired from the Baltimore Ravens. The signing of Glenn Dorsey to the defensive line seemed curious at first, but it's clear to me the 49ers have special plans for the player drafted fifth overall back in 2008. Although Phil Dawson's signing stabilizes the kicking situation, his $2.35 million cap figure for 2013 means the team will again be paying a bit of a premium at the position, particularly with former kicker David Akers' terminated contract still counting against the cap. With 14 draft picks, couldn't San Francisco have found a rookie to do the job at lower cost?

Seattle Seahawks: Jason Jones is the only Seattle free agent to sign with another team this offseason. Seattle appeared to upgrade from Jones by getting Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett on a one-year deal counting $4.8 million against the cap. Signing Bennett and former Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril to short-term deals makes the Seahawks a pretty clear winner in free agency to this point. Percy Harvin was not acquired in free agency, so he isn't counting in the equation. His addition addressed the position, however, diminishing the need for Seattle to sign a veteran wideout. Upgrading the pass rush was really the only priority for the Seahawks once the Harvin trade went through. Bennett and Avril combined for 18.5 sacks last season. Both are playing on short-term deals with plenty to prove and only short-term cap ramifications for the team.

The Arizona Cardinals' one-year contract agreement with Pittsburgh Steelers free-agent running back Rashard Mendenhall gives new coach Bruce Arians a potential upgrade from the recently released Beanie Wells.

Both players carry significant injury concerns.

However, Mendenhall has experience playing under Arians when both were with the Steelers. That provides some comfort for Arians as he puts together his first roster with the Cardinals. Rules prevent coaches and players from talking football at this stage of the offseason. Arians knows what he's getting in Mendenhall. That has to provide some comfort.

Also, Mendenhall would appear to be the more versatile back and someone the Cardinals could trust in pass protection. That is also significant for Arizona as the team looks to install more of a downfield passing game.

The chart shows production since the start of the 2009 season for Mendenhall and Wells. Mendenhall is 25 years old and was a first-round draft pick in 2008. Wells, released this week, is 24 years old and was a first-rounder in 2009.

Talented 25-year-old running backs generally do not get on the market in the absence of questions regarding their ability to produce.

Mendenhall (5-foot-10, 225 pounds) suffered a torn ACL in the final game of the 2011 season. An Achilles injury bothered him in 2012. The Steelers suspended Mendenhall last season after the running back failed to show for game (the team had told Mendenhall he would not be active for that game). In 2011, Mendenhall also drew criticism for tweets regarding Osama bin Laden.

Mendenhall carried 51 times for 182 yards and a touchdown in five games last season. Wells carried 88 times for 234 yards and five scores in eight games.

The Cardinals reportedly had interest in Miami Dolphins free-agent running back Reggie Bush. Bush reached an agreement with the Detroit Lions and never visited Arizona.
Percy Harvin and Anquan Boldin dominated our coverage Monday after trades sent them to the NFC West.

I'll use this space to tie up loose ends around the division.
  • Arizona Cardinals: The team appears ready to remake itself at running back. Beanie Wells was cut. LaRod Stephens-Howling is not expected to return. Reggie Bush is a potential target in free agency. Ryan Williams remains part of the mix at the position. On defense, the Cardinals reached agreement with safety Rashad Johnson on a three-year deal. A deal with Johnson appeared likely after Arizona released Adrian Wilson. The Cardinals are also reportedly interested in Miami Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, but they'll have competition.
  • St. Louis Rams: Quintin Mikell's release could explain why the team decided to tender an offer to fellow safety Darian Stewart in a move Jim Thomas reported for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The Rams also re-signed defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo, who played nearly one-third of the defensive snaps last season. Monday was otherwise pretty quiet for the Rams.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The team actually got younger with the 32-year-old Boldin, at least in relation to Randy Moss, who is 36 and not expected back. The 49ers announced nose tackle Ian Williams' signing to a two-year extension through 2015. It's looking like fellow defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga will hit the market when free agency begins Tuesday. So will safety Dashon Goldson. Smith, the cornerback on Arizona's radar, has been linked to San Francisco as well. How much will the 49ers be in position to spend after carving out $6 million for Boldin? Alex Smith's departure from the roster via trade will help.
  • Seattle Seahawks: The move to land Harvin will reverberate all year given his potential impact and what the Seahawks gave up for him. Seattle still needs pass-rush help. John Abraham visited recently. Cullen Jenkins visited before reaching agreement with the New York Giants. It's unclear how aggressive the Seahawks will be in seeking help for their defensive line after reaching agreement with Harvin on a lucrative extension. I wonder if Glenn Dorsey would fit on a short-term deal.

I'm sure I've missed a potential move or two, but that's OK. We've got all day -- and into the night, most likely.
Back in April 2009, NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and I debated whether Beanie Wells or Percy Harvin would have the better rookie season.

Wells
Four years later, the Arizona Cardinals released Wells on the same day Minnesota traded Harvin to Seattle for a package including a 2013 first-round pick. Wells tweeted the news. The Cardinals announced it shortly thereafter.

This move comes as no surprise. Wells has been hurt. Arizona has a new coaching staff. Head coach Bruce Arians said he wants his running backs to be every-down players skilled in pass protection. Over the years, the Cardinals trusted other running backs such as Tim Hightower in protection more than they trusted Wells. And with Wells struggling to stay on the field last season, his future with the team appeared shaky.

Arizona was recently among a few teams linked to potential free agent running back Reggie Bush.

I'd love to linger on this one, but we've got more NFC West news coming down. Back soon.
The Arizona Cardinals' plan for upgrading at running back could include the Miami Dolphins' Reggie Bush, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent Tuesday.

That is the word from Mike Garafolo of USA Today.

New coach Bruce Arians spelled out his vision for the position this way: "Can they run the football, do they have vision, patience? Second, can they pass protect on second down? Can they pass protect on third down when it really gets complicated? Will we throw to the backs? Yeah. But the receivers are the ones paid to catch it.”

The chart compares Bush's 2012 production to that of the Cardinals' primary runners. Injuries wiped out Arizona at the position. Injuries also limited the offensive line and quarterbacks. That was a horrible combination. Arizona will almost surely improve in its running game simply because it's unlikely so many things will go wrong again.

Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams are coming off injuries for a second consecutive year. Bush, who turns 29 later this month, has missed one game over the past two seasons. He missed 20 games over the previous four seasons.

Also from Arizona: The team announced Early Doucet's release. He had slipped on the depth chart last season and was scheduled to earn nearly $2 million in salary for 2013.


Closer look at Wells and NFC West RBs

February, 22, 2013
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At his best, Beanie Wells can be a big, physical runner with a wicked stiff-arm and a strong nose for the end zone.

Wells was not at his best last season.

The Arizona Cardinals running back had 88 carries for 234 yards and five touchdowns in eight games. He was on the field for 152 snaps, a career low and down from 583 in 2011, when Wells rushed for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns.



"I think Beanie had a tough stretch this year because of the injuries," Cardinals general manager Steve Keim told reporters from the NFL scouting combine. "He showed a lot of grit, a lot of toughness late in the year when he was able to. He's had some injuries, so he had a difficult time with his cut ability and his lateral movement, but Beanie is still a big horse who can finish runs and create yardage after contact, which is something that excites us."

That last comment ran counter to my perception of Wells last season.

Of the 74 backs with at least 200 yards rushing last season, Wells ranked 73rd in yards after contact per rushing attempt, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Wells was at 1.12 yards per carry after contact. Only New Orleans scatback Darren Sproles had a lower average (1.0) among those 74 players. The average for those 74 players was 1.7. Adrian Peterson was at 2.9.

Keim was alluding more to the ability Wells has shown in the past, when he was healthier. Wells averaged 2.2 yards per carry after contact in 2011. The average was 1.9 in 2010 and 2.1 as a rookie first-round choice in 2009.

Wells is scheduled to earn $1.4 million in base salary for 2013, the final year of his contract. The comments from Keim made it sound like the team was leaning toward sticking with Wells for another season, but that could change depending upon what happens in free agency and the draft. The team has envisioned fielding a strong one-two punch in the backfield with Wells and 2011 second-round choice Ryan Williams, but injuries have intervened. Williams has missed 29 of 32 games.

"I saw Ryan in our weight room the other day, and he's doing fantastic," Keim said. "He's a guy that, watching film with Bruce [Arians], because he got injured early in the season, you forgot the type of run skills Ryan had. We watched him against Philadelphia, we watched him against New England, his lateral quickness, his natural run skills, his avoidability is something he brings to the table. Plus, he's a three-down back. We're expecting big things out of Ryan moving forward."

Draft rewind: Cardinals' five-year recap

February, 20, 2013
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A look at the NFC West's best and worst from the past five NFL drafts, one team at a time.

Arizona Cardinals

Best choice: Calais Campbell, DE, 2008 second round. Campbell and inside linebacker Daryl Washington were the top candidates in this spot. Both were second-round picks who signed contract extensions in the past year. Campbell's deal averages $12 million per year over the first three years. The three-year average for Washington's deal is $9.2 million. Teams value defensive linemen over inside linebackers as a general rule. That is one reason I selected Campbell over Washington for our purposes here. Arizona credited Campbell with 11 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, 14 quarterback hits and seven passes defensed despite missing three games to injury in 2012. Some might point to Patrick Peterson as a candidate for consideration. Expectations for a player drafted fifth overall set the bar high.

Worst choice: Cody Brown, OLB, 2009 second round. Brown suffered a wrist injury during his rookie camp, went on injured reserve and never played a down for the team. Brown bounced from the Cardinals to the New York Jets to the Detroit Lions without ever playing in a regular-season game. None of the other 36 players Arizona has drafted since 2008 challenged Brown for consideration in this spot. Ryan Williams, a second-rounder in 2011, could qualify if injuries continue to keep him off the field. Williams has already played in games and shown promise when healthy, however. Brown did not do those things.

Verdict pending: Williams, RB, 2011 second round. This assumes the verdict is already in for 2009 first-round choice Beanie Wells, whose future with the team appears tenuous. Williams suffered knee and shoulder injuries during his first two seasons with the team. He has missed 27 of 32 games and averaged 2.8 yards per carry on 58 career attempts. The Cardinals still have high hopes for Williams. There's still a chance Williams will become a key contributor, particularly as the Cardinals upgrade their offensive line. He must stay healthy, however.

Adding Ahmad Bradshaw's name to list

February, 6, 2013
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The Arizona Cardinals should be watching closely as Ahmad Bradshaw and other running backs hit the market for various reasons this offseason.

They could use a boost at the position.

Bradshaw's release from the New York Giants one year after the team dumped another running back, Brandon Jacobs, came as little surprise Wednesday.



The ratio of salary to production to injury risk made Bradshaw's release appear likely.

Jacobs, waived by the San Francisco 49ers recently after a disappointing (for both parties) season with the team, ranks 18th in rushing yards since 2007. Bradshaw ranks 19th.

Both were valuable contributors to the Giants at various times, but they are running backs, not quarterbacks, and NFL teams know they can find cheaper, healthier replacements. David Wilson is the cheaper replacement for the Giants.

We'll be monitoring available running backs in the NFC West this offseason. Arizona could be in the market for one pending the potential release of 2009 first-round choice Beanie Wells. Steven Jackson's situation in St. Louis is also of interest. He can opt out of his contract if the Rams decide to keep him at $7 million salary.

Bradshaw is a good running back. I think he could help the Cardinals in particular, but his history of foot injuries could be problematic. Arizona's current backs, Wells and Ryan Williams, have had injury troubles recently. Both finished last season on injured reserve.

Bradshaw is coming off surgery.

"He's still one of the most complete running backs in the league -- a power back with good vision who's as good at blitz pickup as anyone in the NFL," Dan Graziano wrote on the NFC East blog. "The concern is that his feet can't stay healthy, and his latest surgery is going to keep him out for the next couple of months."

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