NFC West: Chris Maragos

Few people expected him to return to the Seahawks, but now it's official. Brandon Browner signed a three-year deal Friday with the New England Patriots worth $17 million.

The Patriots now have signed two big-name cornerbacks for big dollars. They signed Darrelle Revis on Thursday to a deal worth $12 million for the 2014 season.

And obviously, the fact that Browner has to serve a suspension of four more games at the start of the 2014 season was not a deterrent for New England. Browner also will have to forfeit four additional weeks of salary as part of his suspension for his 2013 substance-abuse violation over a positive test for marijuana.

Browner tweeted this statement Friday evening:

"Today, I am proud to announce that I am a New England Patriot. I am honored that the Patriots are making me part of their legendary organization, and am
grateful for the opportunity Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, Nick Caserio and the entire team have given me.

"I intend to diligently work with the same passion and dedication that I have displayed since coming into the NFL to uphold the great traditions and qualities that are embodied by the Patriots."

Browner also thanked the Seahawks organization:

"I would be remiss if I didn't thank the Seattle Seahawks for giving a CFL player the once in-a-lifetime opportunity to return to the NFL, making a
young boy's dream come true.

"To Coach Pete Carroll, GM John Schneider, [former Seahawks vice president, now Jets GM] John Idzik, [defensive backs] Coach [Kris] Richard, [defensive passing game coordinator] Rocky Seto, the LOB, [Legion of Boom], my teammates, the training staff, the equipment guys the Seahawks organization as a whole and most importantly the 12th Man, I say thank you for everything you have done for myself and my family. I am a truly blessed person."

Browner, who made the Pro Bowl in 2011, missed the final six regular season games of 2013, along with the playoffs, because of a groin injury, and subsequently, the suspension.

He becomes the sixth free agent the Seahawks have lost this week. The others are wide receiver Golden Tate, offensive tackle Breno Giacomini, safety Chris Maragos, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and defensive end O'Brien Schofield (although his deal with the New York Giants was canceled because of a knee problem).

The Seahawks met Friday with former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton. Former Raiders defensive tackle Vance Walker was scheduled to meet with the Seahawks, but he signed Friday with Kansas City.

It's still possible the Seahawks will sign former Green Bay tight end Jermichael Finley, who met with team officials earlier this week.

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman feels like he missed out on a golden opportunity, a one-time chance to play against NFL legend Brett Favre.

Favre, 44, was contacted by the St. Louis Rams about coming out of retirement one more time and helping the team while starting quarterback Sam Bradford is out with a torn ACL. Favre might have started Monday night against Seattle, but he declined the offer.

“Man, that would have been so cool, just to say I did it,” Sherman said. “I would have loved that, just to have the opportunity to play against him one time.”

And what if he came up with an interception off Favre?

“Oh, that football would have been up on my mantel," Sherman said.

Seattle safety Chris Maragos, a Wisconsin native who played college ball at the University of Wisconsin, grew up watching Favre play for the Green Bay Packers.

“Man, any kid from Wisconsin would love to play against him,” Maragos said. “That would have been exciting. He had a great career.”

Defensive end Cliff Avril has a nice memory from a game he had against Favre a few years ago.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to sack him once,” Avril said. "It would’ve been cool if he was out there, but I heard about it and took all that with a grain of salt.”

Linebacker Bruce Irvin said it’s all the same to him, whether it was Favre or journeyman quarterback Kellen Clemens, who will start Monday for the Rams.

“It wouldn’t matter to me,” Irvin said. “We have the same mentality no matter who’s back there. But it would have been really interesting.”

Second-year cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn’t think Favre could have helped the Rams against the Seahawks' defense.

“I don’t think it would have made a difference," Lane said. “But it would have been kinda cool. We would have been real tough on him, but I would have wanted to meet me after the game.”

RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman feels like he missed out on a golden opportunity, a one-time chance to play against NFL legend Brett Favre.

Favre, 44, was contacted by the St. Louis Rams about coming out of retirement one more time and helping the team while starting quarterback Sam Bradford is out with a torn ACL. Favre might have started Monday night against Seattle, but he declined the offer.

“Man, that would have been so cool, just to say I did it,” Sherman said. “I would have loved that, just to have the opportunity to play against him one time.”

And what if he came up with an interception off Favre?

“Oh, that football would have been up on my mantel," Sherman said.

Seattle safety Chris Maragos, a Wisconsin native who played college ball at the University of Wisconsin, grew up watching Favre play for the Green Bay Packers.

“Man, any kid from Wisconsin would love to play against him,” Maragos said. “That would have been exciting. He had a great career.”

Defensive end Cliff Avril has a nice memory from a game he had against Favre a few years ago.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to sack him once,” Avril said. "It would’ve been cool if he was out there, but I heard about it and took all that with a grain of salt.”

Linebacker Bruce Irvin said it’s all the same to him, whether it was Favre or journeyman quarterback Kellen Clemens, who will start Monday for the Rams.

“It wouldn’t matter to me,” Irvin said. “We have the same mentality no matter who’s back there. But it would have been really interesting.”

Second-year cornerback Jeremy Lane doesn’t think Favre could have helped the Rams against the Seahawks' defense.

“I don’t think it would have made a difference," Lane said. “But it would have been kinda cool. We would have been real tough on him, but I would have wanted to meet me after the game.”
SEATTLE -- A team can’t end a first half worse than the Seattle Seahawks did Sunday.

The botched field-goal attempt that went the other way for a touchdown was the capper in a run of ridiculous mistakes. Still, the Seahawks still managed to win 20-13 over a Tennessee Titans team whose offense was inept without starting quarterback Jake Locker.

The 10-point swing on the field-goal debacle was a prime example of unthinkable craziness. It was easy for the Seahawks to laugh about after winning, but not so much at the time.

The Seahawks drove down the field and had a chance at a 22-yard field goal on the final play of the half. But their regular kicker, Steven Hauschka, was in the locker room being check for a possible concussion after he'd been walloped in the nose on a kickoff return earlier in the second quarter. That meant the Seahawks' punter, Jon Ryan, was in to kick -- and since he's usually the holder, that job also was being performed by a backup in safety Chris Maragos.

[+] EnlargeJon Ryan
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesBackup kicker plus backup holder did not equal good things for the Seahawks before halftime.
The result can only be described as a complete disaster. Maragos fumbled the snap, tried to get up and run but fumbled the ball away. Tennessee cornerback Jason McCourty scooped it up and took it to the house for a 77-yard touchdown.

So instead of leading 10-3 at halftime, Seattle trailed 10-7.

“I really wanted the field goal,” Ryan said. “All these years of playing [pro] football and I’ve never scored a point. I wanted to give that ball to my mum.”

Ryan is Canadian, in case you couldn’t guess by the reference to his mother.

“The last time I attempted a field goal was a preseason game in 2004 in the Canadian Football League,” Ryan said. “I kicked in college, but I was really bad. But I’m sure I would have made that one.”

Maybe, but the end result was one enormous downer entering the locker room at halftime.

“We were frustrated,” Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin said. “At the time, everybody on offense just wanted us to go for it. Hauschka was hurt. We felt like we should have gone for it. But I don’t think it deterred us in any way. We always talk about [how] you don’t win games in the first half.”

Even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he should have let the offense go for it instead of risking the field goal with a new kicker and holder, but Maragos wasn’t a greenhorn at holding for a kick.

“I held all four years in college at Wisconsin,” he said. “But I messed it up. I didn’t get the snap down, so then it’s a fire call and you try to roll out. But I should’ve just gone down. Our defense was playing well all game and I should have just taken a knee.”

Should that situation arise again, Carroll said quarterback Russell Wilson would be the holder. The field-goal failure was the second time in the last two games that Seattle has given up a touchdown return on a field-goal attempt.

Against Indianapolis last week, Hauschka’s 48-yard attempt was blocked before Delano Howell ran it back 61 yards for a score. This time, Hauschka was in the locker room and didn’t see the play.

“I didn’t know what happened,” Hauschka said. “I still haven’t seen the play. It was a big blow for us. I was trying to get back out there as quickly as I could, but I had to finish the concussion tests.”

It was Hauschka's aggressive play to make a tackle on a kickoff that started the chain of events that led to the botched attempt.

"I’m a bigger guy," said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Hauschka, "and that’s the first time I’ve been popped like that. I felt out of it for a couple of minutes. We did the concussion protocol and I was fine."

Ryan said: “I don’t know if [Hauschka] is the toughest guy. Me, yes, but him no.”

Easy to joke about it now. Cornerback Richard Sherman was asked if he feels an obligation to teach Hauschka proper tackling technique.

“I feel an obligation to teach Hauschka how to get out of the way,” Sherman said.

2013 UFA counts for NFC West teams

March, 12, 2013
The NFL has released its official list of restricted and unrestricted free agents.

The chart breaks down the UFA counts by team in the NFC West.

A quick look at the lists, which include a couple players who have already reached agreement on new contracts:

Arizona Cardinals

UFA offense (4): D'Anthony Batiste, Pat McQuistan, Rich Ohrnberger, LaRod Stephens-Howling

UFA defense (8): Michael Adams, Nick Eason, Quentin Groves, Vonnie Holliday, Rashad Johnson, Paris Lenon, James Sanders, Greg Toler

RFA: Brian Hoyer, tendered to second-round pick.

Note: The Cardinals announced Johnson's agreement to a three-year contract.

St. Louis Rams

UFA offense (8): Danny Amendola, Kellen Clemens, Brandon Gibson, Steven Jackson, Barry Richardson, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Chris Williams

UFA defense (6): Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Mario Haggan, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Rocky McIntosh

RFA: Darian Stewart, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: The Rams announced Hayes' agreement to a three-year contract.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA offense (4): Leonard Davis, Ted Ginn Jr., Randy Moss, Delanie Walker

UFA defense (6): Dashon Goldson, Tavares Gooden, Larry Grant, Clark Haggans, Ricky Jean-Francois, Isaac Sopoaga

RFA: Tramaine Brock, tendered to right of first refusal.

Note: Walker has reportedly agreed to terms on a contract with the Tennessee Titans.

Seattle Seahawks

UFA offense (2): Cameron Morrah, Frank Omiyale

UFA defense (5): Alan Branch, Patrick Chukwurah, Leroy Hill, Jason Jones, Marcus Trufant

UFA special teams (2): Steve Hauschka, Ryan Longwell

RFA: Clint Gresham and Chris Maragos, tendered to right of first refusal; and Clinton McDonald, tendered to seventh-round choice.

2012 Seahawks defensive snaps: Weeks 1-5

October, 13, 2012
A periodic look at which players are playing and when, continuing with the Seattle Seahawks' defense:

Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the Seattle Seahawks’ defense and special teams.

Defensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.8

Safest bets: Red Bryant, Jason Jones, Brandon Mebane, Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin, Alan Branch

Leading contenders: Clinton McDonald, Jaye Howard, Greg Scruggs, Pep Levingston

Longer odds: Pierre Allen, Cordarro Law, Dexter Davis

Comment: The Seahawks finished the 2009 season with Bryant, Mebane, Craig Terrill, Colin Cole, Nick Reed, Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding and Darryl Tapp on their 53-man roster. Pete Carroll has transformed the line since becoming head coach before the 2010 season. The changes have been as much about fit as personnel. The group keeps getting stronger.

Linebackers (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.6

Safest bets: K.J. Wright, Leroy Hill, Bobby Wagner, Korey Toomer

Leading contenders: Heath Farwell, Matt McCoy, Malcolm Smith, Barrett Ruud

Longer odds: Michael Morgan, Allen Bradford, Kyle Knox, Jameson Konz

Comment: Toomer's arrival in the fifth round cranks up the pressure on Smith, a 2011 seventh-round choice. Farwell and McCoy could be competing for a spot. Farwell is better on special teams. McCoy offers more at linebacker. Bradford is converting from running back and has a chance to stick in some capacity. Ruud looks like insurance for Wagner, but his health is a concern.

Defensive backs (17)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.2

Safest bets: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Brandon Browner, Richard Sherman

Leading contenders: Jeron Johnson, Byron Maxwell, Roy Lewis, Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Winston Guy

Longer odds: DeShawn Shead, Ron Parker, Coye Francies, Donny Lisowski, Jeremy Lane, Phillip Adams, Chris Maragos

Comment: Three of the four starters went to the Pro Bowl last season; Sherman arguably should have gone. Trufant's conversion to a nickel role has the potential to upgrade Seattle's coverage. Injuries sidelined Trufant and Thurmond last season. Both can contribute at a reasonably high level if healthy. It's tough to bank on either one, however. Don't forget about Maxwell. He impressed in camp as a rookie, only to fade from the picture after suffering an ankle injury. Seattle likes its depth at corner. Johnson should be ready to take a step forward at safety. The Seahawks like what they've seen from Guy as well.

Special teams (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Jon Ryan, Steven Hauschka, Clint Gresham

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Carson Wiggs

Comment: Ryan led the NFL with 34 punts downed inside the 20 (against eight touchbacks). Opponents returned two punts for touchdowns, however.
Four safeties from the NFC earned Pro Bowl honors last season.

All four played in the NFC West: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor from Seattle, Dashon Goldson from San Francisco, and Adrian Wilson from Arizona.

On the surface, few positions appear stronger within the division. Beneath the surface, there isn't much depth -- at all.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sized up the situation in San Francisco recently, noting that C.J. Spillman is the team's only backup safety with even one regular-season defensive snap on his resume.

The 49ers can expect Goldson, an unsigned franchise player, to report at some point before the season. But San Francisco, like Seattle in particular among NFC West teams, lacks proven alternatives if injuries strike at safety. The drop from Pro Bowl talent to unknown backup can be a hard one.

It's a position to watch in the NFC West, for sure.

Arizona Cardinals

Starters: Wilson, Kerry Rhodes

Backups: Rashad Johnson (498 defensive snaps in 2011), James Sanders (462), Blake Gideon (0), Eddie Elder (0).

Comment: Rhodes missed nine games to injury last season. Johnson started in his place and played extensively during the Cardinals' late-season defensive revival. The experience Johnson gained should leave the Cardinals feeling better about the position. Sanders started six games for Atlanta last season. Arizona did not re-sign backups Hamza Abdullah or Sean Considine, who were special-teams contributors. Overall, the Cardinals feel very good about their depth in the secondary. Wilson's ability to play at a high level last season despite a torn biceps tendon improved the position's outlook. Wilson turns 33 in October, but appears to have quite a bit left.

Seattle Seahawks

Starters: Thomas, Chancellor

Backups: Chris Maragos (11 defensive snaps in 2011), Jeron Johnson (9), Winston Guy (0), DeShawn Shead (0).

Comment: Atari Bigby provided veteran depth last season. San Diego signed him as a potential starter in free agency. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. The Seahawks were high enough on Jeron Johnson, an undrafted rookie in 2011, to keep him on the 53-man roster over a draft choice, Mark LeGree. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. Guy and Shead have made positive impressions in practice recently. This is one position where Seattle could stand to develop or acquire quality depth in case Thomas or Chancellor suffers an injury. But with two of the NFL's best young safeties in the lineup, the team should be set at the position for years to come.

San Francisco 49ers

Starters: Goldson, Donte Whitner

Backups: C.J. Spillman (16 defensive snaps in 2011), Colin Jones (0), Ben Hannula (0), Trenton Robinson (0), Mark LeGree (0), Michael Thomas (0).

Comment: The 49ers did not re-sign veteran backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams. They did not use an early draft choice for a safety or target a veteran in free agency. Spillman, undrafted from Marshall in 2009, is getting plenty of reps this offseason while Goldson remains unsigned as the 49ers' franchise player. Spillman is already among the very best special-teams players in the division (he joined Seattle's Heath Farwell among non-positional specialists on our all-NFC West team for 2011). It's a bit early to know whether the 49ers could count on Spillman at safety if an injury forced their hand. But with eight safeties on the roster, the 49ers do have developmental options at the position.

St. Louis Rams

Starters: Quintin Mikell, Darian Stewart

Backups: Craig Dahl (486 defensive snaps in 2011), Matt Daniels (0).

Comment: Dahl started three games last season and 24 over the past three. He gives the Rams decent veteran depth behind Mikell and the emerging Stewart. Daniels is an undrafted free agent from Duke. He was eager to sign with the Rams when he learned they had only three other safeties under contract. Rookie third-round choice Trumaine Johnson has the size to play safety, but coach Jeff Fisher said the plan will be for Johnson to remain at cornerback. "(Moving to safety) may be something that happens later in his career, but right now he helps us as a corner," Fisher told reporters during the draft.
The following recently released and waived/injured NFC West players are eligible for practice squads if they clear waivers:
Arizona Cardinals

Jared Campbell, Marshay Green, Sean Jeffcoat, Ricky Lumpkin, Jeremy Navarre, Aaron Nichols, Bryant Nnabuife, Kris O'Dowd, Tom Pestock, William Powell, Steve Skelton, Kendall Smith, Thad Turner, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Young.

St. Louis Rams

Damario Ambrose, Tim Atchison, DeMarco Cosby, Tae Evans, Marlon Favorite, Pete Fleps, Cody Habben, John Henderson, Kevin Hughes, Randall Hunt, Thaddeus Lewis, Greg Mathews, Jeremy McGee, Ryan McKee, Jonathan Nelson, Fendi Onobun, Chase Reynolds, Van Stumon.

San Francisco 49ers

Chase Beeler, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, Brian Bulcke, Jack Corcoran, Phillip Davis, Derek Hall, Joe Hastings, Chris Hogan, Ronald Johnson, Alex Joseph, Chris Maragos, Cory Nelms, Xavier Omon, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Sealver Siliga, Monte Simmons, Curtis Taylor, Kenny Wiggins.

Seattle Seahawks

Pierre Allen, Dorson Boyce, Chris Carter, Paul Fanaika, Maurice Fountain, David Howard, Michael Johnson, Jameson Konz, Mark LeGree, Ricardo Lockette, Michael Morgan, Josh Pinkard, William Robinson, Owen Spencer, Vai Taua, Patrick Williams.

A few younger players are not eligible, including former St. Louis Rams receiver Mardy Gilyard, who spent 11 games on the game-day roster last season. Players with no accrued seasons or fewer than nine appearances on game-day rosters in their only accrued season are among those eligible. Players can spend a third season on a team's practice squad as long as their team keeps its 53-man roster full at all times.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Dashon Goldson's one-year contract agreement with the San Francisco 49ers shines more light on the safety position as training camp continues.

Goldson, Donte Whitner, Madieu Williams and Reggie Smith give the team veteran depth at the position. All started games last season, as did Taylor Mays, whose future with the 49ers remains clouded as the team solicits trade offers for him. Curtis Taylor, C.J. Spillman, Chris Maragos and Colin Jones are also safeties on the roster for San Francisco.

Why so many safeties? The 49ers needed to improve their pass defense this offseason. They've rounded up a long list of safeties, creating a competitive situation as the exhibition season approaches. Options are better than no options.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. foreshadowed the 49ers' experience with Goldson this offseason, writing in June: "You might tell him, 'See what you can get, let us know,' and if he can get a big number he goes, but if he comes back, you get him back at your price and everyone is happy."

That is exactly what happened for the 49ers, a big win for the team. Goldson should return supremely motivated and possibly humbled. The team hasn't committed to him unnecessarily. The sides can revisit the situation one year from now. If Goldson plays well, the 49ers will be in better position to work out a long-term deal during the season, with Goldson having learned free agency isn't always such a fun experience.

Note: The flight I caught to San Jose early Monday was boarding just as news of Goldson's $2 million agreement was circulating.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch fears the lockout could diminish Marshall Faulk's experience heading into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Burwell: "Unless the lockout ends this week, the chances are high that the NFL will be forced to cancel this year's Hall of Fame game, and that would be a shame. One of the rare treats of the Hall of Fame weekend is when the streets of the city are full of fans from the two teams that are scheduled to play, and both teams have a former player being enshrined. This year, with the Rams and Bears scheduled for that Sunday afternoon -- Aug. 7 -- nationally-televised contest, it figured that there would be quite a few car caravans rolling across I-70 from the 'Lou and the Windy City to pay tribute to Faulk and former Bear Richard Dent. ... How much better would it be if the celebration of the first St. Louis Ram to reach Canton isn't cut short by a day?"

The Rams' website says the team plans to send a large contingent to Joplin, Mo., for continuing relief efforts following the tornadoes there. Among the details: "The Rams' staff will assist with projects including removing debris, unloading trucks, organizing donations and staffing the call center and data entry center. Upon arrival in Joplin, the Rams will report to the volunteer check-in area at Missouri State Southern University where they will be deployed to the various project locations. A group of cheerleaders, alumni and the team’s mascot, Rampage, will also be on hand to help lift the spirits of the community."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis is part of the group heading to Joplin. Softli: "Seventy-five Rams employees and selected media members will depart the Russell Training Center on two buses at 5 a.m. with an anticipated arrival into Joplin around 10 a.m. The Rams have worked with the United Way and AmeriCorps of St. Louis to identify a variety of volunteer options. ... Upon arrival in Joplin, we will report to the volunteer check-in area at Missouri State Southern University to be dispatched to the various project locations and work until approximately 1:30 p.m."

Matt Maiocco of checks in with 49ers safety Chris Maragos as part of a piece examining how college free agents will work from a disadvantage this offseason. Maragos: "This year is quite a bit different. It's a huge transition from college to the NFL. I played in Big 10, so I was already acclimated to a high level of physicality. But the NFL is definitely a big jump in the level of competition. I needed the time (in the offseason) to learn the playbook, get up to speed and develop an understanding of what it takes at this level."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Aubrayo Franklin and Manny Lawson to leave the 49ers in free agency this offseason. Barrows: "Last year the 49ers were able to hold onto Franklin with the franchise tag. This year his tag number is expected to jump to more than $12 million, and the 49ers opted not to retain him in that fashion. It looks like Franklin, who has wanted to reach the open market for two years, finally will get his wish barring some sort of right-of-first-refusal language in the new collective bargaining agreement. Furthermore, there promises to be a strong market for him. Reports out of Washington this offseason have said that the nose tackle-desperate Redskins (See: Haynesworth, Albert; the saga of) have triple underlined Franklin's name on their list of free-agent targets." I can see why the 49ers wouldn't want to pay a premium for either player, but the team will be worse off without Franklin and Lawson.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says defensive lineman Ray McDonald hopes to re-sign with the 49ers. McDonald: "Before we left, there was a good vibe amongst me and the coaching staff and the GM. They said they liked the way I played and want me back, so I'm just going off that. I want to be back here. I'm comfortable out here."

Also from Branch: The 49ers' players have much to learn offensively despite maximizing their offseason under difficult circumstances.

Clare Farnsworth of offers details on Ralph Goldston's tenure with the team. Goldston, who passed away recently at age 82, spent 14 years with Seattle. Farnsworth: "While the Associated Press story mentioned Goldston being one of the first African Americans to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, there are no details about his post-playing career. He was a scout for the Seahawks for 14 years, arriving in 1975 -- the year before the team played its first game. Goldston came to the Seahawks after serving as offensive backfield coach for the Chicago Bears and remained with the Seahawks through the 1988 season."

Also from Farnsworth: a look back at the 1987 Seahawks. Farnsworth: "Steve Largent was voted the team MVP after a 58-catch, 912-yard, eight-TD season, as well as to his seventh -- and final -- Pro Bowl. The ’87 season also was the 12th -- and final time -- Largent would lead the Seahawks in receptions."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle says Kevin Kolb isn't worth the risk for the Seahawks.

Khaled Elsayed of Pro Football Focus gives Larry Fitzgerald a slight edge over Andre Johnson as the NFL's best receiver over the past three seasons, counting playoffs, as Darren Urban of notes. Elsayed: "When the Cardinals made it to the Super Bowl, Fitzgerald was our top ranked receiver after a monstrous year and tremendous post season. He still found himself near the top (seventh) when the Kurt Warner-led Cardinals went to the playoffs, and improved on that with a sixth place finish last year despite some horrible quarterback play. Essentially, whether you’re feeding him caviar or out of the garbage, Fitz is a receiver hungry to make the most of any opportunity. The best hands of any of the top receivers." Fitzgerald's performance through the playoffs does set him apart. I've rated Johnson slightly higher more recently based on his superior speed. Pick your favorite between the two and I'll take the other one without complaint.

Quick look at 49ers-Rams inactives

December, 26, 2010
ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers offered no surprises Sunday when they named players inactive 90 minutes prior to kickoff at the Edward Jones Dome.

Defensive end Chris Long (thigh) and right tackle Jason Smith (ankle) are both active and expected to start for the Rams despite their injuries. Tight end Mike Hoomanawanui, given only an outside shot at returning this week, was among the Rams' inactive players.

Also inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, linebacker David Nixon, linebacker Curtis Johnson, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo.

The 49ers will play without third tight end Nate Byham (heel), who was named inactive along with cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback William James, safety Chris Maragos, defensive tackle Will Tukuafu, tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback.

Staley made the trip, as did former starting center Eric Heitmann, who is on injured reserve. They were walking laps around the field during early warm-ups. The 49ers could get Staley back from a broken fibula as early as Week 17. Barry Sims will start in his place again Sunday.
ESPN's John Clayton says the Seattle Seahawks are trying to trade right tackle Sean Locklear, whose status appears affected by various moves. Locklear's salary is $5.45 million and his performance during preseason, though not atypical, apparently didn't impress the Seahawks' new leadership. Acquiring Tyler Polumbus and Stacy Andrews gives the Seahawks options. The team has largely remade the tackle position this offseason, drafting Russell Okung sixth overall and making the moves for Polumbus and Andrews. Placing Ray Willis on injured reserve almost completes the transformation. Locklear's departure would overhaul it completely.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates Seahawks-related moves from Sunday. He confirms reports that Owen Schmitt, Kevin Vickerson and Jordan Babineaux will be released.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen says former Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart has accepted a one-year deal to play for the Houston Texans. Leinart will be reunited with former Cardinals teammates Antonio Smith and Neil Rackers. He'll work with another NFC West alumnus; Greg Knapp, dismissed as Seahawks offensive coordinator with Jim Mora's firing, coaches quarterbacks in Houston. Mortensen: "Leinart will become the Texans' third quarterback behind starter Matt Schaub and backup Dan Orlovsky, who will remain the No. 2 at least until Leinart has some command of Houston's offensive scheme, sources said."

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Leinart wasn't able to win over teammates in Arizona. Boivin: "A change of scenery will serve Leinart well. He forever will be remembered for his beer-bong photo, but he should be remembered, too, for all the money he raised for charity. And maybe at the next stop, he can win over his teammates." Leinart can do that by playing at a high level.

Darren Urban of offers thoughts on Leinart's departure from Arizona. Urban: "If Leinart was better on the field, he’d be here. That sounds so general, but it’s true. The basic, fundamental reason Deuce Lutui is going to be starting at guard -- after missing all the offseason and showing up well overweight -- when Reggie Wells was traded after doing everything asked of him this summer? They think, in the end, Deuce is a better player. They didn’t think Leinart was a better player than Derek Anderson. It was close -- close enough that the other stuff comes into play, the stuff (Ken) Whisenhunt declined to get into publicly Saturday and probably never will."

ESPN's Adam Schefter provides clarification on his earlier report that the Seahawks had cut running back Julius Jones. Schefter: "No official cut yet on Seahawks RB Julius Jones, but am told it is 'imminent'." The Seahawks made no announcement regarding Jones, but the running back's departure would be consistent with other sweeping changes in Seattle. Stay tuned.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are giving fans reason for hope. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "While I was in church Sunday morning, a couple of people there told me, 'Hey, Steve, you have no idea how excited the town is.' And that's when I picked up on it. I hope our players feel it. And I hope we give the fans a reason to feel good about what we're doing." Having Sam Bradford onboard makes a difference heading into the season. Rams fans were tired of the status quo. Nothing represents change more than a complete overhaul at quarterback (none of the Rams' quarterbacks from 2009 is on the 53-man roster now).

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are filling out their practice squad. Former Rams running back Chris Ogbonnaya, released on the reduction to 53 players, signed with the Texans' practice squad.

Also from Thomas: There was no doubt Spagnuolo would name Bradford the Rams' starting quarterback.

More from Thomas: checking in with former Rams safety Nolan Cromwell, now the Rams' receivers coach.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee profiles new members of the 49ers' practice squad. On safety Chris Maragos: "This is a surprise only in that the 49ers already have five safeties on the active roster and three of those -- Reggie Smith, Curtis Taylor and Taylor Mays -- are youngsters with precious little playing experience. Otherwise, Maragos has been very solid throughout the offseason and was particularly conspicuous on special teams. He's undersized for a safety -- he was mentored at Wisconsin by Jim Leonhard -- but was on the first-team coverage unit for kick returns the last two games. Again, the 49ers could lose both Michael Lewis and Dashon Goldson after the season. It can't hurt to have some quality safeties on the back burner."

Matt Maiocco of says Tramaine Brock proved doubters wrong by earning a spot on the 49ers' initial 53-man roster.

Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' practice squad. On Will Tukuafu: "When the 49ers received a roster exemption after Kentwan Balmer quit the team, Tukuafu was signed. An undrafted rookie from Oregon, he received a brief look from the Seattle Seahawks before getting released. At 6-foot-4, 272 pounds, Tukuafu recorded a sack in his first snap against the Indianapolis Colts. He was added to the practice squad ahead of Khalif Mitchell."

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' new deal for Michael Lewis is among several moves foreshadowing the longer-term future for San Francisco.

First wave of post-cut moves in NFC West

September, 5, 2010
NFL rosters blew up Saturday. Teams will spend Sunday picking up the pieces even amid additional fallout.

Among the moves we've seen so far:
  • The Seahawks released veteran nose tackle Kevin Vickerson although Vickerson seemed to look good during camp, even getting snaps with the first-team defense. This comes amid news that Seattle planned to sign veteran nose tackle Junior Siavii. The Dallas Cowboys terminated Siavii's contract Saturday. Scouts Inc. had this to say about him: "Siavii played in a backup role to Jay Ratliff at nose tackle in 2009 and showed decent power to hold the point as a run defender, but little strength to push the pocket when rushing the passer."
  • The 49ers announced eight signings to their practice squad: quarterback Jarrett Brown, fullback Jehuu Caulcrick, linebacker Bruce Davis, receiver Kevin Jurovich, tackle Matt Kopa, linebacker Keaton Kristick, safety Chris Maragos and defensive lineman Will Tukuafu.
  • The 49ers appear thin at inside linebacker after listing Matt Wilhelm among their cuts. Wilhelm was placed on injured reserve, giving the team five days to work out an injury settlement that could, in theory, make Wilhelm available to the team later. Wilhelm suffered a sprained knee against San Diego during the exhibition season.
  • The Rams have signed receiver Danario Alexander, receiver Brandon McRae, offensive lineman Drew Miller, offensive lineman Ryan McKee and cornerback Marquis Johnson.
  • The Cardinals claimed outside linebacker Cyril Obiozor and cornerback Brandon McDonald off waivers. Obiozor was active with Green Bay last season. McDonald has been a part-time starter in Cleveland. It's not yet clear which players the Cardinals plan to release.

We're early in the process. Many more moves to come, most likely.

NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 5, 2010
NFL teams can begin signing eight or fewer players to their practice squads once the players clear waivers Sunday.

Players on practice squads earn $5,200 per week for the 2010 season. The collective bargaining agreement sets the following parameters for eligibility:
  • Players without an accrued season of NFL experience;
  • Free-agent players who were on the 45-man active list for fewer than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season;
  • Players who have not served more than two previous seasons on a practice squad.

According to the CBA, "A player shall be deemed to have served on a practice squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's practice squad for at least three regular-season or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third practice squad season."

What about bye weeks? More CBA: "A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular-season or postseason weekend in question."

The first chart shows eligible players released by the Arizona Cardinals. Chris Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Mark Washington were waived/injured. Dean Muhtadi was released from injured reserve.

The second chart shows eligible players released by the Rams.

The third chart shows eligible players released by the 49ers (Brandon Long was released with an injury settlement).

The fourth chart shows eligible players released by the Seahawks (Jonathan Lewis was released with an injury settlement).