NFC West: Dan Muir

St. Louis Rams cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Surprise move: The situation at wide receiver carried the most intrigue through training camp and the exhibition season. Mardy Gilyard, Donnie Avery and Danario Alexander seemed to have the most to gain, with Mark Clayton's recent signing adding another dynamic. Alexander made it. So did Dominique Curry, a dominant special-teams player last summer until he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Gilyard and Avery missed the cut. That surprised me a great deal, given Alexander's injury history, Avery's recent surge and Gilyard's value on special teams. Clayton went onto the reserve/physically unable to perform list, meaning he'll miss the first six games.

Curry is a special-teams player and a receiver in name only. He made the team despite a broken hand. That's a victory for special-teams coach Tom McMahon.

Veteran defensive lineman Dan Muir, signed in free agency, was also among the cuts.

Gilyard was a fourth-round pick in 2010. The team has drafted 16 players in the first four rounds since Steve Spagnuolo became coach. Gilyard is the only one no longer with the team. He has no eligibility for the practice squad after appearing on the game-day roster more than eight times last season (11).

Unknown rookie Ben Guidugli was one of four tight ends to stick on the initial 53-man roster, beating out Fendi Onobun. Guidugli could be providing depth while the team waits to see whether Michael Hoomanawanui is available for Week 1.

No-brainers: The Rams weren't going to cut rookie receivers Greg Salas or Austin Pettis even though neither rookie lit up the preseason. They took precedence over Gilyard, who was selected when the Rams had a different offensive coordinator. Free-agent linebacker Zac Diles became expendable once the Rams added other veterans at the position.

What's next: Depth at cornerback was and is a potential concern. The Rams kept only eight offensive linemen, including veteran backup Adam Goldberg. They could be in the market for an interior offensive lineman with good size and strength. With seven wide receivers on the roster for now, the team has only four running backs. This is the initial 53-man roster, not the final one, however. There will be changes before Week 1, most likely.

Rams' moves deserving more acclaim?

August, 1, 2011
Hurst from New York thinks the St. Louis Rams aren't getting enough credit for the moves they've made in free agency. He thinks they've targeted needs intelligently by finding good values.

Mike Sando: There's nothing sexy about picking up mid- and lower-level bargains. The Rams already had their quarterback, offensive tackles, defensive ends and cornerbacks. Those tend to be the marquee positions.

Adding a big-play receiver such as Sidney Rice would have generated more buzz by giving quarterback Sam Bradford a game-breaking talent. Mike Sims-Walker was a lower cost alternative and physically similar to receivers coordinator Josh McDaniels has preferred. McDaniels' record with wide receivers should give the Rams hope for the position, particularly with a talented young quarterback in place.

On the surface, St. Louis didn't make exciting plays for defensive tackles, either. Adding Justin Bannan caught my attention, however, given ties between Bannan and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Both were together in Denver last season. The Broncos paid a $6.2 million signing bonus to Bannan last season. McDaniels' personnel decisions in Denver caught up with him, obviously, but it's likely he would know whether Bannan could help the Rams. That could be an underrated signing.

Bannan and newly signed defensive tackle Dan Muir combined to start 30 games last season. The Rams don't need spectacular play from either. They already have Chris Long, James Hall, Robert Quinn and Fred Robbins on the line. They need solid play against the run from Bannan and Muir. They would have been better off spending more for someone such as Brandon Mebane, in my view, but they can always select a defensive tackle earlier in the next draft.

I'll go through NFC West teams' moves in greater detail as the dust settles on free agency. The Rams' grade could hinge in part on what the team does for a backup running back.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic reflects upon the Cardinals' wheeling and dealing Friday. Somers: "They signed their top two draft picks in the morning, added veteran tight end Todd Heap a little later, re-acquired starting guard Deuce Lutui in late afternoon and then completed a trade that sent starting running back Tim Hightower to the Redskins. On this day, the little front office often accused of doing nothing, did everything." The Cardinals are feeling good about all the changes they've made. Getting Lutui back unexpectedly and on the teams' terms stands as an unexpected victory for the Cardinals' line depth.

Also from Somers: First-round choice Patrick Peterson is eager to get going with the Cardinals. More: "The Cardinals could continue to add to the roster today. They are in negotiations to sign receiver Braylon Edwards, most recently with the New York Jets. Edwards is fast and could stretch defenses, taking some pressure off Fitzgerald. He has a tendency to drop too many passes, and he pleaded guilty this summer to driving under the under influence. He could face a suspension. Edwards has several friends on the team, including Rhodes, who played with him in New York. A handful of Cardinals players are pushing for the team to sign Edwards."

Darren Urban of casts the Cardinals' frenzied roster activity as part of a master plan to improve. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "We will see how it all plays out. Just by the number of moves, we are trying to get our team better and that’s what it is all about."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams beefed up at defensive tackle by adding Justin Bannan and Dan Muir in free agency. Thomas: "The addition of Bannan and Muir almost certainly means that free agent Gary Gibson, who started 16 games at defensive tackle last season, will not be back. The Rams probably will keep four DTs, meaning Darell Scott and Jermelle Cudjo could be competing for the final spot on the 53-man roster. ... In the initial six days post-lockout that teams could negotiate with free agents, the Rams have added two defensive tackles, an outside linebacker (Zac Diles), a safety (Quintin Mikell), a cornerback (Al Harris), an offensive guard (Harvey Dahl), and a wide receiver (Mike Sims-Walker)."

Also from Thomas: Steven Jackson and Marshall Faulk have grown closer after some early difficulties.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams first-round choice Robert Quinn rested a knee injury at camp. Quinn called the injury a minor tweak.

Nick Wagoner of offers notes from Rams camp.

Also from Wagoner: what Bannan brings to the Rams' offensive line.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says Sims-Walker could provide a big return on the Rams' investment.

Also from Balzer: Jacob Bell made the right decision in returning to the Rams.

Clare Farnsworth of checks in with David Hawthorne, the Seahawks' new middle linebacker following Lofa Tatupu's release. Hawthorne: "We all got to say our goodbyes to him today and just tell him what he has meant to us. He meant a lot, for me especially because I came in undrafted and he kind of took me under his wing and taught me a lot. So today was a hard day for the linebackers. Everybody knows what he’s done for the Seahawks organization if you’ve been around and watched Seahawks football. But he’s done a lot for me, especially."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says he'll miss Tatupu. O'Neil: "I covered each of his six seasons in Seattle on a daily basis, and found him to be one of the most thoughtful, accountable and earnest people that I have had the fortune to meet in my role as a journalist. He was willing to talk about his emotions, whether it was his sadness over the unexpected death of his father in 2010 or the excitement he felt at the prospect of being a father. He showed me the sonogram on his iPhone last year."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers thoughts on Tatupu and coach Pete Carroll's handling of Tatupu's release. Boling: "It still seems that the man’s leadership, heart and inspiration would be of value equivalent to his current salary, just as it would be with safety Lawyer Milloy. But that’s not how things work in the NFL. And on a rebuilding team, a sliding veteran takes snaps away from a young guy who might be on the rise. Hawthorne has performed very well filling in for Tatupu at middle linebacker, but Tatupu’s impact on this team has always been bigger than his play on the field."

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks plan to sign defensive tackle Ryan Sims.

Matt Maiocco of says Frank Gore is planning to end his holdout. Maiocco: "Gore is entering the final year of his contract, and is scheduled to earn $2.9 million in base salary and $2 million in a roster bonus. The 49ers and Gore have not agreed to a contract extension, but Jim Harbaugh said a good-faith effort will be made to negotiate a deal beyond this season. Under terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, Gore is subject to $90,000 in fines for his holdout."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers practice notes, including one regarding Adam Snyder. Maiocco: "After three practices, it appears the 49ers like what they've seen from Adam Snyder at center. Mark Bartelstein, the agent for former Chicago Bears center Olin Kreutz, said he has spoken to the 49ers but the talks have not gotten serious. And it looks as if the 49ers have every intention of developing the quick-learning Snyder for the role to replace David Baas, who signed a free-agent contract with the New York Giants."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat laments the 49ers' reluctance to discuss their plans. Cohn: "What is the goal of the 49ers this season? This is another impolite topic, to bring up goals so early in training camp. But, come on, what is the goal? To win or rebuild?"

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks 49ers rookie Aldon Smith will be the team's best pass-rusher since Andre Carter. Kawakami: "When he worked in the 1-on-1 passrush drill, Smith used those propellor arms to leverage inside, to bullrush and, most effectively, to get on the tackle’s outside shoulder and whoosh around the edge."

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle offers a 49ers injury update: "Cornerback Shawntae Spencer grabbed at his left hamstring during a drill and spent the rest of practice on the sideline. ... Tight end Nate Byham was on crutches and had a large brace on his left knee after being carted off the field Saturday. ... Undrafted free-agent wide receiver Dontavia Bogan was carted off the field with an injury to his right knee."

Also from Branch: on the 49ers' approach to free agency.