NFC West: Fred Miller
Also from Somers: a look at the rookie deal Arizona signed with safety Antrel Rolle, a deal that is blowing up in the team's face and giving Rolle a chance to hit the market, most likely. My understanding is that St. Louis-based agent Ben Dogra negotiated that rookie deal, only to lose Rolle, who is from Miami, to Miami-based agent Drew Rosenhaus. Somers: "The Cardinals could have avoided this by making the last year of Rolle's deal voidable. Rolle could have exercised that clause, but the Cardinals could have used the franchise or transition tags to maintain his rights. That option isn't available to them now. It's not the last time we'll be talking about such deals. Quarterback Matt Leinart's salary is due to climb nearly $5 million in 2011, the last year of his deal. He's also due a $5.5 million roster bonus. A year from now, the Cardinals could be in the same position with Leinart as they now are in with Dansby." Background info here.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals have until Thursday to pay a $4 million bonus to Rolle. Rolle had previously said the deadline was March 1.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' planned restricted free-agent tender for Alex Barron would return a second-round choice if another team signed him, an indication the team would like to trade him. I don't think another team would give up a second-round choice for the right to pay Barron on a long-term deal, though. Thomas: "It's another deep year for offensive tackles in the draft. Early indications point to Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, moving to left tackle next season. Some of the Rams' best right tackles since the team moved to St. Louis were middle-round picks. Ryan Tucker was a fourth-rounder; Fred Miller, a fifth-rounder."
Also from Thomas: Most NFL people seem to rate Gerald McCoy slightly higher than Ndamukong Suh, although the Rams aren't saying much.
More from Thomas: Medical reports on quarterbacks Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen mean a great deal to the Rams. Thomas: "Rams general manager Billy Devaney said Friday that besides Rams doctors and Dr. James Andrews (who performed the surgery), the Rams want a third opinion on Bradford's shoulder from an independent doctor."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams have to choose between Suh and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Burwell: "When it comes to first-round picks, I want great almost immediately, or at the very least a strong beacon of potential greatness in that first season. And in a year when the NFL draft class is particularly strong at so many other positions, I don't understand why it is a smart move to draft a quarterback who barely played at all last season and is coming off of surgery and hasn't been cleared by anyone's medical staff or played in a pro-style offense in two years of college ball when the alternative is a monster defensive tackle who every NFL personnel department has listed as a once-in-a-generation beast (Suh)."
Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo doesn't want the defensive label, even though he was a coordinator on that side of the ball.
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams and Marc Bulger's representatives are working to resolve the quarterback's fate in St. Louis sooner rather than later, although there is no hard deadline in the short term. Balzer: "Because no trade can be consummated until March 5, the Rams would only release him prior to that date if they have exhausted all potential efforts to deal him. While a trade can’t be official until Friday, teams can have deals in place prior to then. Any team looking to trade for Bulger would likely be looking for him to accept a pay cut. Coach Steve Spagnuolo said Saturday that even though the Rams’ offseason program begins March 15, it’s not necessary that a decision on Bulger be made by then."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are in good shape because the 2010 draft is strong in the areas San Francisco would like to address. Barrows also thinks the 49ers should strongly consider a certain speedy running back. Barrows: "If I was banging the drum for Clemson's C.J. Spiller before the combine, I'm pounding it with both fists afterward. He and Jahvid Best put on a show Sunday. The difference between the two is that Best has been injury prone; Spiller has not. I can't get past the fact that simply having this guy on the field makes the offense better because defenses must account for his speed."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in from the airport on his way home from the combine. Maiocco: "My initial thoughts are the 49ers would select Russell Okung and Trent Williams, for sure, with the No. 13 pick. They'd probably go with Bryan Bulaga and Anthony Davis, too. Bruce Campbell seems way too risky in the top half of the first round. I'd probably even place Charles Brown ahead of him."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says USC safety Taylor Mays enjoyed seeing Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the combine. Mays: "It’s like seeing your dad, kind of."
Also from Farnsworth: Clausen chose Notre Dame over USC so he wouldn't have to play behind Mark Sanchez, Carroll notes.
More from Farnsworth: The Seahawks seek to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Farnsworth: "The scavenger hunt for help has moved into high gear at the combine. It’s fitting that the event is being held at the Lucas Oil Stadium, because it was in Week 4 last season that the Colts’ Peyton Manning victimized the Seahawks in this very building. Unable to generate enough pressure with a four-man rush, the Seahawks were forced to blitz. Almost every time they did, Manning beat it by throwing to the vacated area."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the "vote of confidence" the Seahawks paid to Deion Branch could be designed to enhance the receiver's trade value.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a transcript to an interview with Carroll and Seahawks general manager John Schneider. Schneider on Nate Burleson: "We've talked to him. We totally understand he’s going to explore free agency. We’re just going to stay in touch. Nobody really knows where this market is going to go in free agency. We sure don’t. He needs to do what’s best for himself and for his family. We like Nate and we’re going to stay in touch with him the whole way. And that was expressed to him."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers confirmed tackle Marvel Smith's retirement Saturday morning. What now?
Adam Snyder is still the starter on the right side. That was not going to change even if Smith tried to continue playing despite back trouble.
Depth is the problem and this situation was predictable, even likely, given what we knew about Smith's health and how the 49ers' neglected to draft a tackle or sign a younger veteran in free agency (as someone suggested they should).
None of this will matter much if Snyder returns from his knee injury to start most of the games. The 49ers could then try to develop Alex Boone and/or target a tackle in the draft. Their thinking in drafting Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall selection hasn't worked out as anticipated so far, but I think the reasoning was sound and No. 10 was too early to select one of the remaining tackles. Right tackle is not a premium position.
Some have asked why I suggested former Eagles tackle Jon Runyan as a possibility for the 49ers without mentioning the Seahawks as a logical destination as well. Runyan is strictly a right tackle. Seattle has two players able to start at right tackle (Sean Locklear and Ray Willis) but only one player (Locklear) able to start at left tackle. Adding Runyan would not improve the Seahawks' depth at left tackle, which is their position of need while Jones is unavailable.
The 49ers need a right tackle for insurance. Runyan is coming off knee surgery. He might not be ready right away. The 49ers do not need him right away. They need insurance. I have no idea if Runyan would even consider moving across the country. But when I think of tough, physical tackles in the 49ers' mold, Runyan comes to mind.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jesse asks via Facebook what the Seahawks can do to improve their situation at offensive tackle. He wants to see a list of available free agents.
Mike Sando: The best way to upgrade this situation is to welcome back Walter Jones from knee surgery and push him into the lineup early in the season.
The Seahawks could stand to add a veteran tackle as insurance. They cannot assume Jones will come back and play at a high level. They cannot even assume Ray Willis will make it through a full season at right tackle, in my view. Willis has been dealing with knee pain. It's apparently nothing major, but if he's limping in August -- and he was on the sideline Saturday night -- how will he feel 10 starts into the season? Seems like a reasonable question.
Willis has started 10 games in his career, all last season. The other starting tackle, Sean Locklear, has missed at least four games to injury in two of the last three seasons.
The good, healthy NFL offensive tackles are under contract. The list of available tackles includes Wayne Gandy, Fred Miller, Jon Runyan, Jason Whittle, Mark Tauscher, Jonas Jennings, Levi Jones, Chad Slaughter and Kwame Harris. The chart shows their ages and number of starts last season.
Gandy was with Seahawks coach Jim Mora in Atlanta, but he is also 38 years old. The Seahawks had conversations with Levi Jones' agent earlier in the offseason. Tauscher and Runyan are veteran right tackles. Jennings' injury issues make him a high-risk option. Harris was with Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland last season.