NFC West: Jacob Bell

PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones. Update: The NFL clarified that Adam Snyder, who signed with Arizona from San Francisco, factored into the equation awarding the 49ers three comp picks.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 220th, 231st, 241st and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Update: The Seahawks sent the 214th choice, acquired from Buffalo in the Tarvaris Jackson trade, to Minnesota as part of the Percy Harvin trade.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

With the NFL deadline for naming franchise players passing at 4 p.m. ET Monday, we await official word from the league as to whether any NFC West players received the designation.

This can be a nerve-racking time for teams and fans hoping to keep favorite players.

Using the franchise tag almost always keeps a player from leaving in free agency. Teams must balance those concerns with a player's actual value. This year, deciding against using the tag could allow good-not-great NFC West players such as Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker and Danny Amendola to reach the market and sign elsewhere.

It's tough losing key players, but for some perspective, let's revisit the list of 2012 NFC West unrestricted free agents to change teams during the UFA signing period last offseason: Note: UFAs include only veteran players whose contracts expired. Released players are not UFAs.

Heading over to see the new-look Rams

October, 21, 2012
ST. LOUIS -- Good morning and welcome to Week 7.

Half of the NFC West is sitting out this Sunday after San Francisco defeated Seattle in the Thursday night game.

We've got the Arizona Cardinals visiting the Minnesota Vikings, and the St. Louis Rams playing at home against the Green Bay Packers, both at 1 p.m. ET.

I'm in St. Louis and will be heading over to the Edward Jones Dome early.

The Rams are 3-3 after going 2-14 last season. Their entire starting defense is healthy heading into the game. That's a big change from last season, when the Rams went into their seventh game without either starting corner and a long list of others, including quarterback Sam Bradford.

Seven of the Rams' starters from their seventh game last season aren't on 53-man rosters at present. That's an indication how much roster work was needed, and how much injuries set back the 2011 team.

James Hall, Fred Robbins, Al Harris, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Adam Goldberg and A.J. Feeley started in that seventh game last season, a surprise 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints following six defeats to open the season.

Harris retired. The others were released and are not under contract. Bell also retired.

Much has changed for the Rams. A victory over the Packers would give them four victories through Week 7 for the first time since 2006.
NFC West teams added or re-signed 38 unrestricted free agents during the recently completed UFA signing period. They lost or did not re-sign 47 such players.

One key difference between those groups: age.

The St. Louis Rams in particular used the UFA signing period to get younger. The 12 UFAs they added (11) or re-signed (one) averaged 2.49 years younger than the 20 UFAs they lost (six) or have not re-signed (14). The gap was 1.39 years younger on average throughout the division. The Rams have the youngest roster in the NFL, based on averages I maintain for every team in the league.

Some older UFAs never sign another NFL contract. They disappear from rosters and realize, perhaps a year or two later, that they've been retired.

The chart shows age differences for the 38 UFA players added or re-signed versus the 47 lost to other teams or still unsigned. According to the NFL, 143 UFAs changed teams across the league this offseason. Another 112 re-signed with their 2011 teams.

Unsigned players remain free to sign with another team, but the NFL will not count them as UFA signings. The distinction matters in part because only UFA additions and losses count toward the formula for determining compensatory draft choices. That formula relies heavily on player salaries. UFAs available this late in the process generally wouldn't command enough money to affect compensatory picks, anyway.

A quick look at which UFA players from NFC West teams did not sign or re-sign as UFAs:
The 27 unsigned UFAs from the NFC West average 31.38 years old, about 3.3 years older than the 22 UFAs signed from other teams.

Nine of the 27 are at least 33 years old. Another 12 are between 29 and 32. Justin King, former cornerback for the Rams, is the youngest at 25 years old.

Jacob Bell's recently announced retirement from the NFL after eight seasons provides the basis for the most recent "Blogger Blitz" video above.

Bell, 31, understandably pointed to the health risks associated with continuing his career. He has suffered multiple concussions over the years. Renewed concerns of health risks following Junior Seau's suicide factored into the decision.

Concussions aren't the only quality-of-life consideration for retired players.

Former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks linebacker George Koonce, who entered the NFL with Seau in 1990, recently submitted a doctoral thesis at Marquette University focusing on another area of critical concern.

I'll pass along additional comments from Koonce, sent by email, as supplementation to the issues Bell raised:
"No one knows exactly what Junior was dealing with, but I do understand the difficulty of the transition he was in. When I retired from the league, I struggled to survive. It is a difficult and lonely time for a player. I had been playing football for most of my life and was engulfed with the role. When my playing days were over, I lost the only sense of identity that I ever knew. I found myself alone for the first time in my life.

"The support of teammates, friends, and family had gone from one extreme to the next. The separation from football was like a divorce and death. I did not prepare for any other career and did not feel as though I had any resources or skills to succeed without football. It took me at least a year after my retirement before I could piece myself back together and face the after-life struggles.

"As time passed, I began to realize that I was not the only one struggling. I started re-connecting with other retired players and the similarities of our struggles like depression, divorce and bankruptcy became apparent to me. I could not help but wonder how so many American football heroes could go from having everything to having nothing at all. ...

"I have identified common elements that contribute to the complexities with the transition out of football. The reality is that the majority of players exiting sport do struggle. Something has to change. I am committed more than ever to take my research to the next level to help prevent any future tragedies like the passing of Junior, Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and my fellow East Carolina Pirate alumni, Terry Long, as well as the suicide attempt by Tony Collins and countless others who have struggled with their transition."

Koonce advocates the NFL and NFL Players Association taking leadership in developing transition plans and support systems for players exiting the game.

That seems increasingly inevitable given recent events.
Good morning, and thanks to those who offered well wishes as our family drove back to Washington from California following a visit to see my father-in-law. His health has improved in recent days, and we made it back safely.

Thursday was mostly quiet in the NFC West, save for the Seattle Seahawks' re-signing of linebackers Leroy Hill and Matt McCoy. We're to the point in free agency where most of the re-signings feel more like a matter of when, not if. Players have few attractive options at this point. These will mostly be one-year deals with relatively modest compensation.

Clark Haggans and Vonnie Holliday are two candidates to re-sign with Arizona, for example.

The earlier players sign, the more fully they can participate in voluntary offseason programs. The St. Louis Rams and other teams with new head coaches began their programs on April 2. The other teams can begin Monday.

Darren Urban of previews the Cardinals' offseason program. Urban: "Quarterback Kevin Kolb will be here. I’ve already gotten a bunch of questions about what Kolb has been doing with teammates. I don’t think it’s been anything yet, but the vast majority of players haven’t yet. That'll change now (the new rules allow QBs to throw to receivers without defenders the next couple of weeks before things morph again.) I don’t know why some question if Kolb will be willing to put in the work this offseason. I expect it, and as I had mentioned before, I think it will help him when it comes to how he plays this season."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates the Rams' free-agent picture after the team signed former Philadelphia Eagles backup defensive tackle Trevor Laws. Thomas on Jacob Bell, who left the Rams for Cincinnati recently: "Bell spent his first four seasons playing for Jeff Fisher in Tennessee, and for a while hoped to re-sign with the Rams and play for him in St. Louis as well. But the Rams never showed more than lukewarm interest in re-signing Bell, who was athletic and played pretty well in space, but occasionally got overpowered by bigger defenders. It's not clear where Bell will play next since since another Bengals free-agent signee, Travelle Wharton, also is primarily a left guard."

Matt Maiocco of looks at four interior offensive linemen the San Francisco 49ers could consider selecting with the 30th overall choice in the upcoming draft. Wisconsin's Peter Konz, Iowa State's Kelechi Osemele, Midwestern State's Amini Silatolu and Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler were the four prospects. Maiocco on Silatolu, a player Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. recently referenced in relation to the 49ers: "He dominated at the NCAA Division II level as a left tackle. He'll be a guard in the NFL. His good feet and willingness to play to the whistle are attributes that make him worthy of a late-first or second-round pick."

Clare Farnsworth of has this to say about Matt McCoy's re-signing with Seattle: "McCoy led the Seahawks with 19 special-teams tackles in 2010, his first season with the team. McCoy, also 29, had three special-teams tackles and also was being used as a situational linebacker last season before having season-ending knee surgery after just four games."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists dates and times for the Seahawks' exhibitions, beginning with an Aug. 11 matchup against Matt Hasselbeck and the Tennessee Titans. They also play Denver on Aug. 18, Kansas City on Aug. 24, and Oakland on Aug. 30.
Jacob Bell, Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain and Donnie Jones have left the St. Louis Rams for other teams as unrestricted free agents this offseason.

Seventeen other Rams players achieved UFA status, and none has re-signed with the team. Meanwhile, the other three NFC West teams have re-signed 13 of their own UFAs, with another 16 reaching agreement with new teams.

What is going on here? Cue the latest "Blogger Blitz" video from the NFC West for a few thoughts.

An update on the Rams' youth movement

March, 29, 2012
The St. Louis Rams' list of unrestricted free agents got a little shorter Thursday when longtime punter Donnie Jones reached an agreement with the Houston Texans.

Jones, 31, was generally outstanding for the Rams during five seasons with the team. He was twice a second-team Associated Press All-Pro selection.

Teammate Steven Jackson has called Jones the one Rams player he thought most deserving of the Pro Bowl.

The Rams have yet to re-sign any of their UFAs, no surprise as they break from the past and generally seek to get younger.

The Rams signed punter Tom Malone this offseason. Malone has spent time with New England, Seattle and San Francisco without playing in a regular-season game.

Dave Zastudil, Brad Maynard, Mat McBriar, Matt Turk and Daniel Sepulveda are among the UFA punters without contracts.

The chart lists the Rams' UFAs and their statuses. Brandon Lloyd and Chris Chamberlain were the only ones to sign elsewhere before Jones reached agreement with the Texans.

I'll be surprised if the Rams' new leadership re-signs more than a couple of the players listed. Most are older players. The Rams currently have the youngest roster in the NFL, slightly younger than those for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Seattle Seahawks.
Leverage shifts from players to teams as NFL free agency moves along.

Contract values provide the most persuasive evidence.

As time passes, players with stratospheric expectations must lower their sights to find deals.

Team-issued statements from San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke have marked the changing landscape with unintended humor.

"We are extremely pleased to re-sign an All-Pro player like Carlos," Baalke said when the 49ers re-signed Carlos Rogers on March 16.

Notice the shift when quarterback Alex Smith returned to the team five days later, much deeper into free agency.

"We are pleased that Alex has chosen to continue his career as a 49er," Baalke said then.

The 49ers brought back Rogers. They waited out Smith. Big difference.

More of the same awaited Ted Ginn Jr.'s re-signing a day later.

"We are glad that Ted has decided to return to the 49ers in 2012," Baalke said.

Teams are more proactive in re-signing players early in free agency. Players come back to teams later in the process.

Forty-one unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams remained without contract agreements through Saturday. Eleven of them are at least 33 years old. Another 17 are at least 29.

As the chart shows, St. Louis saw little value in rushing out to secure players from a team that finished 2-14 last season. Nineteen of the 21 original UFAs from the Rams remain unsigned. Two, Brandon Lloyd and Chris Chamberlain, signed elsewhere.

Overall, only seven of the remaining 41 UFAs without contracts were players I listed as starters late in the season: Clark Haggans and Brandon Keith from Arizona; Tony Wragge, Brady Poppinga and Jacob Bell from St. Louis; and two Seattle linebackers, Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne.

Hawthorne stands out as a relatively young starter (26) with an established record of consistent production. He visited Detroit, only to have the Lions re-sign Stephen Tulloch. He visited New Orleans, only to have the Saints reach agreement with Curtis Lofton.

The Seahawks would be better with Hawthorne and Hill back on their roster. Like a lot of teams at this stage, however, they aren't facing a great deal of pressure.

That helps explain why it's been a quiet weekend around here so far.
Mackay from Lindon, Utah, wonders why the Arizona Cardinals did not pursue former Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley in free agency. Instead, Wimbley signed with Tennessee.

Mike Sando: The Cardinals seem to have it backward at linebacker. They've invested more at inside linebacker (Stewart Bradley and Daryl Washington) than outside linebacker at a time when teams are paying for perimeter players.

Bradley figures to get more comfortable with a full offseason in the Cardinals' defensive system, but even if that happens, he's still going to be a relatively average inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Washington is a very good player and an integral part of the defense, so no complaints there.

As for Wimbley, he's projected to play right defensive end in the Titans' 4-3 scheme. I'm not sure he would have been the answer for Arizona. The Cardinals do like their young players at outside linebacker. Sam Acho played nearly half the defensive snaps last season. O'Brien Schofield was at 38 percent. Those two players do have promise, but the Cardinals need help at that position, in my opinion.

Outside linebacker, offensive tackle and wide receiver are three positions for the Cardinals to consider targeting before the draft. I would want a tackle first. Demetrius Bell is one free-agent candidate there. If the Cardinals could address tackle to some degree in free agency, they could feel better about using the 13th overall pick for an outside linebacker type. They cannot expect the unsigned Clark Haggans, 35, to play forever.

Axel from Eagle River, Alaska, suggests that the St. Louis Rams should be more active in seeking out higher-quality free agents at outside linebacker, defensive tackle and on the offensive line. He asks why they would bring in Chilo Rachal and Robert Turner for visits when neither would seem to be better than Jacob Bell or Jason Brown. Why not check out Vernon Carey, Jake Scott and Chad Rinehart?

Mike Sando: I'm with you on this one, in theory, but I also see what the Rams are thinking. They are building for the long haul, so they do not want to throw money at too many older players, particularly at non-premium positions. They want to go young.

The Rams had the NFL's youngest roster by average age heading into the weekend. Players around the league are not lining up to play for a team that has gone 15-65 over the last five seasons. The Rams might have to pay a premium to land some of these free agents.

Adding 31-year-old Scott Wells in free agency gave Sam Bradford a veteran center to lean on. That could be important.

The Rams already invested in right guard Harvey Dahl last offseason. Carey, 30, played right guard for the Miami Dolphins. His versatility and durability would make him an appealing addition. But if the Rams are going to go the 30-something route at guard, why not bring back the affordable Jacob Bell, who played for Fisher in Tennessee?

The Rams exceeded expectations with their trade sending the second overall draft choice to the Washington Redskins. They have fallen short of expectations in free agency to this point by suffering a net loss in the playmaking department (none added, Brandon Lloyd subtracted). I expect they will address that area in a big, big way on draft day.

The Rams' current receivers, listed in the chart, have 11 combined career touchdown receptions. Restricted free agent Danny Amendola remains unsigned, but the Rams own his rights.

Kyle from Des Moines, Iowa, asks what the San Francisco 49ers should do at right guard. "Are they better off drafting to fill that gap and having an even younger and less experienced line," he writes, "or filling it with a veteran who might not have the same skill level but can provide leadership with fewer mistakes?"

Mike Sando: The 49ers have shown a willingness to invested high draft choices in offensive linemen. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Anthony Davis were first-round picks. The two right guards last season, Rachal and Adam Snyder, were relatively early choices as well.

Now would be a good time for the 49ers to show they can develop a later-round choice at guard.

They are proceeding at right guard as though confident in Daniel Kilgore's ability to take the job. Kilgore was a fifth-round pick from Appalachian State in 2011, known for his toughness and tenacity. He played left tackle as a senior in college, but the interior is where he projects in the future. I think the 49ers should sign a lower-priced veteran for insurance, then prove they were right in trading up for Kilgore.

Jeff from Las Vegas asks what the Seattle Seahawks are getting with Frank Omiyale. "Bears fans don't seem to think much of him," Jeff writes.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks are getting veteran depth and a player their line coach, Tom Cable, coached in Atlanta years ago. They are not expecting Omiyale to become a starter, but with Robert Gallery gone, they wanted someone with experience.

Bears fans weren't high on Omiyale because Chicago used him as a starter. You might recall Minnesota Vikings fans wondering why the Seahawks would sign Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle wanted someone to help the team get through the season. The Seahawks were not saying Jackson would become the answer for them. They're not projecting Omiyale as the answer, either.
We made it through the NFC West chat without any scandals erupting or starting quarterbacks taking free-agent visits.

We learned that former San Francisco 49ers guard Chilo Rachal planned to visit the St. Louis Rams, another indication that the 49ers are content starting fresh at right guard.

The Rams need a left guard and have not re-signed Jacob Bell, who played for new Rams coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. Bell, 31, missed the final four games of the 2011 season with the Rams after suffering a knee injury.

Full chat transcript here. Highlights below:
Caleb from Orofino, Idaho asks what are the Seattle Seahawks intentions at running back behind starter Marshawn Lynch, especially now that Michael Bush is off the market.

Mike Sando: The Seahawks will try to sign a power back to spell Marshawn Lynch. Kregg Lumpkin is someone they are reportedly going to visit with. He is 5-11 and 228 pounds. Broke into the NFL with Green Bay when Seahawks general manager John Schneider was with the Packers. We could also see Seattle draft a bigger back. The plan will be to have two bigger backs, plus Leon Washington as a change-of-pace runner. They probably will not want to have two change-of-pace guys at the expense of a second power guy, which explains why Justin Forsett might not be back.

Aaron from Wisconsin expects the San Francisco 49ers to be strong on defense again, but he wonders where on the roster they could most use reinforcements.

Mike Sando: Receiver, center and right guard are three positions that need to be addressed. However, I do not think the 49ers absolutely have to draft for one of these positions early. I'd have no trouble with them adding another front-line talent to their defensive front, perhaps someone with the ability to take over when Justin Smith is finally finished (Smith has so far shown no signs of slowing, but he is up there in years and the 49ers should anticipate a drop-off at some point).

Josh from Mesa, Ariz., asks whether the Arizona Cardinals' pursuit of Peyton Manning prevented them from making major moves in free agency.

Mike Sando: My sense is that Arizona wasn't going to be very aggressive in the market this offseason. They won the offseason last year, only to start with a 1-6 record. They seem to like some of their younger players and want to give them a chance to grow. Offensive tackle was one position I thought they might try to address in free agency, but Jared Gaither re-signed with San Diego early in the signing period. There weren't a lot of great options.

Northwest Guy from Gig Harbor, Wash., asks whether the St. Louis Rams have so far had the best offseason of any team in the NFC West by hiring a new coach, adding first-round picks, etc. He suggests the Cardinals and 49ers have been more stagnant in the personnel acquisition.

Mike Sando: Yeah, I would agree on the Rams having a good offseason so far. The Matt Flynn acquisition in Seattle will determine whether the Seahawks have had a good offseason. If he is the answer, their offseason might be the best of any in the division. That's how pivotal the quarterback position tends to be. The Rams have certainly given themselves an opportunity to build for the long term. Ideally, however, they would have added some weapons for Sam Bradford. So far, they have not, and that was their top priority for the short term.

Battles for Seattle lamented during the chat that his question about the Seahawks' draft plans wasn't getting answered, but I did get to it. Thanks again everyone. Always enjoy the chats.

2012 NFC West UFA scorecard: update

March, 16, 2012
Michael Robinson's expected re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks would give the team a league-high four re-signings in the unrestricted free-agent market.

Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan and Heath Farwell previously re-signed.

Seattle and the other NFC West teams have added only two UFAs from other teams, however. I've put together UFA scorecards for each team in the division. Ages are in parenthesis. Here goes ...

Seattle Seahawks

UFA unsigned (age): defensive end Raheem Brock (33), defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson (31), safety Atari Bigby (30), quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (29), linebacker Leroy Hill (29), linebacker Matt McCoy (29), defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (28), linebacker David Hawthorne (26), running back Justin Forsett (26), linebacker David Vobora (25)

UFA re-signed: Farwell (30), Robinson (29), McQuistan (28), Bryant (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: tight end John Carlson (27)

Franchise player: none

Comment: Forsett has provided value, but the Seahawks will want to add a power back as depth behind Marshawn Lynch, who re-signed before free agency. Mike Tolbert, a free agent from the San Diego Chargers, could be worth a look if the running back market remains soft. Tolbert weighs 243 pounds, has 21 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and caught 54 passes in 2012. The price would have to be right after Seattle committed to Lynch.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA unsigned: fullback Moran Norris (33), tight end Justin Peelle (33), safety Madieu Williams (30), quarterback Alex Smith (27), receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (26), guard Chilo Rachal (26), safety Reggie Smith (25)

UFA re-signed: cornerback Carlos Rogers (30), linebacker Tavares Gooden (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: guard Adam Snyder (30), linebacker Blake Costanzo (27), receiver Josh Morgan (26)

Franchise player: safety Dashon Goldson (27)

Comment: Randy Moss and potential addition Rock Cartwright do not appear in the listings because they were not unrestricted free agents. Re-signing Alex Smith and finding additional receiver help appear to be the top priorities. The 49ers are showing little outward urgency on either front, however.

Arizona Cardinals

UFA unsigned: defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday (36), kicker Jay Feely (35), long-snapper Mike Leach (35), outside linebacker Clark Haggans (35), outside linebacker Joey Porter (34), offensive lineman Floyd Womack (33), punter Dave Zastudil (33), tackle D'Anthony Batiste (29), safety Sean Considine (29), guard Deuce Lutui (28), safety Hamza Abdullah (28), tackle Brandon Keith (27), receiver Early Doucet (26)

UFA re-signed: none.

UFA added: Snyder (30)

UFA lost: cornerback Richard Marshall (27)

Franchise player: defensive end Calais Campbell (25)

Comment: The Cardinals have been in a tough spot. They would have faced criticism had they declined to pursue Peyton Manning. They could now face criticism for sacrificing the first week of free agency while waiting for Manning. The reality is that Arizona probably wasn't going to be all that aggressive in the market this offseason, anyway. It did hurt losing Marshall to the Miami Dolphins after coordinator Ray Horton called him the Cardinals' defensive MVP.

St. Louis Rams

UFA unsigned: cornerback Al Harris (37), quarterback A.J. Feeley (34), offensive lineman Tony Wragge (32), linebacker Brady Poppinga (32), punter Donnie Jones (31), offensive lineman Adam Goldberg (31), guard Jacob Bell (31), receiver Brandon Lloyd (30), cornerback Rod Hood (30), running back Cadillac Williams (29), defensive tackle Gary Gibson (29), receiver Mark Clayton (29), tackle Mark LeVoir (29), tight end Stephen Spach (29), safety James Butler (29), tight end Billy Bajema (29), quarterback Kellen Clemens (28), running back Jerious Norwood (28), linebacker Bryan Kehl (27), linebacker Chris Chamberlain (26), cornerback Justin King (24)

UFA re-signed: none

UFA added: cornerback Cortland Finnegan (28)

UFA lost: none

Franchise player: none

Comment: The Rams are not looking to re-sign many of their own free agents. They want to turn over the roster, and that is happening in a big way. The team's failure to secure playmaking help for quarterback Sam Bradford stands out as the biggest theme to this point. Finnegan was a welcome addition, but he isn't going to score many touchdowns.

The chart below shows a general overview.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Arizona Cardinals

Key free agents: DE Calais Campbell (franchise tag), CB Richard Marshall, OLB Clark Haggans, WR Early Doucet, T Brandon Keith, G Deuce Lutui, K Jay Feely.

Where they stand: A strong finish to the 2011 season on defense gives the Cardinals a glass-half-full feel heading into free agency. Going from 1-6 to 8-8 was an impressive achievement. Arizona does have serious concerns on its offensive line. The situation at tackle is particularly questionable even if Levi Brown returns (and maybe especially if he returns, depending on your view). The line concerns might actually dissipate some if the team lands Peyton Manning, a quarterback with the ability to beat pressure with quick throws. But tackle is still an area that needs addressing for the long term. Injuries throughout the offensive backfield raise questions about that area as well. Kevin Kolb (concussion), Beanie Wells (knee), Ryan Williams (knee) and Anthony Sherman (ankle) missed extensive time or played at a diminished level for stretches.

What to expect: The Cardinals are one of the teams chasing Manning. That pursuit could consume them for the short term. Landing Manning would signal the end for Kolb in Arizona. The Cardinals have until March 17 to exercise a $7 million option on Kolb, the quarterback they acquired from Philadelphia for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a fat contract. I'm expecting a resolution to Manning's situation before the Kolb bonus comes due simply because interest in Manning should be high enough to accelerate the process. The Cardinals had about $3 million in salary-cap space entering the week, according to ESPN's John Clayton. That figure could increase substantially once the team releases Brown or reworks his contract. Arizona still has strong coaching ties to Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball, but it's an upset if the Cardinals seriously pursue any of the aging veterans recently released by the Steelers. Developing young talent is the priority now. Re-signing Marshall, who fared well at corner, should be a priority. Does free-agent linebacker Stewart Bradley still factor prominently into the team's plans, particularly at such a high price?

St. Louis Rams

Key free agents: WR Brandon Lloyd, G Jacob Bell, CB Justin King, OL Adam Goldberg, LB Chris Chamberlain, G Tony Wragge, TE Billy Bajema, WR Mark Clayton, DT Gary Gibson, P Donnie Jones.

Where they stand: The Rams have no interest in staying the course from a personnel standpoint after going 15-65 over the past five seasons. They will seek fresh talent almost across the board as Jeff Fisher's new coaching staff seeks players for its schemes. The Rams are seeking playmakers in particular, starting at wide receiver. The offensive line needs addressing, although the Rams might try to minimize the turnover at offensive tackle for the short term, figuring they cannot afford to create new needs. But former starting center Jason Brown, benched last season, appears unlikely to return. The team also needs two starting outside linebackers, starting defensive tackles and perhaps two starting cornerbacks on defense.

What to expect: Mass roster turnover. I could see the team retaining as few as one or two players from its list of 21 projected unrestricted free agents. The Rams have a disproportionate amount of their salary cap tied up in recent high draft choices Sam Bradford, Chris Long and Jason Smith. The rookie wage scale will provide them cap relief even if the team remains among the teams picking very high in the 2012 draft. Bradford and Long are cornerstones. Smith could stick around at a reduced rate. The team still has hope for him under new offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive lineman Jason Jones, both free agents from Tennessee, have ties to Fisher and could make sense for the Rams. Despite the need for playmakers on offense, the Rams did not use the franchise tag on Lloyd, their most talented receiver. Questions persist about how effective Lloyd might be outside Josh McDaniels' offense.

San Francisco 49ers

Key free agents: QB Alex Smith, CB Carlos Rogers, FS Dashon Goldson (franchise tag), G Adam Snyder, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Josh Morgan, G Chilo Rachal, FB Moran Norris, LB Blake Costanzo.

Where they stand: Coach Jim Harbaugh has said it's a bit unsettling heading through the offseason with his starting quarterback unsigned. Smith and the 49ers are expected to reach agreement eventually. This relationship will almost certainly continue even if Smith does reach free agency without a deal in place. Smith would not fit nearly as well anywhere else. Harbaugh likes to use the word "equity" when describing players he wants to keep. The 49ers would rather bring back Smith than invite the disruption that Manning would bring, were they able to land him. The team needs help at wide receiver and possibly cornerback, depending upon what happens with Rogers. Getting Goldson at the relatively reasonable franchise rate ($6.2 million) was a plus for the 49ers' continuity in the secondary.

What to expect: Not a whole lot, most likely. The 49ers were a good team last season after taking a low-keyed approach to the free-agent market. They will presumably show interest in Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace and any high-profile, productive receiver with the talent to upgrade their offense. It's a small upset if the 49ers land one of them, however, because their philosophy is built on a measured approach resistant to overpaying. They will have to address the receiver position in free agency one way or another, however. Re-signing Morgan would help. Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Mario Manningham, Plaxico Burress and Robert Meachem are among the other options in free agency. An upgrade at right guard would help the line, but the 49ers might be apt to develop 2011 draft choice Daniel Kilgore after investing first-round choices in their left tackle (Joe Staley), left guard (Mike Iupati) and right tackle (Anthony Davis).

Seattle Seahawks

Key free agents: DE Red Bryant, LB David Hawthorne, LB Leroy Hill, OL Paul McQuistan, DE Raheem Brock, DL Tony Hargrove, FB Michael Robinson, RB Justin Forsett, QB Charlie Whitehurst, LB Matt McCoy, TE John Carlson, LB Heath Farwell.

Where they stand: The Seahawks' long-term quarterback situation hangs over them as they head toward the 2012 draft with only the 12th overall choice. The team has built up the rest of its roster to a point where sticking with Tarvaris Jackson as the primary starter could hold back the team to a degree it did not through much of last season. Upgrading the pass rush is another priority for the Seahawks. With defensive end Raheem Brock publicly stumping for Seattle to land Manning, his former teammate, I couldn't help but wonder which one of them had a better shot at earning a roster spot with the team in 2012. It might be Manning, even if the Seahawks are relative long shots for his services. Brock failed to provide the pass-rush push Seattle needed opposite Chris Clemons. Linebacker is another position the Seahawks need to address, whether or not Hawthorne and Hill return.

What to expect: The Seahawks have roughly $30 million in cap space, according to Clayton, and will make every effort to land Manning. They feel they've got a shot as long as they can persuade him to get on a plane and check out what they have to offer in terms of the roster, coaching, facilities, ownership and more. If Manning goes elsewhere, I would expect the Seahawks to consider Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn. Securing him at a price lower than what Arizona paid for Kolb would be the goal. As badly as the Seahawks want to upgrade the position, they have said they will not panic. Overpaying for Flynn could represent panic in their eyes. On the pass-rush front, I'm increasingly skeptical the team will shell out for Mario Williams. The price could be too high for a player Houston has decided to let hit the market. Re-signing Bryant is a priority, but using the franchise tag for him was never an option given the $10.6 million price. A deal slightly north of the one teammate Brandon Mebane signed seems likelier if Bryant returns.

First look at Rams' 2012 free agents

February, 7, 2012
The St. Louis Rams have 20 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

I'm not sure any of them qualify as players the Rams absolutely must bring back, particularly with a new coach and new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd would help fill a need, but at what price? Would he fit as well in a new offense after producing at disproportionate levels to this point when paired with former coordinator Josh McDaniels, now in New England?

Guard Jacob Bell played for new coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. He might have more value to the new staff than he had to the old one; McDaniels wanted more powerful guards, such as Harvey Dahl.

This item, like the previous one for Arizona, expands upon Brian McIntyre's lists. I've added columns for offensive and defensive snap counts from 2011, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. The final column shows how much each player's previous contract averaged.

Update: Punter Donnie Jones is also an unrestricted free agent. His previous contracted averaged not quite $1.2 million.


Receiver Danny Amendola, listed with the restricted free agents below, has not played since suffering an elbow injury in the 2011 season opener.
The San Francisco 49ers have become the hunted in the NFC West.

Having already take aim at their 2011 turnover differential, let us consider another reason for a potential 2012 regression from 13-3.

"Repeating the 2011 relative lack of injuries on the 49ers may be as hard as replicating the turnover ratio," Michael Rally contended via Twitter.

Injuries did slow and/or sideline some of the 49ers' most important players, including running back Frank Gore and linebacker Patrick Willis. Starting receiver Josh Morgan missed most of the season. A freak jaw injury sidelined tight end Delanie Walker late in the season. A hamstring injury slowed defensive end Ray McDonald.

But in looking at injured-reserve lists, the 49ers definitely fared better than their division rivals. They finished the regular season with five players on IR. The other three NFC West teams had a combined 39.

I've broken out the IR lists by team and position, based on where teams stood after Week 17. In some cases, teams released and/or reached injury settlements with players placed on IR previously. Teams usually keep on IR the players they value the most, however. The players listed below are the most relevant ones.

St. Louis Rams (16)

Fullback: Brit Miller

Receiver: Danny Amendola, Mark Clayton, Greg Salas

Tight end: Mike Hoomanawanui

Offensive line: guard Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith

Defensive line: Jermelle Cudjo

Linebacker: Josh Hull

Cornerback: Ron Bartell, Bradley Fletcher, Al Harris, Brian Jackson, Marquis Johnson, Jerome Murphy

Comment: Quarterback Sam Bradford was injured much of the year without landing on IR. The Rams ran through several unlisted cornerbacks as well. That position was hit hard. Losing both starting offensive tackles is never good, but Smith wasn't a huge positive factor on the right side. The team was arguably better off without him in the lineup.

Seattle Seahawks (15)

Receiver: Kris Durham, Mike Williams, Sidney Rice

Tight end: John Carlson

Offensive line: John Moffitt, James Carpenter, Russell Okung

Defensive line: Jimmy Wilkerson

Linebacker: Jameson Konz, Matt McCoy, David Vobora, Dexter Davis

Cornerback: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond, Ron Parker

Comment: The Seahawks remained strong against the run largely because their line was healthier this season. Losing three-fifths of the starting offensive line could not stop Marshawn Lynch from producing at a high level. Rookie Richard Sherman capitalized on injuries at cornerback. Good, young depth helped Seattle weather injuries well.

Arizona Cardinals (8)

Quarterback: Max Hall

Running back: Ryan Williams

Offensive line: Brandon Keith, Floyd Womack

Defensive line: Dan Williams

Linebacker: Joey Porter

Cornerback: Crezdon Butler, Greg Toler

Comment: Ryan Williams' knee injury affected the team significantly. The injury situation was worse overall than the list would indicate. Quarterback Kevin Kolb missed seven starts with foot and concussion problems. Running back Beanie Wells played hurt much of the year and had a hard time producing late in the season. Adrian Wilson played through a torn biceps and got better as the season progressed.

San Francisco 49ers (5)

Receiver: Dontavia Bogan, Josh Morgan

Tight end: Nate Byham

Defensive line: Will Tukuafu

Cornerback: Curtis Holcomb

Comment: Byham was a solid blocking tight end. The team missed Morgan, especially late in the year. Gore's production diminished after he suffered an apparent knee injury in Week 10. Overall, though, the 49ers were healthy. They inflicted more injuries than they suffered, knocking out several opposing runners, including Felix Jones, LeGarrette Blount, Jahvid Best, Steven Jackson and Pierre Thomas.