NFC West: Jerry Porter
"I do like how his skill set translates to the new offense," Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said. "They'll run a lot of quick-hitting routes where he can be big and physical, fight for the football and run after the catch with power."
Crabtree is coming off a 55-catch second season in which his numbers almost exactly matched established averages for wideouts in Jimmy Raye-coordinated offenses. The 49ers fired Raye after three games, but they ran essentially the same offense. San Francisco, like some of Raye's teams in Kansas City, had a prolific receiving tight end, which affected opportunities for wide receivers.
But there's still an expectation, I would think, for Crabtree's production to improve under new coach Jim Harbaugh. Crabtree has at times looked like a season pro, but I emerged from last season wondering what to expect from him.
"It will be a test for Harbaugh for sure from a coaching standpoint," Williamson said, "but besides developing a quarterback -- Colin Kaepernick will be great, by the way -- getting the most out of Crabtree has to be extremely high on Harbaugh's to-do list. I would like to see them add one more speed guy to the receiving corps."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams re-signed tight end Daniel Fells after declining to tender him as a restricted free agent.
Also from Thomas: "If Bradford checks out medically, and throws the heck out of the ball during his pro day in Norman, Okla. on March 25, it makes all the sense in the world to draft him at No. 1 overall. And I write this as a guy who absolutely loves what Ndamukong Suh can do on the football field."
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat offers Rams-related thoughts, including this one: "The debate over whether the Rams should select quarterback Sam Bradford or defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will rage over the next six weeks, but let’s spare the hyperbole that claims Suh is a once-in-a-generation player and that he is a sure thing. There are no sure things in projecting college players to the NFL, and the reality is that high-picked defensive tackles have just as bad or even worse a track record in the NFL than quarterbacks."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks' quarterback situation after Seneca Wallace's trade to the Browns. O'Neil: "Seattle is in the midst of its first significant shake-up in the pocket since 2005, when backup Trent Dilfer was traded to Cleveland. For the past five years, Matt Hasselbeck and Wallace have been the top two rungs in Seattle's quarterback hierarchy."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Pete Carroll, John Schneider and a full cast of Seahawks personnel people attended the University of Washington pro day. Farnsworth: "The Seahawks are the local NFL team and there is that connection between Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian, who left USC for the UW last year, and Carroll, who left USC for the Seahawks this year.
Adam Schefter of ESPN says former Seahawks and Cardinals receiver Jerheme Urban has signed with the Chiefs, reuniting Urban with former Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' haven't committed to Matt Leinart as their starter. He lists Derek Anderson, Marc Bulger, Charlie Whitehurst, Jake Delhomme and Brian St. Pierre as possible competitors for the job. Somers on Bulger: "He's still on the Rams' roster but they are expected to release him, probably after the draft. The timing is tricky for the Cardinals, who would miss out on some other candidates by waiting. Bulger has a lot of experience and is a good guy who wouldn't cause problems in the locker room. But he has taken a pounding over the past few years." There were rumblings during the season that Bulger might retire, but we haven't heard much on that front recently. If Bulger did decide to stop playing, he would be best off to wait until the Rams release him. Otherwise, he might have to pay back bonus money.
Also from Somers: Anthony Becht re-signs, while Larry Foote and Joey Porter are visiting this week.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Arizona should be pretty much set at tight end after re-signing Anthony Becht and Stephen Spach.
Also from Urban: Adrian Wilson doesn't think the Giants have the best safety tandem in the league, apparently.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers might have only casual interest in running backs Leon Washington and Justin Fargas.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers coach Mike Singletary is taking an active role in scouting. Meanwhile, the Redskins are showing some interest in swing tackle Barry Sims. Maiocco: "The Redskins, who brought in offensive tackle Tony Pashos for a free-agent visit last week, are showing interest in unrestricted free agent Barry Sims. Pashos signed with the Browns, while Sims remains a free agent. The Redskins' offensive line coach is Chris Foerster, who held the same job with the 49ers last year. Sims does not appear to be in a hurry to sign. He's just waiting to see where his best opportunity emerges. The 49ers have expressed an interest in bringing him back -- at the right price.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Questions, answers and observations as the 49ers prepare for their 2009 regular-season opener without first-round draft choice Michael Crabtree:
2. What is the holdup? It's impossible to know without trusting sources with a vested interest in how the arguments are framed. The cliche says the devil is in the details, and that is probably the case here. High-stakes negotiations for drafted rookies are about identifying which incentive terms will allow the player to maximize total value. What if Crabtree fears he could not hit those incentives in the 49ers' conservative offense? More on that in a bit.
3. Does Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? I'm starting to have doubts. The other first-round picks in this division had a hard time missing training camp practices, let alone exhibition games or the regular season. Beanie Wells traveled overnight to reach Cardinals camp without missing any more practices than necessary. Aaron Curry told reporters he had reached a breaking point after missing one week of camp. Crabtree? Not so much.
4. Why wouldn't Crabtree want to play for the 49ers? Perhaps he's been listening to Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye talking about how they want to run the ball 60 percent of the time, more than any NFL offense ran the ball last season. The way quarterbacks Shaun Hill and Alex Smith performed during the exhibition season probably didn't help. And if you look at Raye's history as a coordinator -- see the chart below -- he's clearly serious about running the football.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Rams might be able to get receiver Donnie Avery back from a foot injury in time for the regular season. Here's a quick look at available veteran receivers, with potential concerns listed for each player:
- Matt Jones: substance-abuse arrests.
- Plaxico Burress: facing jail time on weapons charge.
- Marvin Harrison: knee trouble; his gun linked to shooting.
- Koren Robinson: knee trouble; alcohol-related arrests.
- Reggie Williams: substance-abuse arrest.
- Ashley Lelie: 21 receptions over last two seasons.
- Travis Taylor: one reception over last two seasons.
- Ike Hilliard: caught 47 passes last season, but is 33 years old.
- Jerry Porter: missed 18 games over last three seasons.
- Billy McMullen: played for Rams' coordinator Pat Shurmur; has knee issues.
- Joe Jurevicius: staph infection derailed career.
- Darrell Jackson: 12 receptions last season and has had knee issues.
- Keary Colbert: career in decline since 2004 rookie season.
- Dane Looker: Rams cut him this year.
- Dante Hall: Rams cut him this year.
I'd be stunned if the Rams considered any receivers with significant off-field issues. Looking at the list, Hilliard might be the most logical consideration, if healthy.
Travel note: I wrote this item Sunday night and scheduled it to appear Monday while I was traveling to St. Louis for Rams camp. I'll revisit this item at some point Monday if the Rams sign a veteran replacement for Avery.