NFC West: Julian Peterson
Cornerback Antoine Winfield was the latest addition to the "Minnesota West" roster in Seattle.
"Ever since we controversially signed Steve Hutchinson from them," Aaron writes, "it has seemed as though the Seahawks go out of their way to snatch whatever Vikings they can to stick it to us. It started with them signing Nate Burleson, then Sidney Rice and Heath Farwell, Darell Bevell and Tarvaris Jackson (for whatever reason). They even outbid us for T.J. Houshmanzadeh a few years back. They signed Ryan Longwell at the end of this past season. Obviously, it has continued with Percy Harvin and now Winfield."
Sando: It's a remarkable pattern, but there's likely no revenge factor. The people running the Seahawks during the Hutchinson controversy are long gone from the organization. They were involved in adding Burleson and Houshmandzadeh, but they had nothing to do with the Seahawks' more recent deals for Rice, Farwell, Bevell, Jackson, Harvin or Winfield.
Bevell's hiring as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator stands out as a factor behind the team's decisions to sign Rice and trade for Harvin.
John Schneider's presence as the Seahawks' general manager since 2010 provides a strong link to the NFC North in general. Schneider, after spending much of his career with the Green Bay Packers, played a role in Seattle adding former NFC North players such as Breno Giacomini, Will Blackmon, Cliff Avril, Steven Hauschka, Brett Swain, Frank Omiyale and others. Also, Schneider and Bevell were together in Green Bay. However, Seattle has added many more players without ties to the Vikings or the NFC North.
For a while, the Detroit Lions signed or otherwise acquired a long list of players with Seahawks ties. There were some connections between the organizations -- former Lions coach Rod Marinelli and former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell shared a history with Tampa Bay, for instance -- but some of the overlap defied explanation.
Tyler Polumbus, Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Etric Pruitt and Mike Williams were among the players to play for both organizations.
Update: The Burleson signing did have a retaliatory aspect, as ZippyWasBanned noted in the comments section. Seattle signed him to an offer sheet featuring "poison pills" similar to the ones that helped the Vikings land Hutchinson.
General managers for the St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks have recently indicated they weren't planning to use the tag this year.
None of the free agents for Arizona appears to be a candidate.
In San Francisco, where the 49ers have two candidates in Dashon Goldson and Delanie Walker, longtime beat reporter Matt Maiocco says the team is leaning against tagging Goldson for a second successive season.
Walker could still get the tag, but at the very least, there are no clear-cut candidates to become franchise players in San Francisco or anywhere else in the division.
The NFC West last had no franchise players in 2011 and 2006.
Across the NFL, teams have used the tag 116 times since 2002 and 176 times overall to severely limit unrestricted free agents' options.
Franchise players receive one-year offers worth the average of the five previous franchise-player values at the same position, proportional to current salary-cap allotments per team. Those figures have not yet been announced.
Rules allow teams to designate one franchise player for the 2013 season between Feb. 18 and March 4. Any team declining to match an outside offer to a franchise player receives two first-round draft choices originating from the signing team.
Teams can pay a higher premium to take franchise players off the market entirely. That has happened 14 times, including three times by teams currently in the NFC West. San Francisco used this "exclusive" franchise player designation with Julian Peterson in 2004. Seattle used it with Joey Galloway in 2000. Arizona used it with Eric Swann in 1996.
NFC West teams hold the sixth, 12th, 13th and 30th overall choices in the 2012 NFL draft.
The potential for trading those picks adds intrigue to the draft.
With a big assist from AdamJT13, I've put together a chart showing trades since 2000 involving the first-round slots NFC West teams currently inhabit.
The first row shows the trade current St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead helped engineer while with the Atlanta Falcons last year.
The Falcons sent to Cleveland the 27th, 59th and 124th choices, plus first- and fourth-round picks in 2012, for the sixth overall choice. Snead's Rams grabbed the sixth pick in the 2012 draft from Washington earlier this offseason.
San Francisco 49ers fans should check out the second-to-last row. It shows Philadelphia moving up from 30th to 15th overall, a big jump forward. The 49ers hold the 30th overall pick this year (the Eagles used that 15th pick for Jerome McDougle).
Those moves were particularly dramatic. But as the chart shows, most of the moves involving the picks in question appeared more straightforward. That's a subject I addressed in the video above. Thanks again to AdamJT13. He does great work.
Arizona Cardinals fans hoping their team lands a tackle at No. 13 should recall the move San Francisco made in 2010. The 49ers held the 13th pick that year. They moved up two spots to select tackle Anthony Davis. That trade cost San Francisco the 113th overall choice. The Cardinals hold the 112th pick this year, but they do not have a second-rounder, so moving up might not appeal to them.
The 49ers also set a potential precedent for Seattle, which holds the 12th overall pick. Back in 2000, the 49ers traded back four spots to No. 16 and still came away with a future Pro Bowl pass-rusher, Julian Peterson.
Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis joins Thomas in casting the Rams' continued firings of longtime employees as damaging for morale. Balzer: "At the end of the day, wins and losses will be what really matters to fans. But sometimes there's more to it than that. As Thomas explained, there is an iciness in the air, a cold feeling at Rams Park that is only exacerbated by the lockout. Good feelings seem like a distant memory."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee puts into perspective the 49ers' participation level in player-organized workouts. Barrows on the 49ers: "A group of 12-15 players, mostly those who live in the San Jose area, have been working out together. The sessions have focused mainly on conditioning, although quarterback Alex Smith has worked with a handful of receivers on pass routes from the team's new playbook. Offensive lineman Joe Staley and defensive lineman Justin Smith have been the main organizers."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com revisits 49ers assistant coaches' contract situations after the NFL Coaches Association spoke out on the lockout. Maiocco: "49ers assistant coaches had it written into their contracts that 20 percent of their salaries would be withheld immediately if there were a work stoppage. The lockout has been in effect since March 12. In August, if there is still a lockout, an additional 20 percent -- or 40 percent total -- will be withheld from the salaries of 49ers assistants." Coaches would get the money back if there is a full regular season.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in with the team's new preseason color commentator, Tim Ryan. Ryan played with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when both were with the Bears.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat speaks with former Texans tight end Billy Miller, a former wide receiver, regarding 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Miller: "Greg obviously taught me so many things because I’d never played tight end, but I think the biggest thing he did was make me comfortable. Greg allowed me to do things in a progression … There was a lot of compromise between Greg and me. And that compromise allowed me to become the player I became."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com lists Fredd Young and Julian Peterson as the only players in team history to achieve Pro Bowl status every year they were with the organization.
Also from Farnsworth: Young and fellow linebacker Rufus Porter earn spots on Seattle's 35th anniversary team. Farnsworth: "Each made the team as four linebackers were included because the Seahawks played a 3-4 front from 1983-89 and have been using a 4-3 since 1990, as they did from 1979-82. Porter also was the overwhelming choice as the special teams player with 1,251 votes -- 840 more than Young, the runner-up. Porter is the only player voted to two spots on the reader-selected team."
Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean says Seahawks receiver Golden Tate recently trained with members of the Titans.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Stump Mitchell and Frank Sanders were among the former Cardinals players participating in an alumni-sponsored kids camp at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Information questions whether Kevin Kolb would fit the Cardinals' offense based on struggles against some of the defensive personnel groupings Arizona faced frequently last season. The sample size is small, however, and the Cardinals faced those groupings in part because they trailed so frequently. The team has subsequently used early draft choices for a running back and a tight end. Might the Cardinals plan on emphasizing the run a little more?
- The St. Louis Rams had at least twice as many fourth-quarter sacks (16) as any other team in the division. Defensive tackle Fred Robbins had four of his six sacks in fourth quarters. Defensive end James Hall had five of his 10.5 sacks in fourth quarters. Those two combined for more fourth-quarter sacks than any other NFC West team.
- The San Francisco 49ers' Justin Smith had only one of his 8.5 sacks in fourth quarters last season, down from 3.5 in 2009 and three in 2008.
- The Seattle Seahawks' Chris Clemons had five of his division-leading 11 sacks in third quarters. Clemons and Hall were the only NFC West players with five sacks in any quarter. Seattle's Raheem Brock had 4.5 in second quarters.
- The Rams' production for 2010 is impressive given that their leading sacker over the past decade, Leonard Little, had transitioned into retirement. Little's 82 sacks since 2001 are easily the most in the division during that span. Chike Okeafor (49.5) is next, followed by Julian Peterson (42), Bertrand Berry (40) and Grant Wistrom (32.5).
The first chart shows team-by-team sack numbers, by quarter.
The second chart shows quarterly sack numbers for the five NFC West players with more than six sacks last season. Smith also had one sack during overtime.
- Some teams use their own charts reflecting different values for the selections. The trades themselves define actual values, of course. The chart serves only as a point of reference.
- The Cleveland Browns' big trade with the Atlanta Falcons does not appear here because it also included 2012 considerations.
- Once the Browns moved down from No. 6 to No. 27, the value chart says they paid a 120-point premium to move back up to No. 21 in a deal with Kansas City. That was the largest gross discrepancy among qualifying trades. What does 120 points represent? The chart values the 95th overall selection, three spots from the bottom of the third round, as worth that much.
- The chart says Jacksonville overpaid by 110 points in moving up from the 16th to 10th choice to select Blaine Gabbert. The difference is inconsequential if Gabbert becomes a good quarterback. And history says the Jaguars fared OK in sending the 16th and 49th picks to the Redskins for No. 10. In 2000, the New York Jets sent the 16th and 48th picks to San Francisco for the 12th pick (used for Julian Peterson). The Jaguars gained an additional two spots in the first round for essentially the same price.
- The value chart is arguably outdated, particularly near the top of the draft, but most of the trades line up pretty evenly. In some cases, teams are willing to pay a premium for a shot at landing players they consider worth the additional price.
The chart breaks out the trades, with point valuations in parenthesis. For example, the Browns sent the 27th and 70th picks, valued at 920 points, to Kansas City for the 21st pick, valued at 800 points. The 120-point differential shows up in the right column.
The change turned Aaron Curry's sack on the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith into a half-sack for Curry and Clemons. I watched replays and also thought Clemons deserved at least some credit for the sack.
Clemons now has 10 sacks in 13 games with Seattle. He becomes the first Seahawks player since Patrick Kerney in 2007 to have at least 10 in a season. Kerney had 14.5.
Clemons becomes the eighth player from a current NFC West team to record at least 10 sacks in a season since 2000. The list:
- 2010: Clemons
- 2009: none
- 2008: none
- 2007: Kerney (14.5)
- 2006: Leonard Little, Rams (13.0) and Julian Peterson, Seahawks (10.0)
- 2005: none
- 2004: Bertrand Berry, Cardinals (14.5)
- 2003: Little (12.5)
- 2002: Andre Carter, 49ers (12.5) and Little (12.0)
- 2001: Little (14.5)
- 2000: Grant Wistrom, Rams (11.0) and Kevin Carter, Rams (10.5)
The Rams' James Hall ranks second to Clemons in sacks among NFC West players this season. He has 8.5. Teammate Chris Long is next with 6.5, followed by the 49ers' Justin Smith (5.5) and four players with five sacks (Travis LaBoy, Patrick Willis, Raheem Brock and Joey Porter).
Clemons joins a Seattle double-digit sacks list featuring Jacob Green (five times), Michael Sinclair (three), Rufus Porter (two), Jeff Bryant (two), Cortez Kennedy (one), Michael McCrary (one), John Randle (one), Randy Edwards (one), Kerney (one) and Peterson (one).
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 2:
Derek Anderson in perspective. The Arizona Cardinals' trip to Atlanta marks homecomings for coach Ken Whisenhunt and defensive lineman Darnell Dockett. The challenge is clear. Arizona finds itself on the wrong end of another team's home opener for the second week in a row, this time against a better opponent. Quarterback Derek Anderson probably needs to show more consistent accuracy for the Cardinals to defeat the Falcons in the Georgia Dome. The rest of us could also use a little more accuracy at times. For as erratic as Anderson appeared when throwing eight consecutive incomplete passes in Week 1, his 85.1 passer rating for the game was better than eight of the 17 regular-season and postseason ratings posted by a certain now-retired Cardinals quarterback last season. Kurt Warner posted nine ratings between 100.8 and 154.1 last season. His ratings in the remaining eight games ranged between 44.9 and 79.2. Anderson might never play like Warner when Warner was hot. He could potentially be more consistent from game to game. At the very least, we shouldn't measure him against the very best Warner offered without giving at least some consideration to those other eight games.
The Jeremy Bates Show. Alex Gibbs' abrupt departure as the Seattle Seahawks' offensive line coach one week before the season left me thinking the team's offensive line might suffer an implosion reminiscent of 2009, particularly with rookie left tackle Russell Okung sidelined by injury. That might still happen, but it seems less likely after Bates, the Seahawks' offensive coordinator, put together such a successful plan against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. Protection issues weren't an overriding problem. As much as the Seahawks respected and valued Gibbs, they've shrugged off his departure as if they weren't counting on him to be around that long anyway. Meanwhile, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck keeps crediting Bates by name when answering questions about the offense. In retrospect, Bates was the most important hire coach Pete Carroll made for his offensive staff. The early results appear promising. Bates, a coaching grinder known to sleep in the office, presumably will have a good plan for Denver, his former employer (the Broncos wanted to keep Bates after firing Mike Shanahan, but it wasn't an ideal fit for Bates once the team hired Josh McDaniels).
Sam Bradford's first career victory. The Rams believe in Bradford, and they should. He's shown the starting job isn't too big for him. Now the Rams need to win a game with him. The Raiders aren't a particularly good team. They couldn't stop Vince Young from completing 76.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and a 142.8 rating. Like Young, Bradford benefits from having a top running back on his side. Steven Jackson is hungry. Coach Steve Spagnuolo and the Rams lamented missed opportunities following their 17-13 defeat against Arizona in the opener. Losing to the Raiders would count as another one.
Breaker-breaker one-Nine(r). The 49ers' communication problems are getting lots of attention, as they should. Any team should be able to communicate plays from its coordinator to the quarterback without inducing panic. Let's not lose sight of the fact that San Francisco lost its opener because the team didn't block, tackle, throw, catch and cover well enough. I'm expecting better from the 49ers against the Super Bowl champions on Monday night. Largely the same 49ers team led the Minnesota Vikings and Indianapolis Colts on the road in the fourth quarter last season. Vernon Davis and Patrick Willis are cashing fatter checks after signing long-term extensions during the offseason. Safety Dashon Goldson wants one, too. Alex Smith is playing for his career this season. Time for those guys to produce.
The latest move between the teams is particularly chuckle-worthy (surely there must be some reason these teams keep hooking up, but I can't find any hard ties). The Lions recently won a waiver-claim battle with Seattle over former Denver Broncos offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus. The Lions held Polumbus for a few days, then traded him to the Seahawks, presumably for something of minimal or even conditional value. Polumbus and Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates were with the Broncos in 2008.
The Seahawks and Lions have made multiple trades and shared multiple players spanning multiple coaching staffs and front offices in recent years.
Among the players to spend time on both rosters: Polumbus, Nate Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Jon Kitna (OK, not recently in Seattle), Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Ike Charlton (again, not recently in Seattle), Etric Pruitt, Mike Williams and probably a few others.
Mike Sando: No apologies necessary. Glad you liked the look at the Rams. We've subsequently put together one on the Seahawks. I'm working on one for the 49ers and will have one for the Arizona Cardinals, too. These have been quite fun.
Why worry about trivial details such as winning the NFC West for the first time since 2002 when there are playoff matchups to consider? Haha.
If the 49ers were to win the NFC West as the third or lower seed, they would draw a home playoff game in the wild-card round. Teams hosting wild-card games often draw relatively flawed opponents. For example, the 2008 Cardinals drew a home playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons and rookie quarterback Matt Ryan. The 2007 Seahawks drew a home playoff game against the Washington Redskins and Todd Collins. Drawing flawed opponents at home can help a team break through in the postseason.
That might not be the case for the NFC West champion this season. The other top teams in the conference are stacked with proven quarterbacks. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are in the NFC North. Drew Brees and a more seasoned Ryan are in the NFC South. The NFC East has a different look now that Donovan McNabb has left the Philadelphia Eagles, but Eli Manning won a Super Bowl -- and multiple road playoff games -- for the New York Giants. The Dallas Cowboys finally won a playoff game last season with Tony Romo.
Drawing one of those quarterbacks in the wild-card round could be tough for the NFC West champion, whether it's the 49ers or anyone else.
Doug from Surprise, Ariz., writes: With the departure of Karlos Dansby and with Gerald Hayes' back injury, the Cardinals obviously have issues at inside linebacker. Given that they play a 3-4 defense, is it feasible that the Cardinals could plug Adrian Wilson into a linebacker role (i.e. some sort of hybrid strong safety/linebacker)? Wilson is too small to play linebacker full-time, but he is a very good strong safety who excels when playing closer to the line of scrimmage.
Mike Sando: The Cardinals might have to rely upon Wilson more as an extra box defender, but I can't see them turning him into a base linebacker. The team would lose some of what he offers as a safety while putting Wilson at additional risk for injury.
William from Cincinnati writes: My reason for writing is that I really don't see how the Rams are still considered the worst team in the league. Why does everybody think the Lions will all of a sudden be so good? The Rams beat them last year and have better players at most positions except for receiver (Calvin Johnson is the only reason, though), outside linebacker with Julian Peterson, tight end with Brandon Pettigrew and defensive tackle with Ndamukong Suh.
The other positions almost all favor the Rams or are a tossup. Running back, cornerback, free safety, strong safety, offensive line, fullback, middle linebacker, punter and defensive end all go in the Rams' favor with Steven Jackson, Ron Bartell, Oshiomogho Atogwe, James Butler, Jason Smith, Jason Brown, Jacob Bell, Mike Karney, James Laurinaitis, Donnie Jones and Chris Long, respectively. And, yes, Long is better than Kyle Vanden Bosch. He had more sacks and one less tackle and basically all of his stats came in the last eight games of the year. With that and the familiarity of the defense Long now enjoys -- plus Fred Robbins knowing Steve Spagnuolo's defense helping out -- he should be even better.
The tossup positions are at quarterback (that is with Sam Bradford), kicker and right outside linebacker.
So my question is, where's the love for the Rams? And that's just them vs. the Lions. I'm sure I could pick out another team or two and argue just as well that they are better than them as of now. Thanks again.
Mike Sando: Ah, yes, the most recent ESPN power rankings did have the Rams ranked 32nd and I think that's fair after the team went 3-13, 2-14 and 1-15 over the last three seasons. The Rams have earned our skepticism. We're still in the offseason and you're going to see more reliance on 2009 records when putting together power rankings.
I did take the Rams over the Lions before last season in terms of which organization was building more wisely. The Lions were going with older players and that didn't make a great deal of sense. The Rams paid a price for going as young as they did, although I didn't see a better alternative given the salary-cap situation and overall state of the roster.
The Lions can expect Matthew Stafford to progress enough in his second season to outpace Bradford and A.J. Feeley in the short term. That doesn't mean Stafford will be better for sure, but it's reasonable to think he might be until we see what the Rams' quarterbacks can offer. Also, if you have seen Louis Delmas play safety the for the Lions, you know he's a dynamic player and better than what the Rams have to offer at the position.
Kenny from Washington writes: Do you think Seahawks players respect Pete Carroll, or just think he came to Seattle to get out of a jam at USC?
Mike Sando: Those options are not exclusive. In other words, the answer to both could be the same.
I think Seattle players respect him, but it's never unconditional respect. He will have to earn that respect over time and across situations. He can lose respect by handling situations dishonestly or mishandling his duties. It's very early in the game right now.
Getting out of a jam at USC would have been secondary to the assurances Carroll needed from an NFL team. He was able to stay on the West Coast and get control over personnel matters. No other team on the West Coast was going to offer those things to him, and Carroll was getting to an age where it was probably time to take this job.
I don't think Carroll realized the severity of the sanctions that awaited. That might have reflected arrogance on his part and on USC's part, but I don't think he thought the NCAA would come down so harshly.
The market for Oshiomogho Atogwe appears undefined roughly 12 hours into the former Rams safety's life as a free agent.
Of course, Miami wasn't considered the most likely destination for receiver Brandon Marshall before the Dolphins acquired him, as one acquaintance noted. Stuff could be swirling beneath the surface in the absence of visible evidence.
Maurice Morris, Nate Burleson, Rob Sims, Julian Peterson, Bryant Johnson, Shaun Hill, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Jonathan Wade, Marquand Manuel, Will Heller, Roy Schuening, Jahi Word-Daniels and Trevor Canfield come to mind.
The Lions have also collected former NFC West head coaches, from Steve Mariucci to Scott Linehan to Mike Martz.
That is bad.
The chart shows NFC West draft choices since 2000 with Pro Bowls on their résumés, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Pro Bowl counts include appearances made for teams outside the division.
For example, 2001 Seahawks draft choice Koren Robinson earned Pro Bowl honors as a return specialist in Minnesota. Thomas Jones never did much for Arizona, but he blossomed elsewhere.
Niners draft choice Julian Peterson earned Pro Bowl appearances with Seattle and San Francisco, but he's listed with the 49ers because they drafted him.
The Cardinals drafted a division-leading nine Pro Bowl players. Their first-round choices averaged 11th overall during the decade.
The Seahawks drafted seven Pro Bowl players. Their first-round position averaged 20th overall.
The 49ers drafted six. Their first-round position averaged 18th overall.
The Rams averaged 17th overall in the round with a range of very early and very late selections.
Mike Sando: Relatively few early choices change hands in this manner. Teams generally do not trade productive young players.
The Browns picked up an extra 2009 second-round choice and a 2010 fifth-rounder thanks to the Kellen Winslow trade, using the second-rounder for receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. The Chiefs parted with a second-round choice to acquire Matt Cassel and Mike Vrabel from New England last offseason (New England selected safety Pat Chung). The Eagles parted with multiple picks, including a first-rounder Buffalo used for guard Eric Wood, in the Jason Peters trade. The Falcons parted with a 2010 second-rounder for Tony Gonzalez.
The teams acquiring the players arguably fared well in those deals.
In the NFC West, Seattle and St. Louis acquired veteran players last offseason. The Seahawks traded Julian Peterson to Detroit for Cory Redding and a 2009 fifth-round choice, which Seattle later traded to Philadelphia. The Rams swapped spots with Atlanta in the fifth and sixth rounds to acquire receiver Laurent Robinson. Robinson had shown some promise in Atlanta, but injuries held him back. That was the story of his 2010 season with the Rams.
Also from Somers: a look at issues facing the Cardinals this offseason. The team will not be rushing to extend Darnell Dockett, who has two years remaining on his deal.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com expands on the idea that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll should have an advantage heading into the scouting combine after recruiting and coaching at the college level. Seattle holds the sixth and 14th choices in the 2010 draft. The team held the eighth overall choice in 1995, when Dennis Erickson was jumping to the NFL after a successful run at the college level. Seattle's draft class that year featured Joey Galloway, Christian Fauria, Jason Kyle, Henry McMillian, Eddie Goines and Keif Bryant.
Also from Farnsworth: a few thoughts on Ricky Foley's signing.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo as the Rams head to the scouting combine. Thomas expects the Rams to choose between Ndamukong Suh, Gerald McCoy, Sam Bradford and Jimmy Clausen with the first overall choice. Devaney says he has some interest in seeing a medical report on Colt McCoy. Devaney on the draft in general: "I think wide receiver is going to be pretty deep. There may not be those stud impact guys, but it's a real good group. The offensive line -- tackles again. The past few years, there's been a pretty good run of tackles."
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com thinks Marc Bulger could wind up with the Bucs. Gordon: "He is not going to retire. Several teams would covet him as a back-up next season, including Tampa Bay -– where Greg Olson is offensive coordinator. You will recall that Olson worked with Bulger as Scott Linehan’s nominal offensive coordinator. Bulger could regroup from his beatings in St. Louis, help tutor (Josh) Freeman and offer insurance if the kid needs to sit for a spell."
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on the draft and free agency. Thomas: "If the Rams took Bradford at No. 1 overall, there's a lot of ways they could go in the second round. At DT, maybe (but not for certain) Dan Williams of Tennessee is still there. Or another DT, Jared Odrick of Penn State. The Rams could see if any of the edge rushers -- the best seem to be the 'tweeners this year -- are still on the board. The top of the second might be too high for RB Dexter McCluster. Then again, he might not be there at the top of the third."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says during a chat that the 49ers are almost certain to select an offensive lineman in the first round. Barrows: "I really don't see them bypassing an OL in the first round. Maybe if they felt confident a guy like Rodger Saffold (Indiana) could be had in the second, but that's risky. Nothing is a sure thing when it comes to the draft, but the 49ers taking an OL is as sure as it gets."
Also from Barrows: The 49ers visited with former Titans and Cardinals pass-rusher Travis LaBoy, who was forced out of football by injuries last season.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Aubrayo Franklin joins Julian Peterson, Terrell Owens and Steve Young as franchise players for the 49ers.
Also from Maiocco: He compares draft prospect Taylor Mays to Dana Hall, a first-round disappointment from the 49ers' past.
It's probably presumptive to assume this post is worth $12.95, but that was the price of Web access from seat 21C on my Delta flight to Atlanta, and I'll try to expense it.
The in-seat tracking screen shows our plane rocketing across Northeastern Wyoming.
This post will conclude the series examining the best NFC West players from 2000 to 2009. I suppose we could look at the coaches as well, but Mike Holmgren's longevity and overall success would make him the logical choice, followed by Ken Whisenhunt. Links and quick summaries:
- Offensive line: "The Seahawks' Walter Jones was probably the best offensive lineman in the NFL during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Wide receivers: "Torry Holt set the standard for NFC West receivers during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Quarterbacks. "(Kurt) Warner prevailed as the highest-rated passer among the four quarterbacks with at least 10,000 yards for NFC West teams during the decade."
- Running backs: "Shaun Alexander stands above all others as the NFC West's most productive runner during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Tight ends: "The 49ers' Vernon Davis stood above all other NFC West tight ends during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Safeties: "The Cardinals' Adrian Wilson stands above all other NFC West safeties for his efforts during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Cornerbacks: "No other NFC West cornerback from 2000 to 2009 could match Williams' accomplishments."
- Linebackers: "No NFC West linebacker started more games or earned as many Pro Bowl berths as Julian Peterson during the first decade of the 2000s."
- Defensive line: "Defensive end Leonard Little and defensive tackle Bryant Young stood out to me as the NFC West's best defensive linemen at their positions in the first decade of the 2000s."
- Punters: "The 49ers' Andy Lee stood out as the best NFC West punter for the first decade of the 2000s."
- Kickers: "Josh Brown emerges as the winner, but like I said, it's tough to go wrong picking from this group."