NFC West: Kerry Rhodes

NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC West team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson is back as the starting left corner in a revamped secondary. The team must discover during training camp which corner will start opposite him. Newcomers Antoine Cason and Jerraud Powers are the leading candidates. Arizona has quite a few options. Rookie Tyrann Mathieu figures prominently into the Cardinals' plans as a hybrid corner-safety type. Slot corner Javier Arenas, acquired from Kansas City, and 2012 third-round choice Jamell Fleming are also in the mix. The Cardinals will have three new starters in their secondary after parting with cornerback William Gay, free safety Kerry Rhodes and strong safety Adrian Wilson. Greg Toler, James Sanders and Michael Adams are also gone. Those six combined to play nearly 70 percent of the snaps in the secondary last season. Rashad Johnson was starting to overtake Wilson. He projects as the likely strong safety, with veteran newcomer Yeremiah Bell at the other safety spot. Bell played under new coordinator Todd Bowles previously.

St. Louis Rams: Cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins provide the foundation for a secondary that expects to play quite a bit of man coverage behind an aggressive front seven with improved speed. Finnegan is the most accomplished and highest-paid member of the secondary, but he insists Jenkins is the best defensive back on the team by a wide margin. That might be true from a talent standpoint. The team will be looking for Jenkins to demonstrate improved consistency in his second season. Trumaine Johnson, a third-round choice in 2012, also figures prominently. A DUI arrest and previous off-field troubles in college raise questions about his long-term reliability, however. The situation at safety is ... different. The Rams want to develop third-round pick T.J. McDonald quickly. Darian Stewart projects as the other primary safety. The team signed veteran Matt Giordano as insurance. Former starting safeties Craig Dahl and Quintin Mikell are gone. The Rams must determine this summer what they have at safety.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers demonstrated by their actions this offseason a general belief that the secondary's issues late last season stemmed more from a diminished front seven than from talent deficiencies on the back end. Dahl, signed from the Rams this offseason, provides a veteran insurance policy in case rookie first-round pick Eric Reid isn't ready to start immediately at free safety. San Francisco must replace former starter Dashon Goldson, who signed with Tampa Bay in free agency. C.J. Spillman, primarily a force on special teams to this point in his career, also factors as an option there. The 49ers have never appeared particularly concerned about losing Goldson over the years, but trading up 12 spots to select Reid showed they value talent at the position. Tarell Brown, Carlos Rogers and Donte Whitner return as the other three starters. Beyond identifying an immediate starter at free safety, the 49ers need to figure out this summer whether free-agent addition Nnamdi Asomugha can help them.

Seattle Seahawks: All four starters return from arguably the best secondary in the NFL. Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and new nickel corner Antoine Winfield have all earned Pro Bowl or Associated Press All-Pro honors within the past three seasons. Jeremy Lane and Walter Thurmond are talented backups with limited starting experience. The team must figure out this offseason whether Thurmond factors in for the long term. Thurmond beat out Sherman for the starting job heading into the 2011 season. However, repeated serious injuries have derailed his career. Winfield is probably safe as the nickel corner this season, but the gap between Winfield and the team's other options is smaller than Winfield's credentials would suggest.
We interrupt ongoing coverage of Michael Crabtree's surgically repaired Achilles tendon to continue our recent discussion on average ages for projected 2013 NFL starting lineups.

Offense went first. Defense is up next.

The chart ranks teams by average ages for defensive starters.

I've recalculated the numbers and you can see just how close some of them are -- indistinguishable, in some cases. One change to the projected starting lineup could affect the order by several places.

The way the ages are calculated -- number of days since birth divided by 365.25 to account for leap years, then rounded down to the tenth of a year and averaged -- can cause slight changes to the order from one day to the next. That happened with the defenses for New England and Baltimore over the past couple days, for example. They actually switched places from a couple days back because the calculation for Tommy Kelly's age changed from 32.3 to 32.4.

For that reason, I'm more interested in the extremes from one end of the rankings to the next. A few spots here or there? No big deal.

The gradual changes add up through the range of teams, and we can see why the Chicago Bears weren't all that excited about bringing back Brian Urlacher to a defense that has the oldest starting linebackers without him.

A few thoughts on the defensive numbers for NFC West teams:
  • Arizona Cardinals: Arizona released veteran safeties Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes primarily to shed their contracts. Had getting younger been the priority, Arizona wouldn't have signed 35-year-old Yeremiah Bell as a replacement. His presence on the roster pushes up the average age in the secondary. Parting with Paris Lenon, 35, made the Cardinals younger at linebacker. This team had too many older backups in the past, I thought. That is changing. Note that the Cardinals had the NFL's third-oldest starting defense entering the 2010 season. That group averaged 29.3 years old. The current one averages 27.8 even with Karlos Dansby projecting as a starter over Kevin Minter. I listed Dansby and Daryl Washington as the starters at inside linebacker despite the four-game suspension Washington must serve to open the season.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers had the NFL's oldest starting defensive line last season. That will not be the case in 2013 now that Isaac Sopoaga left in free agency. Replacing Sopoaga and free safety Dashon Goldson with younger players has brought down the 49ers' average age across the defensive lineup. And if the draft secured an eventual successor for 33-year-old Justin Smith, the 49ers should be set up on defense for years to come. Note that strong safety Donte Whitner is entering his eighth season, but he won't turn 28 until July.
  • St. Louis Rams: The Rams own the second-youngest projected starting defense in the NFL. Their starting defensive backs, defensive linemen and linebackers all rank among the NFL's five youngest at their position groups. That is much younger than the Rams were on defense a few years ago. The biggest question initially is whether the Rams' young safeties, including rookie third-round draft choice T.J. McDonald, are ready to play prominent roles. Signing a veteran safety for insurance could make some sense, but this is looking like a season when youth will be served throughout nearly all the Rams' roster, save for portions of the offensive line. There's much to like about a young defensive front featuring Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and veteran Chris Long.
  • Seattle Seahawks: There was some projecting at work in putting together a lineup for Seattle. I plugged in Malcolm Smith at linebacker and went with a defensive line featuring Red Bryant, Tony McDaniel, Brandon Mebane and Cliff Avril. That line would hardly be ancient, but it would rank among the older third of projected starting lines. Bruce Irvin's suspension and Chris Clemons' knee injury limit the options. We could see rookie Jesse Williams at defensive tackle over McDaniel, who has mostly been a rotation player. The Seahawks would have the youngest projected starting linebackers in the league if Smith joined Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright in the lineup. The starting secondary ranks seventh youngest. However, nickel corner Antoine Winfield is 35 years old and could wind up playing half the snaps, or more.
Adam Snyder's release from the Arizona Cardinals made him the sixth player to leave the team's roster this offseason after starting at least 10 games for the team in 2012.

Paris Lenon, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Snyder and Adrian Wilson each started at least 14 games last season before departing the roster. D'Anthony Batiste, an unrestricted free agent, started 10 games.

Quentin Groves, Beanie Wells, John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and LaRod Stephens-Howling were part of a group of former Cardinals to start between five and seven games for Arizona last season.

Rich Ohrnberger, Ryan Lindley, Pat McQuistan, Early Doucet, Greg Toler, Reagan Maui'a, Nick Eason, Vonnie Holliday and Todd Heap started between one and four games for the team before leaving the roster.

You get the point. The Cardinals have a new head coach and new general manager. They weren't very good on offense last season. Some of their players' contracts reflect what the team's previous leadership once thought of those players. They've become outdated. And so the Cardinals are turning over a pretty fair percentage of their roster by design.

Kam Chancellor's deal sends message

April, 22, 2013
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The Seattle Seahawks' contract extension for safety Kam Chancellor goes against the grain in the NFC West.

The rest of the division has been slashing salary at the position.



Arizona cut starters Adrian Wilson and Kerry Rhodes. St. Louis cut starter Quintin Mikell while watching the other starter, Craig Dahl, sign a modest deal with San Francisco. The 49ers watched Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson leave for Tampa Bay in free agency without making an effort to keep him.

The exact figures for Chancellor's new deal aren't yet known, but he will certainly become the highest-paid safety in the NFC West. ESPN's John Clayton reported the terms as five years and $35 million. Chancellor had one season remaining on his deal.

Chancellor turned 25 this month. That differentiated him from Wilson (33), Mikell (32), Rhodes (30), and Goldson (28). Another difference: Chancellor was drafted by his team's current coach and general manager. The other safeties listed were left behind from previous GMs and coaching staffs.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider made it clear during a news conference Monday that they were personally invested in Chancellor's development from 2010 fifth-round draft choice to team leader and Pro Bowl-caliber safety. For them, rewarding Chancellor reiterated the message that Seattle will reward its own players -- a point that arguably needed reinforcing after the team sprung for outsider Percy Harvin, among others, this offseason.
Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, Dashon Goldson and Quintin Mikell were starting NFC West safeties last season. They combined to earn more than $15 million for their contributions in 2012.

Wilson, Rhodes and Mikell were released, and Goldson departed in free agency, reportedly without getting an offer from the San Francisco 49ers. Another NFC West safety, Craig Dahl, left the St. Louis Rams for the 49ers.

One thing hasn't changed at the position: Seattle still has the best starters in the division.

Matt Williamson, who scouts the NFL for ESPN.com, had little trouble giving the Seahawks his No. 1 ranking at safety in his continuing look at where NFC West teams stand at each position. We pick up the conversation there.

Williamson: Seattle has the best safeties in the league. St. Louis has the worst. San Francisco's are good. Arizona's are average at best.

Sando: I'm a little surprised you'd give the 49ers high marks at the position after parting with Goldson. Donte Whitner is there and he's good, but what else is there at the position? The Rams didn't seem all that set on keeping Dahl.

Williamson: I think Dahl is serviceable. I guess they are not all that good, but they are better than Arizona at the position right now, and with all those draft picks -- 13 overall and five of the first 93 -- I fully expect them to add John Cyprien, Eric Reid or Matt Elam. The writing is on the wall when you sign Dahl as a placeholder while the rookie comes in and is a lot more talented.

Sando: We could have three NFC West teams targeting starting safeties in the draft.

Williamson: St. Louis might have the worst safeties in the league right now. That is a huge need for the Rams. They probably need to draft two safeties in their top four or five picks and one had better be in the first round. Everyone talks about needing receivers for Sam Bradford. Really, they need a guard and a safety. Then we can talk about that.

Sando: Seattle is really the only team in the division appearing set at safety for now. I could still see the Seahawks drafting one for insurance in case they have a hard time re-signing Kam Chancellor. In the meantime, Earl Thomas might be the best safety in the league. At least I'm assuming you'd agree in saying he's moved past Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed, who were long considered the standards.

Williamson: He has passed those guys for sure. They have very much declined. I would probably say Eric Weddle is the best safety right now. Jairus Byrd is good, too. Thomas is right in the conversation with those guys and he has more ability than either one of them.
Carson Palmer is the 27th veteran player NFC West teams have acquired since 2010.

The Seattle Seahawks have acquired 13 of them, including current contributors Percy Harvin, Marshawn Lynch, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald.

Palmer, acquired by the Arizona Cardinals from the Oakland Raiders on Tuesday, joins Vonnie Holliday, Kevin Kolb and Kerry Rhodes as veteran acquisitions for the Arizona Cardinals over the past three seasons.

The chart lists all 27 for NFC West teams. Shading identifies players still on the acquiring teams' rosters.
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each NFC West team has been a winner or a loser in free agency.

Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals set a low bar in free agency and cleared it pretty easily. They weren't in position to attack the market aggressively because they had some salary-cap and player-valuation issues to address in the immediate term. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim parted with Kevin Kolb, Adrian Wilson, Kerry Rhodes, William Gay, Beanie Wells and Early Doucet. Some of those moves cleared significant cap room, but the dead money left over was enough to crimp the Cardinals' style. The first nine players Arizona signed in free agency (Frostee Rucker became the 10th on Wednesday) counted $12.9 million against the salary cap in 2013. That was about how much the team cleared by releasing Kolb and Rhodes. Call it addition by subtraction and give the Cardinals a passing grade in free agency under difficult circumstances. Quarterback Drew Stanton and running back Rashard Mendenhall are the only offensive players added to this point in the process. Arians thinks better health will restore the offensive line. He also loves the talent at that position in the draft. The team is setting itself up to draft for offense, it appears.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are losers in free agency if you think they "lost" Danny Amendola, Steven Jackson, Craig Dahl, Bradley Fletcher, Brandon Gibson and Robert Turner. The team was willing and sometimes even eager to move on from most of those players, however. The Rams plan to develop their younger players while acquiring more of them through free agency and the draft. They paid big money for two free agents, and both are relatively young, a plus. Tight end Jared Cook is not quite 26 years old. Left tackle Jake Long could be an old 27 based on recent injuries, but he's right around the league average for age. We could mark down St. Louis for losing both starting safeties (Quintin Mikell was released for cap purposes) and failing to land a replacement. The draft appears strong at that position, however, and Mikell could be re-signed at some point. We're only 10 days into the process, and the Rams haven't made any ridiculous moves. Getting Long on a relatively short-term deal (four years) seemed like a positive.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers watched longtime contributors Delanie Walker, Isaac Sopoaga and Dashon Goldson sign elsewhere. That was the plan given the price tags associated with all three players. The 49ers knew they couldn't pay premium dollars to those players after fielding the NFL's most expensive defense last season. Their disciplined approach to the market has served them well in recent seasons. This year, it helped them find room on the balance sheet for receiver Anquan Boldin, acquired from the Baltimore Ravens. The signing of Glenn Dorsey to the defensive line seemed curious at first, but it's clear to me the 49ers have special plans for the player drafted fifth overall back in 2008. Although Phil Dawson's signing stabilizes the kicking situation, his $2.35 million cap figure for 2013 means the team will again be paying a bit of a premium at the position, particularly with former kicker David Akers' terminated contract still counting against the cap. With 14 draft picks, couldn't San Francisco have found a rookie to do the job at lower cost?

Seattle Seahawks: Jason Jones is the only Seattle free agent to sign with another team this offseason. Seattle appeared to upgrade from Jones by getting Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett on a one-year deal counting $4.8 million against the cap. Signing Bennett and former Detroit defensive end Cliff Avril to short-term deals makes the Seahawks a pretty clear winner in free agency to this point. Percy Harvin was not acquired in free agency, so he isn't counting in the equation. His addition addressed the position, however, diminishing the need for Seattle to sign a veteran wideout. Upgrading the pass rush was really the only priority for the Seahawks once the Harvin trade went through. Bennett and Avril combined for 18.5 sacks last season. Both are playing on short-term deals with plenty to prove and only short-term cap ramifications for the team.
A few thoughts after the Arizona Cardinals announced releasing safety Kerry Rhodes and adding Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Drew Stanton, Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers, Washington Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and New York Jets safety Yeremiah Bell:
  • Familiarity: Mendenhall, Stanton and Powers have played for first-year Cardinals coach Bruce Arians on other teams. Bell played for first-year Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Miami. Only the best players make it to the NFL, at least in theory, but these associations consistently come into play when teams assemble coaching staffs and rosters. Organizations like to know what they are getting. The Cardinals know what they are getting for the most part with these moves.
  • Age at safety: Bell hasn't missed a game over the past five seasons. He'll come to Arizona familiar with Bowles' defense, most likely. That will be an asset. However, Bell turned 35 this month. He is older than Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, the safeties Arizona released this week. Bell's addition looks like a short-term move designed to speed the transition to a new defense.
  • Secondary switch: Bowles played safety in the NFL. He should have strong opinions about the type of secondary he wants. Salary-cap concerns are a driving force, too. The team gained cap flexibility by dumping Wilson and Rhodes. Powers has started each of the 42 games he has played in four NFL seasons, but he has never played in more than 12 games in a season. The team signed Powers to a three-year deal after letting Greg Toler leave in free agency. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is the only incumbent starter from the secondary still on Arizona's roster. Powers has been an aggressive tackler and that probably hasn't helped his durability.
  • Alexander's role: Alexander, who signed a three-year deal, has generally played less than one-third of the Redskins' defensive snaps in recent seasons. He did start 10 games and play 58 percent during the 2010 season. That was more because of injuries than by design. Alexander, 29, projects as a high-impact player on special teams. He should be a tone setter for Arians and the new staff.
  • QB situation: Stanton reportedly got a three-year deal with $3 million in guarantees. That is backup money, but the situation in Arizona could allow Stanton to compete for the starting job. He'll presumably have a chance to earn more through incentives. The team still hasn't made a move with incumbent starter Kevin Kolb, but the status quo is not an option with Kolb set to earn $9 million in salary. Arizona recently made a $2 million commitment to quarterback Brian Hoyer. The draft provides another option. This situation is still taking shape. Stanton is part of the mix and he'll come to Arizona with the advantage of knowing Arians' offense from their time together in Indianapolis. That's what we know for now.
We've debated in recent years which NFC West team had the best combination at safety.

There is not much to debate two days into free agency.

The Arizona Cardinals' move to release free safety Kerry Rhodes on Wednesday came the same day the San Francisco 49ers lost free safety Dashon Goldson to Tampa Bay. Rhodes' release came only days after Arizona released five-time Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson. It came days after the St. Louis Rams released safety Quintin Mikell.

Rhodes was scheduled to earn $6 million in salary and bonus money for 2013, the final year of his contract. The money was not guaranteed. That means Rhodes will not receive it, and the Cardinals will not have to count it against their salary cap.

Rhodes has played to generally positive reviews, but with a new head coach and general manager in place, the Cardinals are making significant changes. Rhodes' performance obviously didn't justify his salary in the team's estimation.

Arizona did re-sign safety Rashad Johnson this week. The position could use some reinforcing without Rhodes or Wilson.

Back to the best-in-the-West debate over safeties. Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor of the Seattle Seahawks were arguably the best anyway. They're the best almost by default until their NFC West rivals address the position.

Rhodes' release was not widely expected. We'll have to see if there are bigger-picture implications regarding other positions.

NFC West Pro Bowl analysis

December, 26, 2012
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NFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South AFC Pro Bowl: East | West | North | South

Perfect sense: The San Francisco 49ers put nine players in the Pro Bowl. The Seattle Seahawks were next among NFC West teams with five. Arizona had one. St. Louis had none. These results were not shocking.

The 49ers sent two-fifths of their starting offensive line and six members of their defense to the Pro Bowl. Tackle Joe Staley and guard Mike Iupati were natural selections on the line.

The 49ers' Frank Gore and the Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch were solid choices behind Adrian Peterson at running back.

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable suggested Russell Okung was playing as well as any left tackle around. Voters apparently agreed. They named him as one of the starters, a first for Okung. Voters showed some smarts by selecting Seattle's Max Unger as the starting center. He's been very good since last season. The word must be getting around.

Patrick Peterson's struggles as a punt returner for Arizona did not keep him from becoming a first-time Pro Bowl choice at cornerback. Peterson made it only as a returner last season. He has generally been very good in pass coverage this season, although San Francisco gave him problems in a Monday night game. Peterson might not be the best corner in the NFC West, but he has had a good season overall.

NFC West defensive backs scored big for the second year in a row. The 49ers' Dashon Goldson (starter) and Seattle's Earl Thomas (backup) are the free safeties. The 49ers' Donte Whitner is the strong safety. All play for top defenses and winning teams. That probably gave them the edge over Arizona's Kerry Rhodes and St. Louis' Quintin Mikell. Defensive back play is a strength in the division.

Returner Leon Washington has helped Seattle rank among the league leaders in field position this season. He was a strong choice as the kickoff returner.

Made it on rep: I was watching to see whether Larry Fitzgerald would make it on name. He did not. The quarterback situation in Arizona isn't his fault, of course, but Pro Bowl selections Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones and Victor Cruz head a long list of receivers enjoying more productive seasons in 2012. The other players selected from the NFC West have been having good enough seasons to receive strong consideration. We can debate whether all were the best choices, but that is true every year. None of the players selected should apologize to anyone.

Some have questioned whether the 49ers' Justin Smith has been as effective this season. His sacks are down. Smith made it as a starter at defensive tackle even though he plays defensive end in the base defense. Smith was a worthy choice despite his diminished sack production, in my view. The 49ers' recent struggles without him provide supporting evidence.

Got robbed: Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Cardinals linebackers Daryl Washington, Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell and 49ers punter Andy Lee are four that come to mind first. The Rams put no players in the Pro Bowl despite a vastly improved record. There were no obvious oversights, however.

Sherman has arguably been the best corner in the NFL this season. He's also facing a potential four-game suspension for allegedly using performance-enhancing drugs. Voters must have held that against him. Otherwise, Sherman would have been an easy choice, even above the very deserving players selected.

Washington, who leads the Cardinals with nine sacks, should get some sort of consideration even though it's tough to say the 49ers' Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman were undeserving. All three are inside linebackers. Willis and Bowman are less specialized. They're plenty fast, but also able to take on blocks. Washington relies more on avoiding opposing linemen to blow up plays. He's very good at it, too. But the road to Hawaii runs through San Francisco for inside linebackers. Best of luck to anyone trying to break through.

At punter, I haven't studied New Orleans' Thomas Morstead enough to comment on his play, but the punters from San Francisco, Seattle and Arizona would have been worthy choices based on their play this season.

Campbell has been flat-out dominant at times this season. He also missed games to injury. But with the Cardinals' defense ranking among the league leaders against the pass despite no help from their own offense, Campbell had to get consideration.

Washington's Robert Griffin III beat out Seattle's Russell Wilson as a backup quarterback on the NFC squad. Wilson has closed ground recently, but voting took place a week ago. That put Wilson at a disadvantage. He would have had a better chance if voting took place this week or possibly next.

Thomas was the lone Seahawks defender. That was a bit of a surprise for a team that has allowed fewer points than any other. Chris Clemons? Brandon Mebane? It wasn't to be for Seattle's defensive line. Late-game breakdowns against Detroit and Miami didn't help. Seattle's run defense also softened as the season progressed.

Click here for the complete Pro Bowl roster.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 13, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals placed quarterback Kevin Kolb on injured reserve, where he joins left tackle Levi Brown, center Lyle Sendlein, backup center Rich Ohrnberger, outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, running back Ryan Williams and others. Rookie Ryan Lindley will start at quarterback against Detroit. Receiver Early Doucet (concussion), defensive lineman Ronald Talley (ankle) and nose tackle Dan Williams (hamstring) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell (calf), defensive tackle Nick Eason (ankle), tight end Rob Housler (knee), safety Kerry Rhodes (abdomen), receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and cornerback Greg Toler (hamstring) were limited. Coaches and players have long said training rooms tend to clear out when a team is winning because players are so eager to get onto the field. Arizona's nine-game losing streak robs the Cardinals of that additional incentive.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out cornerback Cortland Finnegan (ankle), safety Craig Dahl (head), running back Steven Jackson (foot), middle linebacker James Laurinaitis (back), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and center Scott Wells (knee). Linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow) was a full participant. The one player limited in practice, receiver Danny Amendola, is the most volatile variable. Coach Jeff Fisher indicated Amendola needs to be near full strength to function at a high level. That is presumably because Amendola depends on his quickness and ability to change directions, attributes compromised by a foot injury. The Rams have won their past two games without Amendola. Rookie receiver Chris Givens has filled some of the void. But having Amendola in the lineup would certainly improve the Rams' chances.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers listed linebacker Tavares Gooden (ribs), receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder), fullback Bruce Miller (shoulder) and linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder) as limited. Kicker David Akers (pelvis), linebacker Navorro Bowman (shoulder), cornerback Tarell Brown (shoulder), cornerback Chris Culliver (knee), running back Frank Gore (wrist), cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), defensive tackle Will Tukuafu (wrist) and linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder) are listed as full participants. Manningham's status is most compelling. While most or all the other injured players are expected to play against New England, Manningham missed the Week 13 game at Miami, so his status is in a bit more question. Randy Moss figures to play extensively regardless, but if Manningham misses the game, the 49ers could feature Moss a bit more against his former team.

Seattle Seahawks: Seattle held out receiver Sidney Rice (foot), cornerback Marcus Trufant (hamstring), safety Kam Chancellor (groin) and defensive end Red Bryant (foot) missed practice Wednesday. The team continues to list running back Marshawn Lynch (back) as limited despite every expectation he'll be able to play. Cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) was a surprise addition to the injured list Wednesday. He's had injury problems in the past. Durability is a concern. Depth at corner isn't as strong with Brandon Browner serving a suspension and Trufant sidelined recently. Seattle is no longer listing linebacker Leroy Hill (ankle). Malcolm Smith could wind up keeping the job.

NFC West trade acquisition scorecard

December, 12, 2012
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Marshawn Lynch had quite possibly run his course in Buffalo. The production he has sustained since Seattle acquired him probably exceeds what the Bills would have gotten from him.

That makes it tough to criticize the Bills too harshly for making a move that could cost them when the Seahawks face Buffalo in Week 15.

I thought I'd use the occasion to review NFC West player trade acquisitions since early 2010. The time period dates to John Schneider's arrival as the Seahawks' general manager. It also covers Trent Baalke's stint in the role for San Francisco and Les Snead's hiring as GM in St. Louis. Arizona fans might find the subject helpful, too, as they consider whether longtime GM Rod Graves, perceived as relatively inactive, has been aggressive enough in procuring talent.

Seattle Seahawks

Players acquired: 12

Overall impact: Significant

Best acquisitions: Lynch, Chris Clemons, Leon Washington.

Worst acquisition: Charlie Whitehurst

Also acquired: Clinton McDonald, Kellen Winslow, Kentwan Balmer, Kevin Vickerson, LenDale White, Robert Henderson, Stacy Andrews, Tyler Polumbus

Comment: Lynch has 3,043 yards rushing since making his Seahawks debut. Only Arian Foster, Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice have more over that span. His 27 rushing touchdowns rank tied for fourth. Seattle got him for a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 fifth-rounder. Clemons, acquired from Philadelphia along with a fourth-round choice for Darryl Tapp, has 31 sacks since Seattle acquired him. That ranks eighth in the NFL. Washington, acquired for a 2010 fifth-round choice, has four kickoff returns for touchdowns since the Seahawks acquired him. That is tied with Jacoby Ford for most in the NFL. He averages 31.2 yards per kickoff return this season, a career-high figure that ranks third in the NFL among players with at least 10 returns. The Whitehurst deal was a rip-off, but a least the Seahawks didn't commit too much financially. It's a deal Seattle won't hear about much if current starting quarterback Russell Wilson continues on his current course.

Arizona Cardinals

Players acquired: 4

Overall impact: Moderate to high

Best acquisitions: Kerry Rhodes

Worst acquisition: Kevin Kolb

Also acquired: Vonnie Holliday, Charles Scott

Comment: Kolb cost too much for what Arizona has reaped in return. The team was desperate for quarterback help at the time, however, and the move was defensible under the circumstances. Rhodes has been a solid starter since Arizona acquired him from the New York Jets for a 2010 fourth-round choice and a 2011 seventh-rounder. His fumble-forcing sack against Michael Vick triggered a blowout. His pass defensed in the end zone helped preserve a victory at New England. His interception against Miami set up the winning field goal in overtime. Rhodes also had two picks and a forced fumble against the Jets. He and Green Bay's Charles Woodson are the only NFL players with at least eight picks and four sacks since 2010.

San Francisco 49ers

Players acquired: 1

Overall impact: Moderate

Best acquisitions: Ted Ginn Jr.

Worst acquisition: N/A

Also acquired: N/A

Comment: Ginn has two kickoff returns for touchdowns and one punt return for a touchdown since joining the 49ers. He has averaged 11.9 yards per punt return, second only to Patrick Peterson's 12.2-yard average since 2010 among NFC West players with at least 10 returns over that span. Ginn's kickoff return average with the 49ers (23.5) ranks below the NFC West average (24.6) since 2010. Ginn has not made a significant impact as a wide receiver.

St. Louis Rams

Players acquired: 6

Overall impact: Low

Best acquisitions: Mark Clayton, Brandon Lloyd

Worst acquisitions: N/A

Also acquired: Bobby Carpenter, Dennis Morris, Kevin Payne, Wayne Hunter

Comment: Hunter is the only veteran player acquired through trade by the Rams' current leadership. He has been better than Jason Smith, the player St. Louis traded away in the Hunter deal. Clayton was looking like a terrific last-minute acquisition in 2010, but injuries prevented him from making a sustained impact. Lloyd wound up being a short-term rental during a lost 2011 season. He did provide a needed upgrade. I didn't see any "worst" acquisitions for the Rams. These were small-stakes deals.

Dockett's punishment and other notes

December, 7, 2012
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A few NFC West notes wrapping up this Friday heading into Week 14:
  • On the Dockett: Mike Jurecki of XTRA Sports 910 AM is hearing Arizona Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett could face a six-figure fine and limited playing time against Seattle as punishment for his actions during a 7-6 defeat to the New York Jets. Dockett and safety Kerry Rhodes denied a report that Dockett had spit in Rhodes' face late in the game. Dockett has acknowledged he disagreed with coaches' late-game orders to let the Jets score a touchdown so that the Arizona offense could get the ball back with a chance to tie the game. Players obviously cannot defy in-game coaching orders. Arizona must make that clear through its actions. This incident strengthens perceptions some of the Cardinals' defensive leaders, notably Dockett, are much better equipped to lead the team when winning than when things are going poorly. However, the defense has continued to play well despite the team's eight-game losing streak. That counts for something too.
  • No fine for Wright: The NFL did not fine Chicago Bears safety Major Wright for hitting Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice in the back of the helmet on the final play of overtime in Week 13. Rice had caught the ball, turned upfield and was moving across the goal line when Wright lowered his head and shoulder. Wright's shoulder struck Rice's helmet as both went low. Rules prohibit such hits on defenseless players. The NFL defines defenseless players as, among other things, "a receiver attempting to catch a pass or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner." Rice was not a defenseless player by those standards, in my view. Also, this was not a helmet-to-helmet hit. I think that explains why there was no fine.
  • Another non-fine: St. Louis disputed a roughing-the-passer penalty against the Rams' Robert Quinn. The NFL agreed with the Rams. There was no fine levied in this case.
  • A few fines: The NFL fined Brian Urlacher ($21,000), NaVorro Bowman ($10,000) and Dashon Goldson ($7,875) for penalties involving roughness. The fine amounts are collectively bargained. All fine money goes to charities.
  • Late injury news: The 49ers expect to be without receiver Mario Manningham on Sunday. Manningham has a shoulder injury. Rookie first-round pick A.J. Jenkins figures to become relevant on game day for the first time in the NFL. Rookie second-round choice LaMichael James also appears closer to contributing.

Here's hoping the rest of your Friday treats you well.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

December, 5, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Kolb (ribs) does not appear close to returning. John Skelton will start at quarterback. Receiver Andre Roberts (ankle) and defensive end Ronald Talley (ankle) did not practice. Defensive end Calais Campbell, held out of the Cardinals' Week 13 game, practiced on a limited basis. He's recovering from a calf injury. Campbell has six career sacks against Week 14 opponent Seattle. That is the most for Campbell against a single opponent. Safety Kerry Rhodes (quadriceps), linebacker Reggie Walker (knee) and running back Beanie Wells (knee) were also limited. Wells played 43 percent of the snaps against the Jets. Fellow running backs William Powell (35 percent) and LaRod Stephens-Howling (19 percent) also played extensively. Cornerback Justin Bethel (shoulder), receiver Early Doucet (ribs), snapper Mike Leach (back) and linebacker Paris Lenon (shoulder) practiced fully Wednesday.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams held out receiver Danny Amendola (foot), linebacker Mario Haggan (elbow), center Scott Wells (knee), tight end Mike McNeill (thigh) and running back Steven Jackson (foot). Amendola's status is one to monitor closely. He played against Arizona two weeks ago despite being listed as doubtful on the Friday injury report. He did not play against San Francisco last week. Rookie receiver Chris Givens appears to be developing quickly and has taken over some of the shorter routes previously reserved for Amendola. With Amendola out, Givens and Brandon Gibson each played 90 percent of the snaps at receiver. Givens was the player quarterback Sam Bradford targeted. He has 16 catches for 207 yards and a touchdown over the last two games. Austin Pettis (66 percent) and Brian Quick (15 percent) also factored.

San Francisco 49ers: Receiver Mario Manningham (shoulder) and cornerback Tarell Brown (hamstring) missed practice Wednesday. Nickel corner Chris Culliver (illness) was limited, as was kicker David Akers (pelvis) and outside linebacker Aldon Smith (shoulder). The team listed cornerback Carlos Rogers (knee), linebacker Patrick Willis (shoulder), running back Frank Gore (wrist), linebacker Tavares Gooden (elbow, knee), guard Mike Iupati (shoulder) and linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) as full participants in practice. Depth at wide receiver is more of a concern with Manningham hurting and Kyle Williams on injured reserve. Michael Crabtree (62 percent), Randy Moss (41 percent), Manningham (36 percent) and Ted Ginn Jr. (18 percent) logged snaps at receiver against St. Louis. The 49ers have hinted that rookie running back LaMichael James could make his 2012 debut shortly. Gore played 87 percent of the snaps against the Rams, an unusually high number. Veteran Brandon Jacobs played 11 percent. He does not represent the change of pace Kendall Hunter provided before landing on injured reserve. James would.

Seattle Seahawks: Starting left guard James Carpenter is finished for the season. His absence requires an adjustment, but the change could produce an upgrade in the short term. Carpenter wasn't healthy and it showed in his play. John Moffitt is a natural candidate to start. Seattle has had eight linemen start this season. That is tied for third-most in the NFL behind Philadelphia (nine) and St. Louis (nine). The Seahawks held out defensive end Red Bryant, who surprised the coaching staff by playing -- and playing well -- against the Bears despite a foot injury. Bryant wore a boot on his foot in the locker room after the game in Chicago. Cornerback Marcus Trufant also missed practice. He has a hamstring injury. It sounds like the team will try Jeremy Lane at nickel corner while Trufant recovers. Walter Thurmond is expected to play right corner while Brandon Browner serves a four-game suspension. It's possible Thurmond could play inside as well. Receiver Sidney Rice does not have a concussion, according to the team, but he was listed as limited with a head injury after absorbing a hard hit while making the winning touchdown catch Sunday. Leroy Hill (ankle) was limited. Coach Pete Carroll sounded excited about Hill's replacement, Malcolm Smith.

Rhodes: Dockett 'did not spit in my face'

December, 4, 2012
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Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along a comment from Cardinals free safety Kerry Rhodes denying a report that teammate Darnell Dockett spit in his face during the team's 7-6 defeat to the New York Jets.

From Rhodes: "Yes, we had a disagreement on the field but, no he did NOT spit in my face. I'm not going to get into all the details because I think those are things you keep within the team. But Darnell and I talked after the game, we’re both moving on and I’ll leave it at that."

The disagreement was apparently over the Cardinals' decision to let the Jets score late in the game as a means toward getting the ball back for the Arizona offense. The Jets fell on the ball short of the goal line and ran out the clock.

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