NFC West: Levi Jones

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Available Veteran Tackle Age 2008 Starts
Jon Runyan
35 16
Mark Tauscher
32 13
Kwame Harris
27 11
Levi Jones
29 10
Jonas Jennings
31 2
Jason Whittle
34 2
Fred Miller
36 0
Wayne Gandy
38 0
Chad Slaughter
31 0

The 49ers confirmed tackle Marvel Smith's retirement Saturday morning. What now?

Adam Snyder is still the starter on the right side. That was not going to change even if Smith tried to continue playing despite back trouble.

Depth is the problem and this situation was predictable, even likely, given what we knew about Smith's health and how the 49ers' neglected to draft a tackle or sign a younger veteran in free agency (as someone suggested they should).

None of this will matter much if Snyder returns from his knee injury to start most of the games. The 49ers could then try to develop Alex Boone and/or target a tackle in the draft. Their thinking in drafting Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall selection hasn't worked out as anticipated so far, but I think the reasoning was sound and No. 10 was too early to select one of the remaining tackles. Right tackle is not a premium position.

The chart might look familiar. It's the same one I ran when the Seahawks found out Walter Jones needed another surgery.

Some have asked why I suggested former Eagles tackle Jon Runyan as a possibility for the 49ers without mentioning the Seahawks as a logical destination as well. Runyan is strictly a right tackle. Seattle has two players able to start at right tackle (Sean Locklear and Ray Willis) but only one player (Locklear) able to start at left tackle. Adding Runyan would not improve the Seahawks' depth at left tackle, which is their position of need while Jones is unavailable.

The 49ers need a right tackle for insurance. Runyan is coming off knee surgery. He might not be ready right away. The 49ers do not need him right away. They need insurance. I have no idea if Runyan would even consider moving across the country. But when I think of tough, physical tackles in the 49ers' mold, Runyan comes to mind.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Available Veteran Tackle Age 2008 Starts
Jon Runyan
35 16
Mark Tauscher
32 13
Kwame Harris
27 11
Levi Jones
29 10
Jonas Jennings
31 2
Jason Whittle
34 2
Fred Miller
36 0
Wayne Gandy
38 0
Chad Slaughter
31 0

Jesse asks via Facebook what the Seahawks can do to improve their situation at offensive tackle. He wants to see a list of available free agents.

Mike Sando: The best way to upgrade this situation is to welcome back Walter Jones from knee surgery and push him into the lineup early in the season.

The Seahawks could stand to add a veteran tackle as insurance. They cannot assume Jones will come back and play at a high level. They cannot even assume Ray Willis will make it through a full season at right tackle, in my view. Willis has been dealing with knee pain. It's apparently nothing major, but if he's limping in August -- and he was on the sideline Saturday night -- how will he feel 10 starts into the season? Seems like a reasonable question.

Willis has started 10 games in his career, all last season. The other starting tackle, Sean Locklear, has missed at least four games to injury in two of the last three seasons.

The good, healthy NFL offensive tackles are under contract. The list of available tackles includes Wayne Gandy, Fred Miller, Jon Runyan, Jason Whittle, Mark Tauscher, Jonas Jennings, Levi Jones, Chad Slaughter and Kwame Harris. The chart shows their ages and number of starts last season.

Gandy was with Seahawks coach Jim Mora in Atlanta, but he is also 38 years old. The Seahawks had conversations with Levi Jones' agent earlier in the offseason. Tauscher and Runyan are veteran right tackles. Jennings' injury issues make him a high-risk option. Harris was with Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Oakland last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has not cut back on two-a-day practices despite an apparent league-wide trend in that direction. We'll see if the heat and humidity at Rams Park leads to any concessions. Spagnuolo wants to toughen up the Rams without wearing them out.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams will open 32 practices at training camp. Wagoner: "Two a days for the entire team will begin on Aug. 1 with the first practice from 8:15-10:30 a.m. and the second from 2:45-4:25. For most of the rest of camp, the team will follow that format for the majority practices."

David Fucillo of Niners Nation considers the best quarterbacks in 49ers history. Joe Montana and Steve Young weren't the only ones. John Brodie and Y.A. Tittle weren't bad, either.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Michael Crabtree could receive roughly $15 million in guaranteed money as part of his rookie contract.

Scott Kegley of 49ers.com passes along a few jersey number updates. Reggie Smith gets No. 30, Terrail Lambert gets No. 41 and Dre Bly gets No. 31.

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Jordan Babineaux's 2008 season for the Seahawks. Morgan: "Babineaux has carved out a nice little career for himself despite few tangible skills. He's fiery, versatile, a playmaker and I once referred to him as a 'gamer.' As a dime defender, Babineaux finally punched his weight as a cornerback, but Seattle doesn't need to spend $1 million annually to shut down Dexter Jackson, Dane Looker, James Thrash and Brad Smith."

Also from Morgan: A look at the injury situation at defensive tackle for Seattle. Red Bryant and Cory Redding are coming off injuries.

More from Morgan: Which Seahawks player will create the most buzz during preseason? The next Justin Forsett, in other words.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times cedes the floor to Doug Farrar for analysis on the injuries the Seahawks suffered last season. The key issue is to what degree some of those injuries might linger or recur.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks should find ways to use Seneca Wallace even if Matt Hasselbeck is healthy. That seems very likely given the apparently flexibility of the new staff.

Brian Baldinger of NFL Network checks in with the Seahawks' receivers for a video spot on the "art" of playing the position.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks have expanded their partnership with the Washington State Lottery by developing a scratch game. Williams: "The Seahawks already had a business partnership with the state lottery in place, allowing the state agency to advertise at venues like Qwest Field, so the deal is seen as the next step in the partnership between the two sides, said league spokesperson Brian McCarthy."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic quotes Levi Jones' agent as saying the former Bengals tackle wants more money from Arizona than the Cardinals have offered. Somers: "The Cardinals are one of about a dozen teams to express interest in Jones, [agent Kenny] Zuckerman said. But Jones likely won't sign with a club until after the start of camp. If tackles are lost to injury, Zuckerman is convinced Jones' value will increase."

Also from Somers: Arizona has not signed its top two draft choices, and it's not a big deal.

Azcardinals.com has the Cardinals' media guide online and available for download.
 

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have at least "seven legitimate NFL receivers" and that Michael Crabtree should be on the field when the team opens training camp. I count six legitimate wideouts on the 49ers, the idea being that Dominique Zeigler hasn't quite established himself as one yet. But the depth certainly appears better based on what the team can reasonably expect at the position, and Zeigler has shown promise.

Also from Maiocco: He predicted Crabtree would finish the 2008 season with 47 receptions for 530 yards and three touchdowns. Jerry Rice finished his rookie season with 49, 927 and three. He then caught 37 touchdown passes over the next two seasons, one more than the 49ers scored collectively over the 2007 and 2008 seasons.

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli says the Cardinals have again shown interest in free-agent offensive tackle Levi Jones, perhaps as a lower-cost alternative to Mike Gandy at tackle. Pasquarelli: "In fact, the Cardinals have already spoken to Jones about his possible interest in the team. Jones missed just one game because of injury his first four seasons, but chronic knee problems have cost him 28 starts the past three years. Another possibility: Arizona could move starting right tackle Levi Brown, a former first-round pick, to his more natural left side, and allow youngster Brandon Keith to compete for the right tackle job."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic spent the weekend with Ken Whisenhunt at the celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe. He files a notebook and says Whisenhunt failed to beat playing partner and former pupil Ben Roethlisberger. The tournament's online leaderboard shows Whisenhunt beating Roethlisberger by a point. I'll update at some point.

Scott Eklund of Scout.com transcribes chunks of Walter Jones' interview with John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle. I'll break out another part of the interview in a separate post.

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits C.J. Wallace's 2008 season with the Seahawks. Wallace is one of the team's better players on special teams. Morgan: "That steadiness is at expense of athleticism and almost any playmaking ability. Wallace averaged 13.4 yards allowed on his punt return tackles. Seattle as a whole averaged 10.1 yards per opponent punt return -- 20th in the NFL." The average length of opponent punt returns wouldn't necessarily reflect how well a tackler performed his duties on the play, of course.

Also from Morgan: a look at the Seahawks' injury situation at receiver.

Vinnie Iyer of sportingnews.com lists the Seahawks and 49ers among six teams that might be wise, in his view, to consider Michael Vick. I do not see it.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch updates negotiations for the Rams' draft choices. Fifth-rounder Brooks Foster expects to sign Monday. Seventh-rounder Chris Ogbonnaya is also expected to sign in the near future. That would leave Jason Smith, James Laurinaitis, Darell Scott and Keith Null without deals. The team has ample time to get those deals in place before the Rams open training camp.

KFFL.com says Rams tight end Randy McMichael could be a viable option in fantasy leagues as a No. 2 tight end. KFFL: "McMichael looks to be healthy for his contract year after a leg injury stopped his 2008 season after just four weeks. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is installing a West Coast-style offense that would probably feature McMichael in a bigger role. He didn't miss a game in his career until last season. He has little competition at his position."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

 Jones

Several people have used the blog, the mailbag, Facebook and Twitter to inquire about whether the Seahawks plan to visit with recently released Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones.

A colleague called this week to say he heard the Seahawks might have some interest. That surprised me some because the Seahawks have said they're comfortable with their situation at tackle. Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts agreed.

And in following up on this item, I've discovered the Seahawks have no plans to visit with Jones. This is consistent with what the team has said all offseason since re-signing third tackle Ray Willis and learning that Walter Jones' rehabilitation from knee surgery should be straightforward.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind checks in with second-round Cardinals draft choice Cody Brown. Brown: "All the teams know I can rush the passer, but also can drop in coverage, which is why the Cardinals drafted me to play on the outside. I played mostly with my hand to the ground at UConn, but I have no problem dropping back in coverage. Everyone saw my athleticism in workouts. The coaches here told me they expect it to be an easy transition."

Also from Hawkwind: a look at how many of the Cardinals' draft choices have become starters and how long they've stayed in the lineup.

VanRam of Turf Show Times analyzes which Rams players find themselves fighting for meaningful roles on the team.

Also from VanRam: Steven Jackson should take over the third spot on the Rams' all-time rushing list even with a mediocre season.

Taylor Price of 49ers.com writes about the 45-foot training hill coach Mike Singletary had built for players. Price: "Originally, the hill was half of its current size and was used primarily for players to use for rehab assignments while unable to fully participate in practice. But with mounds of dirt being applied to its original shape following last season, Singletary estimates the hill to be 45-feet high with a 45-degree slope on one side and a 30-degree slope on the other side."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 49ers would "gum up the works" if they traded for Brady Quinn or another quarterback. As for the 49ers offering one of their extra first-round choices to Arizona for Anquan Boldin? Forget about it. Arizona isn't going to line up against Boldin and Michael Crabtree twice per year.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation wonders what Bear Pascoe's addition means for 49ers tight end Delanie Walker. I would think it means fewer snaps in the long haul.

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts thinks the Seahawks' reported interest in former Bengals offensive tackle Levi Jones seems strange. I'm also skeptical about how much interest the Seahawks might have in adding a tackle. This is one I'm checking on. The Seahawks' top three tackles -- Walter Jones, Sean Locklear and Ray Willis -- are already set.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune points to Levi Jones' injury problems, noting that Jones has missed 17 games over the last three seasons.

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