NFC West: Lofa Tatupu

NEW ORLEANS -- Leroy Hill's eight-year career with the Seattle Seahawks was probably finished before his arrest on domestic-violence charges Tuesday.

Hill turns 31 in December and has no contract for 2013. His roster spot appeared in some jeopardy during the 2012 season when an injury sidelined Hill briefly and Malcolm Smith showed promise as his replacement in the lineup. The Seahawks needed Smith on special teams, however, and they knew they could count on Hill to start.

Hill's arrest makes him even less attractive to the Seahawks as a potential fallback option if a need arises at linebacker. The team could use the draft to acquire another young linebacker to grow alongside Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Smith could factor as well.

Hill has been with the Seahawks since 2005, when then-general manager Tim Ruskell upgraded the linebacker corps by using a second-round choice for Lofa Tatupu and a third-rounder for Hill. Both became long-term starters. Tatupu went to three Pro Bowls.
The NFC West knows how to find inside linebackers.

Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Lofa Tatupu have earned Pro Bowl and/or All-Pro honors for division teams over the past several seasons. James Laurinaitis and Daryl Washington are challenging for broader recognition, too.

Washington
Washington
Washington, who turns 26 next month, has a new contract extension through 2017, the Arizona Cardinals announced Thursday.

The deal changes nothing for the upcoming season, but it does affirm Washington's status as a player the Cardinals plan to build around. It prevents Washington from becoming an unrestricted free agent following the 2013 season, when his rookie contract was going to expire. The deal also could affect negotiations between the San Francisco 49ers and Bowman, an All-Pro last season and, like Washington, a 2010 draft choice with a deal running through 2013. Laurinaitis, a second-rounder in 2009, could also be affected. His rookie deal runs through this season. The team and his agent have been negotiating for weeks and appeared optimistic when training camp opened.

The deal seems appropriate for all involved.

The Cardinals were surely able to sign Washington at some sort of discount relative to what Washington would have commanded in free agency. Washington, though talented and ascending, might have had a hard time beating out Willis and Bowman for the Pro Bowl acclaim that helps increase bargaining power. By doing a deal now, after only his second season, Washington can cash in on Pro Bowl potential.

Signing players with more than one year remaining on their contracts can complicate negotiations with other players. Some teams prefer to wait until only one year remains. In this case, however, Washington has outplayed his second-round draft status. The team's other picks from 2010 -- Dan Williams, Andre Roberts, O'Brien Schofield and John Skelton are starting -- haven't played as well or as consistently.

It's generally good when teams extend contracts for rising young players. That would appear to be the case here.

Camp Confidential: Seahawks

August, 13, 2012
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RENTON, Wash. -- Terrell Owens' arrival at Seattle Seahawks training camp commanded national headlines.

It commanded the Seahawks' attention, as well, not just on the field but also in the meeting room, where coach Pete Carroll made Owens the leading man in an entertaining prank.

When the Seahawks' first exhibition game kicked off Saturday night against Tennessee, the focus returned to where it needed to be: quarterback. Although Owens might not even earn a roster spot, let alone an important role on the team, the situation behind center will determine whether Seattle breaks from its recent 7-9 form.

The way Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson played against the Titans showed that Seattle has a chance to do just that. It was only one game, with a meaningless outcome, but it affirmed some of the evidence collected to this point.

Flynn, nondescript through organized team activities and minicamps, had responded favorably when Carroll gave him the first-team practice reps last week. He was sharp in practice and efficient while completing his first eight passes against the Titans. Flynn's lone interception resulted from a rookie running back failing to sell the play fake, allowing linebacker Colin McCarthy to drop into coverage without concern for the run.

Wilson, sensational for a rookie in the offseason program, hadn't stood out as much in camp, but when the lights went on Saturday night, he looked like the best player on the field. He showed the pocket presence needed to move just the right distance at just the right times and extending plays. He scored on a 32-yard bootleg and threw a 39-yard touchdown pass from the pocket. Only an ill-advised interception over the middle prevented a full Wilson lovefest from breaking out. But it's early, and Wilson is just getting started.

Seattle has seen enough to think one of its new quarterbacks can provide an upgrade from Tarvaris Jackson, who remains on the roster as insurance.

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Owens or Edwards? The Seahawks want a receiver with dominant size to fill the role Mike Williams played in the 2010 season. Owens is one candidate. Braylon Edwards is another. Second-year pro Kris Durham might still emerge as a third contender, but he has struggled to gain traction in camp.

Braylon Edwards
Joe Nicholson/US PresswireBraylon Edwards, on his fourth team in the past four seasons, has been impressive in camp.
Edwards has stepped up his game markedly after Owens' arrival, no coincidence. Edwards has to realize the Seahawks aren't going to keep two veteran receivers with no value on special teams. Owens has the bigger name and better credentials, but Edwards has the inside track for a roster spot. That is because Edwards is nine years younger and could project as a factor beyond this season. It's also because Owens has been a higher-maintenance player.

Edwards was scrapping like an undrafted free agent against Tennessee. He was a willing blocker -- too willing at one point, drawing a penalty. He rewarded Wilson's trust by making a strong play for that 39-yard touchdown reception. Owens will get his chance in the coming weeks. This competition is only beginning.

2. What to do with Jackson. Carroll has shown sensitivity for Jackson after the veteran quarterback played through a torn pectoral muscle last season. The grit Jackson showed won respect in the locker room. As much as the team wanted to look at Flynn and Wilson this summer, Carroll gave Jackson an equal portion of the reps through the first week of training camp.

Carrying a three-man race through the exhibition schedule would have been impractical, which is why Flynn and Wilson took the meaningful reps in practice last week. It's also why Flynn and Wilson took all the snaps in the exhibition opener.

Jackson represents the known. He is the baseline for a team seeking improvement at the position. Jackson, for all his toughness, wasn't effective when it counted last season (zero touchdowns, six interceptions and nine sacks in the final two minutes of halves).

He is scheduled to earn $4 million for the 2012 season. Flynn and Wilson are going to be on the roster, most likely filling the top two spots. The team also likes developmental quarterback Josh Portis.

Something has to give, and logic says it'll be Jackson.

3. Health concerns at tight end. The Seahawks envision running quite a few personnel groupings with two tight ends. Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable values H-backs. The expectation this season was for Zach Miller and Kellen Winslow to provide Seattle with a diverse duo at the position. That still might happen, but, with Miller suffering from his fourth concussion in less than three years, there are suddenly renewed health questions at tight end.

Winslow's chronic knee problems limit how frequently he can practice. Although he hasn't missed a game to injury in the past three seasons, Winslow is 29 years old and doesn't figure to gain durability.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The Seahawks have upgraded at quarterback and in their ability to rush the passer. Those were the two areas most responsible for holding them back in the recent past. They're also more settled on the offensive line.

How much Seattle has upgraded at quarterback remains unknown, but even if Jackson were to somehow emerge as the starter in a sort of worst-case scenario, at least he would be healthy. The Seahawks aren't asking their quarterbacks to carry the team. They just want efficient play from the position. The early returns suggest that Flynn can provide that, and that Wilson might be able to provide more.

Newly acquired defensive tackle Jason Jones has already improved the pass rush. Rookie first-round choice Bruce Irvin has been the most difficult player to block in one-on-one pass-rush drills. He has the speed to beat tackles to the outside and better power than anticipated for a player weighing less than 250 pounds. The combination of Jones, Irvin and leading sacker Chris Clemons will be tough at home, in particular.

Seattle's defense already ranked among the NFL's top 10 in fewest points allowed, yards allowed and yards allowed per play. This was a mostly young defense on the rise even before Jones and Irvin arrived to address the pass rush.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Matt Flynn
Steven Bisig/US PresswireMatt Flynn was 11-for-13 against the Titans on Saturday night, but he is still largely untested in the regular season.
Faith is involved in projecting how well unproven quarterbacks will perform.

A year ago, division-rival Arizona was convinced that Kevin Kolb would fix its problems. At the very least, the Cardinals would become average at quarterback, it seemed, which surely would be enough to make them a playoff contender.

Flynn might be better than Kolb, but what if he's not? What if it becomes clear a month or two into the season that Flynn, with only two career regular-season starts, isn't ready to manage an NFL offense from week to week?

Wilson has appeal as an alternative, but how far can a team with a 5-foot-10 rookie quarterback go in an NFC featuring Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Michael Vick, Jay Cutler and Cam Newton?

The Seahawks have a powerful ground game and a potentially dominant defense, but the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, right? The five most recent Super Bowls featured Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Rodgers, Brees, Peyton Manning and Kurt Warner as the starting quarterbacks. No Super Bowl team was trying to decide between a player with two starts and a rookie third-round choice.

Even if Flynn or Wilson emerges as viable this season, Seattle could have the third-best quarterback in the division.

OBSERVATION DECK
  • The red noncontact jersey Sidney Rice wears in practice invites questions about his availability coming off two offseason shoulder surgeries. Rice seems to be moving and catching well. My read is that the team is being cautious and there are no pressing concerns.
  • Rice needs to do a better job of protecting himself. He tends to land awkwardly, exposing himself to unnecessary contact. The plan was for the shoulder surgeries to enable more aggressive weightlifting, allowing Rice to strengthen his lithe frame. Although the shoulders are a concern, Rice also suffered two concussions last season.
  • Seattle continues to show an uncanny ability to find important roles for obscure defensive players. Defensive end Red Bryant became a success story after converting from defensive tackle over the past couple of seasons. Clinton McDonald, a former college linebacker acquired from Cincinnati in the Kelly Jennings trade, is now a factor. McDonald stands ahead of Bryant, Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch as the fourth defensive lineman in the nickel package. McDonald is backing up Mebane in the base defense.
  • Bryant's outgoing personality makes him a natural leader on defense. Mebane, his quieter teammate on the line, emerged in that area last season after the team released veteran linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Said Leroy Hill: "A lot of times in the huddle, Mebane is the one talking. It's odd because he never did that role, but last year he stepped up and people fell in behind him. ... People listen to what he's got to say."
  • Left guard John Moffitt could miss the next few weeks after requiring elbow surgery. My initial take was that his replacement, Deuce Lutui, would provide an upgrade, in pass protection especially. One question is whether Lutui fits the profile for Cable's zone-blocking scheme. Moffitt appears to be a better fit that way. Lutui might be best suited for center, but the team is set there with Max Unger, who signed a long-term extension.
  • Seattle has apparently hit on two seventh-round choices this year. Greg Scruggs has a chance to stick on the defensive line, and J.R. Sweezy has improbably made a quick conversion from college defensive lineman to NFL guard. Seattle gave Sweezy time with its starting line against Tennessee, and he played surprisingly well. Sweezy projects as a good run-blocker for Cable's scheme. Rishaw Johnson is another obscure offensive lineman to watch.
  • We've made it this far without mentioning Marshawn Lynch, the offensive player Seattle relied on most heavily last season. Rookie Robert Turbin has gotten more attention as the projected backup. The Seahawks haven't heard whether Lynch will face a suspension in relation to his pending DUI case. Teams wouldn't have to fear the ground game nearly as much if Lynch missed time.
  • At middle linebacker, rookie Bobby Wagner remains the favorite to start in my view. He has outstanding speed and strong hands for taking on blocks when necessary. Veteran fullback Michael Robinson compared Wagner to a young Patrick Willis. Wagner's preseason debut was a bit of an adventure, however. He overran a few plays and didn't stand out.
  • The offensive line should be fine as long as left tackle Russell Okung remains healthy. Okung was looking good early in camp one year ago, only to suffer an ankle injury in an Aug. 11 preseason game against San Diego. The torn pectoral he suffered late last season counts as a fluke. Philadelphia's Trent Cole, frustrated by Okung's edgy style, unleashed a judo move on him. The longer Okung can go without landing on the injury report, the better Seattle can feel about his long-term prospects.
  • Cornerback Walter Thurmond and offensive lineman James Carpenter could make an impact later in the season. Both are coming off serious injuries, and neither will be a factor early in the season. Playing Carpenter at left guard has long-term appeal. He and Okung would form a massive combination on the left side. Carpenter is still limping around with a heavy brace on his surgically repaired knee, however.
  • Carroll's commitment to competition shows up in his willingness to play young players at key positions, including middle linebacker and quarterback. The effect is felt throughout the roster. Lutui: "Rookies, first-year guys, he puts them in. I've never seen that on any level. That pushes the older guys. Everybody is not comfortable. Everybody is not complacent. It doesn't matter if you have a new contract. Everybody is on an edge. You know you have to better yourself, and that is good to see."

NFC West links: Aldon Smith's offseason

July, 9, 2012
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Arizona Cardinals

There's no offseason as far as Larry Fitzgerald is concerned, as the Cardinals receiver leads a workout at the University of Minnesota on Monday.

San Francisco 49ers

Rookie wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who is listed at 6-foot and 192 pounds, will need to bulk up to compete in press coverage, according to Pro Football Weekly's Dan Arkush.

There's one way to describe Aldon Smith's latest behavior, says the San Francisco Chronicle's Kevin Lynch, who says the the linebacker's troubles are a "a cry for help."

Seattle Seahawks

Most in the NFL thought Tatupu was done when even Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, Lofa Tatupu’s coach at USC, decided not to keep him. The Boston Globe's Greg A. Bedard profiles the former Seattle draft pick.

St. Louis Rams

The biggest aide to James Laurinaitis' jump from above-average middle linebacker to Pro Bowl middle linebacker is new coach Jeff Fisher's defensive system, says NFL.com's Brian McIntyre.
The eventual move away from veteran defensive end James Hall to 2011 first-round draft choice Robert Quinn was inevitable for the St. Louis Rams.

At least one prominent figure in the NFC West won't miss Hall, whose release earlier this offseason helped make the Rams' roster younger on average than any in the NFL.

"I wish him the best," Joe Staley, the San Francisco 49ers' Pro Bowl left tackle, said during the team's recent minicamp. "He's a good guy, but he's been a pain in my ass for years. God, I hated going against him."

Hall's power and use of leverage could be problematic. Quinn, who appears to have great pass-rush potential, will have to prove himself as an every-down player. He had five sacks, all on second or third down, while playing about 48 percent of the snaps last season. Hall, 35, had six sacks while playing about two-thirds of the snaps. He had 10.5 sacks in 2010.

Rick Venturi of 101ESPN St. Louis says Quinn's development will be pivotal for the line. Venturi: "Quinn has ability -- he can burst, he can cut the corner to the quarterback, and he can stretch his body to extremely long lengths, which was evident in his ability to block kicks. Can Waffle get him to be forceful at the point of attack, though? The North Carolina product showed no interest or aptitude to play in the 'briar patch' in 2011, and other than 'chase' plays was a total liability in the running game. If he can overcome his liabilities, the Rams will have something. To me, this will make or break the front four."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com examines the 49ers' depth at running back. Maiocco: "Frank Gore appears to have lost a step of explosion -- hey, that's only to be expected -- but he is still clearly the team's best option and most well-rounded running back. Obviously, with no contact allowed during the offseason program, it's difficult to fully evaluate the running backs on the 90-man roster. Roster spots will be won and lost in training camp . Perhaps, 265-pound Brandon Jacobs is the best-suited to fill in as the first- and second-down back if/when Gore needs a breather. Jacobs and Gore entered the NFL in the same year, but Jacobs has a thousand fewer touches." Noted: Gore slowed last season after absorbing a violent hit from the Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News updates the fight between Santa Clara and the 49ers for at least $30 million in funding previously earmarked for the team's stadium project. Rosenberg: "While the money is a tiny fraction of what's needed for the $1.2 billion stadium, it served as the initial building block to fund the rest of the project, similar to a down payment on a home mortgage. The tax funds were used to secure up to $950 million in bank loans, which capped the team's decade-long saga to finance a new home field. If the loans disappear or shrink, it could delay the project -- or worse -- just months after a festive groundbreaking in April. But officials first are preparing their legal strategy, starting with an appeal to the state and negotiations with the county."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com profiles undrafted rookie defensive end Cordarro Law, who has impressed teammates on the field (and on the basketball court). Receiver Sidney Rice: "He actually surprised me. He can shoot it. (Rookie wide receiver Phil) Bates, terrible jump-shooter. (Cornerback Byron) Maxwell, terrible jump-shooter. (First-round draft choice) Bruce Irvin, terrible jump-shooter. But Law actually impressed me."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has studied former Pro Bowl choice Lofa Tatupu to get a feel for the position in Seattle's defense. Also, Brock Huard and Mike Salk discuss one key to coordinating a defense.

Steven Cuce of sportsradiointerviews.com offers transcripts from Larry Fitzgerald's recent interview with Arizona Sports 620. Fitzgerald has no plans to analyze the Cardinals' quarterback competition between Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Fitzgerald: "I really just try to stay out of it as much as I possibly can. Just try to make my plays and do what I am coached to do and be responsible for that. The cream rises to the top. I know by Week 1 when we go out there we’ll have our guy. We'll be supportive of that person."
Drafting front-line NFL starters in the second round isn't always easy.

The Arizona Cardinals have had their share of successes (Calais Campbell, Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Deuce Lutui) in recent years. They've also suffered some disappointments (Cody Brown, Alan Branch).

Retaining Campbell on a long-term deal was important for quite a few reasons, especially with Dansby playing well elsewhere, Branch enjoying success for a division rival and Lutui threatening to do the same.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic put Campbell's new five-year deal in perspective. Somers: "By removing the franchise tag from Campbell and restructuring his contract, the Cardinals freed up money to explore free-agency options and possibly re-sign some of their free agents, such as outside linebacker Clark Haggans and defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday. It should should help them sign some of their picks from last month's draft, including first-rounder Michael Floyd. Just as important, the signing means Campbell won't follow the footsteps of former Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby. Several attempts to sign him to a multi-year extension failed, and Dansby, one of the team's key contributors, left via free agency and signed with Miami."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sees a pattern: "The last four players the Cardinals kept saying publicly they would soon be extending -- Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald and now Campbell -- all got their extensions. Something to remember when analyzing what the team says about future players."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree are becoming fast friends. Donte Whitner: "They have a great relationship. Whenever you're doing something where you need a partner, they're always together."

Also from Inman: Alex Smith consulted with a pitching coach this offseason.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Moss could be the key to San Francisco's season.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Alex Boone is embracing a chance to play right guard.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com previews the 49ers' rookie camp. Maiocco: "LaMichael James will be ineligible to return to the work at the 49ers practice facility until after Oregon's graduation ceremony on June 15. Stanford, Northwestern and Wisconsin also have late graduations."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Bobby Wagner is the latest in a long line of second-round linebackers with a shot at starting for the team. The others: Lofa Tatupu, Dave Wyman, Keith Butler, Terry Beeson and Terry Wooden. Scout Eric Stokes: "First and foremost, he’s a big-time upgrade athletically. His speed and his range are going to be very impressive and you’re getting a guy that’s really physical. It’s going to be a natural adjustment to middle linebacker."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune offers first impressions after watching the Seahawks during a 45-minute workout. Boling: "The new No. 72 is the surprisingly svelte guard Deuce Lutui, whom you may recall from the days when he was stretching out Arizona Cardinals jerseys. Lutui failed the physical last year with Cincinnati and returned to Arizona as a backup. Although said to have been topping out in the 400-pound range, he’s listed at a believable 338 now, having slimmed down by adopting some vegan concepts in his diet. That’s good news for an offensive line that finished the season without three injured high draft picks -- Russell Okung, James Carpenter and John Moffitt. Okung and Moffitt have recovered well enough to be active in drills going against bags, while Carpenter is on the hoof but mostly watching."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams fans shouldn't be too alarmed over the team's stadium lease situation. He says team owner Stan Kroenke has incentive to keep the requested stadium upgrades within a reasonable price range. Burwell: "The best way for Kroenke to maximize the G-4 loan is if the final Dome proposal mandates that his share of the financial burden for renovation not exceed $150 million and that the total cost of the project costs between $200 million and $400 million. ... The thing that works for everyone is making sure that the Rams stay right here. After seeing what it cost the good folks of Minneapolis to keep the Vikings, suddenly $400 million doesn't sound so bad."
Middle linebacker David Hawthorne's experience in NFL free agency was not unique to him.

The market for running backs, safeties and inside linebackers has remained mostly soft as teams build their rosters from the outside in, the better to cope with an increasingly pass-happy NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks have been a bit of an exception, paying significant sums to a run-stuffing defensive end (Red Bryant) and a power runner (Marshawn Lynch). But they weren't going to value Hawthorne on the same level. Knee problems slowed Hawthorne last season. And Hawthorne, though productive when healthy, does not possess the specialized traits coach Pete Carroll values in players.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Hawthorne wanted to re-sign with Seattle, but the New Orleans Saints were offering better money. Hawthorne's agent, Russel Hicks: "He wanted to come back there. He got his NFL start there, but unfortunately Seattle did not make him a priority to bring him back and New Orleans made it a priority to get him signed. Personally I just wish they would have made a better attempt to bring him back, but they didn’t. And David does, too." Noted: Hawthorne has seven interceptions over the past three seasons. The Seahawks could miss his production. However, they have embraced opportunities to remake the position, parting with Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu previously. The team was more interested in keeping Hawthorne than keeping Curry or Tatupu, but not enough to pay him even in a soft market.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along thoughts from Hawthorne after the middle linebacker signed with New Orleans. Hawthorne: "From Day One, they were one of the first teams to contact me in free agency. I think they valued me and my body of work, and I had never played a snap for them. ... I had to make a decision based on my future."

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on the Seahawks' new uniforms. O'Neil: "Mock if you must. Compare them to the Nike football flagship that Oregon's college program has become, or invoke the Arena League or comic-book superheroes for that matter. But no one is going to mistake the Seahawks' new uniforms for anything out of grandma's attic."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Todd Van Horne, Nike's global creative director, for thoughts on the new NFL uniforms. Farnsworth: "The jersey is 20 percent lighter and 50 percent stronger than what teams have been wearing the past 10 seasons."

Also from Farnsworth: "The Seahawks tried to re-sign Hawthorne before the free agency period began on March 13 and again after he had visited the Saints. But the sides could not agree on a deal."

Sports Press Northwest quotes Bills safety George Wilson thusly: "Why do the Seahawks get the cool uniforms? I like changing it up and not doing the expected. Seattle is really taking some risks in their uniform. But from hearing the other guys talk about it in the back, I think their uniform was the overwhelming player favorite in the dressing room."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says during a chat he thinks Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are both worthy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Also from Thomas: "Even with the signing of Jo-Lonn Dunbar from New Orleans, the Rams still have only four linebackers under contract. Most teams take 9 or 10 into training camp, and usually 6 or 7 into the regular season. So yes, the Rams need more bodies there. I think Lavonte David would be a good choice. He'd be a great value at the top of the third, but will he still be there at that point."

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com suggests Los Angeles might be less of a threat to lure the Rams away from St. Louis. Gordon: "The downtown L.A. stadium proposed by the Anschutz Entertainment Group offers decidedly unattractive financial terms to teams in other cities. Yahoo! Sports notes that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell advised billionaire Phil Anschutz to change those terms to move the project forward. Anschutz has thus far balked at Goodell’s suggestion."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com explains some of the reasons he came to appreciate Torry Holt. He passes along this 2007 comment from Holt regarding talkative wideouts: "Yeah, sometimes it’s just shutting up and just playing, not worrying about anything that is going on other than what you can control and that’s your job and your actions and your words. That’s one of the biggest lessons I would take from Isaac (Bruce). Sometimes you should just shut up. Tame your tongue and let your actions and what you do on the football field speak for you. That’s what he does."

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan likes the new Nike uniforms. Finnegan: "It is everything a player could want in a jersey. The older jerseys limited you. I can feel the difference just walking around. They are state of the art."

Bob Young of the Arizona Republic offers details on the NFL's new uniforms, noting that little has changed for the Cardinals. Young: "While the shrink-wrap-tight cut of the uniforms, exposed stitching and breathable fabrics reportedly are similar to the cutting-edge stuff that Nike has produced for college programs -- including Arizona State -- the new uniforms stay true to traditional designs and colors for most teams. Larry Fitzgerald modeled the Cardinals version of the new uniforms for NFL.com in the home red. We are told the team still will have the alternate black uniform option as well."

Aaron Wilson of Scout.com says James Sanders, a free-agent safety from the Atlanta Falcons, is visiting with the Cardinals. Sanders played previously for New England.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' Jed York showed qualities reflecting his uncle (Eddie DeBartolo Jr.) and father (John York) in securing a new stadium. Lynch: "Jed is impetuous just like Eddie, but has an awareness of financial reality like his pop."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' jerseys should look familiar, and not just for their design. Inman: "A main element for the next edition of the 49ers: The names on the back of the uniform. According to unofficial research (a five-second scan of the online roster), 52 players who had spots in last season’s locker room are still on the team. That includes every defensive starter (plus Aldon Smith, who’s tabbed to unseat Parys Haralson at right outside linebacker). Unlike so many recent 49ers offseasons in the past decade, the head coach returns. And, yes, you can assume Jim Harbaugh’s wardrobe won’t stray from last year’s staple: khaki pants, black fleece sweatshirt, black cap, red-pen necklace, wily scowl."

Also from Inman: an Alex Smith interview transcript.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' apparent interest in free-agent offensive lineman Jason Brown makes sense.

Ofelia Madrid of the Arizona Republic says receiver Dontavia Bogan, recently released by the 49ers, was arrested after scuffling with security guards in Arizona.
Two moves making NFL headlines Saturday recall the Seattle Seahawks' finest season.

Lofa Tatupu's contract agreement with Atlanta came just as Minnesota was releasing seven-time All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson. Both players earned Pro Bowl honors with Seattle when the team made its lone Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season.

Tatupu's health was a primary factor in his absence from the NFL last season. Knee and concussion problems slowed the linebacker during his time with Seattle, affecting his play and leading the Seahawks to release him before the 2011 season.

Hutchinson was in his prime when the Seahawks lost him to the Vikings six years ago in one of the more dubious episodes in team history. The team hoped using the transition tag on Hutchinson following the 2005 season would spur the sides to a long-term agreement. Instead, Hutchinson's agent, Tom Condon, worked with the Vikings to craft a contract the Seahawks could not match without guaranteeing all $49 million of the deal. The so-called poison pills inserted into that contract stirred controversy and hard feelings while exposing the Seahawks to harsh criticism, even though few foresaw the poison-pill route as a threat.

I'm not sure what Hutchinson envisions for his future, but he is 34 years old and could presumably play a couple more years. Rejoining the Seahawks seems unlikely even though the team has new leadership since Hutchinson left on unpleasant terms. Robert Gallery is the projected starter at left guard, and 2011 first-round pick James Carpenter could project for the role. Hutchinson did play for current Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and with two current offensive starters, Tarvaris Jackson and Sidney Rice.

Hutchinson has played left guard his entire career. If he were a right guard, the San Francisco 49ers or Arizona Cardinals could certainly use his toughness, talent and veteran presence. I actually think the Rams could use a Hutchinson type, but would he want to join a rebuilding team at this stage of his career? That seems doubtful. The Rams might prefer to move forward with younger players, anyway.

Whatever path Hutchinson takes from here, he will go down in Seahawks history as one of the greatest linemen the team ever employed. He and perennial Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones comprised one of the all-time great left sides in league history. As the chart shows, Shaun Alexander averaged 1,500 yards rushing and 19.6 total touchdowns per season when Jones and Hutchinson were together from 2001 through 2005, with the only dip coming when Hutchinson missed 12 games to injury in 2002.

NFC West links: Meeting Les Snead

February, 15, 2012
2/15/12
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Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt is excited about being added to the NFL's competition committee.

Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic: "One key position the Cardinals need to address is left offensive tackle, and incumbent Levi Brown is a big part of that evaluation."

St. Louis Rams

New Rams coach Jeff Fisher joins Whisenhunt on the competition committee.

Jim Thomas looks at how new general manager Les Snead fits into the picture.

San Francisco 49ers

Santa Clara, Calif., leaders have approved plans for a new stadium, which would be completed in time for the 2014 season.

Grant Cohn examines quarterback Alex Smith's top five strengths and weaknesses.

Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll added four coaches to his staff on Tuesday.

Linebacker Lofa Tatupu was in New Orleans Tuesday meeting with the Saints.

2012 NFC West draft primer, Take One

February, 8, 2012
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Welcome to the 2012 NFL season. The games are not yet here, of course, but most teams have long since shifted their mindsets forward.

Tuesday brought a first look at free agency for NFC West teams. Now comes a first look at the draft, to be revisited as teams add and subtract players in free agency.

Thanks to those who left comments suggesting topics for this space. I've targeted a few for future items and drawn on the general thrust — more free agency and draft stuff, please — for this one. The comments affirmed how much we look forward to NFL offseasons.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. offered general thoughts on potential considerations for each team.

Here we go ...

St. Louis Rams

First-round position: second overall.

Three primary needs: WR, OLB, OL

In the spotlight: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

Mocking it up: Kiper has the Rams selecting Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. McShay has them selecting USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil.

Muench's thoughts: "The first thing that jumps out at me is the value at No. 2. Blackmon is the best receiver in the group, but No. 2 is way too rich to take a receiver in this draft, especially Blackmon, who is not Julio Jones or A.J. Green. The Rams need help at outside linebacker, but the value is not there. This defensive tackle class is very poor. When you look at those offensive tackles and what the Rams have already spent on the position, I understand the hesitation, but going after Kalil or Iowa's Riley Reiff, depending on which one they like, would make sense. Reiff is more balanced and fundamentally sound. Kalil has more talent. Blackmon would make sense if the Rams traded back, but if they are stuck at No. 2, offensive tackle makes the most sense."

Sando's follow-up: The top two needs listed are the same ones I listed in a similar item one year ago, but there are new needs sprouting up. Defensive tackle was the third need one year ago, and it remains a big need for St. Louis. The situation on the offensive line is unsettled enough to give that position a priority. Using another early choice for a tackle would not inspire much excitement in St. Louis. The need for playmakers appears paramount. Whatever the Rams do, they absolutely, positively must give quarterback Sam Bradford a fighting chance. Another season filled with sacks and injuries could inflict long-term damage to his career. Coach Jeff Fisher and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will gear the offense toward the ground game in an effort to protect Bradford.

Seattle Seahawks

First-round position: 11th or 12th overall

Three primary needs: QB, DE, LB

In the spotlight: Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Mocking it up: Kiper has the Seahawks selecting South Carolina defensive end Melvin Ingram. McShay thinks Alabama running back Trent Richardson could be the choice.

Muench's thoughts: "The Seahawks are not in a great spot given their needs. Quinton Coples from North Carolina could be the edge rusher who starts from Day One and is more than just a situational player, but I do not think he'll be there when Seattle picks. He is almost 6-foot-6 and weighs 281 pounds. A lot of guys with his talent protect themselves during the offseason, but Coples worked his butt off at Senior Bowl practices and had a great game, too. Ingram does not have great size, but he is explosive enough and strong enough to play defensive end. At quarterback, there's a big drop after Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. Ryan Tannehill could go at the end of the first round, but No. 11 or 12 is way too rich. Brock Osweiler moves very well for a quarterback of his height. These are interesting guys and all it takes is for one team to fall in love with them, but you are reaching if you do it at No. 11 or 12. The reality is that there are so few good quarterbacks in most drafts. It usually doesn't work out when you force the issue."

Sando's follow-up: Finding a long-term quarterback remains the top priority for the Seahawks, but once again the planets appear reluctant to align for them. Parting with Matt Hasselbeck and passing over Andy Dalton have left Seattle with Tarvaris Jackson and developmental quarterback Josh Portis. Chasing after Peyton Manning could make sense for the Seahawks. They have good young players. Adding a front-line quarterback could put them over the top in the division. Linebacker has replaced the offensive line as a primary need for the Seahawks. That should not be the case, in theory, because the team had so much invested in a couple of relatively young linebackers. Aaron Curry and Lofa Tatupu are gone, however, and David Hawthorne is a free agent. The team could move K.J. Wright into the middle.

Arizona Cardinals

First-round position: 13th

Three primary needs: OT, LB, WR

In the spotlight: Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama

Mocking it up: Kiper has the Cardinals taking Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin. McShay has them taking Martin's teammate, guard David DeCastro.

Muench's thoughts: "Kalil and Reiff are the highest-rated tackles. I doubt either one will be there at No. 13. Martin makes sense because of his upside more than anything, but he is not a mauler. He could be gone at 13 if there is a run on tackles, but he might be a reach that early, anyway. There is another dropoff after him, too. This is not a great tackle class. Thirteen is a little early for Kendall Wright, the Baylor receiver, even if he has a good combine. Wright's stock is rising, but because of his size (5-10, 194), he won't win as many one-on-one battles. There was a big jump from 2010 to 2011 in his consistency with his hands and his route running. Adding a pass-rusher is more interesting for me because Ingram and Alabama's Courtney Upshaw could fit. Upshaw doesn't have that idea closing speed, but his initial burst and power are impressive. He can get off blocks. He will be a productive edge rusher. Some 3-4 teams prefer taller outside linebackers, but Arizona and Pittsburgh have gotten away with shorter guys. Ingram and Upshaw are both in that 6-1 or 6-2 range. Neither will be great in coverage, but that has been overrated a little bit. Basically, he has to be able to hold up in underneath zone."

Sando follow-up: The Cardinals haven't drafted an offensive lineman early since selecting Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. If Brown returns, it will be at a reduced rate. Upgrading the pass protection seems important, in my view, because quarterback Kevin Kolb has not shown great pocket awareness. He has also had injury problems. Landing Manning would obviously change those dynamics. Manning has succeeded for years without top talent across the line. The depth at receiver could use stabilizing, particularly if Early Doucet becomes the latest secondary Arizona target to depart. But with Larry Fitzgerald on the team, the position is in good hands. Very good hands. Some Cardinals fans have pointed to strong sack numbers as evidence Arizona doesn't need to make significant upgrades in that area. Have you ever met a defensive coordinator satisfied with his pass rush? O'Brien Schofield and Sam Acho have shown promise. They are not good enough for the Cardinals to lean back in their chairs and feel great about their outside rush for the next few years.

San Francisco 49ers

First-round position: 30th

Three primary needs: WR, CB, OL

In the spotlight: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

Mocking it up: Kiper points to South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery as a possibility. McShay goes with Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.

Muench's thoughts: "Blackmon, Michael Floyd and Wright will be gone. That is your top tier of receivers. In a perfect world, you hope Wright or Floyd slips to you. Floyd makes sense in that scheme because of his ability to stretch the field, which could help Michael Crabtree underneath and Vernon Davis over the middle. Wright has speed, but he is not the traditional target to win one-on-ones. After that, we have three receivers with second-round grades. LSU's Rueben Randle, Jeffery and Rutgers' Mohamed Sanu are all vertical threats who must work on their route running. Randle might fit the Jim Harbaugh offense because he is quicker off the line. Jeffery must work on his release. Sanu might be the best for that scheme because he is a better route runner and is more consistent with his hands, but he has not shown the same kind of big-play ability. Jeffery's stock has fallen; he doesn't separate particularly well. He did have a good game against Dennard, who is a solid second-round prospect, but he is much bigger than Dennard. Sanu's size is insane and he has great body control, but can he keep his weight down? I do like Dennard at corner. He didn't have a great Senior Bowl week and he is small, but he is tough and I think that is going to go a long way to slow down receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has a short memory and that is so important. Janoris Jenkins and Kirkpatrick are two corners to watch. Both have off-field concerns. I think someone will fall in love with Jenkins and take him before the 49ers pick. Kirkpatrick is a bigger, longer corner. He can be physical. There is a good chance neither makes it that far, but if they do, it would be hard for San Francisco not to snatch one. More than likely, that would offer more value than any receiver they could get in that spot."

Sando follow-up: The 49ers have few obvious, immediate needs. That is a credit to their personnel department and to their coaches. Smith's expected return puts off for at least one season the need for San Francisco to pursue a quarterback. It probably removes the 49ers from the Manning conversation. I think the 49ers have tremendous flexibility picking this late in the draft. They do not need to target a receiver even though the position could use reinforcing after injuries knocked out Josh Morgan and diminished what Braylon Edwards could offer. Re-signing Carlos Rogers would stabilize the cornerback position, as well. The 49ers could justify going in just about any position with this pick.
INDIANAPOLIS -- St. Louis Rams Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk has been on a roll this week, questioning the team's choice of offensive coordinator.

Faulk even wondered aloud whether Jeff Fisher would last long enough to fulfill his contract.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passes along this comment from Faulk on Fisher: "We'll see. That's all I can say. We will see. Jeff had a long and illustrious tenure in Tennessee and Houston. How long is (owner) Stan Kroenke going to wait? Will they give him all five years regardless of how bumpy it is? If Jeff hits three of those 8-8 seasons, what do you do? That's a lot of money to be mediocre. You've got to deliver." Noted: I think the Rams would be quite pleased with three 8-8 seasons from Fisher after going 10-38 over the past three seasons. I can also see why Faulk might be skeptical. Faulk won big in St. Louis within a high-powered offense. Fisher prefers a more conservative approach.

Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission (CVC) made its proposal to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome Wednesday, the deadline to do so. Hathaway: "The CVC plan to retain the Rams is such a closely guarded secret that even the Dome's owner -- the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority -- has been largely out of the loop. Officials with the authority have said they don't know what the CVC will propose should be done with the facility, and Ratcliffe said last week that it was not necessary for the authority's board to approve the CVC's offer to the Rams. The Rams, too, have indicated that the franchise likely will keep mum after receiving the CVC proposal today."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says former Raiders assistant John Fassel is the Rams' new special-teams coach. Thomas: "The Raiders had some of the league's best special teams units in 2009 and '10, leading the NFL in special teams takeaways and turnover differential in each of those seasons. In 2010, Oakland's Jacoby Ford had a breakout rookie season with three kickoff returns for touchdowns. Ford also had a 101-yard kickoff return for a score in 2011. But the Raiders' coverage units struggled in '11, yielding three returns for TDs and finishing last in punt coverage and 27th in kickoff coverage."

Jeff Fedotin of National Football Post says former Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu hopes to play in 2012 after resting a knee injury last season.

Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press profiles former Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy. Reynolds: "He’s still a fan favorite in Seattle, and spends a good chunk of time during the season around the New Orleans Saints, for whom some of his closest friends and confidants work. His home is in a well-to-do community, with neighbors including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, golfer Ian Poulter and famed coach Lou Holtz — someone Kennedy tormented at the height of the Miami-Notre Dame rivalry. Holtz got over it, apparently: He wrote the letter asking that Kennedy be approved to move into the gated community he now calls home."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers could have interest in DeSean Jackson if the receiver encounters a skeptical market and becomes available for a modest contract over the short term. Maiocco: "Jackson might not be in the mold of the big, physical receiver that coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke seem to like. And Jackson might not fit the blue-collar image that Harbaugh stressed. But I don't believe Harbaugh cares about reputation. He'd be open-minded about acquiring an exceptional talent who can help the team."

Also from Maiocco: a look at how the 49ers' linebackers fared in 2011. On Ahmad Brooks: "He played just about every snap this season at left outside linebacker, as he seemed to grasp Vic Fangio's defense well enough to handle his responsibilities against the run and the pass. Brooks recorded seven sacks and was third on the team with 46 quarterback pressures. Brooks typically moved to left defensive end in nickel situations when the 49ers would convert to a four-man line. He was also pretty solid against the run. He had 12 tackles for losses on the year."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects receivers coach John McNulty to remain with the Cardinals after Arizona prevented Tampa Bay from interviewing him for their vacant offensive coordinator's position.

Also from Somers: Former Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner offers thoughts on Peyton Manning's situation. Warner: "I don't think there's any question in mind, if there's a guy who can do something similar to what I did -- resurrect their career and go somewhere else and play at a higher level -- it's a guy like Peyton. Because you know he's going to work and you know he's going to set a standard. It's hard to do. You don't see many quarterbacks do it."

More from Somers: Ex-Cardinals receiver Roy Green was a two-way player long before New England's Julian Edelman attempted the feat. Somers: "Other guys would jog off the field and get a chance to go sit on the bench and get a chance to gather their thoughts. I was playing 30 to 35 plays on defense, then playing special teams, then you're right back in it (the game)."

Mailbag: Underrating the NFC West?

September, 5, 2011
9/05/11
7:22
PM ET
Greg from Spring, Texas gets tired of hearing analysts rip the NFC West. "Is it me," he writes, "or did I not watch the Seattle Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champs in the playoffs last year?"

Mike Sando: Having a division winner with a losing record cannot overcome a one-game upset. The NFC South went 13-3 against the NFC West last season. I won't be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys exceed expectations this season in part because they're paired against this division. The NFC West needs to win non-division games more regularly to change perceptions.

This division should improve in 2011.

The St. Louis Rams were already improving. They should be better as Sam Bradford grows as a quarterback. Their defense appears solid again, and improved. Kevin Kolb improves the Arizona Cardinals even if he's only average. There's a good chance he'll be better than average with Larry Fitzgerald on his side.

The Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have made easy targets this offseason because neither did much, if anything, to upgrade at quarterback. I think both teams have improved their rosters overall, however. And neither team was particularly strong at quarterback last season. It's unlikely either team will be significantly worse off at the position despite perceptions.

Matt Hasselbeck accomplished many admirable things during his time with the Seahawks, but almost none recently. His performance against New Orleans in the wild-card round was a fitting way for him to perform during his final home game as a Seahawk, but it wasn't consistent with his body of work since 2008 or an indicator of what was to come. His passer rating over the past three seasons was the lowest in the NFL by more than 10 points among the 19 quarterbacks with at least 35 starts during that span.

In San Francisco, Alex Smith will never live up to draft-day hopes, but it's reasonable to expect improvement from him under Jim Harbaugh. A significant regression would come as a surprise.

So, if the Seahawks and 49ers have upgraded their rosters overall while staying roughly the same at quarterback, how much worse will they be?


Clemster from Fort Worth wants to know which wide receivers will start for the St. Louis Rams, and what Danario Alexander's role will be.

Mike Sando: Brandon Gibson and Mike Sims-Walker are the starters, with Danny Amendola expected to see significant playing time. The Rams want their receivers to be largely interchangeable, which means we could see quite a few combinations.

Alexander survived the cut to 53 players, but I don't get the sense he enjoys much roster security, particularly if his knee continues to limit him periodically.

A reporter asked coach Steve Spagnuolo about Alexander on Monday. Spagnuolo tends to choose his words with care anyway, but his answer to this question was particularly conservative.

"He is one of the six receivers that we have right now," Spagnuolo said. "We all know what he has to overcome and battle every week, and he toughs it out. So, he is one of the guys right now."

Right now.


Nolan from Bakersfield, Calif., wasn't alone in hitting the NFC West mailbag with questions about Colin Kaepernick's status with the 49ers. They thought the 49ers' newest quarterback, third-string rookie Scott Tolzien, might threaten Kaepernick based on what they showed during preseason.

Mike Sando: There were reasons Kaepernick was a second-round pick and Tolzien was not drafted. Those reasons have not changed. Kaepernick is far superior physically in just about every way. If he and Tolzien both reach their potentials, Kaepernick will be the better player. The 49ers hired Harbaugh largely because they trusted his expertise with quarterbacks. Harbaugh played a leading role in selecting Kaepernick. Picking up Tolzien off waivers should have no bearing on the team's approach with Kaepernick.


Andrew from Seattle says he's hearing more Carson Palmer comeback rumors and he wants to know what are the chances Seattle might make a move for him. Andrew sees a talented group of receivers in Seattle, including tight end Zach Miller, and he thinks Palmer could help get the most from them.

Mike Sando: At no point have I heard anything to substantiate those rumors, but they are definitely there, and not just among fans. One NFL executive I spoke with during training camps said he expected the Seahawks to make a move for Palmer, one way or another, in time for the regular season.

My sense is that people outside the organization (and probably a few inside it, as well) cannot believe a team would go into a season with Tarvaris Jackson as its starter by design. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has repeatedly said this is what he plans to do. Carroll also values mobility in a quarterback. Palmer doesn't move well.

This is something we'll hear about until something happens or the trading deadlines passes. But if you're looking for real evidence that a move is likely, there is none to be found.


Casey from Phoenix asks whether Chester Taylor projects as a good compliment to Beanie Wells in Arizona.

Mike Sando: Taylor gives the Cardinals experience at the position and someone they could trust in small doses. I just see no reason to expect much from him at this stage of his career.

Age and recent production seem like reliable indicators for running backs. Taylor turns 32 this month. He averaged 2.4 yards per carry last season, the lowest single-season mark in the NFL since 1970 among players with at least 100 carries in a season.

Thirteen running backs since 2000 have rushed for at least 500 yards in a season after age 31: Emmitt Smith, Ricky Williams, Warrick Dunn, Fred Taylor, Lamar Smith, Curtis Martin, Antowain Smith, Garrison Hearst, Kevin Faulk, Corey Dillon, Jerome Bettis, Mike Anderson and Terry Allen. Williams, Anderson and Smith (Emmitt) are the only ones to reach 1,000 yards.

Ryan Williams' season-ending knee injury forced the Cardinals to get older at a position where youth is served. It's clearer than ever the Cardinals need a strong season from Wells. An injury to Wells or poor play from him would leave Arizona in a difficult position.

There's already enough pressure on Kolb without adding more.

Intelligence report: Seattle Seahawks

September, 1, 2011
9/01/11
12:21
PM ET
Five things to know about the Seattle Seahawks, straight from our newly published 2011 preview:

1. Tarvaris Jackson is the answer: Just make sure you're asking the right question. Jackson was convenient and available to Seattle once the team decided against re-signing Matt Hasselbeck for legitimate starter money. The Seahawks aren't banking on Jackson as their long-term starter. They're buying time to build up the rest of the roster before going after a quarterback next offseason. Sure, there's a chance Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst could surprise them. It's an outside chance. Using a 2012 first-round pick on a quarterback seems more likely.

2. Youth is served: The Seahawks went through training camp and the exhibition season with the NFL's youngest projected starters for 2011. Marcus Trufant and Robert Gallery were the only ones in their 30s. Gallery was the oldest, and he turned 31 only recently. Teams talk about getting younger. Few have the daring to go with so many younger starters when more established options were readily available. The Seahawks replaced longtime starters such as Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Lawyer Milloy, Sean Locklear and Chris Spencer with younger alternatives. Coach Pete Carroll's recent history in the college game has made him more comfortable going young than most NFL coaches would be.

3. Size matters in the secondary: Starting strong safety Kam Chancellor towers over most NFL defensive backs at 6-foot-3. He wasn't even as tall as the Seahawks' tallest cornerback -- that's right, cornerback -- through training camp and preseason. Brandon Browner, all 6-4 of him, was one of the more impressive cornerbacks in camp. The team used a fifth-round pick for cornerback Richard Sherman, who stands 6-3. Every defensive back on the roster is at least 5-10. Seven of 13 on the roster heading into the final preseason game are at least 6-0. Carroll wants big, rangy cover corners.

4. Leroy Hill lives: A year or two ago, it would have been unthinkable to hold up Hill as the Seattle linebacker whose future with the team appeared brighter than the futures of Tatupu or Aaron Curry. Tatupu had been to three Pro Bowls. Curry was the fourth player chosen in the 2009 draft. Hill was coming off a serious injury and multiple off-field incidents. Tatupu is gone. A restructuring for Curry chopped off two years from his rookie deal and made 2011 quite possibly his final one with the team. Hill, meanwhile, has recaptured the aggressive, borderline violent form that made him a potential rising star a few years ago.

5. The OL looks good on paper: Left tackle Russell Okung's recurring ankle problems aren't the only concern on an offensive line the Seahawks have worked hard to upgrade. Gallery represents an upgrade over his 2010 predecessors at left guard, but he has appeared a bit sluggish. Center Max Unger has yet to flourish since returning from a toe injury. Right guard John Moffitt and right tackle James Carpenter are suffering through typical rookie struggles. The Seahawks are counting on line coach Tom Cable to get the most from this mostly young group.
Playing connect-the-dots with prominent Seattle draft choices predating the Seahawks' current leadership, which arrived in 2010:
  • 2003 draft: First-round pick Marcus Trufant accepts a pay reduction. Fourth-rounder Seneca Wallace, the only other player remaining with Seattle from this class when Pete Carroll took over as head coach, is traded.
  • 2004 draft: Third-round pick Sean Locklear, the only remaining player from this draft class, has his contract truncated. The team does not re-sign him.
  • 2005 draft: First-round pick Chris Spencer is not re-signed. Second-rounder Lofa Tatupu is released after refusing a pay reduction. Third-rounder Leroy Hill takes a pay reduction, then re-signs somewhat improbably.
  • 2006 draft: First-rounder Kelly Jennings is traded. Second-rounder Darryl Tapp is traded. Fourth-rounder Rob Sims, the third player Seattle selected in the 2006 draft, is traded.
  • 2007 draft: The team had no first-round pick. Second-rounder Josh Wilson is traded. Deion Branch, the player Seattle received in return for that 2007 first-round pick, is traded.
  • 2008 draft: First-rounder Lawrence Jackson is traded. Second-rounder John Carlson is imperiled when the team signs tight end Zach Miller in free agency. Carlson is entering the final year of his contract.
  • 2009 draft: First-rounder Aaron Curry accepts a new contract making him easier to trade or release in the future.

Curry and Carlson are the two remaining early draft choices to watch. Both remain younger players with potential, but their futures in Seattle appear tenuous.

Some of these draft choices would have fared better in Seattle if the team had performed well enough to avoid sweeping changes in the organization. Likewise, those sweeping changes might not have been necessary if some of these draft choices had come closer to meeting expectations.

What stands out most to me: Mike Teel, David Greene, Wallace, Jeff Kelly and Josh Booty are the only quarterbacks the Seahawks have drafted since 2001.

On the Seahawks' Kelly Jennings trade

August, 29, 2011
8/29/11
2:48
PM ET
Five quick notes/thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' trading cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati for defensive tackle Clinton McDonald:
  • Size matters: The Seahawks have gone big and tall at cornerback. Jennings is listed at 5-foot-11, but he's slight of frame and struggled in matchups against bigger receivers.
  • Experience does not matter: Jennings was one of two cornerbacks on the Seahawks' roster with significant starting experience. The team has decided to go young -- very young -- and Jennings was practically ancient by Seattle cornerback standards at 28. The team felt good enough about its young corners to move on without Jennings.
  • Roster churn: Jennings' departure leaves the Seahawks with five of their own first-round choices and three from other teams. One of their own, cornerback Marcus Trufant, took a pay reduction from $5.9 million to $3 million recently. One of the others, linebacker Aaron Curry, restructured his contract in a manner that makes him easier to trade or release next year. The other three first-rounders project as long-term starters. James Carpenter, Russell Okung and Earl Thomas were chosen by the team's current leadership. The Seahawks are taking a sledgehammer to the foundation they inherited. Chris Spencer, Lofa Tatupu, Josh Wilson, Lawrence Jackson, Rob Sims and Darryl Tapp were all relatively high draft choices under previous regimes.
  • Money inconsequential: The Seahawks paid a $200,000 signing bonus to Jennings as part of the one-year deal he signed this offseason. That bought little security in the end.
  • NFC West reunion: Jennings heads to a Bengals secondary already featuring NFC West castoffs Taylor Mays and Nate Clements, both late of the San Francisco 49ers. Jennings was never going to live up to his first-round status in Seattle. He has more value to the Bengals without those expectations.
  • Clinton who?: McDonald was a seventh-round choice of the Bengals in 2009. The team had released him previously. He played in eight games last season. McDonald stands just under 6-2 and converted from linebacker in college. Nolan Nawrocki of Pro Football Weekly, writing for his 2009 draft guide, lauded McDonald for possessing toughness and a mean streak. He thought McDonald would project as a three-technique defensive tackle in a one-gap scheme. McDonald was not expected to earn a roster spot in Cincinnati.

Lots more moves to come. Teams must reduce to 80 players by Tuesday.

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