NFC West: Louis Delmas
Below is Barnwell’s plan and my thoughts on it:
Estimated Cap Space: $10,021,111
Likely Cuts: CB Carlos Rogers
Who They Should Keep: CB Tarell Brown, K Phil Dawson
Did you know the largest cap hit on the 2014 San Francisco 49ers belongs to, of all people, Rogers? The 49ers would clear $5 million off their cap by releasing Rogers, a move likely to occur despite San Francisco’s relative lack of depth in the secondary. Signing the younger, more talented Rodgers-Cromartie makes more sense, with Samuel filling in as depth and Delmas replacing the departing Donte Whitner. The Niners are sufficiently deep elsewhere to stay out of free agency, although they will certainly sneak in after a couple of weeks if they see a bargain lurking unsigned.
My take: What sticks out to me is the Rodgers-Cromartie thought. If the 49ers can get him, they should jump at it. He would be an upgrade and a fine fit for the defense. But I think he could get a big deal somewhere. I think Whitner is a better player than Delmas, and the 49ers should concentrate on keeping him. But if Whitner’s market is too high, then Delmas could be a solid replacement.
The Miami Dolphins announced what was thought to be a three-year agreement with Gibson, who did not figure into the Rams' plans after catching 51 passes for 691 yards and a team-leading five touchdowns last season.
The chart below lists all UFAs from NFC West teams, noting which ones reached contract agreements.
In other developments around the division:
- Tackle update: Dolphins free-agent tackle Jake Long left Rams headquarters without a contract agreement. That leads me to think Long will most likely sign elsewhere. The Rams have other options, including the draft (they have two first-round selections, after all). Long would upgrade the line, no question, but price deserves special consideration given injury concerns. To what degree Long wants to leave Miami is another potential factor.
- Safety market: Rams free agent safety Craig Dahl is reportedly visiting the San Francisco 49ers. The Detroit Lions re-signed safety Louis Delmas, who had visited both the Rams and 49ers. The safety market remains flooded even after former Cardinals mainstay Adrian Wilson reportedly reached an agreement with New England. Teams can afford to take their time.
- Aldon's shoulder: Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported that 49ers outside linebacker Aldon Smith underwent shoulder surgery this offseason. That is counter to what Smith told Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News last month. The 49ers do not disclose information regarding surgeries. Either way, Smith was known to have played through shoulder trouble last season. He'll presumably be healthy for 2013.
- Obomanu let go: Longtime (since 2006) Seattle receiver Ben Obomanu's Twitter account indicated the Seahawks planned to release him. The move had seemed likely even before the team acquired Percy Harvin. Obomanu was scheduled to earn $2.3 million in salary from a team that no longer needed him as much on offense or special teams. Obomanu went from playing roughly half the offensive snaps over the 2010 and 2011 seasons to playing 29.2 percent of them last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
- Dumervil available: The Denver Broncos' failed attempt to renegotiate Elvis Dumervil's contract ended with the team releasing Dumervil and an explanatory statement. Dumervil's 63.5 sacks tied for seventh-most in the NFL since his 2006 rookie season even though Dumervil missed the 2010 season due to injury. There are no indications NFC West teams have serious interest in Dumervil, but his name is another to keep in mind, at least.
I've put together a chart showing some of the notable happenings for unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams.
NFC West teams are also looking at players from other teams, of course.
Glenn Dorsey and Charles Woodson are scheduled to visit the San Francisco 49ers, for example. The St. Louis Rams are planning to meet with Jake Long and Louis Delmas. The Arizona Cardinals are expected to meet with running back Rashard Mendenhall. Another running back of interest for Arizona, Reggie Bush, is expected to visit the Detroit Lions first.
That explains why the Rams released Mikell in a move ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday night.
Mikell was set to earn $6 million in salary. Releasing him means the Rams will not have to pay that money or count the salary against their cap. However, the team still must absorb $3 million in annual bonus-related cap charges for 2013 and 2014 that they previous paid him.
Had Mikell remained on the roster, St. Louis would have taken a $9 million cap hit this season. That figure reflects the $6 million salary and the $3 million bonus charge scheduled to hit in 2013. Releasing Mikell forces the Rams to account for all $6 million in bonus money this year even as the salary vanishes from the books.
The net savings against the cap is $3 million for 2013. The net savings for 2013 could grow to $6 million after June 1 if the Rams elected to use one of two annual post-June 1 designations for Mikell. In that case, the team would absorb one $3 million bonus charge this year and another in 2014.
Mikell joins a crowded safety market featuring San Francisco 49ers projected free agent Dashon Goldson and former longtime Arizona Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. Ed Reed, Charles Woodson and LaRon Landry are also on the market or scheduled to become free agents.
The chart lists Pro Bowls for some of the notable safeties on the market or expected to hit the market. Woodson converted from cornerback. Houston's Glover Quin is another notable safety on the market.
The Rams have options, in other words. Another projected free-agent safety, Louis Delmas, was with new Rams defensive coordinator Tim Walton at Detroit.
SAN FRANCISCO -- Thoughts on the San Francisco 49ers' 27-19 victory over the Detroit Lions at Candlestick Park on Sunday night:
What it means: The 49ers are 2-0 and own victories over potential rivals in the NFC playoff seeding race. They are the only NFC playoff team from last season with a 2-0 record to open 2012 (Atlanta has a chance to join the 49ers with a victory over Denver on Monday night). The 49ers again proved their ability to beat a playoff team without functioning well consistently. They did it at Detroit last season and at home against the Lions in this game. Strength on defense (for most of the game) and in the running game provided the 49ers with a capable insurance policy. Alex Smith and the offense showed up in the clutch, continuing a trend from last season.
What I liked: The fast start on offense. The 49ers caught the Lions off guard, it appeared, on their second offensive play when they flipped the ball to Mario Manningham for a 29-yard gain on an end-around. That sparked the 49ers' offense and led to a 21-yard scoring pass from Alex Smith to Vernon Davis. San Francisco couldn't have started any better offensively. Last year, the 49ers opened their game at Detroit in an empty set, inviting pressure and conceding a sack/fumble. They opened in an empty set this time, as well, but the Lions didn't get any pressure.
San Francisco went after safety John Wendling, who was subbing for the injured Louis Delmas, on the touchdown to Davis. That was smart and it worked beautifully. Davis was wide open and running toward the end zone uncontested.
Frank Gore's fresh legs stood out. His quickness and power gave the Lions problems. The way San Francisco blocks down the field, including at the receiver position, makes Gore even more dangerous. Gore returned the favor with an effective block to help spring Michael Crabtree for a first down on a third-and-long when the 49ers were trying to run time off the clock with a 20-12 lead. Crabtree converted a third-and-9 later in the drive.
The 49ers put together a 13-play, 79-yard touchdown drive -- Smith to Davis, again -- to put away the game in the fourth quarter. That drive atoned for some of the sloppiness that crept into the 49ers' game for stretches. The 49ers are a good team in the clutch. They showed it again.
What I didn’t like: Hunter lost a fumble during a first-quarter kickoff return, setting up the Lions for a 33-yard field goal. The 49ers had gone nine full regular-season games without losing a fumble. They had gone 26 regular-season quarters without suffering a turnover of any kind. Their last one had been against Baltimore on Thanksgiving.
The 49ers suffered a couple of third-down miscues. That included an aborted play after a snap from center Jonathan Goodwin flew past Smith. Another time, Crabtree could not handle a hard, low pass -- not a blatant drop, but a play unbecoming of the player with the best hands Jim Harbaugh has seen. That type of play has been the exception for Crabtree, who continues to play well overall.
The replacement officials struggled. They initially missed Aldon Smith's sack on Matthew Stafford, allowing Ahmad Brooks to get a second shot at the Lions' quarterback. Lions coach Jim Schwartz issued a replay challenge to save his team yardage, setting up a field goal try. No coach should have to challenge a sack against his own quarterback at a time when the NFL is emphasizing player safety. That was one of at least two plays when officials appeared out of position and unable to maintain vision of a play. Another time, officials missed potential pass interference.
Bruce Miller, Delanie Walker and Manningham dropped passes during an ugly drive early in the fourth quarter. Manningham's wasn't a drop in the purest sense. He appeared to short-arm a ball over the middle.
The 49ers' defense, so strong most of the time, seemed to relent late in the game. The Lions drove for a touchdown with 1:29 remaining to pull within 27-19. The Lions gained big chunks of yardage during the drive.
West milestone: All four NFC West teams won Sunday. That's the second time Seattle, San Francisco, St. Louis and Arizona have won in the same week since the NFL realigned into eight four-team divisions in 2002. All four won in Week 10 last season.
Northern dominance: 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh now has a 3-0 record against NFC North teams. He can make it 4-0 with a victory over Minnesota next week.
QB streak: Smith extended his franchise-record streak of pass attempts without an interception. He also entered Week 2 with the NFL's highest completion percentage. Smith played well enough to complete a high percentage in this game, but he needed more help from his receivers in this game. In addition to the drops listed above, Hunter also let one go through his grasp.
Limited role for Moss: Randy Moss drew an interference penalty in the end zone to set up one 49ers touchdown. He played sparingly, however. The 49ers didn't really need him. Perhaps they're saving him. Age is a factor for Moss. The 49ers want to keep him fresh.
What's next: The 49ers visit Minnesota in Week 3.
- Which one is Suh again? Corey Williams, not Ndamukong Suh, was the Detroit defensive tackle posing the most problems. That was the word from a scout I spoke with earlier in the season. It sounded like a contrary opinion, but after charting the 49ers' handling of Suh through the first half of this game, nothing much about him stood out. Of the 28 first-half plays I charted, Suh was not on the field for eight of them. He made one play on the remaining 20 snaps, shedding 49ers guard Adam Snyder to tackle Frank Gore for a short gain. That was it. The 49ers assigned a true double-team to Suh one time in the half. On one play, tight end Delanie Walker surprised Suh with a wham block to free Gore for a 47-yard gain. Walker sealed Suh with a similar block to spring Gore's 55-yard run in the third quarter. The Lions have allowed three 100-yard rushers since Oct. 10.
- Talent, scheme enable key safety. Aldon Smith's talent came into play on the safety he collected midway through the second quarter. The scheme was another factor. The Lions lined up with three wide receivers. A tight end and running back flanked quarterback Matthew Stafford in the shotgun. The 49ers' Ahmad Brooks and Ray McDonald were down linemen on the left side of the defensive line. Defensive end Justin Smith stood upright about 2-3 yards off center Dominic Raiola, with linebacker NaVorro Bowman behind him. Linebacker Patrick Willis lurked behind Brooks and McDonald, across from the tight end in the backfield, Brandon Pettigrew. Aldon Smith leaned forward from a two-point stance over the left tackle, Jeff Backus. At the snap, Aldon Smith rushed into Backus, then disengaged from him with great suddenness, sidestepping the veteran tackle and rushing toward Stafford while Backus stood there without recourse. Raiola appeared acutely aware of Justin Smith before the snap. Not long before, the 49ers' Pro Bowl end had thrown Raiola to the ground.
- Whitner times up his blitz perfectly. Veteran safety Donte Whitner gives the 49ers a strong presence against the run. He was 10-plus yards off the ball before rushing into the backfield on a second-and-3 play. Whitner crept toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, but he was still seven yards off the ball when the play began. He knifed through a gap in the line and the Lions did not account for him. The run was to the opposite side, but Whitner was in the backfield quickly enough to bring down Maurice Morris for a 1-yard gain. Whitner latched onto Morris and brought him down decisively with an alligator roll. The 49ers' defense is playing with attitude.
- 49ers' linebackers due for interceptions. The 49ers have eight interceptions this season, but none by linebackers. That figures to change given how close Bowman, Willis, Brooks and Aldon Smith have been to picking off passes. They all had chances against the Lions. They'll have more chances if they keep playing at a high level.
- Crabtree's blocking shows up again. Receiver Michael Crabtree was sprinting some 50 yards downfield on Gore's 55-yard run when he dipped his shoulder and drilled unsuspecting Lions safety Louis Delmas. The block wasn't really necessary at that point because cornerback Chris Houston was about to make the tackle, but it showed Crabtree's mentality. He's been blocking well all season.
Making it through a 49ers observations item without mentioning Alex Smith stood out to me. I think it reflected the degree to which the 49ers played this game without relying on him heavily, at least until the final two minutes.
One is compensatory, meaning St. Louis cannot trade it (254th overall).
The chart shows which picks the Rams hold and where the picks originated, if applicable. I've included a column showing which players were chosen in the same slot last year.
The final column shows how many points each pick is worth on the draft value chart.
Earlier: Download full 2010 draft order with summary charts.
Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 16:
All bark, no bite? Aaron Rodgers' bizarre accusations against Darryl Tapp add at least some intrigue to the Seahawks-Packers game. The way Rodgers tells things, Tapp bit him during a 2008 game. Replays show Rodgers checking his upper arm as if it might be hurting. But Tapp appeared to be wearing a helmet and mouthguard at the time. The Seahawks haven't recorded a sack in their past two games. Tapp left no known bite marks on the Bucs in Week 15, despite finishing with two quarterback hits.
Seeking that 10th victory. The Cardinals haven't enjoyed a 10-win season since Don Coryell was head coach in 1976. They should have little trouble breaking through against the Rams at home, but there's a chance Arizona will have to work for it. The Cardinals needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to beat the Lions last week. The Rams nearly beat the Texans. A disinterested performance from the Cardinals isn't out of the question, particularly now that the NFC West title has been clinched.
Divisional futility. Both 2008 victories for the Rams came against teams from the NFC East. The Rams haven't won an NFC West game since posting a 13-9 victory over the 49ers in Week 11 of the 2007 season, a streak of 12 consecutive division games. They haven't beaten the Cardinals since Kurt Warner tossed three interceptions for Arizona in Week 3 of the 2006 season. I thought the Rams would win at least one division game this season. They are running out of chances.
Bridges in focus. Losing a starting left tackle to a season-ending injury in December generally creates cause for concern. The Cardinals placed Mike Gandy on injured reserve this week without much worry. Backup Jeremy Bridges played well in relief against Minnesota a few weeks ago, but the Cardinals had some issues with protection at Detroit. They need Bridges to get comfortable and play well over the final two regular-season games. Warner's health could depend on it.
Kurt Warner's 5-yard scoring pass to Anquan Boldin against the Lions in Week 15 no longer counts as such.
The play now counts as a 5-yard run, the NFL determined during a routine review.
This wasn't the only statistical adjustment from the Cardinals' 31-24 victory. A few others:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
I've broken out Scouts Inc.'s projected picks for the 49ers as the NFL draft countdown continues.
The Scouts Inc. mock sent Mississippi tackle Micheal Oher to the 49ers at No. 10 even though Steve Muench, who works for Scouts Inc., had some reservations about the choice.
The 49ers do need a tackle, but two in the first three rounds?
If the 49ers draft a receiver at No. 111, they'll buck a 15-year trend; general manager Scot McCloughan's teams haven't used a fourth-round choice on a receiver since he entered the NFL in 1994.
I sent Oher to the 49ers with the 10th overall pick in our bloggers' mock draft, but I would prefer to write that one in pencil. The 49ers figure to have options.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Sensing the shortage of mock drafts this time of year, I joined ESPN.com's other divisional bloggers in putting together our own version.
A confession: I sent Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe to the Rams at No. 2 knowing the decision helped avert a dilemma with Seattle at No. 4.
Sending another player to the Rams -- specifically receiver Michael Crabtree -- might have complicated the choice I was facing two picks later.
If Crabtree disappeared from the available pool at No. 2 and my AFC West counterpart, Bill Williamson, snagged Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry for the Chiefs at No. 3, then what for Seattle? I wasn't ready to join the Mark Sanchez-to-Seattle hype machine, but the possibility seemed more realistic without Crabtree and Curry available as alternatives.
The Rams need a tackle more than Seattle needs one, the thinking goes, so it's convenient for St. Louis to take one, leaving the Seahawks with more palatable options two picks later.
Alas, these are all theories built on assumptions. Reality figures to diverge significantly.
Four of Scouts Inc.'s 32 highest-ranked players -- Tennessee defensive end Robert Ayers, Florida receiver Percy Harvin, Western Michigan safety Louis Delmas and Connecticut cornerback Darius Butler -- failed to find their way into our divisional bloggers' mock. Two players appearing on our mock -- Rutgers receiver Kenny Britt and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith -- did not earn spots on the Scouts Inc. top 32.
I doubt whether any two NFL teams share the same rankings for the top 32 players.
There is no consensus, in other words.
With that, I'll break down where each of my projected NFC West projections could break down.