NFC West: Mark Roman

NFC West Penalty Watch: Dirty laundry

September, 10, 2010
St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford makes his NFL regular-season debut against some rough-and-tumble Arizona Cardinals defenders.

The chart, put together with information from Hank Gargiulo of ESPN Stats & Information, shows NFC West defensive players with the most penalties since 2005 under categories labeled roughing the passer, unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct, taunting, horse-collar tackle, personal foul, disqualification and 15-yard facemask.

These penalties include only those committed while playing for NFC West teams. They include playoff games.

Joey Porter, signed by the Cardinals in free agency, has eight such penalties since 2005. Bryan Robinson, signed by the Cardinals in 2008, ranks tied for ninth on the list with four. He had four additional penalties in these categories while playing for Cincinnati from 2005 to 2007.

Not that Bradford needed anything additional to think about.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)

Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)

Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)

San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)

The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams quarterback A.J. Feeley, who appears likely to start in Week 1, but not later in the season. Feeley on mentoring No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford: "I want to help him out as much as he wants to be helped out. But everybody wants to play. If you don't want to play, you shouldn't be in this position. It's what you do. ... The nature of playing quarterback is you help each other out in the meeting room. Those guys that don't have good meeting rooms, where the guys don't get along, that's where bad things happen. But we have a great group."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams tackle Jason Smith missed practice to rest a toe injury.

Also from Nelson: a fuller injury update from Rams camp.

Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks colleagues what to expect from Bradford during the team's upcoming scrimmage. Jeff Gordon: "We all know the kid has a great arm – and that the Rams aren’t going to put him at risk to show that off. So fans ought to settle for seeing him command the huddle and demonstrate composure. Will he handle the mechanics of it all without any yips? Last year Keith Null had a rocky start making his adjustment from the spread offense of college to the pro passing game. But he settled in nicely. If Bradford does the same, folks should be happy with that."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu misses his late father. Tatupu: "Last time I ever spoke to him, I told him I was going to make him proud. And that I loved him."

Also from O'Neil: Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson appears a bit fragile.

Clare Farnsworth of details Quinn Pitcock's journey from depression back to the NFL. Pitcock: "I cast myself away from everybody and became almost a hermit. I was a hermit for a year. No one knew where I was at."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at the team's tight ends as part of a Thursday roundup.

Greg Johns of says newly re-signed linebacker Anthony Heygood didn't make it through warm-ups Thursday. Johns: "Heygood, re-signed by the Seahawks on Wednesday to beef up their depth at the position, tore his Achilles' tendon during stretching exercises before the team's first practice Thursday." Also, receiver Mike Williams emerged with a strong morning practice after a quiet couple days.

Also from Johns: Pitcock says lots of athletes suffer from depression and he'd like to do something about it. Pitcock: "Being alpha males and being the strong type, you try not to show your weaknesses. That's why I want to start a charity more toward that and also any kind of addictions or stuff like that and get people more open to asking for help. Because no one great got anywhere by themselves. They always need help to get there. That was my biggest problem. I always wanted to do it all on my own. Now I'm open to everybody helping me get where I want to be."

More from Johns: Seattle released receiver Mike Hass to make room for Pitcock on the roster.

John Morgan of Field Gulls says Julius Jones enjoyed a strong practice Thursday.

Also from Morgan: Williams has good size, but can he separate from defensive backs consistently?

Sam Good of says players had no idea where they were going to practice Thursday.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the new practice venue made life easier for players. White:"Niners training camp hit the coastal road to Cal State-Monterey Bay, a seaside campus on the retired grounds of Fort Ord. The ocean breeze was cool, the driving mist was salty and the marine-layered conditions hovered in the low 50s."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Jerry Rice's work ethic set him apart during a Hall of Fame career. Crumpacker: "In an Oct. 14, 1990, game against Atlanta at Candlestick Park, then-Falcons coach Jerry Glanville foolishly thought he could cover Rice with a single man, a cornerback named Charles Dimry. It was a move that had Dimry paying dearly for his coach's arrogance. Rice caught a career-high five touchdown passes among his 13 receptions overall for 225 yards. The man throwing all those passes to him, Joe Montana, finished with 476 yards passing, the most of his career."

Also from Crumpacker: Rice adjusted from one great quarterback to another. Rice: "Steve Young was the first lefty I worked with. I used to have Ted Walsh throw to me because it was so unusual seeing that delivery. They had very similar throwing styles. They both threw ducks. ... I'm just joking. Steve always threw spirals."

Matt Maiocco of has this to say about the 49ers' situation at wide receiver: "I don't see the 49ers going with four-WR sets. The reason: they are not going to take Vernon Davis or Frank Gore or another back off the field. Brandon Jones is having a difficult time getting practice time among the group of wideouts. It'll be tough for him to make the team."

Also from Maiocco: Rice declined to take days off even when Bill Walsh suggested he take it easy.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says improved confidence is helping safety Reggie Smith. Barrows: "As far as the on-field action, the defense spent the day practicing one of its nickel packages. This one employs three safeties - Reggie Smith was No. 3 - and two linemen, who usually are Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. They rush the quarterback along with specialists Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks. Reggie Smith has been filling in with the first-string defense when veteran Michael Lewis has been given a break and it appears he's preparing for the role Mark Roman had last year."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says one player in particular couldn't believe the 49ers were relocating practice to Seaside, Calif. Tight end Tony Curtis grew up there.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic sizes up the situation at inside linebacker in Arizona. Linebackers coach Matt Raich on Paris Lenon: "He's not Patrick Willis [of the 49ers]. He's not the fastest guy. He's not the biggest guy. But you could tell he understood the game. When he got the chance to make plays, he stepped up and made plays."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals were relieved to learn Ben Patrick suffered no ligament damage to his injured knee.

More from Somers: "Quarterback Matt Leinart made a point of trying to bond with his offensive linemen this offseason. He even paid for several of them to go to Hawaii with him in late June and early July. Center Lyle Sendlein, guard/tackle Jeremy Bridges and tackles Brandon Keith and Levi Brown accepted the offer. Guard Alan Faneca was there with his family and spent some time with the group, too."

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals are optimistic about Brown moving to left tackle. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "One of the things [Wednesday] night in practice that was apparent to me was the number of times he went against Joey Porter, and Joey is someone who brings it in practice every snap. I asked Joey after his assessment of Levi, and he said Levi is going to be fine. When you have a veteran player like Joey, who has gone against some good tackles, make that assessment, it makes you feel good about the progress Levi has made."

Also from Urban: a look at the Cardinals' situation on the offensive line.

Ranking situations at free safety

July, 8, 2010
A Facebook discussion on Kerry Rhodes' prospects as Antrel Rolle's replacement in Arizona left me mentally ranking the situations at free safety in the NFC West, based on a combination of ability and potential.

My initial rankings came out in reverse order of experience at the position. That seemed out of whack on the surface, but we're talking about ranking situations, not ranking players. I did move up Arizona's situation into the second overall spot based on factors explained below.
1. Seattle Seahawks. First-round choice Earl Thomas should make an immediate impact. He should become the best coverage safety in the division. I'm leaning heavily on the potential side of the equation in ranking Seattle's situation at the top, but I suspect every other team in the division would trade its starting free safety for Thomas without hesitation. Seattle will have Thomas signed to a long-term deal, with veteran secondary coach Jerry Gray onboard to tutor him.

2. Arizona Cardinals. Rhodes remains under contract through 2013 and at a reasonable rate. He gets to line up next to Pro Bowl strong safety Adrian Wilson, which can only help. Rhodes is a proven starter and he will not turn 30 until the 2012 season. This looks like a good situation for the Cardinals even if they would have preferred keeping Rolle.

3. San Francisco 49ers. Dashon Goldson started all 16 games in his first season as Mark Roman's replacement in the lineup. He improved and enjoyed a breakout performance against the Cardinals on Monday Night Football. Goldson enters his contract season needing to prove he's focused on getting better, not just getting richer. At age 25, he gives the 49ers a potential long-term starter and playmaker. He also has a good supporting cast on defense. Unlike his counterpart in St. Louis, Goldson has not been named a franchise player, making the franchise tag a more palatable option financially should a long-term deal prove elusive.

4. St. Louis Rams. Oshiomogho Atogwe might be the best free safety in the division. He's been a ball hawk, a true professional and the type of player the Rams would love to build around -- at the right price. That last part has proven somewhat problematic, however, and financial complications could make 2010 the final year the Rams and Atogwe are together. This marriage of convenience came with a prenuptial agreement giving the Rams an easy out after the season. Atogwe must know the Rams do not see him as an elite safety. It's not the best situation for the long term. Atogwe, 29 and coming off an injury-shortened season, still must prove he can be an impact player in Steve Spagnuolo's defense.

Let's see how many people dive into the comments as if this were a straight ranking of free safeties based on their proven abilities (a ranking that might go in this order: Atogwe, Rhodes, Goldson and Thomas).
The earlier item quantifying NFL roster turnover since last season ranks the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals among the three teams with the most changes.

Some of the research used for that project shows up in the latest version of the anabolically enhanced rosters found here periodically. Specifically, the 26th and final column shows which players were starters, backups or on injured reserve for NFC West teams in Week 17 last season.

Download the rosters here.

The column showing player ages makes it easy to see how roster attrition affects older players. I'll list below the players currently 30 or older who have been released, traded, announced their retirements or were not re-signed as unrestricted free agents since last season:

Seattle Seahawks (9)

Patrick Kerney, Walter Jones, John Owens, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Sean Morey, Ben Hamilton and Chris Baker.

Arizona Cardinals (9)

Kurt Warner, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Bertrand Berry, Neil Rackers, Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Ralph Brown, Dan Kreider,

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Jay Feely, Paris Lenon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca.

San Francisco 49ers (6)

Shaun Hill, Arnaz Battle, Mark Roman, Walt Harris, Dre' Bly, Jeff Ulbrich

Note: The team added 30-plus vets David Carr and William James. In looking at the chart, note that receiver Isaac Bruce, 37, is still on the 49ers' roster for the time being.

St. Louis Rams (5)

Leonard Little, Marc Bulger, Lenon, Clinton Hart, Randy McMichael

Note: The team added 30-plus vets A.J. Feeley, Na'il Diggs, Hank Fraley and Fred Robbins.
Unrestricted free agency has come and gone for the NFL in 2010 after no teams made qualifying offers to the more than 100 unsigned UFAs by June 1.

The following former UFAs from NFC West teams remain free agents able to sign with any team that will have them, but none will factor into the formula used for awarding compensatory draft choices:
Arizona: left tackle Mike Gandy, outside linebacker Chike Okeafor, outside linebacker Bertrand Berry (retiring), cornerback Ralph Brown, fullback Dan Kreider, quarterback Brian St. Pierre

Seattle: fullback Justin Griffith, linebacker D.D. Lewis, cornerback Ken Lucas, tackle Damion McIntosh, snapper Jeff Robinson, snapper Kevin Houser

San Francisco: safety Mark Roman, cornerback Dre Bly, cornerback Walt Harris, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich (retiring)

St. Louis : defensive end Leonard Little, tight end Randy McMichael, safety Clinton Hart

The chart breaks down the players by team and 2009 starts.

Bad teams aren't the only ones churning their rosters during the offseason.

The defending NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals have parted with 15 of the 53 players on their Week 17 roster from last season. Only the rebuilding Seahawks have parted with more -- 16 -- among division teams this offseason. The Rams have parted with 11. The 49ers, seeking continuity as they try to build on an 8-8 season, have parted with only three.

The first chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have returned to each NFC West team.

The second chart shows how many Week 17 starters and backups have left each NFC West team.

I'll first list the players by team.

Seattle (16): receiver Nate Burleson, quarterback Seneca Wallace, linebacker Lance Laury, defensive end Cory Redding, guard Trevor Canfield, quarterback Mike Teel, tackle Damion McIntosh, linebacker D.D. Lewis, snapper Jeff Robinson, fullback Justin Griffith, cornerback Ken Lucas, safety Deon Grant, defensive end Darryl Tapp, guard Rob Sims, tight end John Owens and defensive end Patrick Kerney.

Arizona (15): linebacker Pago Togafau, safety Antrel Rolle, receiver Jerheme Urban, receiver Sean Morey, kicker Neil Rackers, linebacker Bertrand Berry, fullback Dan Kreider, cornerback Ralph Brown, quarterback Brian St. Pierre, defensive end Jason Banks, receiver Anquan Boldin, linebacker Karlos Dansby, quarterback Kurt Warner, cornerback Bryant McFadden and linebacker Chike Okeafor. Note that Rolle did not start in Week 17.

St. Louis (11): defensive tackle LaJuan Ramsey, cornerback Jonathan Wade, receiver Ruvell Martin, quarterback Mike Reilly, defensive end Leonard Little, safety Clinton Hart, snapper Ryan Neill, running back Samkon Gado, linebacker Paris Lenon, tackle Alex Barron and tight end Randy McMichael.

San Francisco (5): receiver Arnaz Battle, cornerback Marcus Hudson, quarterback Shaun Hill, safety Mark Roman and cornerback Dre Bly.

The third chart shows what happened to players who were on injured reserve in Week 17.

I'll first list by team the players who were on IR but are no longer with their teams.

San Francisco (5): tackle Tony Pashos, punter Ricky Schmitt, linebacker Jeff Ulbrich, cornerback Walt Harris and running back Thomas Clayton.

Seattle (4): running back Tyler Roehl, tackle Walter Jones, snapper Kevin Houser and tackle Brandon Frye.

St. Louis (3): quarterback Marc Bulger, defensive tackle Adam Carriker and safety Eric Bassey.

Arizona (2): tackle Mike Gandy and fullback Justin Green.

Updated: NFC West UFA list

March, 12, 2010
The Cardinals remain the only NFC West team to re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents this offseason.

That is mostly by design.

Twenty-seven of 31 remaining unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams are at least 30 years old. Two are retiring. Two of the four still in their 20s are 29.

The chart shows remaining UFAs from the NFC West, arranged by team and by age.

NFC West teams need safety help

March, 6, 2010
The Cardinals lost Antrel Rolle, the Rams could lose Oshiomogho Atogwe and the 49ers might need to replace Michael Lewis. The Cardinals could also lose backup safety Matt Ware, who could draw interest from the Rams.

The Seahawks aren't exactly set for life at safety, either.

What to do?

I've gone through the list of available safeties -- NFC West fan favorites Brian Russell and Mark Roman are out there -- and come up with a few fallback options, listed with their 2009 teams:
  • Ryan Clark, Steelers. The 30-year-old longtime starter couldn't work out a long-term deal with Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are running their defense in the Pittsburgh mold. Clark could fit.
  • Brodney Pool, Browns. Teams generally do not sever ties with productive 25-year-old starters, but the Browns decided against tendering Pool as a restricted free agent after he suffered a series of head injuries last season. Pool picked off four passes in 11 games last season, making 10 starts before his season was ended.
  • Darren Sharper, Saints. The 34-year-old Pro Bowl choice would upgrade every secondary in the NFC West, but at what price? Sharper is probably most valuable to the Saints.
  • Jermaine Phillips, Bucs. Injuries have severely limited Phillips' contributions recently. It's probably not a great sign that Tampa thought about moving him to linebacker. Still, Phillips is 30 years old, hardly ancient by safety standards, and he has 74 starts.

Other safeties who are unrestricted free agents: Ware, Russell, Roman, Nick Ferguson, Sean Jones, Will Allen, Todd Johnson, Clinton Hart, Roy Williams, Vernon Fox, Marquand Manuel, Mike Brown, Tyrone Carter and Lawyer Milloy.

Other safeties who are free agents (but technically not UFAs): John Busing, Hamza Abdullah, Aaron Francisco, Kennard Cox, Eric Bassey, Jamaal Fudge and Quinton Teal.

Also: ESPN's John Clayton notes that Jets safety Kerry Rhodes could be an option for Arizona via trade.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
Arizona Cardinals

Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.

Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, C Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart. Arizona is reportedly interested in quarterback David Carr.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.

Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.

Franchise player: K Olindo Mare

What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.

Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.

Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin

What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.

Free agency: NFC West

February, 16, 2010
AFC Free Agency: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.

Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.

Arizona Cardinals

[+] EnlargeKarlos Dansby
Tony Medina/Icon SMIKarlos Dansby has led the Cardinals in tackles in each of the past two seasons.
Unrestricted free agents: LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, OLB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, WR Sean Morey, TE Anthony Becht, DE Bertrand Berry, LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, FB Dan Kreider, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware, LB Monty Beisel.

Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.

Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.

Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind. Update: I've added Nate Burleson to the list of free agents. He has a contract for 2010, but it voids. Thanks to CowboyP893 for the assist.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Michael Crabtree has defied critics by producing consistently since reporting to the 49ers following a contract dispute. Crumpacker: "Extrapolated for 15 games, Crabtree would have some 67 receptions for 850 yards, which would put him atop an excellent crop of rookie wide receivers around the league. As it is, only Austin Collie of the Colts (59-661), Percy Harvin of the Vikings (53-731), Jeremy Maclin of the Eagles (52-715) and Hakeem Nicks of the Giants (46-795) have more catches than Crabtree to this point. Johnny Knox of the Bears also has 45 receptions (for 527 yards)." There's no question Crabtree has produced more consistently than could have been expected after missing minicamps, training camp and the rest of the season.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat profiles 49ers coach Mike Singletary. Cohn: "He is a man who sees his life as a moral life -- as a moral tale, and he is the protagonist of that tale. He wears that large cross (he laughingly disputes that it’s large) as a reminder of whom he serves and what kind of man he was called on to be. He represents an approach to life, and the cross is a symbol of that approach."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says several 49ers players could be playing their final game with the team. Beyond Isaac Bruce, "other 49ers who will enter the offseason not knowing if they'll be back include cornerbacks Dre' Bly and Walt Harris, safety Mark Roman and offensive tackles Barry Sims and Tony Pashos."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are forcing more turnovers. They have more athleticism on the field now that Ahmad Brooks and Dashon Goldson are getting significant playing time.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation says several 49ers players are nearing statistical milestones. On Frank Gore: "Gore needs one more 100-yard game to tie Joe Perry for the most in 49ers history (19). He's also 82 yards from passing Garrison Hearst for fourth on the 49ers all-time rushing list. We've seen his solid receiving skills in play over the years, and he continues climbing the ranks. He's currently 29th in receiving yards and 15th in receptions. I doubt he'll match Roger Craig's career receiving numbers, but he's certainly doing well for himself."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals think they are in rhythm offensively and close to hitting on all cylinders. That could make their game against Green Bay even less important, particularly if the Vikings beat the Giants. Somers: "It's questionable how much of their offensive skills the Cardinals (10-5) and Packers (10-5) will choose to display Sunday. The teams probably will meet in the first round of the playoffs next weekend at University of Phoenix Stadium, so much of their game-planning this week has been geared toward that game. The season finale means little to the Packers, who are going to be the fifth or sixth seed. It will be significant for the Cardinals only if the Giants beat the Vikings earlier in the day. That would give the Cardinals a shot at the No. 2 seed and a bye, provided the Cowboys beat the Eagles, a game that will start at 2:15, the same time as the Cardinals and Packers contest."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are getting to the quarterback by committee. Twelve players have sacks this season.

More from Somers: Antrel Rolle will not play for the Cardinals if the No. 2 seed is not within reach.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times wonders what's at stake for the Seahawks in their final game of a lost season. Brewer: "This is a team full of people with uncertain futures. With the Seahawks searching for a new general manager, coach Jim Mora doesn't want to end his first season with four straight losses and a perception that he lost this team. After throwing eight interceptions in the past two weeks, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck doesn't want to end this season with even more question marks. With an expected roster overhaul looming, the reality is a lot of Seahawks are auditioning for their next jobs."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' ground game has shown signs of life in recent weeks. Williams: "After twice setting franchise-worst records for rushing yards in a game this season, Seattle has averaged 121.5 yards a contest and 4.58 yards a carry in the past, two games. However, most of those yards were accumulated in first halves, with Seattle having to abandon the run because of falling behind and needing to score quickly to get back into the games."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune asks whether the Seahawks' poor season should have been expected. Situations involving Walter Jones, Mike Wahle, Marcus Trufant, T.J. Duckett, Edgerrin James, Aaron Curry and a new offensive playbook might have foreshadowed problems.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team is focused on preventing Chris Johnson from topping 2,000 yards rushing for the season.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have reached a crossroads with their fans. Executive Kevin Demoff: "This organization for too long has taken fans for granted, has not paid enough attention to sponsors in the community and to making sure that people were invested in the club. If people are invested in the club, winning will help. But I think it's easy to throw your hands up and say, 'Well, if the club was winning, people would go.' It's our challenge to make sure that people want to go, win or lose. They may have a better time if we win."

Also from Thomas: New starting Rams guard Roger Allen III lines up against a strong 49ers defensive front.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Bruce's return to the Edward Jones Dome recalls the Rams' glory days. Burwell: "Bruce will be on the field before the game as an honorary captain. Of course, there will be cheers. Probably polite and passionate, long enough to recognize that the 45,000 diehards who braved the frigid weather to watch an otherwise uneventful game still remember how good it used to be, and how big a deal Bruce was in his heyday here. The sad thing is, it just won't be the same."

B.J. Rains of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat checks in with Allen before the rookie's first NFL start. Rains: "The rookie, who said he likely would have gone to either Illinois, Kansas or Missouri out of high school had his ACT scores been higher, graduated as the best lineman ever to play at Missouri Western. He started all 12 games as a freshman at offensive guard and became the first -- and only -- offensive lineman to be named Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Freshman of the Year."

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams need to beat the 49ers to avoid the worst record in franchise history. Defensive coordinator Ken Flajole sees a 49ers team that has improved since beating the Rams 35-0 earlier in the season. Flajole: "It is for three reasons -- the back [Gore] being back and healthy. The wide receiver [Crabtree] gives them another added dimension, and the quarterback is playing good, too. They are little bit different, so we’ve got our hands full. They have gotten better."

Four seconds plenty for Hasselbeck

December, 8, 2009
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith's progress in making quick decisions stood out when I re-watched the 49ers-Seahawks game.

His Seattle counterpart, Matt Hasselbeck, has been making those decisions for years. The last one Hasselbeck made Sunday helped win the game for the Seahawks. I wanted to take a closer look at his 32-yard pass to rookie Deon Butler after sizing up a 42-yard gain by the 49ers earlier in the day.

Seattle faced first-and-10 from the San Francisco 47 with 18 seconds remaining in a 17-17 game. The Seahawks went with four wide receivers for the 11th time in the game. They put Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch to the left. Butler was wide to the right and isolated against cornerback Keith Smith, the player San Francisco signed for depth when an injury sidelined starter Nate Clements.

Hasselbeck, standing in shotgun formation with Julius Jones to his immediate right, caught the snap from center Chris Spencer with 18 seconds still showing on the clock. Spencer, playing with a broken right thumb, delivered the snap quickly and accurately with his left hand. That bought critical time for Hasselbeck. The 49ers' Mark Roman and Patrick Willis showed blitz up the middle, but only Willis followed through. Jones dove at his legs and slowed him just enough.

Hasselbeck scanned the left side of the field as he was gathering the snap. He committed to Butler before the receiver was 2 yards downfield. The ball left Hasselbeck's hand just after the clock showed 16 seconds. The pass traveled 30 yards before Butler caught it at the 24 just as the clock turned to 14 seconds.

Elapsed time: less than 4 seconds. That's how quickly an NFL game can be won or lost, all because a quarterback makes the right decision and delivers the ball accurately 30 yards downfield.

49ers coach Mike Singletary wanted an offensive interference call against Butler on the play. Replays did not show viewers what Singletary could see from the 49ers' sideline. There definitely appeared to be contact. Officials were inconsistent in how they called holding and interference down the field. That's another conversation.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' problems

November, 23, 2009
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee blames the 49ers' coaching staff for a poor game plan against the Packers. Barrows: "The 49ers had what amounted to a second bye week to get ready for a game with all sorts of NFC playoff implications. It's not that they swung and missed Sunday. It's that they didn't start swinging until they were down." When the 49ers hired Mike Singletary, team president Jed York said the team needed more intensity. I didn't think that was the problem at all. The team played hard for Mike Nolan. Singletary was going to make the 49ers play smarter. That has happened, but the offensive line has failed to develop, the 49ers remain unsettled at quarterback and the team failed to acquire a legitimate pass-rusher. Those are the real problems facing the 49ers.

Also from Barrows: a report card and a 49ers injury update. Barrows: "Eight players landed on the report, including starting left guard David Baas (ankle) and return man Arnaz Battle (leg strain). The others are: Michael Robinson (stinger), Mark Roman (rib), Reggie Smith (groin), Marcus Hudson (back) and Delanie Walker (forearm)."

More from Barrows: Rookie Michael Crabtree offers advice to the 49ers' coaching staff. More fast-break offense, please. Crabtree: "It enabled everybody to get open and make plays. It kind of opened it up for all the playmakers we have."

(Read full post)

What's this? Even Roman getting picks?

November, 12, 2009
Scratch that thought on Dashon Goldson now that Mark Roman has also picked off Jay Cutler.

This pick wasn't Cutler's fault, but Roman will take it.

Now, can Alex Smith do anything with the possession? He needs to win a game at some point here.