NFC West: Mark Washington
Among the confirmed moves in the NFC West to this point Sunday:
- The Arizona Cardinals waived cornerback Marshay Green, fullback Reagan Maui'a and linebacker Pago Togafau. Arizona received fullback/linebacker Jerome Johnson (New York Giants), defensive back Brandon McDonald (Cleveland Browns) and linebacker Cyril Obiozor (Green Bay Packers) off waivers. Arizona’s Chris Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Mark Washington reverted to injured reserve after clearing waivers. It's not clear whether they'll stay there. Teams often reach injury settlements with waived/injured players.
- Speaking of injury settlements, the St. Louis Rams reached one with offensive lineman Phil Trautwein, meaning he is no longer on injured reserve.
- The Seattle Seahawks released safety Kevin Ellison, center/guard Steve Vallos and guard/tackle Mansfield Wrotto. The Seahawks added off waivers guard Evan Dietrich-Smith (Packers) and defensive back Nate Ness (Miami Dolphins). Seattle acquired offensive lineman Stacy Andrews from Philadelphia. The Seahawks also tried to claim running back Kregg Lumpkin, released by the Packers, but Tampa Bay’s waiver claim prevailed. Seattle tried to claim tight end/linebacker/special-teamer Spencer Havner, also released by the Packers, but Detroit’s waiver claim prevailed.
By "confirmed" moves, I'm talking about ones either announced by the teams, confirmed by the teams, processed by the NFL office, or all of the above. As noted before lawn-maintenance obligations intervened, rosters remain quite fluid.
Players on practice squads earn $5,200 per week for the 2010 season. The collective bargaining agreement sets the following parameters for eligibility:
- Players without an accrued season of NFL experience;
- Free-agent players who were on the 45-man active list for fewer than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season;
- Players who have not served more than two previous seasons on a practice squad.
According to the CBA, "A player shall be deemed to have served on a practice squad in a season if he has passed the club's physical and been a member of the club's practice squad for at least three regular-season or postseason games during his first two practice squad seasons, and for at least one regular season or postseason game during his third practice squad season."
What about bye weeks? More CBA: "A bye week counts as a game provided that the player is not terminated until after the regular-season or postseason weekend in question."
The first chart shows eligible players released by the Arizona Cardinals. Chris Johnson, Alfonso Smith and Mark Washington were waived/injured. Dean Muhtadi was released from injured reserve.
The second chart shows eligible players released by the Rams.
The third chart shows eligible players released by the 49ers (Brandon Long was released with an injury settlement).
The fourth chart shows eligible players released by the Seahawks (Jonathan Lewis was released with an injury settlement).
Matt Leinart apparently has no idea where he stands with the Arizona Cardinals. That makes it tough for the rest of us to predict exactly what might happen.
Will Leinart start at quarterback for the Cardinals in Week 1? Will he serve as the backup? Will the Cardinals release him? Might they trade him?
The next week to 10 days should provide answers. NFL teams have until Saturday to reduce their rosters to 53-man limits, with the 75-man deadline passing Tuesday.
After looking at the Seahawks' roster earlier Monday, here's a quick run through the Cardinals:
Average number kept since 2003: 3.0
Keepers: Derek Anderson
Looking safe: Max Hall
On the bubble: Leinart, John Skelton
Comment: Coach Ken Whisenhunt's handling of Leinart suggests there's more than tough love at work here. It's fair to question whether Leinart fits into the team's plans at all this season. The smart move, it seems, would be to keep Anderson, Leinart and the winner of the Hall-Skelton competition. But it's clear Whisenhunt isn't convinced Leinart has what it takes to be a starting quarterback.
Running backs (8)
Average number kept since 2003: 5.3
Keepers: Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells, LaRod Stephens-Howling, Jason Wright
On the bubble: Reagan Maui'a, Charles Scott
Also: Alfonso Smith, Nehemiah Broughton
Comment: Scott arrived via trade this week after Broughton suffered a season-ending knee injury. Maui'a could be the choice heading into the regular season. Scott provides depth for the final exhibition game, but it's unlikely he would be refined enough as a blocker to factor into the offense in a meaningful way. Smith's speed caught my attention early in camp.
Wide receivers (11)
Average number kept since 2003: 6.1
Keepers: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Early Doucet
Looking safe: Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams
On the bubble: Onrea Jones, Max Komar
Also: Isaiah Williams, Darren Mougey, Mike Jones, Ed Gant
Comment: Gant serves a suspension to open the season. Roberts will make the team as a third-round pick. Williams pretty much wrapped up a spot with his latest strong performance (at Chicago). Jones and Komar could be competing for a sixth and final spot at the position.
Tight ends (4)
Average number kept since 2003: 3.1
Keepers: Ben Patrick, Anthony Becht, Stephen Spach
Also: Jim Dray
Comment: The team released Dominique Byrd on Monday. The top three appear set. Not much drama here. Dray looks like practice-squad material.
Offensive linemen (12)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Keepers: Lyle Sendlein, Alan Faneca, Brandon Keith, Reggie Wells, Levi Brown, Deuce Lutui, Rex Hadnot, Jeremy Bridges
Looking safe: Herman Johnson
Also: Ben Claxton, Tom Pestock, Jonathan Palmer
Comment: Lutui could be trending toward a spot back in the starting lineup despite reporting to camp overweight. Johnson also reported overweight. He isn't a starter, and that's why I listed him separately from the keepers (even though it's an upset, most likely, if Johnson does not stick).
Defensive line (9)
Average number kept since 2003: 7.4
Keepers: Darnell Dockett, Calais Campbell, Dan Williams, Bryan Robinson
Looking safe: Alan Branch, Gabe Watson, Kenny Iwebema
Also: John Fletcher, Jeremy Clark
Comment: This position appears pretty much set. I would expect seven to earn roster spots.
Average number kept since 2003: 7.1
Keepers: Gerald Hayes, Paris Lenon, Clark Haggans, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington
Looking safe: Will Davis, Cody Brown
Bubble: Monty Beisel, Reggie Walker
Also: O'Brien Schofield, Steve Baggs, Mark Washington, Chris Johnson, Pago Togafau
Comment: Hayes and Schofield could open the season on reserve/physically unable to perform, opening two roster spots. Beisel and Walker could be competing for the final spot at this position.
Defensive backs (13)
Average number kept since 2003: 8.9
Keepers: Adrian Wilson, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kerry Rhodes, Greg Toler, Trumaine McBride, Matt Ware
Looking safe: Michael Adams, Hamza Abdullah, Rashad Johnson
On the bubble: Marshay Green
Also: A.J. Jefferson, Trevor Ford, Justin Miller
Comment: Toler could be passing McBride on the depth chart as the starting right cornerback, fulfilling expectations. Johnson appeared more physical early in camp. Haven't heard much about him lately, though.
Average number kept since 2003: 2.9
Keepers: Jay Feely, Ben Graham, Mike Leach
Comment: Arizona has three on the roster and that's how many the team will keep. Simple enough.
Dockett fell on Faneca and the two wound up at the feet of Matt Leinart. It all happened so fast. The play had hardly begun.
"I'm not trying to hurt him," Dockett said, "but damned if I ain't trying to go 100 percent every time I put my hand on the ground."
Upset, Leinart spiked the ball. Offensive tackle Levi Brown did what the lineman's code said he had to do. He slugged Dockett.
The Arizona Cardinals saw this as a good thing, a case of Brown standing up for his quarterback.
"I like that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You're looking for those guys to develop that bond or that territorialism to protect their guy."
Of course, Dockett couldn't let Brown or anyone get away with a free shot on him in front of the team and fans at the Walkup Skydome.
Dockett unloaded on Brown in combination and pretty soon the entire team was involved. The Cardinals conducted the remainder of practice with an intensity rarely seen outside game conditions. Bodies were flying. Fists, too.
Backup tackle Tom Pestock threw two uppercuts at linebacker Mark Washington and the two had to be separated. Tight end Stephen Spach goaded linebacker Cody Brown into a tug-of-war by the face masks. Linebacker Joey Porter ran over and verbally lit into Brown, excoriating the second-year pro for letting Spach get the better of him -- exactly the type of direction the Cardinals expected from Porter when they signed the veteran pass-rusher.
"Don't accept anything from anybody, even your teammates," Porter said. "I don't care if he grabbed your face mask or did something dirty. Let him know that is not acceptable. You can handle it right there on the field and get it over with in 30 seconds and come back in the locker room and all be on the same page. But you let anybody get away with something once, they are going to do it all the time. My message to him was, 'Don't let that happen, especially not in front of me.'"
There were confrontations even before the team portion of practice, as when guard Deuce Lutui jabbed defensive lineman Alan Branch in the facemask area during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Branch threw his helmet and barked at Lutui on his way back to the side where defensive players were standing.
The Cardinals' emotions dissipated quickly following practice. Some linemen laughed as they reenacted punching motions. The players won't be on the field Tuesday until late in the afternoon, anyway.
"When you are putting the pads on, man, as much as you love your teammates, damn, you trying to kill them," Dockett said. "That is what it's all about. That is the only way you can get better. You can't come out here and play 80 percent and hope to win our third division title. It just don't happen like that."
Dockett apparently had the San Francisco 49ers in mind.
"Every day we step on the field, we have to go harder and harder and harder," he said. "We got to treat them (teammates) like they're the 49ers. They have to treat us like we're the 49ers. That is the only way we are going to be able to compete and that is the only way we are going to be able to back up all the great work and try to win our third title."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams still have interest in Brian Westbrook and the team is "hopeful" it can sign him. Adding Westbrook would help lots on paper. The Rams would have addressed an area that needed addressing. Westbrook could be a good fit in a backup role because he would be less prone to injury. It's just tough to expect much from 30-year-old running backs. Westbrook turns 31 in September.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams expect Jackson to practice Saturday for the first time since back surgery. Also, the Rams are holding evening practices during this training camp in an effort to beat the heat and allow more fans to attend.
Also from Thomas: a chat transcript in which he says the Rams never made an offer to Terrell Owens.
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers highlights from the 49ers' annual "State of the Franchise" gathering. Coach Mike Singletary called new offensive line coach Mike Solari "one of the finest coaches anywhere in America." Singletary also said the 49ers were as talented as any team.
Also from Barber: Fred Dean, John Henry Johnson, Ronnie Lott, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Montana, Joe Perry, Bob St. Clair, Dave Wilcox and Steve Young are expected to attend Jerry Rice's Hall of Fame induction.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers expect to have their draft choices signed in time for camp.
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers plan to sell seat licenses that never expire and can be transferred once the team's new stadium is finished.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers 49ers-related notes, noting that first-round choice Anthony Davis has been working out at the facility since organized team activities ended in June. Also, the 49ers think their new stadium will empty 50 percent faster than Candlestick Park following games.
Also from Barrows: a look at the 49ers' situation at safety and a reminder that Reggie Smith could be in the mix eventually. Barrows: "Because it takes a while to develop young safeties and because of the uncertainty among the 49ers' starting safeties -- starter Michael Lewis is 30 and his salary is creeping upward -- the 49ers very well may keep all of their young safeties on the 53-man roster this year, although (Curtis) Taylor still has practice-squad eligibility. Look for undrafted rookie Chris Maragos, who teamed with Mays to compose the third-team safety duo this spring, to be another practice-squad candidate."
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says improving the offensive line was the 49ers' top priority this offseason.
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says there was less bluster from the 49ers at their annual gathering this year.
Scott Allen of Raising Zona checks in with Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts, who has this to say: "I do believe I have a great chance at being the number 3 or 4. I just need to learn my plays and gain the confidence of the quarterback and I believe I’ll be right there in the hunt."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals' Gerald Hayes and O'Brien Schofield to open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals released tackle Devin Tyler to make room on the roster for the newly signed Schofield.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com raises 10 questions heading into the Cardinals' training camp. The fourth question -- where will the pass rush come from? -- is one the Seahawks and Rams also might be asking. Urban: "The Cardinals piled up 42 sacks last season, their highest total in years and they did it by committee. Defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell tied for the team lead with seven. The idea in signing linebacker Joey Porter, who had 9.0 sacks for Miami, is that he can provide more of a dynamic pass rush than what the Cards were getting last season from Bertrand Berry or Chike Okeafor. Campbell, at end in a 3-4 look, should increase his total, and Dockett comes across like a man on a mission (and in search of a new contract). Even if Porter doesn’t revert to his stellar 2008 (17 sacks), he needs to be a difference-maker. The Cards also need help from some unknown factor, whether it is Cody Brown, Will Davis, Mark Washington or Stevie Baggs." It's reasonable to expect more from Porter than the Cardinals got from Berry and Okeafor last season.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 checks in with Cardinals receiver Onrea Jones. Jones on what it takes to earn a roster spot: "Well I know one thing -- it's special teams -- to find the right spot on special teams. Mike Adams was big as a gunner last year on special teams. I kind of look up to him for that. Because he's been in the Super Bowl and he knows what he's doing. And that's one thing I've learned from Sean Morey also. I'm really concentrated on special teams, gunner, trying to get a spot on the kick off team, kick off return, any special teams I can get on, that's my ticket. Obviously you have to make plays as a wide receiver. I'm battling for a number 4 and 5 between me and Andre. Whoever gets that spot, he has to have a big role on special teams. As long as I can produce on special teams, I know I'll be alright."
Pro Football Weekly's NFC West preview singles out Laurent Robinson, Alex Smith, Justin Forsett and Ben Patrick as potential fantasy sleepers in 2010. On Forsett: "Although he is expected to battle Jones for touches in every game, Forsett has the kind of big-play ability (5.4 yards per carry in '09) as a runner, receiver and returner to develop into a surprisingly effective fantasy force. Forsett twice ran for 100 yards when Jones was out with injuries last season and could be increasingly effective both running and catching passes out of the backfield behind what figures to be a more stable offensive line." It's just tough to know how much playing time each Seattle running back will get this season. Leon Washington's status is one key variable.
The list of available inside linebackers with experience in 3-4 schemes appears weak.
I see none worth strong consideration on the updated list of unrestricted free agents, which I'll make available shortly.
Also from Urban: Cody Brown is looking to bounce back from an injury-shortened rookie season. Urban: "The Cardinals still have veteran Clark Haggans, and Brown’s good friend and fellow second-year player Will Davis made surprisingly solid strides in his own transition from college defensive end to linebacker. The Cardinals also signed CFL co-sack leader Stevie Baggs to see if Baggs can transition to the NFL. But it's Brown and another young player -- Mark Washington, who was signed to the practice squad with a month left in the season -- that have made enough of an impression the Cards hope pan out into production." Coach Ken Whisenhunt sounded optimistic about the situation at outside linebacker during a radio interview with KTAR 620 last week.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times wonders what Walter Jones has planned for the 2010 season. Jones indicated via Twitter on Super Bowl Sunday that he might be retiring, but he hasn't clarified those remarks. O'Neil: "The NFL Players Association Benefits department has received no documentation or any other indication he has officially retired. Jones is signed for next season at a salary of $7.3 million, but Seattle is not obligated to pay that total unless he's on the regular-season roster when the season begins. The fact the NFL's salary cap may disappear in two weeks makes the paper-value of Jones' contract even less relevant because he won't be eating up salary-cap space the Seahawks could otherwise spend."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says there's no guarantee the Seahawks are excited about acquiring Brandon Marshall from the Broncos. Johns: "Should the Seahawks be interested? Marshall has averaged 102 catches for 1,236 yards over the past three seasons. T.J. Houshmandzadeh calls him the best receiver in the NFL. But there also is a big price with Marshall, both in terms of what it would cost to acquire and sign him as well as the difficulties he's caused his team at times. I'd label it a long shot that Marshall winds up in Seattle, but with a new regime and a desire by Pete Carroll to find greatness, never say never." I'd say it's likely the Broncos trade Marshall this offseason and, until we hear otherwise, Seattle would have to rank among the more logical destinations.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sizes up the 49ers' current quarterbacks, noting that they've had a hard time living up to the team's history at the position. Maiocco: "From my viewpoint, Alex Smith has not convinced anybody he can be a reliable quarterback in the league. But, as he turns 26 in May, he has not proven to be a total lost cause, either. Only people who are biased one way or the other have already made those determinations. There's no question he has progressed when he's been on the field. He improved from his first season to his second. After his third and fourth seasons were virtually wiped out due to injuries, he was better in his fifth year than in his second. It's hard to believe he's reached his potential. But we also do not know how much higher he can go. For the first time, he will not have to spend the offseason learning a new system. He has a better supporting cast than any point in his career. He must take that next step in 2010."
Turf Show Times' VanRam says it's still possible for Sam Bradford or Jimmy Clausen to improve their draft standing significantly, perhaps enough for the Rams to consider one of them with the No. 1 overall choice. VanRam: "If Bradford looks like he did during his 2008 season when he works out for scouts on March 25 and his health checks out, it's hard not to imagine him as a legitimate first overall pick. If Jimmy Clausen puts to rest questions about his maturity, blows the door off his team interviews and looks sharp at his work out, he'll be in a similar situation as Bradford, solidifying his place in the conversation of potential top picks." The Rams need to draft a quarterback early at some point, but they need to do it for the right reasons. Lots of teams have regretted taking quarterbacks early.
Also from Urban: a look at Baggs, signed from the CFL.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic analyzes the Cardinals' specialists. Somers on kicker Neil Rackers: "There is a contigent of fans who would like to see Rackers replaced. And it's true he hasn't been good in the clutch. But as with any change, the Cardinals need to ask themselves if they can find anyone better. Rackers was one of several kickers who struggled in the playoffs." The Cardinals could need Rackers more in the clutch as their margin for error shrinks without Kurt Warner.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with Ray Brown, the 49ers' new assistant offensive line coach. Brown: "Being smart, being tough, being physical, knowing what to do, knowing your assignments. All those things are going to apply to modern-day football. It's never going to change. It's going to be about leverage. It's going to be about being physical. It's going to be about being a good man. And I think that has a lot to do with whether you're successful or not. We got some good people in this organization. We got some young players who need some grooming and growing. We got great teachers on the staff. I think those combinations will lead us to being a much better football team."
Also from Maiocco: a look at the 49ers' running backs. Maiocco: "So, do the 49ers need another running back to give them more of an outside threat? I think it will be difficult for a rookie to get much playing time on offense. But, clearly, where the 49ers need help is in the return game. It would fill a major need to get an elusive running back to play no more than a handful of offensive snaps a game while also taking over the punt- and kick-return chores."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Brown and 49ers offensive line coach Mike Solari have much work to do in helping the line improve.
Also from Barrows: summaries of recent interviews 49ers quarterback Alex Smith conducted with radio stations. Smith: "There is no formula for winning on offense. You can't go out there and say, 'Hey, we're going to run the ball 40 times a game and we're going to be three yards and a cloud of dust.' That's just not the way it is. Defenses are too good in this league. You have to be able to do both. You have to run and pass it. You have to be able to line up in different formations and be able to give defenses different looks and you have to be versatile. And I think that's where we're headed and where we need to be headed."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks' coaching staff under Pete Carroll isn't particularly young, at least in key spots. Johns: "If you look strictly at the 11 primary assistant coaching positions on the team -- offensive and defensive coordinators, quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive line, tight ends, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs and special teams -- Carroll's core staff is actually slightly older and more experienced than last year's group."
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Luke Butkus and Dave Canales were two previously unreported names to surface on Carroll's coaching staff.
John Morgan of Field Gulls says an improved offense is one key to sprucing up the Seahawks' pass rush. The Seahawks never had great defenses during their most successful seasons under Mike Holmgren, but they did maximize their defensive ability by putting up points.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams tried out a defensive end prospect from Canada, Ricky Foley. Thomas: "One of Foley’s former B.C. Lions teammates, Cameron Wake, had 5.5 sacks last season for the Miami Dolphins. The Rams could have a glaring need at the defensive end position in 2010. Leonard Little is an unrestricted free agent, and is contemplating retirement. James Hall also is an unrestricted free agent, and Victor Adeyanju will be a restricted free agent in an uncapped year."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Marshall Faulk is the latest former Rams player to criticize the current leadership. Faulk: "I don’t like the road that they’re going down. With guys like myself. And guys who can help deal with what it’s like in St. Louis. And I think that they just don’t know. I’m not out to hurt the team. I want to see the Rams survive. I have a job to do in talking about the Rams, and trust me -- it hurts me, it pains me, to see what’s being put out on the field. My objective is not to belittle or down-talk the Rams. I want to talk good about them. I want to praise them. I want to be sitting here right now, reliving the days when we played well, and happy because the Rams are in the Super Bowl. Sometimes, in their cloak-and-dagger atmosphere of shutting down Rams Park, and not inviting guys into this and that, and wanting to keep everything in house, you alienate yourself from getting opportunities of getting inside information. And having guys and people who could be very instrumental to the program help you. They've taken down photos of some of the great Rams players. For what? Why? I don’t want to take shots. I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure -- there’s never been a first-time head coach, a first-time GM and a first-time president turn a team around. You need some experience from somewhere. You need some help. You need some inside information. Because all of your jobs are new." Great fodder for scheduled media appearances by Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney as Super Bowl week wraps up Friday.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says new 49ers special-teams coach Kurt Schottenheimer held the same job with the Chiefs when 49ers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was a top special-teams player for Kansas City. Maiocco: "Schottenheimer was out of coaching in 2009. He said he studied the principles of the spread offense in visits to Texas A&M and Illinois. He is defensive coordinator this week at the East-West Shrine Game in Orlando, so he is getting a head start evaluating draft-eligible players."
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes Singletary as saying Everest was "doing a fine job" for the 49ers. Why, then, would the 49ers let his contract expire, allowing Everest to surface as a candidate with the Steelers? Singletary was vague.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Singletary this way on Everest: "I think Al was doing a good job during the year, but there were some things I had to deal with personally. It was just something Al needed to take care of. I had to let him go."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says longtime Pete Carroll associate Pat Kirwan told radio listeners he wasn't pursuing a job with the Seahawks. That might mean the Seahawks weren't ready to offer him a high-level job within the organization.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the current postseason shows why the Seahawks shouldn't be too quick to write off Matt Hasselbeck. Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and even Drew Brees went through career difficulties before re-emerging as excellent players. Favre appeared finished with the Jets last season before making a run at MVP honors with Minnesota. Warner landed in Arizona after the Rams and Giants moved on with younger quarterbacks. Favre had enjoyed one good statistical season in his previous four before catching on with the Vikings. Warner had enjoyed one good statistical season in his previous four before signing with Arizona. Like the Rams' 32-year-old Marc Bulger, Hasselbeck, 34, has enjoyed one good statistical season in his last four. Warner was 34 in his first season with Arizona.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic raises six questions about the Cardinals heading into the offseason. Somers: "The contracts of a handful of assistants are ending, and team President Michael Bidwill tried to get some to sign new two-year deals. Only one problem: the Cardinals didn't spell out how much they would pay should there be a work stoppage in 2011. So some members of the staff remain unsigned, including strength coach John Lott, who has become a guru to many of the players. If the Cardinals want to send a bad message to players and fans, they will allow Lott and others to depart. To borrow a phrase from Lott, who borrowed it from 'Cool Hand Luke,' the Cardinals need to get their minds right." Letting key assistants get away would validate criticisms the organization has made strides in overcoming.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com lists the eight players Arizona recently signed to future contracts. The following players will join the 80-man roster once the NFL postseason concludes: receiver Onrea Jones, cornerback Rashard Barksdale, linebacker Ali Highsmith, receiver Ed Gant, defensive end Ryan Kees, guard Jonathan Palmer, tackle Tom Pestock and linebacker Mark Washington.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo will need to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left to join Derek Dooley at the University of Tennessee. Spagnuolo suggested the Rams won't rush to name a replacement. The Rams' problems at receiver appeared largely related to personnel. The team lacked proven talent at the position even before injuries sent Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton and Brooks Foster onto the injured reserve list.
Howard Balzer and Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat say the Rams' coaching staff is in Orlando for the East-West Shrine game. The staff will head to Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl next week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
"The 49ers released Kory Sheets!" loses some of its drama when Sheets quietly re-signs to the 49ers' practice squad after none of the other 31 NFL teams submit a waiver claim for him.
I've gone through the initial NFC West cut lists -- those players released at the 53-man deadline -- to see which ones have returned to their teams or caught on elsewhere.
The chart shows results for San Francisco.
The 49ers' initial cut list featured only one vested veteran, cornerback Eric Green. The other 19 players had practice-squad eligibility and the 49ers brought back six of them in that capacity.
The remaining 14 players are unsigned.
Offensive lineman Jacob Bender had a tryout with the Seahawks. The Jets showed interest in tight end Bear Pascoe, only to receive another tight end via waivers.
Sheets impressed during the preseason, but the 49ers were stacked at running back with Frank Gore and Glen Coffee. They valued the versatile Michael Robinson far too much to carry a rookie runner on their 53-man roster in his place.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.
Every player the 49ers released on the reduction to 53 players -- minus cornerback Eric Green -- possesses eligibility for the practice squad. Tackle Alex Boone, guard Matt Spanos, fullback Brit Miller, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell and running back Kory Sheets could make sense as options. The team will presumably keep one of the tight ends it released, Bear Pascoe or J.J. Finley. Cornerback Terrail Lambert could provide another option.
Some 49ers fans have expressed to me surprise over Sheets' release in particular. The depth San Francisco enjoys at that position made Sheets' release likely.
We likewise should not be surprised if backup running back Glen Coffee plays sparingly as a rookie. Like Sheets, Coffee showed promise during the exhibition games. But with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye having already committed to Frank Gore as the workhorse back, there won't be many carries left over.
As long as Gore is healthy and his usually productive self, I think Coffee would have to break long runs when given opportunities to siphon significant carries in the No. 2 role.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Biggest surprise: The 49ers kept only four running backs, two tight ends and eight offensive linemen on the initial cutdown to 53 players, suggesting the team will consider adding players at those positions. This is a power running team, after all. The decision to release both Bear Pascoe and J.J. Finley was a bit of surprise. One of them was expected to serve as the third tight end. Undrafted free agent Diyral Briggs earned a spot at linebacker, edging out Jay Moore. Fullback Brit Miller, running back Kory Sheets and receiver Dominique Zeigler had made positive impressions with fans, but none enjoyed strong roster security. Their releases were not surprising in that context. Coach Mike Singletary had said the 49ers faced few significant roster decisions heading into the final exhibition game. The team did not cut any big-name players.
No-brainers: The 49ers' cut list ran 20 deep and also featured tackle Jacob Bender, tackle Alex Boone, receiver Dobson Collins, defensive end Pannel Egboh, cornerback Eric Green, guard Kyle Howard, cornerback Terrail Lambert, defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell, receiver Maurice Price, fullback Bill Rentmeester, linebacker Justin Roland, offensive lineman Matt Spanos, tackle Joe Toledo and linebacker Mark Washington.
What's next: The 49ers could use a veteran offensive tackle after Marvel Smith retired. They will presumably scan the waiver wire for a fullback. The team will also likely want to add a third tight end.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The race for the No. 3 job behind them deserves some attention. Veteran Damon Huard has a 15-12 record as an NFL starter. He provides value as an experienced backup. The team also wants to develop fifth-round rookie quarterback Nate Davis.
What to do?
Davis is a project. He will not help the 49ers this season. The question becomes whether another team would sign him to its 53-man roster if the 49ers waived Davis and tried to sign him to their practice squad.
As noted, NFL teams selected 19 quarterbacks in the fifth round from the 2000 through 2008 drafts. Eighteen earned opening-day spots on 53-man rosters as rookies. The Steelers' Omar Jacobs was an exception in 2006, the year Ben Roethlisberger opened on the bench following a motorcycle accident.
The factors that pushed down Davis in the draft -- notably a learning disability that the 49ers see as overstated -- still exist. If teams fear Davis might struggle to learn their system -- and for the sake of this discussion, it doesn't matter if such fears are justified -- the 49ers might have an easier time getting
Davis onto their practice squad.
What would you do?
The chart shows all 31 current 49ers players with eligibility, arranged by position. I left first-round choice Michael Crabtree off the chart because he has not signed with the team.
NFL teams must reduce rosters from 80 to 75 players Sept. 1. They must reduce to 53 players Sept. 5. They can begin forming eight-man practice squads Sept. 6 at noon ET.
As the NFL puts it:
After 12 noon, New York time, clubs may establish a practice squad of eight players by signing free agents who do not have an accrued season of free-agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular-season games during their only accrued season(s). A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than three seasons.
The 49ers also face dilemmas at other positions, including what to do at receiver while Crabtree and Brandon Jones are not available, but that third quarterback race stands out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The 49ers' roster appears most interesting at running back and receiver.
The more I think about how much the 49ers want to pound the ball on offense, the more I see them keeping two fullbacks on the Week 1 roster.
Zak Keasey's broken forearm prevents him from becoming part of the equation early, and it's tough to see a team waiting two months for a backup fullback to get healthy. Enter Bill Rentmeester. Formerly of the Chargers, Rentmeester offers what preseason touchdown machine Brit Miller does not: experience at fullback. For the sake of this roster exercise, I'll pencil in Rentmeester for Week 1.
The chart provides a framework for how many players the 49ers might keep at each position heading into the regular-season opener against the Cardinals.
Here's a quick look at which 49ers players I might keep on the cutdown to 53 players (I made one change, moving Cody Wallace into the group of offensive linemen at Joe Toledo's expense):
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.
I'll start with San Francisco.
Gone from the 49ers' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (13):
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images J.T. O'Sullivan is a former 49er.
Jamie Martin, QB
J.T. O'Sullivan, QB
Billy Bajema, TE
DeShaun Foster, RB
Sean Ryan, TE
Bryant Johnson, WR
Keith Lewis, SDonald Strickland, CB
Roderick Green, LBRonald Fields, DL
Tully Banta-Cain, LB