NFC West: Matt Barkley

Predicting which teams will draft specific players can be tough work.

Last year, for instance, the seven-round mock draft Insider from Scouts Inc. went 0-for-28 in projecting players to NFC West teams. Some of the projections lined up from the standpoint of position. For example, the Seattle Seahawks did select a linebacker in the second round, but it was Bobby Wagner, not Lavonte David. The St. Louis Rams did take a receiver in the second round, but it was Brian Quick, not Rueben Randle.

One unexpected turn in a draft can throw off subsequent projections. The 2013 draft appears particularly tough to handicap. John Schneider, the Seattle Seahawks' general manager, recently said he could not recall a draft quite like this one from that standpoint.

So, good luck, mock drafters.

The Scouts Inc. seven-round mock for 2013 Insider provides a conversation starter as we navigate the final day before the real draft begins.

A run through the picks for NFC West teams (with a head nod to similar pieces from Kevin Seifert and Jamison Hensley for the divisions they cover):

Arizona Cardinals

Jordan's availability at No. 7 might come as a surprise. The Cardinals would, in theory, improve their outside pass rush with that selection.

The Barkley projection might catch you off-guard after Carson Palmer's arrival changed the subject away from quarterbacks. Drew Stanton has some salary guarantees, too. I'm skeptical.

The Scouts Inc. projection would extend to six the streak of drafts without Arizona selecting an offensive lineman in the first three rounds. Jordan Mills, the projected choice in the fifth round, wouldn't help the situation at guard, where the team has a need, in my view.

The Cardinals would also come away without immediate help at safety and without a speed receiver. The offense wouldn't improve enough right away through this draft.

St. Louis Rams

Safety, running back, receiver, guard and outside linebacker might be the five top needs for the Rams, not necessarily in that order.

The Scouts Inc. mock addresses each of those needs with the Rams' first five picks.

The Rams will have to balance clear needs at safety and elsewhere against a big-picture desire to continue building the roster for the long term with additional choices secured from the Washington Redskins.

At 231 pounds, Lacy would fill the Rams' need for a bigger back after the team allowed Steven Jackson out of his contract. Lacy, Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson would give the Rams a talented young committee at the position.

San Francisco 49ers

There's very little chance the 49ers will hold onto all 13 of their selections, of course. They'll have the flexibility to move forward, move back or even trade into the 2014 draft.

The projection for Brandon Williams in the third round caught my attention.

Williams is a 335-pounder from Missouri Southern State. He cranked out 38 reps in the bench press at the scouting combine, most among defensive tackles. Scouts think he projects to multiple positions across multiple schemes in the NFL. That would appeal to a team such as the 49ers.

Williams played at the NCAA Division II level. Would the 49ers use a third-round choice for a Division II prospect? They used a sixth-rounder for Western Oregon's Jason Slowey last year, the only time San Francisco has selected a Division II player over the past two drafts.

It's an interesting thought. The 49ers do have a need for a big, talented, versatile defensive lineman. They could bring along a prospect such as Williams with an eye toward 2014.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks are one of two teams without a first-round selection after sending theirs to Minnesota in the Percy Harvin deal.

The second-round projection, Sio Moore of Connecticut, would give the Seahawks a weakside linebacker to play with Wagner (middle) and K.J. Wright (strong side).

The team also has plans for Cliff Avril at linebacker, at least in some capacity. There's room for a standard weakside linebacker after the Seahawks allowed Leroy Hill to reach free agency.

Tavarres King, the Georgia receiver projected in the fifth round, is known as a vertical threat. He averaged 22.6 yards per reception last season.

NFC West links: Cardinals wasting time?

April, 8, 2013
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Arizona Cardinals

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic takes a look at the first 90 days of new Cardinals general manager Steve Keim. Bickley writes that in Keim's short time at the helm, "he has helped restore optimism inside a fallen program."

Kent Somers wonders on his blog at azcentral.com why the Cardinals are wasting their time by working out USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

St. Louis Rams

A year after the Rams traded the pick that netted Washington Robert Griffin III, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch breaks down who came out with the better deal.

"The parade of wide receivers continues at Rams Park, with some beef and defense thrown in for good measure," reports Thomas in his latest look at the Rams' pre-draft visits.

San Francisco 49ers

The team's official website continues its pre-draft series with a look at Clemson running back Andre Ellington.

In a recent interview, wide receiver Anquan Boldin reiterated that he was "shocked initially" when receiving word he had been traded to the 49ers.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks have workouts scheduled for four veteran quarterbacks this week as Seattle seeks a backup for Russell Wilson.

Seattle may also be adding to its secondary depth later this week as former Minnesota cornerback Antoine Winfield is scheduled for a visit.

NFC West links: 49ers' Davis gets extension

April, 5, 2013
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Arizona Cardinals

Coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim are scheduled to hold a private workout Saturday at USC for quarterback Matt Barkley, reports ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

Going into the offseason, the Cardinals' top two quarterbacks were poised to count $14.175 million against the salary cap. But after a flurry of moves -- releasing Kevin Kolb and John Skelton, signing Drew Stanton and trading for Carson Palmer -- the Cardinals will save $2.46 million in cap space with their new top two quarterbacks, reports Brian McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports.

Kicker Jay Feely gave up his No. 3 jersey to Palmer after the incoming quarterback agreed to make a donation to the Feely Family Foundation, reports azcardinals.com's Darren Urban.

St. Louis Rams

Steven Jackson told Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he signed with the Falcons so he could play for a "legitimate contender."

Turf Show Times' Ryan Van Bibber reviews the Rams' preseason schedule.

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson has a pre-trial hearing scheduled for April 30 following his March 22 arrest for driving under the influence.

San Francisco 49ers

Offensive tackle Anthony Davis signed a five-year contract extension with the 49ers worth $37,295,600, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

The Sacramento Bee's Matt Barrows interviewed the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah about what the 49ers will do in the draft. Jeremiah likes Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams and FIU safety Jonathan Cyprien as two players the 49ers could consider with their first two picks.

Seattle Seahawks

Frightening thought for opposing defenses: Coach Pete Carroll expects quarterback Russell Wilson to be a lot better this season.

Brady Henderson of 710 ESPN Seattle breaks down the Seahawks' preseason schedule.

Around the NFC West: Combine rumors

February, 25, 2013
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The 2013 NFL scouting combine has not yet finished.

Defensive players work out Monday and Tuesday. Defensive backs still have psychological testing and interviews with team personnel.

The media portion of the combine did come to a close Sunday. We're left to digest a couple NFC West rumors sure to linger for a while.

One quoted a scout saying USC quarterback Matt Barkley wouldn't make it past the seventh pick of the first round, held by Arizona. Another rumor suggested the San Francisco 49ers have nearly reached agreement on a trade sending quarterback Alex Smith to Kansas City or another team looking for QB help.

The first one cannot be proved or disproved until the draft April 25.

The Cardinals almost certainly have not yet set their draft board. They do not know which six players will be chosen before they use the seventh pick. They cannot even know if they will use the seventh pick or trade it. We do know Arizona could use help at quarterback. But we do not yet know what the team might do at the position in free agency or via trade.

So, right off the top, there's no way to know whether Arizona would draft Barkley seventh overall. One NFL scout reportedly thinks Arizona will draft Barkley seventh if given the opportunity to do so. That's not much to go on.

The Smith rumor could run its course on a quicker schedule. The trading deadline opens March 12. It is possible the 49ers and another team could announce an agreement in principle before then. But there's still not enough information to say a resolution is near.

How four mocks see West before combine

February, 19, 2013
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With NFL prospects descending on Indianapolis this week, I've gathered pre-combine mock draft projections from Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay, Rob Rang and Gil Brandt.

Their first-round picks for NFC West teams appear in the chart.

Mock drafts tend to make sense from a need standpoint. That is the generally the case here. The four analysts have Arizona seeking help at quarterback or on the offensive line. All four have Seattle targeting help for its defensive line or receiving corps. Defensive line and receiver are the positions projected for San Francisco.

The St. Louis Rams own two first-round selections, providing greater flexibility. Offensive line, receiver, running back, safety and defensive line were the positions targeted for the Rams by these four analysts.

Brandt, the NFL.com analyst and former Dallas Cowboys executive, has the Rams taking Alabama running back Eddie Lacy. That pick would give the Rams two highly drafted young backs (Lacy and 2012 second-rounder Isaiah Pead), plus Daryl Richardson, who was a find in the seventh round last year.

The Rams' all-time rushing leader, Steven Jackson, would not return under such a scenario. Jackson has a $7 million salary for 2013 and the ability to opt out of his contract.

NFC West links: Walton to run Rams D

February, 13, 2013
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Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Kevin Kolb would like to stick with the Cardinals, but not at the expense of a better contract, writes Darren Urban of azcardinals.com. Kent Somers of azcentral.com also weighed in on Kolb's contract situation. Somers: "There’s little question Kolb, carrying a cheaper price tag, is a better option than anyone else on the roster or in free agency."

Dan Bickley of azcentral.com looks at alternatives to Kolb at QB for the Cardinals: Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.

San Francisco 49ers

Will the 49ers make a play for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin? Don't count on it, writes CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco. "Good teams treat their draft picks like gold. Teams that want to win consistently generally do not hand out big contracts to attract players from other teams. Yes, Harvin's contract for 2013 makes him affordable, but he would want a lucrative extension from any team that acquires him," Maiocco writes. "The 49ers have done a good job of managing their salary cap, and I would not expect them to break the bank with a market-value deal for a big-name player from another team."

Free agent receiver Greg Jennings would be a "perfect fit" for the 49ers, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman will be driven by the 49ers' loss in the Super Bowl all offseason. "That's sort of the life of a coach. Will it eat at me? Of course it will. But I'll use it as motivation going forward," Roman told SI.com's Peter King.

Seattle Seahawks

The team had three players -- Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas -- on NFL.com's All-Under-25 Team.

Defensive back/kick returner Will Blackmon signed with the Seahawks Wednesday, reports USA Today's Mike Garafolo.

St. Louis Rams

Detroit Lions assistant coach Tim Walton has accepted the Rams' job offer to be their defensive coordinator, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Rams could lose promising wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola in free agency, writes Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times.
Tigre from "South of the Border" asks about new provisions allowing NFL teams to carry over unused salary-cap space to future years. He wonders why a team would ever decide against carrying over some of the unused allotment.

Mike Sando: NFL teams have, for years, tried to push unused cap space into future seasons. They previously did this by writing into players' contracts "likely to be earned" incentives that were, despite the label, very unlikely to be achieved. John Clayton explained the practice in detail back in 2004.

The new labor agreement legitimizes how teams carry over unused cap space. Teams simply tell the league how much unused cap space they would like to carry over.

Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt recently explained some of the particulars. Clayton provided numbers as they pertain to the 2012 season in this update.

Any team failing to carry over unused space might appear cheap, but carrying over the maximum would not necessarily make a team less cheap. It would not affect spending, only the amount a team could spend.

Salary-cap machinations are not always straightforward. A team could conceivably decide against carrying over unused room to accommodate late-hitting incentives, a contract option or the acceleration of guaranteed money.


Charlie from St. Louis asks whether the Rams might be wise to "secretly" make Sam Bradford available to teams intending to draft Griffin. "Don't get me wrong," Charlie writes, "I think Bradford will be a good player. But given how expensive he is, the new regime in St. Louis could make a shrewd move by starting over with Robert Griffin III."

Mike Sando: The Rams are on the record saying they will not trade Bradford. The rest of us are free to debate the merits of that stance, so here goes.

First, would such a move even be doable? I think it would be.

The Browns might logically prefer Bradford to RG3. Browns coach Pat Shurmur already has a strong background with Bradford from Shurmur's time as the Rams' offensive coordinator. As impressive as RG3 has been to this point in the process, the Browns would know with greater confidence what they were getting with Bradford, a player they know well. Bradford also has a verifiable track record in the West Coast offense Cleveland is running, a selling point for Shurmur and also for Browns president Mike Holmgren.

There would be risks. The Rams have already said Bradford is off-limits. Dangling him as trade bait would damage the new regime's relationship with Bradford if such a trade fell through. Also, Bradford's traded contract would count nearly as much against the Rams' salary cap as it counts right now.

What could the Rams get for Bradford? Could they get the fourth overall pick from Cleveland, or would they have to settle for a package worth less? That is tough to know, and pivotal to any imaginary deal.


Craig from Knoxville has a theory as to why the Cardinals did not offer more power to Todd Haley, letting Haley go to Pittsburgh. He thinks adding Haley would have made it tougher for the team to bring on another strong personality in Peyton Manning. "I know Haley and Kurt Warner were a good mix," Craig writes, "but that was because they grew together. If we signed Haley, I think that would have been negative toward Manning."

Mike Sando: Interesting point. Ultimately, I think coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't comfortable rearranging his offensive staff and essentially demoting the current coordinator, Mike Miller. It would have been a bit awkward. The team did make a Manning-friendly move by adding Manning's former position coach, Frank Reich, as receivers coach.


Ryan from Atlanta wants to know what Ahmad Brooks' new contract with the San Francisco 49ers means for teammate and fellow outside linebacker Parys Haralson.

Mike Sando: Haralson and Brooks played on opposite sides. The plan was for Aldon Smith to take Haralson's starting job no matter what happened with Brooks. Haralson is scheduled to earn $2.45 million in base salary and $300,000 in offseason bonuses. The combined number is not prohibitive for a part-time player or backup. We can safely say Haralson's playing time will decline and his future with the team is in some question.


Fox from San Jose says New Orleans' Marques Colston and Carl Nicks could hit the market if the Saints use their franchise tag for quarterback Drew Brees. Under that scenario, he wonders whether Nicks could fit for the 49ers in free agency.

Mike Sando: Doubtful, in my view. Nicks would cost a lot of money. The 49ers drafted Daniel Kilgore with the thought Kilgore could grow into the starting role at right guard if needed. San Francisco has not been a team that overspends in free agency, at least of late. Signing Nicks would go against their recent approach.


Joey from Hawaii asks whether Brock Osweiler would be a good second-round choice for the Seahawks. Would he be better than current third-stringer Josh Portis? Or should the Seahawks keep building their roster, then do what it takes to land Matt Barkley in 2013?

Mike Sando: The Seahawks have been 7-9 twice while rebuilding. They probably aren't going to finish with a poor enough record in 2012 to position themselves for Barkley or another top quarterback. They cannot put off the decision simply because Barkley could be an option next year. Osweiler does have the mobility Seattle's Pete Carroll values in quarterbacks. Todd McShay says Osweiler is highly competitive, another must for Carroll. Based on those things, then, Osweiler might be an intriguing prospect.


Jason from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho thinks Seattle should try to acquire the second overall pick from the Rams, then shop it around. They could always take RG3 in that spot. Jason thinks Matt Flynn or Peyton Manning will go to Miami, leaving Washington and Cleveland desperate. He does not think the Seahawks can "out-Alex Smith" the 49ers with Tarvaris Jackson behind center.

Mike Sando: The Rams most likely will not trade the second overall pick to a division rival. The Seahawks most likely will not give up what it would take to get into that No. 2 spot. Those are my opinions. Why would the Rams arm a division rival with a potential franchise quarterback?


Nick from Salt Lake City asks whether teams with interest in Robert Griffin III might "call the Rams' bluff" in the 2012 draft. Instead of acquiring the No. 2 overall choice from St. Louis, these teams might trade into the third spot, figuring the Rams weren't going to take a quarterback, anyway. Nick asks whether the Rams might get more value by drafting Robert Griffin III, then trading his rights.

Mike Sando: The question shows why the Rams will want to trade the pick before the draft and possibly before free agency. There's no use taking undue chances when getting value for the choice is the most important thing. The Rams do not need to get a huge bounty in return. They need a fair trade.

Any team trading into the third spot to select Griffin would have to worry about the Rams trading the second pick to another team with the same intentions. But if the Rams wait around, some teams will have addressed their quarterback situations, perhaps in ways that diminished their appetite for Griffin. That could lower the price for the second pick.


Fabian from Germany asks whether the Rams should trade the second overall choice, plus the first pick of the second round.

Mike Sando: Depends what they could get in return. They would not want to give away too much quality just to acquire additional picks.

On Matt Barkley's decision to stay at USC

December, 22, 2011
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The Seattle Seahawks and other NFL teams in the market for college quarterbacks will have to wait another year before taking a shot at Matt Barkley.

USC's record-setting quarterback will stay at USC.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who famously disagreed with Mark Sanchez's decision to leave USC when Carroll was the Trojans' head coach, might have been in position to benefit had Barkley made a similar decision. But with the Seahawks improving to 7-7 with a shot at reaching 9-7, Carroll probably won't be drafting early enough to consider drafting one of the top-rated quarterbacks -- at least without trading up.

Todd McShay projected Barkely going to the Miami Dolphins at No. 8 in his first mock draft for 2012. Stanford's Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III were already gone at that point. He had Landry Jones going to Seattle at No. 16 as the fourth and final quarterback drafted in the first round.

No one knows how each team will value specific quarterbacks, but with one fewer projected first-rounder available, teams in the market for a quarterback face diminished options.

Seattle's situation is particularly intriguing. The team is pleased with Tarvaris Jackson's play this season, especially recently. Carroll wants to build the offense around Marshawn Lynch and the running game. The Seahawks are going to draft later than once anticipated. Subtracting Barkley from the mix makes it less likely Seattle will find a quarterback it values enough to draft in the first round.

What once seemed unthinkable -- Seattle waiting another year before drafting a quarterback early -- is starting to look more plausible. Should be an interesting draft.
Thank you, Matt Willis of ESPN Stats & Information for passing along 2012 NFL draft order for every team without a winning record through Week 13.

Buffalo and Seattle would flip a coin to determine which one picked 13th instead of 14th. The chart shows the order, with strength of schedule listed when it applies to tiebreakers. I've added a column showing remaining opponents and venues.

Rob Rang's report about USC tackle Matt Kalil likely returning for another year of college would have first-round implications, especially if quarterback Matt Barkley also decides to stay with the Trojans.
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On the Seahawks winning too many games

November, 16, 2011
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The next month could decide whether the Seattle Seahawks draft early enough to select the quarterback they like the most.

Seattle, having upset Baltimore in Week 10, plays its next four games against teams with losing records. Three of those games are at home. The lone road game falls against 2-7 St. Louis in Week 11.

The Seahawks could plausibly go from 3-6 to 6-7 or even 7-6 over the next month. Their final three games -- at Chicago, home against San Francisco and at Arizona -- will be tougher to win. But the victory over Baltimore, backed by a capable defense and improving offensive line, have made 6-10 or 7-9 reachable for this team.

Teams winning seven or more games last season drafted 14th or later. Teams winning six games last season drafted between seventh and 13th. The first four quarterbacks drafted were gone among the top 12 overall choices, an unusual early run.

Of course, plenty of quarterbacks drafted early fail to meet expectations, but banking on the second round isn't the way to find one. And if the Seahawks' leadership has a good feel for personnel, they'll fare better over time with earlier picks than with later ones.

The first chart breaks out draftmetrics.com research showing what became of quarterbacks based on how early NFL teams drafted them from 1991-2004. Stopping at 2004 allowed the research to show which percentage of drafted quarterbacks had become five-year starters by last season. Teams drafted a disproportionate number of quarterbacks among the top 13 choices. The chart divides picks into seven "value groups" that the study's author, Tony Villiotti, described as "a subjective process, though based on objective information."

As the first chart shows, a significantly higher percentage of quarterbacks drafted in the first value group became five-year starters and Pro Bowl quarterbacks, despite memorable failures by some highly drafted passers.

The chart below is my own. It shows how early the first through fifth drafted quarterbacks were selected from 2008-11. For example, the first quarterback drafted went first overall in each of the last three drafts, and third overall in 2008. The fifth quarterback drafted last year, Andy Dalton, went 35th and was available when the Seahawks were on the clock with the 25th overall choice.

Mel Kiper Jr., writing for Insider subscribers, lists four quarterbacks among his top 24 prospects for the 2012 NFL draft. He lists Andrew Luck first, Landry Jones fourth, Matt Barkley 10th and Robert Griffin 24th. Teams tend to over-draft quarterbacks because they value the position so much, one reason the Seahawks can feel better about the draft if they're picking a little earlier.

Scout's take: Where Seahawks stand

September, 30, 2011
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Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc., like just about every other football analyst, pulled no punches in assessing the Seattle Seahawks' chances with Tarvaris Jackson as their quarterback.

Back in August, he called Jackson the NFL's worst starting quarterback.

"I still think Tarvaris Jackson is terrible," Williamson said this week after Jackson and the Seahawks claimed their first victory of the 2011 regular season.

But focusing disproportionately on what Jackson offers the team right now should not obscure a fuller analysis. The contracts Seattle has committed to Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst tell us the organization isn't banking on either player for more than what a placeholder would provide -- short-term stability until the team finds a brighter prospect, most likely in the 2012 draft. There is much more going on in Seattle than what is happening at quarterback.

"I like just about everything else," Williamson said. "They have set themselves up big-picture to bring up Andrew Luck or Matt Barkley and make a pretty comfortable transition."

A few additional thoughts from Williamson on the Seahawks coming out of Week 3:

  • [+] EnlargeEarl Thomas and Kam Chancellor
    Charles LeClaire/US PresswireThe Seahawks appear set for the future at the safety position with Earl Thomas, left, and Kam Chancellor.
    On the defense: "Their front seven is dynamite. That defensive line with Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant and that crew is good. They have a lot of pieces in place on defense. Earl Thomas is the real deal -- explosive, fast. He is not Ed Reed, but that is the comparison, a true free safety who covers a ton of ground. Kam Chancellor is almost a linebacker. He's a playmaker, a hitter, an Adrian Wilson type. The two of them complement each other well. They have had a revolving door at linebacker with injuries and the Aaron Curry situation, but they will get that worked out. David Hawthorne is a very good player once he gets healthy. They are a No. 1 corner away on defense."
  • On offensive skill positions: "I like what they did getting the big pass-catchers. I'm a big Sidney Rice fan. My only concern is just team speed. There are no fast guys. That is not the end of the world. Larry Fitzgerald is not the fastest guy, but he is still a deep threat. Sidney Rice can be that type of guy to go over a defensive back and get a 60-yarder. Zach Miller runs well for a tight end. Justin Forsett and especially Leon Washington are really good pass-catchers who can be like a Reggie Bush on the perimeter. Marshawn Lynch is fine. I'm not a real believer. He has not done anything in three years except the one game everyone saw in playoffs. Eventually, you have to upgrade, but that is the easiest position to upgrade. That might be a third-round pick next year."
  • On the offensive line: "It stinks right now, but I tend to think it won’t. Offensive lines take a long time to gain continuity. It is so young. They had no minicamps this year. It is almost unfair to look at the line and expect it to be even average. They are well coached. Russell Okung can be a star, though he has not proved it this year, either. He has taken a ton of penalties, but he can be a franchise left tackle. Robert Gallery will come back. It’s just going to take time."
  • On the quarterbacks: "The position is a mess, but if the guys they have are their second and third guys in the future, that is not so bad. Get a rookie you have something for the long haul."

Back in a bit with Williamson's thoughts on the St. Louis Rams.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes ESPN's Adam Schefter as saying Arizona is the favorite to land Kevin Kolb once the trading period opens, with Seattle as a fallback option. Schefter: "I think that when the lockout is lifted, there's no doubt that the Philadelphia Eagles are going to trade Kevin Kolb. I think at this point in time, it's fairly certain that he's going to wind up in the NFC West. Right now, all signs point to Kevin Kolb somehow finding his way to Arizona, which would make Larry Fitzgerald very happy, which would make the Cardinals an instant contender in the NFC West, and it would make them the team that they were a couple of years ago when Kurt Warner was playing quarterback, rather than last year when they had the quarterback carousel. Kevin Kolb is going to get dealt from Philadelphia, most likely going to be to the NFC West, and right now all signs point to Arizona." What are those signs? One is that Arizona did not draft a quarterback. With the lockout ongoing, the Eagles can only hope a market builds. The Cardinals' long-reported interest in Marc Bulger suggests the team has options other than acquiring Kolb. Kolb would upgrade the position for Arizona, but there's no evidence, in my view, that he would give the team what Kurt Warner gave the team. Kolb has 11 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions during his career. Warner had 31 touchdown passes with 14 interceptions in the playoffs alone. He had 11 touchdown passes in the playoffs following the 2008 season.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Warner endorsed Carson Palmer as the best option for Arizona at quarterback. Somers: "Several problems with that for the Cardinals. While Palmer has threatened to retire if he's not traded, Bengals owner Mike Brown has made it clear he's not giving in to trade demands. And if he did, the Cardinals would have to give up assets to get him. After a 5-11 season and with numerous weaknesses, the Cardinals can't afford to give up too much. And Palmer is due to make $11.5 million. That's a steep price, too."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com was surprised when the Cardinals did not draft an offensive lineman. Urban: "The Cards, surprisingly, did not take an offensive lineman in the draft. Given how many expired contracts are coming (Alan Faneca, Deuce Lutui and Lyle Sendlein all need new deals whenever the league year starts) there was a thought they would cover themselves with another piece, especially with tackle Brandon Keith still unproven and the center position thin even if Sendlein returns. The Cards still have Levi Brown, who is expected to remain in place as the left tackle. Everything else – for now – is in limbo as far as line starters. There should be, in free agency, decent linemen who are available, so it’s possible the Cards may be eyeing a change in that regard."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times had this to say in response to a Kolb skeptic regarding whether the Seahawks should pursue the Eagles quarterback: "He's carved up some opponents in regular-season games. But you're absolutely right, there's a risk. Most explicitly, you don't have a history of quarterbacks produced by Andy Reid having success elsewhere. It's not like Green Bay when the Packers consistently churned out backup QBs who were transplanted around the NFL to become great starters."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks Kolb would be the Seahawks' No. 1 target in free agency. Williams: "If they do not get him, then I think a fall back could be bringing in Matt Leinart and J.P. Losman. Former Scout Dave Razzano made a good point on the radio yesterday. The 2012 draft class is filled with pretty good QBs, including Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley and Laundry Jones, so maybe the Seahawks are content to wait until next year to get their guy and see how the season plays out. I think Matt Hasselbeck will get a better offer from a team like Tennessee and will not be back, unless Seattle moves the price tag up." I've never sensed an interest in Leinart. The Seahawks had a chance to add Leinart last season. Coach Pete Carroll has not favored his former USC players unconditionally. After joining the Seahawks, he expressed surprise that Lawrence Jackson had been a first-round pick, and he later traded Jackson to the Lions.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says the Rams drafted with character in mind. Gordon: "This regime has weeded out most of the underachievers and assembled a much more diligent group. James Laurinaitis is a leader. Chris Long is a leader. Veteran James Hall is a leader. Steven Jackson caught on and became a leader, too. Sam Bradford proved to be a fast learner and leader. So did tackle Rodger Saffold, the team’s second pick from last season. The Rams staff hopes the latest draft picks will offer those same qualities and create an even more competitive training camp atmosphere. Even the seventh-round picks in this draft will bring the attitude to camp. They are longshots to make it big in the NFL, but it sounds like they have ample drive."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch assesses the Rams' late-round picks' chances for earning roster spots.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com lists re-signing David Baas as the 49ers' top priority in free agency, diminishing the need to re-sign nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin. Maiocco: "The reason I consider Baas the No. 1 player the 49ers would like to retain is because there are options at other spots on the roster where they have projected unrestricted free agents. Isaac Sopoaga might end up being an upgrade at nose tackle over Aubrayo Franklin if the 49ers choose to move him from left defensive end. Sopoaga is coming off a better season than Franklin, and his technique has gotten much better under the tutelage of defensive line coach Jim Tomsula." That risk would be inadvertently weakening two positions.

Also from Maiocco: a projected 49ers depth chart.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee projects how the 49ers' rookies might fit in 2011. Barrows on cornerback Chris Culliver: "The 49ers were clear that they drafted Culliver as a cornerback and not a safety. At 6 feet and 200 pounds, Culliver has nice size. He also has excellent athleticism, which he displayed at the scouting combine. That combination makes him a good fit for a nickel cornerback, which likely will be his role early on. That the 49ers did not use one of their first two picks on a cornerback indicates that they either expect Nate Clements to return in 2011 or that they will find a starting-caliber cornerback in free agency. (Clements played nickel on third downs last year). Let the Nnamdi Asomugha speculation begin."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers apparently have interest in undrafted free-agent tackle David Mims.

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says the 49ers' decision to take Aldon Smith over Blaine Gabbert was inexplicable.

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