NFC West: Randy McMIchael

NFL age rankings for Week 1 starters*

September, 15, 2012
As promised, I've gone through Week 1 rosters and calculated average ages for starters.

These would be actual starters, not projected or usual ones. There are differences (hence, the asterisk in the headline).

The New York Giants opened with tackle Will Beatty at tight end. The San Diego Chargers had tight end Randy McMichael on the field instead of receiver Robert Meachem.

The Indianapolis Colts went with two backs and two tight ends, with Donnie Avery instead of Reggie Wayne as the wideout.

The Cleveland Browns had a third wide receiver instead of tight end Benjamin Watson. St. Louis opted for a second tight end, Matthew Mulligan, instead of fullback Brit Miller. Bradley Fletcher started for the Rams as a third cornerback, nudging out linebacker Mario Haggan against the Detroit lions, who went with a third wideout.

The Arizona Cardinals opened with a second tight end instead of fullback Anthony Sherman.

Multiple other teams made similar tweaks to open their games.

My point here isn't to list all the adjustments. Listing as many as I have will hopefully illustrate the NFL's situational nature. Starting offensive linemen tend to play full games across the board. Players at other positions are more likely to sub in and out of games regularly.

The players we consider starters don't always start. They often don't play all the snaps. Some play sporadically.

Many teams are constantly shifting from one personnel group to another. Defenses are constantly switching personnel to match up.

The chart shows age rankings for starters in Week 1, oldest to youngest. The first column shows overall rankings. The other columns show rankings for offense and defense. These are based on the rosters I maintain for every team, with ages calculated to the day (as opposed to rounding backward to the most recent birthday).

Note: I updated this item after realizing Casey Hampton, 35, needed to be listed as a starter for Pittsburgh, and that Tim Tebow was listed as a starter at tight end for the Jets. These changes bumped the Steelers' starting defense from sixth to first in average age. The Jets' change had a smaller effect.

Around the NFC West: Lower franchise tag

November, 11, 2011
The Arizona Cardinals' plans to open contract talks with defensive end Calais Campbell come as NFL teams gain new leverage in negotiations with top players.

Andrew Brandt of National Football Post recently explained how the new collective bargaining agreement will lower valuations for franchise players. Brandt: "The calculation for the tag is now no longer based on the average of the top five salaries for a player’s position for the preceding year, but the average of the top five salaries at a player’s position for the preceding FIVE years! Thus, for 2012, franchise tag calculations compute from the top five salaries at each position -- not from 2011 -- but from an average of the top five salaries at each position for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011." Noted: Teams were already using the franchise tag without giving much thought to the salary-cap implications. Lowering the tag values will only make the tag easier to use.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Campbell's contract runs out after this season and he's a player the team needs to re-sign. Somers: "It's surprising the team has waited this long. Campbell is in the last year of his rookie contract, and he is four months away from unrestricted free agency. The Cardinals have no young players behind Campbell, and losing him would be a blow because they have other needs to address." Noted: The Cardinals had no trouble using the tag for Karlos Dansby, but Campbell's ability to rush the passer should make him more valuable. He should receive a long-term contract.

Darren Urban of says Darnell Dockett expects the organization to re-sign Campbell. Dockett: "We need to (re-sign him), and I trust Rod Graves and the organization, they’ll do right by Calais. He’s young and is a good leader. He’s only got upside. I don’t think he’s fully developed into his body, to be honest. Another 10 pounds, that dude will be walking around like a gorilla around here." Noted: Campbell, at 6-foot-8 and a lean 300-plus pounds, is one of the most physically impressive players in the NFL.

Also from Urban: Patrick Peterson's development at cornerback.

Clare Farnsworth of explains why Red Bryant is the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner. Bryant: "Getting this honor means a lot, given the fact that I’m coming back from an injury that a lot of people didn’t feel like I would probably come back from -- because I had an ACL coming out of college on the same knee. So, to come back and play at a high level, it’s just a testament to the trainers and the hard work and the encouragement my teammates gave me."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are happy with their towering cornerbacks.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas has continued to improve despite depressed interception numbers.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle saw good things from Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung, who fared well against Cowboys outside linebacker Demarcus Ware even when Seattle did not help Okung in protection. Up next: Baltimore's Terrell Suggs.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, whose role in the offense was diminishing even before a mid-foot sprain sidelined him indefinitely. Thomas: "From Troy Drayton to Ernie Conwell, Roland Williams, Brandon Manumaleuna, Randy McMichael, Daniel Fells, and more, no Rams tight end has caught more than 47 passes for more than 458 yards in a season since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995. It looked like that was about to change with Kendricks on the scene. But Kendricks had trouble with drops in the early going, dropping what looked like sure TDs in Game 1 against Philadelphia and Game 4 against Washington."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford's workload has increased. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Got more reps today than he did yesterday and certainly more than he had last Thrusday. And yet, we try not to give them all to him because the more you put on him, then you're going backwards a little bit. I think he's progressing pretty good. He's a tough guy."

Nick Wagoner of says the team's ground game is gaining momentum.

Matt Maiocco of quotes 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman as saying the team's modest offensive stats reflect game situations. Roman: "When you're up, you're not going to throw as much, right? And, probably, your yards-per-carry aren't going to be as high because you're facing loaded defenses. And your defensive stats are probably going to be down because those teams are throwing it around. So the only stat that matters is winning. Everything else is statistical analysis and information gathering. So whatever we need to do to win, we'll do. And if it's throwing it or if it's running it, whatever that equation is on a week-to-week basis, we'll do. Everything else, really, is water cooler talk." Noted: The Green Bay Packers average 105.3 additional yards per game than the 49ers average. They have an 8-0 record and have obviously led their opponents a significant amount of the time. The 49ers are more conservative on offense by design, not just because they've been leading games.

Also from Maiocco: Ray McDonald takes another step in his return from a hamstring injury.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee is interested in seeing how the Giants combat the 49ers' ground game.

Also from Barrows: a look at the alley-oop play R.C. Owens helped make famous.

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, Dre' Bly, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Mike Teel, 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, Nick Reed, 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, Ken Lucas, 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, Mike Hass, 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, Jay Feely, 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, Rob Sims, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Nate Ness, 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, Max Hall, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Max Komar, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Jim Dray, Dominique Curry, Josh Hull, 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

Are the Rams really any better?

July, 27, 2010
Jesper from Denmark graced the NFC West mailbag with a position-by-position evaluation of the St. Louis Rams. He thinks the team has gotten worse at several positions. He also thinks I've been a little too optimistic in my assessments of the team's prospects for 2010. I liked the clear, concise way Jesper presented his case. I'll pass along his thoughts and add my own.


Jesper: Marc Bulger is better than A.J. Feeley. Sam Bradford is a rookie who has not been described as very pro ready. Verdict: worse.

Sam Bradford
AP Photo/Tom GannamSam Bradford might not be ready to start.
Sando: The Rams' outlook at the position has improved, but you're right about the short-term prospects. I think the Rams would be foolish to open the regular season with Bradford at quarterback, even if Bradford looks better than Feeley during training camp. Bulger had five touchdowns, six interceptions and a 70.7 rating last season. I'm not expecting much better from the Rams at that position this season.

Running back

Jesper: Steven Jackson had more than 350 touches last season. He is coming off back surgery. It's hard to imagine him producing the same numbers, and there has been no attempt to get a decent backup. Verdict: At best the same/possibly worse.

Sando: I see this position as a downgrade for sure simply because it's unrealistic to expect the same production from Jackson following back surgery. This position could turn into a big problem for the Rams if Jackson breaks down physically. However, there's a good chance Jackson will be a productive player this season, based on my conversations with ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell.

Wide receiver

Jesper: Laurent Robinson is back from injury, but can we really judge him from seeing him play 2.5 games last year? Can he even stay healthy? Avery's receptions and yardage went down in his second season and he has in no way lived up to his status as the first receiver drafted in 2008. Then you've got a bunch of no-names, and Mardy Gilyard, a rookie (how often do rookie receivers produce?). Verdict: same.

Sando: This group could improve through better health. I agree that some of the guys appear prone to injuries. Brandon Gibson was a player you might have mentioned. Overall, though, it's not a stretch to say this group appears similar to last season. I would expect some improvement, though.

(Read full post)

Age rankings for every NFL team

July, 12, 2010
Rookie free agents and other young prospects drag down age stats for NFL teams this time of year.

The relative averages are more relevant than the averages themselves.

The chart shows where NFL teams ranked in average age heading into the weekend. The figures count undrafted free agents and unsigned draft choices. They do not count kickers, punters or snappers because older players at those positions could distort averages in a misleading way.

Having an older roster can be fine and even preferable as long as the team is contending. Being old and bad leads to massive roster overhauls. The St. Louis Rams fit the profile two years ago, leading to a dramatic roster overhaul that continued this offseason.

Quick thoughts on each NFC West team's current age ranking, based on the rosters I maintain for every team, and not counting specialists:

12. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals subtracted Kurt Warner, but they're counting on 33-year-olds Clark Haggans, Alan Faneca and Joey Porter. The team also re-signed 36-year-old nose tackle Bryan Robinson.

Arizona does have good young players, though.

13. Seattle Seahawks

This ranking was higher than I would have anticipated given how much coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have talked about embracing youth.

Seattle re-signed Lawyer Milloy and added two more older players, receiver Sean Morey and guard Ben Hamilton, as free agents.

18. San Francisco 49ers

More than half the 49ers' starters could be 26 or younger, the highest total in the division (based on tentative projections): Vernon Davis, Parys Haralson, Alex Smith, Manny Lawson, Dashon Goldson, Joe Staley, Patrick Willis, Josh Morgan, Chilo Rachal, Mike Iupati, Michael Crabtree and the youngest player on the roster, 20-year-old tackle Anthony Davis.

28. St. Louis Rams

The Rams were generally among the three youngest teams on average last season. They added some seasoning this offseason by signing Fred Robbins, A.J. Feeley, Chris Hovan and Na'il Diggs. Those four players are between 32 and 33 years old.

The Rams remain one of the NFL's youngest teams after adding 11 draft choices, releasing Marc Bulger and failing to re-sign three unrestricted free agents in their 30s (Randy McMichael, Leonard Little and Clinton Hart).
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.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals linebacker Gerald Hayes, who downplays concerns about a bad back. Also, guard Deuce Lutui, presumably upset about his inability to secure a long-term deal, has switched agents. Somers: "A starter for most of his four seasons in the league, Lutui might have lost his job by staying away from off-season workouts. Alan Faneca is playing left guard with Reggie Wells moving into Lutui's spot on the right side. The Cardinals are concerned about Lutui's conditioning, since no one with the team has been able to evaluate him since last season ended." Has any NFC West player miscalculated as badly as Lutui this offseason?

Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals rookie O'Brien Schofield has a different perspective on life after navigating tough times, including the death of his brother in a drowning accident on Lake Michigan. Schofield: "I just feel so blessed and so privileged. I promised myself I'm not going to do any stuff to dishonor the people that have invested in me. I'm going to prove it in the weight room, with my off-the-field behavior, with my on-the-field work, everything."

Darren Urban of says the Cardinals fought through hot temperatures at practice Thursday. Not that an indoor practice facility would be nice. Also, guard Rex Hadnot was working his injured knee on an exercise bike.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says cornerback Ron Bartell is hoping to have a bounce-back season with the Rams. Bartell: "Last year was pretty tough as a team and for me personally, being injured and not playing as well as I'd hoped. But it's a new season, so we have new opportunities. And I'm looking forward to it."

Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune says former Rams tight end Randy McMichael, who struggled with dropped passes last season, should provide some insurance at the position even though Antonio Gates expects to be ready for the season. McMichael stopped being an unrestricted free agent once the Rams did not make an offer to him June 1, meaning his addition in San Diego will not factor into the formula for compensatory draft picks. No NFL team extended a qualifying offer to a UFA at the deadline this year.

Matt Maiocco of thinks Vernon Davis' price tag will continue to rise and the team cannot afford to let the Pro Bowl tight end depart in free agency. Maiocco: "Davis is one of the best-blocking tight ends in the league. So he's important in the run game. And he's a very good target for Alex Smith in the red zone. Davis caught 13 touchdowns last season. When you think about it, Davis might be the most important player on the 49ers' offense." He might be the best player, but quarterbacks are always most important, I think.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers have no regrets about moving up to draft Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis, even though evidence suggests the team could have selected him later.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers were a strong red zone team on offense last season, allowing Vernon Davis and Frank Gore to rank among the NFL leaders in scoring for non-kickers.

Clare Farnsworth of says tight end John Carlson is one of several Seattle players scheduled to spend Sunday helping out at teammate Will Herring's football camp.

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune finds no fault in ranking the Seattle running backs among the worst in the league.

John Morgan of Field Gulls takes a look at what Seattle rookie Russell Okung offers relative to other top prospects. Morgan: "One does not see too many college football players that assuredly and effortlessly overmatch their opponents, but Okung did. He didn't make me reference my scout's handbook of trusty clichés, like 'violent hand punch', but where power, especially upper body strength, was concerned, Okung was a clear step above what one expects from even elite prospects."
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.
My weekend featured lots of family time and, when no one was looking, an opportunity to review a couple of 2009 NFC West games I'd been meaning to revisit.

One of those games -- St. Louis at Arizona in Week 16 -- featured a forgotten performance that could help explain why the Rams haven't been particularly aggressive in seeking a backup running back this offseason. This was the only game Jackson missed, so there were lots of chances to evaluate his backups.

[+] EnlargeOgbonnaya
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesRunning back Chris Ogbonnaya might have set himself up for more touches in 2010.
Chris Ogbonnaya, a seventh-round draft choice in 2009, played extensively and showed good versatility.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch touched on the Rams' options, including Ogbonnaya, in a piece published Monday. Here are a few things I noticed about Ogbonnaya from that Arizona game:

  • The Rams left him in the game across personnel groups and situations. Some rookies have a hard time in protection. Ogbonnaya did not. The Rams left Ogbonnaya alone in the backfield 24 times by my count, including 11 times from four-receiver personnel. Ogbonnaya stood up to Cardinals defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema on one third-down play. He was not a liability in protection.
  • Ogbonnaya broke Gerald Hayes' tackle on his first NFL carry, gaining 4 yards on first-and-10 from the St. Louis 8.
  • Ogbonnaya falls forward with the ball, maximizing yardage.
  • Ogbonnaya outperformed veteran players such as tackle Alex Barron and tight end Randy McMichael. Barron allowed a sack to Bertrand Berry on the third-down play when Ogbonnaya picked up Iwebema. McMichael dropped two passes.
  • Ogbonnaya powered through initial contact for an 8-yard gain on a third-and-1 run with two tight ends and two backs on the field for St. Louis, but he also showed good quickness and elusiveness in this game. He made defenders miss while picking up 19 yards on a reception from three-receiver personnel. He also beat the Cardinals for an 18-yard gain on a draw play from four-receiver personnel.

One performance can only reveal so much, but I didn't see obvious limitations when Ogbonnaya was in the game. He carried nine times for 45 yards and caught one pass for 19 yards. The Rams had many problems in this game, from rookie quarterback Keith Null's inexperience to injuries on the offensive line. Ogbonnaya appeared to be a bright spot.

The chart shows every play in the Rams-Cardinals game when Ogbonnaya carried the ball or was targeted in the passing game. These 11 plays gained 56 yards.

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: 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.

Rosenhaus leads UFA agent scorecard

February, 18, 2010
The NFL's list of projected unrestricted free agents for 2010 included one column showing agents and another showing starts.

This made it easy to see which agents had the most projected UFA clients, and how many starts those clients averaged in 2009.

The result is the chart below. Drew Rosenhaus has more than 100 clients across the league, more than any agent. The NFL lists 15 of them on its projected UFA list, including Terrell Owens and three NFC West players (Randy McMicahel, Anthony Becht and Olindo Mare).

Agents Peter Schaffer and Brian Mackler are next on the list with seven projected UFA clients apiece, but no agent with at least four players listed can match Tony Agnone for players with lots of 2009 starts. Agnone's list features 16-game starters Casey Rabach, Kyle Vanden Bosch and Bobbie Williams, plus seven-game starter Michael Gaines.

The NFL has no agents listed for Phillip Daniels, Tully Banta-Cain, Leigh Bodden, Mike Furrey, Damion Cook, Tank Johnson and Matt Ware.

Jeff Feagles, Jeff Zgonina, Daunte Culpepper, Paul Spicer, Clinton Hart and Vernon Fox are listed as representing themselves.

Cards at risk as free agency nears

February, 18, 2010
The NFL-provided list of projected unrestricted free agents included a column showing how many games each player started last season.

Getting the information into a spreadsheet allowed me to break down those figures by team, position and starts.

The chart shows projected UFAs with at least nine starts last season, by position.

The Cardinals are tied for the league lead with five: nose tackle Bryan Robinson, linebacker Chike Okeafor, linebacker Karlos Dansby, left tackle Mike Gandy and tight end Anthony Becht.

Take away 15-game starter Kurt Warner, who retired, and it's clear this offseason could be very disruptive for the Cardinals. The team could also lose free safety Antrel Rolle, whose contract includes a $4 million roster bonus and $8.1 million salary.

Another key role player, Bertrand Berry, is retiring.

The Rams had four players make the list, but all four are older players nearing the ends of their careers (Leonard Little, James Hall, Paris Lenon and Randy McMichael).

Thoughts on the Rams' new tight end

February, 18, 2010
The Cardinals' signing of veteran center Melvin Fowler last offseason seemed to upgrade their depth on the line.

Fowler didn't last. The Cardinals cut him. Detroit signed him. Fowler still hasn't played in an NFL game since 2008.

The lesson: There's usually a reason teams release players.

That context should help Rams fans from getting too excited about the team's addition of former Bills tight end Derek Fine, recently claimed off waivers. Fine's addition is still a move worth monitoring, based on the potential he has shown when healthy. Unlike Fowler, an older player with 60 regular-season starts, Fine has played in only 18 games over two NFL seasons.

Before a knee injury ended Fine's 2009 season, Allen Wilson of the Buffalo News had this to say about him:
"Fine gives the Bills a bigger and more physical body at tight end than (Derek) Schouman or (Shawn) Nelson offers. A 6-foot-3, 250-pounder, Fine should be an asset in the running game because he is a tenacious run blocker who plays with good strength, leverage and technique at the point of attack. He's also an underrated receiver. He doesn't have the same burst to separate from defenders like Schouman or the speed and raw athleticism that Nelson possesses. But Fine has very reliable hands, runs good routes and has shown the ability to make himself an available target by finding soft spots in coverage."

The Rams were happy with backup tight end Billy Bajema, late of the 49ers, last season. They probably need to replace Randy McMichael, who is scheduled to become a free agent. Fine, a fourth-round pick in 2008, helps their numbers at the position while giving them another prospect to develop.