NFC West: Rock Cartwright

PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones. Update: The NFL clarified that Adam Snyder, who signed with Arizona from San Francisco, factored into the equation awarding the 49ers three comp picks.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 220th, 231st, 241st and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Update: The Seahawks sent the 214th choice, acquired from Buffalo in the Tarvaris Jackson trade, to Minnesota as part of the Percy Harvin trade.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

UFA market revisited: How NFC West fared

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
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Those eagerly awaiting the start of NFL free agency March 12 with visions of your favorite team loading up on accomplished veterans should revisit the list of unrestricted free agents NFC West teams signed last season.

St. Louis, badly in need of a talent infusion following the worst five-year run in NFL history, opened its checkbook to sign a long list of veteran players, some of them at high cost.

That was the exception in the NFC West and I'd be surprised if St. Louis took a similarly aggressive approach this offseason. The Rams have stabilized their roster and positioned themselves to build around young talent.

With that in mind, I'll take a team-by-team look at the unrestricted free agents each NFC West team signed last offseason. UFAs are defined as veterans who reached the market when their contracts expired. Teams also acquired players by other means.

Arizona Cardinals

2012 UFA signings from other teams: cornerback William Gay, linebacker Quentin Groves, safety James Sanders and guard Adam Snyder

Comment: Gay started and played 93 percent of the defensive snaps as a replacement for Richard Marshall, who left in free agency. He wasn't a star, but the defense was solid. Gay gave Arizona the snaps it sought. Groves played 43 percent of snaps as a situational pass-rusher. The Cardinals needed him when an injury sidelined O'Brien Schofield. Sanders played 11 percent. Snyder started 14 games and played much of the season with an injury for a line that was among the NFL's least effective for much of the season. Arizona's young tackles made progress. I thought the team overspent for Snyder, a player San Francisco eagerly replaced with the undrafted Alex Boone, who provided a clear upgrade. Note that three of the four UFA additions last offseason played defense. Arizona needs to target offense this offseason. New coach Bruce Arians and new general manager Steve Keim have praised the existing talent. Arizona might not load up on free agents the way some teams do when new leadership takes over.

St. Louis Rams

2012 UFA signings from other teams: linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, cornerback Cortland Finnegan, linebacker Mario Haggan, defensive end William Hayes, defensive tackle Kendall Langford, defensive lineman Trevor Laws, guard Quinn Ojinnaka, tackle Barry Richardson, receiver Steve Smith, center Robert Turner and center Scott Wells

Comment: The Rams were major players in the UFA market. Results were mostly positive. Finnegan gave the Rams the production and veteran presence they sought. He was instantly a playmaker for St. Louis. Dunbar was much better than I had anticipated and well worth his contract, which included a $1 million signing bonus and $1.5 million annual average. Hayes provided good depth on the defensive line, and at a reasonable cost ($900,000 for one year). Langford needed time to transition from the 3-4 scheme he ran previously in Miami. The Rams signed him after Jason Jones signed with Seattle instead. Injuries prevented Wells from stabilizing the offensive line, a major disappointment and a reminder of the risks associated with signing older players from other teams.

San Francisco 49ers

2012 UFA signings from other teams: fullback Rock Cartwright, quarterback Josh Johnson, receiver Mario Manningham

Comment: Does this look like a team poised to strike for Darrelle Revis in the trade market? Does this look like a team ready to throw around cash in free agency? Not based on the list of signings last offseason. The interest San Francisco showed in Peyton Manning doesn't apply here. Indianapolis released Manning. Manning was not a UFA. I'd put him in a separate category, anyway. Teams make exceptions for Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Back to the 2012 UFA list. Cartwright and Johnson never played for the team. Neither earned a spot on the 53-man roster. Both served a purpose by initially increasing competition at their positions. For example, Anthony Dixon moved fro halfback to fullback and became a more valuable player, including on special teams. Johnson provided early insurance, but in retrospect, Colin Kaepernick was obviously ready to serve in the No. 2 role before becoming the starter. Manningham provided sufficient value before a knee injury ended his season. The 49ers missed him late in the season, including during the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks

2012 UFA signings from other teams: quarterback Matt Flynn, defensive lineman Jason Jones, guard Deuce Lutui and linebacker Barrett Ruud

Comment: Flynn would have started if Russell Wilson hadn't emerged unexpectedly as the clear choice. Seattle invested $6.5 million per year in Flynn, a sum the team could live with even if Flynn became the backup. It's tough to fault the Seahawks for signing Flynn. They had no idea Wilson would be available in the draft, or that Wilson would perform at such a high level so early in his career. Jones finished the season on injured reserve. That made it impossible for him to provide the interior pass-rushing push Seattle sought when signing him to a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Lutui and Ruud never earned roster spots. Neither was a liability financially. Both were low-cost insurance policies. Seattle parlayed Ruud into a 2013 draft choice by trading him to New Orleans after the Saints lost Jonathan Vilma.

2012 NFC West practice squad eligibility

September, 1, 2012
9/01/12
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NFL teams can begin forming practice squads once eligible players clear waivers Saturday.

A look at which players released by NFC West teams have eligibility:

Arizona Cardinals

Eligible: Crezdon Butler, Antonio Coleman, Blake Gideon, Ricky Lumpkin, Colin Parker, Larry Parker, Steve Skelton, Quan Sturdivant, Everrette Thompson, Martell Webb, Scott Wedige, Brandon Williams, Isaiah Williams, D.J. Williams.

Not eligible: DeMarco Sampson, Alfonso Smith, Ronald Talley, Stephen Williams, Clark Haggans, Russ Hochstein

St. Louis Rams

Eligible: Cornell Banks, Tim Barnes, Tom Brandstater, Mason Brodine, Aaron Brown, Sammy Brown, Kendric Burney, Ben Guidugli, Cory Harkey, T-Bob Hebert, Jamaar Jarrett, Nick Johnson, Joe Long, Deangelo Peterson, Chase Reynolds, Scott Smith

Not eligible: Vernon Gholston, Bryan Mattison, Jose Valdez, Kellen Clemens, Ovie Mughelli

San Francisco 49ers

Eligible: Derek Hall, Joe Holland, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Cam Johnson, Matthew Masifilo, Anthony Mosley, Kyle Nelson, Al Netter, Chris Owusu, Nathan Palmer, Mike Person, Konrad Reuland, Kenny Rowe, Michael Thomas, Kenny Wiggins, Michael Wilhoite

Not eligible: Eric Bakhtiari, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson, Brett Swain

Seattle Seahawks

Eligible: Pierre Allen, Allen Bradford, Kris Durham, Cooper Helfet, Rishaw Johnson, Jermaine Kearse, Kyle Knox, Cordarro Law, Pep Levingston, Ricardo Lockette, Sean McGrath, Kris O'Dowd, Josh Portis, DeShawn Shead, Vai Taua, Korey Toomer, Lavasier Tuinei

Not eligible: Phillip Adams, Deon Butler, Paul Fanaika

Note on eligibility

Straight from the collective bargaining agreement:
"The Practice Squad shall consist of the following players, provided that they have not served more than two previous seasons on a Practice Squad:
  • "players who do not have an Accrued Season of NFL experience;
  • "free agent players who were on the Active List for fewer than nine regular season games during their only Accrued Season(s).

"An otherwise eligible player may be a Practice Squad player for a third season only if the Club by which he is employed that season has at least 53 players on its Active/Inactive List during the entire period of his employment.

"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.

"(For purposes of this Section, 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 San Francisco 49ers' initial 53-man roster began taking shape around the edges Friday with a moves related to special teams.

The team traded backup safety Colin Jones to Carolina. San Francisco will reportedly receive a seventh-round choice in return, presumably from 2014 or later given that the Panthers traded a 2013 seventh-rounder to Oakland for Louis Murphy.

The 49ers also released veteran fullback Rock Cartwright, a player the team signed after losing 2011 special-teamer Blake Costanzo to Minnesota in free agency. Cartwright, 32, played more than 60 percent of the special-teams snaps for Oakland last season. He spent much of his career with the Washington Redskins, including when 49ers general manager Trent Baalke worked for the team.

These moves suggest running back Anthony Dixon showed enough to stick as a backup running back and core special-teams player. Dixon's status appeared tenuous when the 49ers signed Brandon Jacobs in free agency. Jacobs appears likely to supplant Dixon in short-yardage situations. Dixon volunteered to play fullback during training camp. He ran effectively during preseason, making a strong case to stick with the team.

As the chart shows, six of the top eight contributors for special-teams snaps from 2011 remain with the team following the departures of Costanzo and Jones. That could change before and during the regular season, of course. NFL teams must reduce their rosters from 75 to 53 players by 9 p.m. ET Friday.
There are no guarantees competition will draw out the best from an athlete.

The situations at right tackle in St. Louis and quarterback in Arizona come to mind. The results tend to be more positive, in some cases, when a player's entire career, not just a starting job, is on the line.

Two notable cases in the NFC West come to mind.

Braylon Edwards stepped up his game when the Seattle Seahawks signed Terrell Owens a few weeks back. Edwards now appears likely to earn a roster spot in Seattle. Meanwhile, in Santa Clara, Calif., the San Francisco 49ers have watched running back Anthony Dixon rededicate himself following the arrival of Brandon Jacobs, Rock Cartwright and, to a lesser extent, rookie LaMichael James.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are talking as though Dixon, once considered a sure roster casualty, will stick around at the mandatory reduction to 53 players Friday. Barrows: "Dixon, who seemed hopelessly buried on the 49ers' depth chart at running back when training camp began, has taken advantage of recent injuries at the position and has strung together two solid games. On the radio Tuesday, both general manager Trent Baalke and offensive coordinator Greg Roman sounded optimistic about Dixon's chances of making the final roster." Noted: Might Dixon, who has gotten work at fullback, stick at the expense of Cartwright?

The 49ers' website has this to say about receiver Michael Crabtree: "Teammates and coaches have raved about Crabtree’s leaner build this offseason and how his improved health has enabled him to develop a greater rapport with starting quarterback Alex Smith. This time last year, Crabtree was battling a foot injury that remained with him through the start of the regular season. But now, Crabtree’s summer of work has translated into consistent preseason playing time. His role in the 49ers offense to date, five catches for 28 yards, is one of many reasons Harbaugh believes the team is much improved heading into the 2012 season."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien, who slept in the 49ers' player lounge during a two-week period.

Also from Inman: a look at the 49ers' player ratings on "Madden NFL 13."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jacobs gave fans a window into the hatred directed at players anonymously.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Matt Flynn was back at practice in a reserve role.

Also from Farnsworth: Robert Turbin steps in for Marshawn Lynch.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says ESPN's Jon Gruden expected Russell Wilson to win the Seahawks' starting job if given a legitimate chance. Noted: That was the word from Wisconsin's coach and others who knew the quarterback well.

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Wilson runs the ball on instinct, not by design. Wilson: "I'm always wanting to throw the ball and if something closes, if I go through my progression and it closes, it's like, 'Bam.' It happens so fast and you're out. You're just trying to get something positive."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune updates Bruce Irvin's progress. Seattle's first-round draft choice has no sacks or tackles through three exhibition games. Line coach Todd Wash: "Out here (on the practice field), he plays very carefree. He just plays, (but) he gets into the game and he’s worrying about keeping contain and whatever else he might need to do. He knows how to play; we just need him to cut loose."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at how injuries are forcing the Cardinals to adjust their thinking on the offensive line. Somers: "The unit that opens Thursday night's game against the Broncos likely will feature three different starters from the one that opened the preseason. D'Anthony Batiste is scheduled to move from right tackle to left, with rookie Bobby Massie starting on the right side. The two played those positions beginning in the second quarter last week against the Titans, and the entire unit played better after the move. Rich Ohrnberger is expected to start at right guard in place of Adam Snyder, who missed Tuesday's practice in order to have an elbow examined."

Also from Somers: thoughts on John Skelton's struggles in practice.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's final exhibition game could determine whether the team pursues Alex Barron, Chad Clifton or another veteran tackle.

Also from Urban: William Powell's fight for a roster spot.

Dan O'Neill of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sees the Rams' moves to trade Jason Smith and release Danario Alexander as part of the delineation between previous and current team leadership groups. O'Neill: "Fisher just got here. He can't account for Smith, be held accountable for where he was drafted or how he has performed. What he can do is turn the page, for the organization and for Smith."

Also from O'Neill: Janoris Jenkins hit a bump in the road against Dallas.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says trading Smith was easy for the team. Burwell: "This was not a colossal bruise to the football smarts of the existing Rams brain trust, merely a little necessary clean up on Aisle One from a big mess left behind by previous failed regimes. General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher were able to ditch Smith with a clean conscience, mainly because this mistake doesn't count against their records. Trading him away was not only the smart thing to do, it was also the most compassionate thing to do, because after all those concussions, Smith was no longer the big, mean and bruising young prospect that was drafted three years ago, and because of that he may never live up to the high expectations of the organization and the fan base."

Three things revisited: Vikings-49ers

August, 11, 2012
8/11/12
12:17
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Looking back upon three things discussed here before the 49ers' 17-6 exhibition victory Friday at home against Minnesota:

1. Pass protection. No real concerns here. I listed this subject first in our preview only because quarterbacks Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick took a pounding from the blitz-happy New Orleans Saints in the 2011 exhibition opener. In this game, Smith completed all three attempts for 16 yards and a touchdown to Brett Swain. He was not sacked. The running game dominated. Pass protection benefited from the balance. The 49ers' offense was exponentially better in this game than in their opener a year ago.

2. New life at running back. With starter Frank Gore sitting out, the 49ers got runs of at least 11 yards from Brandon Jacobs, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and even fullback Rock Cartwright. Jacobs was effective in short-yardage situations, including a fourth-and-1 during the opening drive to a touchdown. Fullback Bruce Miller did a good job clearing holes in two-back groupings. New right guard Alex Boone caught my attention with aggressive blocking in the run game. The 49ers got exactly what they wanted from their backup runners in this game. San Francisco finished with 42 carries for 260 yards.

3. Backup QB race. Kaepernick dazzled with a 78-yard touchdown run on a designed keeper out of the no-huddle offense. That play showed why the 49ers will probably design a few special plays for Kaepernick even as Smith remains the starter. It showed why Kaepernick has a chance to become a dynamic running quarterback. It showed why the 49ers' offense will likely change fundamentally if Kaepernick is the quarterback. Kaepernick completed 5 of 9 passes for 40 yards. He found rookie A.J. Jenkins for a 15-yard gain. Kaepernick appeared late in delivering another pass. Kaepernick's presumed competition for the No. 2 job, Josh Johnson, took over late. He completed 2 of 4 passes for 30 yards. Scott Tolzien got into the game before Johnson. He completed 10 of 13 passes for 84 yards and a pick. On one play, Tolzien stood firm in the pocket and drove the ball to tight end Garrett Celek over the middle.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- With a nudge from @Amazing_Jagman, I've updated rosters to produce age rankings for every team in the NFL. I'll begin with a look at where NFC West teams rank by position and overall.
  • QB: All four teams rank in the youngest third or so. The San Francisco 49ers have the most experienced starter in the division, but also the youngest group overall.
  • RB: I was a little surprised to see Seattle (third-oldest) and San Francisco (fifth-oldest) rank among the five oldest at this position, with St. Louis considerably younger on average. The Seahawks' Leon Washington turns 30 next month. Teammate Michael Robinson turns 30 in February. The 49ers added 32-year-old veteran special-teamer Rock Cartwright, who counts as a fullback, and veteran halfback Brandon Jacobs, 30. Frank Gore turned 29 in May. The St. Louis Rams, despite Steven Jackson (29) and fullback Ovie Mughelli (32), have quite a few young players at the position.
  • WR: Randy Moss, 35, contributed to the 49ers fielding the 10th-oldest group of receivers on average as training camps were beginning. For Seattle, the newly signed Antonio Bryant, 31, contributed to a No 13 ranking. The Rams have youth, youth and more youth at the position.
  • TE: Arizona ranks seventh-oldest at the position thanks to the presence of veterans such as Todd Heap, 32, and Jeff King, 29. But the team is most excited about second-year tight end Rob Housler. Seven of the Rams' eight tight ends are between 22 and 25 years old, helping St. Louis rank 30th in average age at the position.
  • OL: The Cardinals have previously ranked No. 1 in average age at this position. They've dropped to seventh after addressing the position in the draft at the expense of a few veterans. Adding 34-year-old veteran Russ Hochstein upped the average, however.
  • DL: The Cardinals have the oldest defensive linemen by average age. Darnell Dockett turned 31 this offseason. Vonnie Holliday is 36. Nick Eason is 32. Arizona has promising younger players at the position, notably nose tackle Dan Williams and defensive end Calais Campbell. But the group could use a youth infusion in the not-too-distant future. The Rams, meanwhile, got much younger by parting with James Hall, Fred Robbins and Justin Bannan. Chris Long, 27, is now the oldest defensive lineman on the team.
  • LB: The Cardinals' Clark Haggans, 35, and Paris Lenon, 34, help give Arizona the ninth-oldest linebackers in the NFL. The Rams' No. 14 ranking reflects their decision to add veterans on the outside. The team needs to address that position in upcoming drafts, it appears.
  • DB: The division features ample young talent in its secondaries. The Cardinals, despite fielding the oldest secondary in the division, have one of the most promising young cornerbacks in the NFL, Patrick Peterson. Seattle has the youngest secondary in the division. Three of four starters achieved Pro Bowl status last season. That's a great combination. The fourth starter, Richard Sherman, was arguably deserving of Pro Bowl honors as a rookie.
  • ST: The Cardinals continue to field the oldest specialists in the NFL on average. The Rams field the youngest group after parting with Donnie Jones and Josh Brown. I'm interested in seeing how the Rams' decision plays out.
  • Total: The Cardinals have some exciting young players, but their roster is third-oldest in the NFL. The team cannot realistically cite youth for any shortcomings this season. The Rams remain the youngest team -- slightly younger than Carolina -- despite adding Mughelli on Saturday. Seattle ranked among the youngest teams last season. Re-signing cornerback Marcus Trufant and adding Bryant, both 31, upped the Seahawks' average age. Unrestricted free-agent additions Deuce Lutui and Barrett Ruud are 29. The team now ranks 20th oldest in the NFL.

I'll pass along updated rosters once I've finished updating a few other categories. The chart shows age rankings by position group and overall for NFC West teams.
Good morning, NFC West.

Chris Clemons' recent agreement with the Seattle Seahawks leaves the NFC West with few unsettled contract situations heading into training camps.

The San Francisco 49ers' Dashon Goldson remains unsigned as a franchise player, but he'll sign a one-year deal at some point.

Janoris Jenkins' negotiations with the St. Louis Rams will bear watching as the week progresses. Jason Cole of Yahoo! has the details on that one. While it's tough to fault the Rams for seeking protection given Jenkins' troubled off-field history, the team built its protection already by drafting Jenkins later than the cornerback would have been available in the absence of that history.

Meanwhile ...

Brian McIntyre of NFL.com takes a closer look at the Rams' receivers. Among his thoughts: "Last year's fourth-round pick Greg Salas posted big numbers out of the slot at Hawaii and was having a promising rookie season before suffering a broken leg midway through the season. Injuries to Amendola and Salas is what got 2011 third-round selection Austin Pettis on the field as a rookie. Pettis' performance is why the Rams invested so heavily in the wide receiver position again this April. Brandon Gibson currently sits atop the depth chart, but he's a player the current coaching staff and front office inherited, has a seven-figure salary ($1 million) and can be released with no cap implications. The new regime also inherited Danario Alexander, who is a game-changing deep threat when healthy, which he rarely is."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com analyzes the Rams' roster heading into camp. He lists Danny Amendola, Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Steve Smith and Salas as five leading candidates to secure up to six spots on the initial 53-man roster.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee previews a few potential camp battles for the 49ers. He anticipates fewer carries for Frank Gore. Barrows: "It's clear that Frank Gore won't have the workload he's had since becoming the featured running back in 2006. What's unclear is how those non-Gore carries will be divided this season. Second-year player Kendall Hunter and second-round draft pick LaMichael James are assured spots on the team while Rock Cartwright could win one based on his special teams ability. Brandon Jacobs' and Anthony Dixon's spots, however, are fuzzier."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with 49ers rookie receiver A.J. Jenkins, who says he's made significant strides since minicamp. Jenkins: "Obviously I had criticism when I first came in as far as being in shape. That’s irrelevant now. I’m just trying to help the team win, whether that’s playing special teams, offense or being a real good teammate."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com reflects on Grant Feasel's recent passing at age 52. Feasel played for the team in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Former teammate Jeff Kemp: "Grant was the quintessential sacrificial warrior. He wrapped himself up in the duty to clear the way for and protect his teammates. He took his job so seriously. Our families grew up together and Grant deeply loved his family. He had a great sense of humor but never during the heat of battle."

Also from Farnsworth: expectations for the Seahawks' running backs.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic takes a look at the Cardinals' secondary with training camp approaching. Somers: "After Patrick Peterson, there is considerable sorting out to do in training camp. There are four solid contenders for other starting position: William Gay, Greg Toler, A.J. Jefferson and rookie Jamell Fleming. Based upon off-season work, Gay and Toler lead the pack. By the end of the summer workouts, they were splitting time with the first team. Toler missed all of last season with a torn ACL, but his recovery is on schedule. In one practice, he was matched up against Larry Fitzgerald and leaped to break up and pass. He fell to the ground, and everyone held their breath. Fitzgerald quickly leaned over Toler, checking on him. Toler was fine. It's recovering from those kinds of plays that will build his confidence."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com previews training camp for Arizona. Urban: "The Cards won’t be able to ease into anything. The first practice is Wednesday afternoon, and by Saturday afternoon they will have the Red-White practice, which usually features a live goal line situation. With so much to determine -- not the least of which will be the starting quarterback -- Ken Whisenhunt embraces an extra preseason game and some extra days in camp because of it. The new collective bargaining agreement essentially took away a week of offseason on-field work. Whisenhunt looks forward to recouping some of that."
Our two-day look at NFC West rosters continues with projections for the San Francisco 49ers' offense.

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.1

Safest bets: Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Josh Johnson

Leading contenders: none

Longer odds: Scott Tolzien

Comment: Johnson has more experience than Kaepernick and could project as the No. 2 quarterback if an injury forced Smith from the lineup on short notice. Johnson's history with coach Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego probably helps his chances in that regard. Kaepernick gets a chance this summer to prove he's ready to take the next step following a more regular offseason. Tolzien could project for the practice squad.

Running backs (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 4.9

Safest bets: Frank Gore, LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs, Bruce Miller

Leading contenders: Rock Cartwright, Anthony Dixon

Longer odds: Jewel Hampton, Cameron Bell

Comment: Moran Norris is out after spending five of the past six seasons as a 49ers fullback. That was one of many changes in the backfield this offseason. Jacobs' arrival suggests Dixon must step up his game significantly to stick on the roster -- and will probably have to demonstrate special-teams value as well. He won't be able to compete with Miller or Cartwright in that regard. If the 49ers find a way to keep six running backs, Cartwright would likely be in the picture almost exclusively for his special-teams value. Hampton could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Wide receivers (11)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.7

Safest bets: Michael Crabtree, Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, A.J. Jenkins

Leading contenders: Kyle Williams, Ted Ginn Jr.

Longer odds: Brett Swain, Joe Hastings, Nathan Palmer, Chris Owusu, Brian Tyms

Comment: The first four appear set as long as Moss continues on his current trajectory. The 49ers kept five at the position in Week 1 last season. Despite talk of opening up the offense, the team could have a hard time justifying six roster spots for wideouts for a coaching staff that seems to relish using multiple tight ends. Williams and Ginn carry obvious special-teams value in the return game, a huge consideration. I have a hard time envisioning the 49ers, stung by Williams' miscues in the NFC Championship Game, taking undue chances in the return game at Green Bay in the opener. Ginn is the most proven return specialist on the team and a game-breaker when healthy. Owusu could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Tight ends (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Safest bets: Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker

Leading contenders: Nate Byham, Konrad Reuland

Longer odds: Garrett Celek

Comment: Byham was emerging as a top-flight blocking tight end before a knee injury ended his 2011 season during training camp. Reuland, then an undrafted rookie, had a chance to gain ground while spending last season on the practice squad. Reuland played for Harbaugh and staff at Stanford.

Offensive linemen (15)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.0

Safest bets: Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Jonathan Goodwin, Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Daniel Kilgore, Joe Looney

Leading contenders: Mike Person, Jason Slowey

Longer odds: Derek Hall, David Gonzales, Garrett Chisolm, Chase Beeler, Kenny Wiggins, Al Netter

Comment: Boone has become the prohibitive favorite to start at right guard even though he remains in the early stages of a conversion from tackle. Boone could move back to tackle if the 49ers were to lose Staley or Davis to injury. Boone remains the third-best tackle on the team. Kilgore once stood as a candidate at right guard, but he now projects as Goodwin's eventual successor at center. Looney, a rookie fourth-round choice, could be the long-term right guard, but he's recovering from foot surgery.
A look at three potentially significant under-the-radar offseason moves for each NFC West team, concluding with the San Francisco 49ers:

1. Signing Perrish Cox. The 49ers have been looking to upgrade their depth at cornerback. Cox became available on the relative cheap -- for about $1 million over two years -- after his acquittal on sexual assault charges. Cox, a fifth-round choice for Denver in 2010, played for current 49ers secondary coach Ed Donatell when both were with the Broncos. Coach Jim Harbaugh praised Cox's performance in offseason workouts, suggesting the 25-year-old defensive back would help on special teams and in the secondary. Cox started nine games in 2010. His legal problems kept him off the field in 2011.

2. Moving Boone to right guard. The 49ers were weak at right guard last season, bouncing from Chilo Rachal to Adam Snyder. They passed on options available to them in free agency. It's now looking like tackle Alex Boone projects as the starter for Week 1. Boone is arguably one of the five best offensive linemen on the team. Finding a way to get him on the field would make sense in that context. And with Boone at guard, the team can more easily groom Daniel Kilgore to eventually succeed Jonathan Goodwin at center. Kilgore previously projected more at right guard. Moving Boone also buys time for fourth-round choice Joe Looney to recover from foot surgery. Looney appears similar to O'Brien Schofield (Arizona) and Walter Thurmond (Seattle). Injuries made all three available later in the draft.

3. Positional shuffling. The 49ers will again be looking to keep some position players almost exclusively for special teams. Rock Cartwright is one candidate after the team lost Blake Costanzo in free agency. Tavares Gooden and Colin Jones were others last season. Making room for such players can require roster flexibility. Partially to that end, the 49ers are trying multiple players at more than one position. Defensive lineman Will Tukuafu and linebacker Michael Wilhoite have worked at fullback. Cornerback Cory Nelms and safety Ben Hannula have worked at receiver. Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs has played tight end.
NFC West teams added or re-signed 38 unrestricted free agents during the recently completed UFA signing period. They lost or did not re-sign 47 such players.

One key difference between those groups: age.

The St. Louis Rams in particular used the UFA signing period to get younger. The 12 UFAs they added (11) or re-signed (one) averaged 2.49 years younger than the 20 UFAs they lost (six) or have not re-signed (14). The gap was 1.39 years younger on average throughout the division. The Rams have the youngest roster in the NFL, based on averages I maintain for every team in the league.

Some older UFAs never sign another NFL contract. They disappear from rosters and realize, perhaps a year or two later, that they've been retired.

The chart shows age differences for the 38 UFA players added or re-signed versus the 47 lost to other teams or still unsigned. According to the NFL, 143 UFAs changed teams across the league this offseason. Another 112 re-signed with their 2011 teams.

Unsigned players remain free to sign with another team, but the NFL will not count them as UFA signings. The distinction matters in part because only UFA additions and losses count toward the formula for determining compensatory draft choices. That formula relies heavily on player salaries. UFAs available this late in the process generally wouldn't command enough money to affect compensatory picks, anyway.

A quick look at which UFA players from NFC West teams did not sign or re-sign as UFAs:
The 27 unsigned UFAs from the NFC West average 31.38 years old, about 3.3 years older than the 22 UFAs signed from other teams.

Nine of the 27 are at least 33 years old. Another 12 are between 29 and 32. Justin King, former cornerback for the Rams, is the youngest at 25 years old.
A look at the San Francisco 49ers' offseason to this point ...

What went right: The 49ers kept together one of the NFL's best defenses by re-signing Ahmad Brooks and Carlos Rogers, and by naming Dashon Goldson their franchise player. ... The coaching staff also returns pretty much intact, a relief after the team finished 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman's name did come up in relation to the Penn State opening. Reports suggested special-teams coordinator Brad Seely could become a candidate for the head coaching job in Indianapolis. ... Alex Smith did not leave in free agency despite visiting the Miami Dolphins. ... The 49ers secured funding for their new stadium and broke ground on it last month, a huge step forward for the organization. ... The team attempted to address perceived shortcomings at receiver and on offense in general. ... Bringing back Ted Ginn Jr. was an underrated move given the value he can provide in the return game.

What went wrong: The 49ers could not keep secret their interest in Peyton Manning, creating an awkward moment as Smith considered his options in free agency. ... Manning signed with Denver. Adding Manning to the 49ers arguably would have made San Francisco the Super Bowl favorite from the NFC. ... The team did not resolve its situation at right guard in a decisive manner. ... The Washington Redskins paid a premium for free-agent receiver Josh Morgan, a player the 49ers ideally would have retained. ... Blake Costanzo, a tone-setter on special teams, left in free agency. The team got older by adding Rock Cartwright, 32, to fill some of the special-teams void.

The bottom line: The positives outweigh the negatives. The team used free agency to address immediate needs at low cost (Randy Moss, Mario Manningham) while using the draft to build for the longer term (A.J. Jenkins, LaMichael James, Joe Looney). Adding Manning would have been an unexpected bonus. The 49ers' offseason never hinged on making that move. The 49ers essentially stayed the course following a 13-3 season. That was the goal. No complaints here.

Your turn: Any significant omissions here?
Free agency has slowed considerably now that the quarterback market has settled out, save for Alex Smith's unresolved status in San Francisco.

I've put together a chart showing what happened to free agents known to have visited NFC West teams since the signing period opened one week ago.

Demetrius Bell showed promise at left tackle for Buffalo last season and would seem to make sense for Arizona.

New Orleans Saints free-agent corner Tracy Porter is not listed, but he remains one of the few young starting-caliber players at the position, and he has ties to the St. Louis Rams' coaching staff.

I've ordered the chart by how many starts each player made in 2011, an attempt to add a qualitative element to the listings.

Note: The 49ers brought in a long list of players for tryouts recently. I've focused on unrestricted free agents making visits. I have added Jacob Tamme, Corey Graham and Visanthe Shiancoe to the list. All three visited the Seahawks recently.

2012 NFC West UFA scorecard: update

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
12:15
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Michael Robinson's expected re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks would give the team a league-high four re-signings in the unrestricted free-agent market.

Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan and Heath Farwell previously re-signed.

Seattle and the other NFC West teams have added only two UFAs from other teams, however. I've put together UFA scorecards for each team in the division. Ages are in parenthesis. Here goes ...

Seattle Seahawks

UFA unsigned (age): defensive end Raheem Brock (33), defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson (31), safety Atari Bigby (30), quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (29), linebacker Leroy Hill (29), linebacker Matt McCoy (29), defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (28), linebacker David Hawthorne (26), running back Justin Forsett (26), linebacker David Vobora (25)

UFA re-signed: Farwell (30), Robinson (29), McQuistan (28), Bryant (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: tight end John Carlson (27)

Franchise player: none

Comment: Forsett has provided value, but the Seahawks will want to add a power back as depth behind Marshawn Lynch, who re-signed before free agency. Mike Tolbert, a free agent from the San Diego Chargers, could be worth a look if the running back market remains soft. Tolbert weighs 243 pounds, has 21 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and caught 54 passes in 2012. The price would have to be right after Seattle committed to Lynch.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA unsigned: fullback Moran Norris (33), tight end Justin Peelle (33), safety Madieu Williams (30), quarterback Alex Smith (27), receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (26), guard Chilo Rachal (26), safety Reggie Smith (25)

UFA re-signed: cornerback Carlos Rogers (30), linebacker Tavares Gooden (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: guard Adam Snyder (30), linebacker Blake Costanzo (27), receiver Josh Morgan (26)

Franchise player: safety Dashon Goldson (27)

Comment: Randy Moss and potential addition Rock Cartwright do not appear in the listings because they were not unrestricted free agents. Re-signing Alex Smith and finding additional receiver help appear to be the top priorities. The 49ers are showing little outward urgency on either front, however.

Arizona Cardinals

UFA unsigned: defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday (36), kicker Jay Feely (35), long-snapper Mike Leach (35), outside linebacker Clark Haggans (35), outside linebacker Joey Porter (34), offensive lineman Floyd Womack (33), punter Dave Zastudil (33), tackle D'Anthony Batiste (29), safety Sean Considine (29), guard Deuce Lutui (28), safety Hamza Abdullah (28), tackle Brandon Keith (27), receiver Early Doucet (26)

UFA re-signed: none.

UFA added: Snyder (30)

UFA lost: cornerback Richard Marshall (27)

Franchise player: defensive end Calais Campbell (25)

Comment: The Cardinals have been in a tough spot. They would have faced criticism had they declined to pursue Peyton Manning. They could now face criticism for sacrificing the first week of free agency while waiting for Manning. The reality is that Arizona probably wasn't going to be all that aggressive in the market this offseason, anyway. It did hurt losing Marshall to the Miami Dolphins after coordinator Ray Horton called him the Cardinals' defensive MVP.

St. Louis Rams

UFA unsigned: cornerback Al Harris (37), quarterback A.J. Feeley (34), offensive lineman Tony Wragge (32), linebacker Brady Poppinga (32), punter Donnie Jones (31), offensive lineman Adam Goldberg (31), guard Jacob Bell (31), receiver Brandon Lloyd (30), cornerback Rod Hood (30), running back Cadillac Williams (29), defensive tackle Gary Gibson (29), receiver Mark Clayton (29), tackle Mark LeVoir (29), tight end Stephen Spach (29), safety James Butler (29), tight end Billy Bajema (29), quarterback Kellen Clemens (28), running back Jerious Norwood (28), linebacker Bryan Kehl (27), linebacker Chris Chamberlain (26), cornerback Justin King (24)

UFA re-signed: none

UFA added: cornerback Cortland Finnegan (28)

UFA lost: none

Franchise player: none

Comment: The Rams are not looking to re-sign many of their own free agents. They want to turn over the roster, and that is happening in a big way. The team's failure to secure playmaking help for quarterback Sam Bradford stands out as the biggest theme to this point. Finnegan was a welcome addition, but he isn't going to score many touchdowns.

The chart below shows a general overview.
The Arizona Cardinals' pursuit of Peyton Manning once appeared quite promising.

That is no longer the case.

Tennessee and Denver are the favorites.

"Everyone else a longshot," ESPN's Adam Schefter said.

Manning appears to be taking a deliberate approach even as the Cardinals face a Friday deadline to decide whether Kevin Kolb receives a $7 million bonus. Will the deadline affect Manning's timetable in any way?

"He'll be courteous in communication," ESPN's Chris Mortensen said, "but no."

Oh, and one more thing: Manning plans to work out for the Broncos, Mortensen reports.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it's still tough to say how the Manning situation will play out. Somers: "Though keeping Kolb would be a gamble, so would signing Manning, even though he is a four-time MVP and has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls. Manning missed last season because of a neck condition that reportedly required four procedures to fix. The strength in his right arm was affected, and it's unknown when, or if, it will return. ... No one outside Manning's family seems to know for sure what he's thinking. The Dolphins were pegged as a favorite at first, then supposedly eliminated. The Broncos were given a courtesy interview, then became the leader. The Cardinals were in the mix until the Broncos and Titans emerged as favorites. Or was it the Broncos and Dolphins? All the above scenarios have been reported."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals are bringing back Levi Brown.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan attributes his personality to his mother, who spent two decades in the Army. Finnegan: "It may be my Irish side. I don't know. My mom's a little feisty. If you ever get the chance to meet her, she's got about 400 tattoos and she's just a wild woman. She's military background, so I think just her wild side is sort of part of what it's all about for me."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why he thinks Rams owner Stan Kroenke wanted to purchase the Dodgers. Miklasz: "Kroenke's goal has been to buy the team and use the Dodgers as a hub for his own regional sports network in Southern California. Such a network would likely mean enormous profits for Kroenke, or the person that controls the Dodgers. Did you think Stan has offered more than $1 billion for the Dodgers because Matt Kemp is his favorite player or that he wants to hang out with Clayton Kershaw? Please. No, this was another money-making venture. Nothing wrong with that; but let's just be honest about the nature of Kroenke's interest. It isn't because he wanted to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jack."

Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Edward Jones Dome is keeping its name.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com breaks down Carlos Rogers' new deal with the 49ers. Maiocco: "Rogers counts $5.5 million against the 49ers' 2012 cap after signing a four-year, $29.3 million contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus. Rogers' deal includes a 2012 base salary of $3.9 million, along with annual $100,000 workout bonuses and up to $250,000 yearly in roster bonuses. Rogers' base salaries increase to $5.5 million in 2013, $6.25 million in 2014, and $7.25 million in 2015. The deal contains another $2 million total in possible incentives."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along thoughts from (former?) 49ers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., who suggests the 49ers would have gone to the Super Bowl had he been healthy. Ginn is now seeking an expanded role as a wide receiver. Barrows: "The irony is that he had opportunities to be a receiver last season with the 49ers. Injuries to Michael Crabtree (early), Josh Morgan (middle) and Braylon Edward's release (late) meant that Ginn was the de facto No. 2 receiver for much of the season. He played 351 offensive snaps in 2011, 34.2 percent of the total snaps." Noted: I could see another team luring away Ginn by telling him what he wants to hear, but I'm skeptical over whether Ginn would in fact play significantly more on offense.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat advises Alex Smith to re-sign with the 49ers.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says adding Rock Cartwright could help the 49ers' special teams after Blake Costanzo signed with Chicago.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have kept a low profile in free agency largely because they like their roster. O'Neil: "Even the interest Seattle has shown in Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, who visited this week, has been more tepid than some expected. The Seahawks' attention this year, not to mention many millions of dollars, has been spent re-signing players. No one thinks Seattle has arrived. There is a need at quarterback and a desire to improve the pass rush. But the Seahawks aren't just trying to amass talent, they're also trying to preserve it."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune cites a tweet from Michael Robinson as evidence the fullback will re-sign with the Seahawks.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team has gone through 12 potential replacements at left guard since losing Steve Hutchinson in free agency following the 2005 season.

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