NFC West: Rocky Bernard

INDIANAPOLIS -- The 2005 Seattle Seahawks just missed the cut when Jamison Hensley and I ranked our 10 best Super Bowl losers. Not that making such a list would provide consolation.

Rolle
Bernard
Rocky Bernard collected a career-high 8.5 sacks with that Seattle team, only to suffer through a 21-10 defeat to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL. He's back on the Super Bowl stage with the New York Giants and intent upon at least partially atoning for what went wrong six years ago.

"I don't want to feel that pain again," Bernard said. "It's something you can't get over. You work so hard to get to that point and we were so confident going into the game, felt like we could win."

Bernard, like quite a few Seahawks fans, still feels as though officiating errors played a significant role in the outcome. Bernard brought up that aspect of the game without prompting.

"We kind of felt like it was taken away from us," Bernard said.

Referee Bill Leavy later apologized. The NFL stood by the officiating at the time.

Another NFC West Super Bowl alum, ex-Arizona Cardinal Antrel Rolle, can also offset painful Super Bowl memories if the Giants win. Rolle, whose Cardinals lost to the Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII, started all 16 games and picked off two passes for the Giants this season.

"Being here one time before and not coming out on top, it's a feeling you never, ever get rid of," Rolle said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure I'm not on that side of that fence again."

Also: New England Patriots special-teams player Niko Koutouvides was also part of that 2005 Seattle team. He pointed to the camaraderie of the 2005 team as one of the reasons for its success. He said the current Patriots have the same feel to them.
Good afternoon. NFC West blog headquarters will be relocating from the Northwest to Indianapolis for Super Bowl week.

The plane I'm riding in, a Boeing 757, is traveling 565 mph at 35,637 feet, according to tracking software. I'll be connecting through Atlanta, so this will be a full travel day.

Once situated in Indy, I'll be helping with our Super Bowl coverage, with an eye toward this division. Josh McDaniels, David Baas, Bear Pascoe, David Carr, Rocky Bernard, Jimmy Kennedy, Deon Grant, Antrel Rolle, Isaiah Stanback, Deion Branch, Niko Koutouvides, Tracy White and Andre Carter are among the NFC West alumni currently with the Super Bowl participants.

Quite a few current NFC West players will be filtering through Indianapolis for various events during the week. I'll be catching up with some of them.

The week will conclude with Hall of Fame voting, followed by the Super Bowl itself. I don't have a strong feeling as to which team will win the game. Both should like their chances. I did pick New England to win it all before the season -- one of the few predictions that remains on track -- so I'll likely stick with the Patriots when ESPN solicits staffers' predictions later in the week.

Here's hoping this Sunday treats you well.

Update: Yes, I made it to Indy. Grabbed a sandwich tonight with AFC North blogger Jamison Hensley. Will be heading over to ESPN's Super Bowl headquarters downtown on Monday morning.
John E. Hoover of the Tulsa World checks in with the Rams' Sam Bradford after the University of Oklahoma honored its former quarterback with a statue commemorating his status as a Heisman Trophy winner. Bradford: "I never thought I'd be standing here giving a speech in front of a statue of myself. Pretty cool, though." Hoover: "At the end of the festivities, Bradford pulled a golden rope that dropped a crimson veil from his 10-foot statue. His right leg is planted, his right arm is cocked and his hair is short. Bradford teammate Gerald McCoy, who used to kid Bradford about all the attention he got by calling him 'King Sam', said Bradford's statue was the only one of the five in Heisman Park 'with a crown on it. ... I'm just gonna get me a Gerald McCoy bobblehead doll and glue it onto the bottom. ... Nah, man. Sam definitely deserves it.'"

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at free-agent possibilities for the Rams this offseason. Thomas: "At running back, a crater-size hole remains on the depth chart behind Steven Jackson. There are some interesting names on this list, including Joseph Addai of Indianapolis, Ahmad Bradshaw of the New York Giants and DeAngelo Williams of Carolina. But none of those three would be unrestricted if six-year free agency is in place. However, Cedric Benson of Cincinnati, Ronnie Brown of Miami, Darren Sproles of San Diego and Cadillac Williams of Tampa will be unrestricted whether the required experience level for free agency is four years or six." Adding Sproles in particular would liven up the Rams' offense considerably by diversifying the backfield.

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis sizes up potential free-agent guards and projects how they might fit with the Rams. He thinks the Cardinals' Deuce Lutui would fit nicely at right guard. Softli: "Interior blocker that lost mindset in 2010, but has the athletic ability and nasty attitude to compete like a Pro Bowler when focused and is what the Rams need leading the way for Steven Jackson."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams need improvement from second-year players to realize their potential in 2011.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, who says he felt as though the team did not have him in its plans. The sides spoke only generally about a new contract before the lockout. Mebane: "When you go over that stuff, I guess it’s time to pack up and put the house up for sale. I feel like I wasn’t in their plans. And I feel like I have that right to think that because I got a third-round tender. If they really wanted me, they had plenty of time to do what they had to do. Me personally, from my experience, I don’t think I was in their plans. I would love to come back here, but I don’t know what their plans are. But it’s all good. I’m blessed. I thank God that I haven’t had any surgeries. I’ve had some nagging things here and there. But God put me in a good position." General manager John Schneider used the term "steady pro" to describe Mebane at the scouting combine, an indication the team wasn't planning to break the bank for him. But when Seattle did not address the position in the draft, Schneider indicated that re-signing Mebane could become a higher priority. Mebane also says his job got tougher once the team lost Rocky Bernard.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle doesn't see Kyle Orton as a good fit for the Seahawks. Huard: "Darrell Bevell's system that he is going to implement is going to be the quick passing game. It's a system that's built, to some extent, on having a mobile, at least athletic quarterback and that is what Kyle Orton is not. Think Ryan Mallett, not quite as big an arm, more accurate. I just think from a fit standpoint from what they want to do schematically, Kyle Orton is not the guy."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com makes available an audio link to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's conference call with Seattle season-ticket holders.

Also from Farnsworth: He catches up with former Seahawks punter Rick Tuten, who relays a funny story about his first game with the team. Tuten had played with Buffalo previously. Tuten: "When I was in Buffalo [he punted for the Bills in 1990], we got our parking tag and you just parked wherever in the players’ lot. Well, I come out after my first game as a Seahawk -– feeling pretty good about what I’d just done -– and my car was gone because I didn’t park in the right place. It had been towed. So I had to take a taxi to the impound lot to bail my car out. And a rental car, at that."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers a few highlights from Goodell's call with Seattle fans.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick underwent "minor" leg surgery after the draft, when Kaepernick finally had time to address an undisclosed injury that bothered him late last season. Barrows: "Agent Scott Smith said NFL teams were aware of Kaepernick's condition prior to the draft. He said Kaepernick could have waited to have the procedure but, given the current labor impasse, decided to get it taken care of now."

Also from Barrows: thoughts on rookie Chris Culliver's conversion from receiver to safety to cornerback.

Doug Farrar of Yahoo! offers thoughts on what first-round choice Aldon Smith might add to the 49ers.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers do not see running back Kendall Hunter as only a change-of-pace back. General manager Trent Baalke: "This is a guy we feel can run the power game, can run between the tackles, can get out on the edges, can pass protect, can come out of the backfield and catch the football, can return kicks (and) can play on coverage teams, if we ask him to."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers expect the offensive tackles they drafted to play guard and/or center in the NFL.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says former Cardinals linebacker Seth Joyner is establishing a football camp for kids in Arizona. Joyner: "Ultimately, my goal is to create an Arizona combine that really does something with the young football players in Arizona. We want to teach everything from learning how to tackle properly to avoiding concussions, to just the basic fundamentals."

Also from Somers: general thoughts on the Cardinals, including one about Orton. Somers: "I think the Cardinals have some interest in Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton, who might be available via trade. Any team trading for Orton, however, has to examine what happened to him and the Broncos offense in the latter part of the season. If the Cardinals think that Orton was a victim of circumstances (coaching change, coach firing, etc.), they will go after him. I still think their first call is to the Eagles, however."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team has never adequately replaced former tight end Freddie Mitchell. Rookie third-round choice Rob Housler is the latest prospect. Urban: "Housler will get a chance to show what he has, and there is a chance the Cards also look in free agency. Jim Dray should be back, and Stephen Spach could be too; Ben Patrick may be more iffy depending on who else is signed. The Cards will have at least four tight ends in training camp."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' strength-and-conditioning coaches could use some company in the weight room.
Joey Porter's arrest raises an obvious question: What discipline might the Cardinals outside linebacker face from the NFL?

Porter had only been arrested as of Saturday. He had not been charged, let alone convicted.

But a conviction isn't always necessary for the NFL to mete out punishment.

The league suspended then-Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard for the 2008 regular-season opener even though a court never convicted him on a domestic-violence charge. Bernard agreed to undergo domestic-violence training as part of an agreement that can result in charges being dropped after two years.

The NFL did not suspend Seahawks linebackers Lofa Tatupu or Leroy Hill over DUI arrests last offseason.

In 2009, the San Diego Union-Tribune put together a list of 60 arrests involving NFL players. Quite a few never resulted in suspensions.

By the decade: NFC West defensive line

January, 22, 2010
1/22/10
12:20
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Defensive end Leonard Little and defensive tackle Bryant Young stood out to me as the NFC West's best defensive linemen at their positions in the first decade of the 2000s.

The word "character" applies to both, though in different ways.

Little, his off-field legacy damaged by his role in a drunken-driving crash that killed a woman, showed what scouts and coaches call "football character" -- passion, determination, toughness, etc. Young, held up as a model citizen and all-around good guy, also possessed those on-field traits.

Both were extremely productive and, at their best, dominant and inspirational players. Both played hard regardless of how well their teams played.

The interception and diving touchdown return Little provided in the closing minutes against Jacksonville this past season stands out as one example. Young always commanded the highest compliments from opposing offensive linemen. They admired his production and the way he conducted himself. Former Seahawks guard Chris Gray once said he thought Young would have kept going to Pro Bowls if the 49ers had left him at defensive tackle in a 4-3 instead of transitioning him to end in a 3-4.

There were other very good defensive linemen in the NFC West during the decade.

The Cardinals' Darnell Dockett, now playing end in a 3-4, ranked second on my list of defensive tackles. Ranking second to Young, a potential future Hall of Famer, should stand as an honor. A few other defensive linemen -- Chike Okeafor, Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher -- played well for multiple teams within the division.

The charts below draw information from Pro Football Reference (Rams, Cardinals, 49ers, Seahawks).

The Seahawks, seeking to salvage their season at Arizona in Week 10, last won a road game against the Cardinals on Nov. 6, 2005.

Shaun Alexander carried 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns during a 33-19 Seattle victory at Sun Devil Stadium. The Seahawks, headed to Super Bowl XL after that season, picked off Kurt Warner three times and sacked him four times.

A couple things about these teams have changed since that game. I had some fun sifting through those 2005 rosters.



Players no longer with Seattle

Offense (20): Bobby Engram, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Joe Jurevicius, Jerheme Urban, Mack Strong, Shaun Alexander, D.J. Hackett, Maurice Morris, Leonard Weaver, Floyd Womack, Ryan Hannam, Jerramy Stevens, Peter Warrick, David Greene, Wayne Hunter, Darrell Jackson, Itula Mili, Josh Scobey.

Defense (18): Bryce Fisher, Chuck Darby, Marcus Tubbs, Grant Wistrom, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Michael Boulware, Marquand Manual, Jimmy Williams, John Howell, Niko Koutouvides, Kevin Bentley, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Joe Tafoya, Rocky Bernard, Etric Pruitt, Rodney Bailey, Andre Dyson.

Specialists (3): Josh Brown, Tom Rouen, J.P. Darche.

Players still with Seattle

Offense (6): Walter Jones (injured reserve), Sean Locklear, Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace, Chris Spencer, Ray Willis.

Defense (6): Jordan Babineaux, Craig Terrill, D.D. Lewis, Lofa Tatupu (IR), Leroy Hill, Marcus Trufant.




Players no longer with Arizona

Offense (23): Bryant Johnson, Leonard Davis, Nick Leckey, Alex Stepanovich, Oliver Ross, Eric Edwards, Marcel Shipp, Adam Bergen, J.J. Arrington, Josh McCown, John Navarre, Reggie Newhouse, LeRon McCoy, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Elton Brown, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton.

Defense (16): Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, David Macklin, Antonio Cochran, Darryl Blackstock, Orlando Huff, Eric Green, Antonio Smith, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Lance Mitchell, Aaron Francisco.

Specialists (2): Scott Player, Nathan Hodel.

Players still with Arizona

Offense (5): Reggie Wells, Larry Fitzgerald, Kurt Warner, Jeremy Bridges, Anquan Boldin.

Defense (6): Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Bernard Berry, Karlos Dansby, Adrian Wilson, Antrel Rolle.

Specialists (1): Neil Rackers.

Note: Thanks to spaumi10 for noticing that Aaron Francisco and Lance Mitchell were initially listed on offense. There was a little cutting and pasting involved with this entry. Missed those two. Thanks!
Tags:

Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Floyd Womack, Jerheme Urban, Leonard Davis, Itula Mili, Joe Tafoya, Wayne Hunter, Josh Scobey, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Francisco, Mack Strong, Bryant Johnson, Jerramy Stevens, Larry Fitzgerald, Leroy HIll, Chike Okeafor, Darryl Blackstock, J.P. Darche, John Navarre, D.D. Lewis, Joe Jurevicius, Chris Gray, Lofa Tatupu, Ray Willis, Darrell Jackson, John Howell, Robbie Tobeck, Elton Brown, David Macklin, Marcus Trufant, Leonard Weaver, Seneca Wallace, Kevin Bentley, Karlos Dansby, Oliver Ross, Eric Green, Marcus Tubbs, Nick Leckey, Kurt Warner, Antonio Smith, Josh McCown, Jordan Babineaux, Neil Rackers, Sean Locklear, David Greene, J.J. Arrington, Maurice Morris, Bryce Fisher, Scott Player, Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Marcel Shipp, Etric Pruitt, Chuck Darby, Antrel Rolle, Niko Koutouvides, Michael Boulware, Andre Dyson, Isaiah Kacyvenski, Bobby Engram, LeRon McCoy, Grant Wistrom, Shaun Alexander, Craig Terrill, Darnell Dockett, D.J. Hackett, Reggie Wells, Chris Spencer, Alex Stepanovich, Jimmy Williams, Tom Rouen, Lance Mitchell, Nathan Hodel, Josh Brown, Rocky Bernard, Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Jeremy Bridges, Ryan Hannam, Peter Warrick, Jamie Sharper, Kelly Herndon, Marquand Manual, Rodney Bailey, Eric Edwards, Adam Bergen, Reggie Newhouse, Fred Wakefield, James Jackson, Obafemi Ayanbadejo, Harold Morrow, Jarrod Baxter, Adam Haayer, J.J. Moses, Teyo Johnson, Reggie Swinton, Langston Moore, Ross Kolodziej, James Darling, Robert Tate, Robert Griffith, Antonio Cochran, Orlando Huff, Lamont Reid, Quentin Harris, Isaac Keys, Bernard Berry

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Devin from Burlington, Conn., writes: Sando, Matt Hasselbeck at 15????! If you were going to start a franchise tomorrow, you would take Aaron Rodgers over Matt Hasselbeck? I think your GM career would be short lived. Hasselbeck struggled with injuries to his receivers and a crummy offensive line over the last two years. He is top six easy.

Mike Sando: My GM career might be short lived, but not for that reason. Any general manager starting a franchise would select the 25-year-old quarterback coming off a 4,000-yard, 28-touchdown season over the nearly 35-year-old veteran coming off two down seasons in the last three years, plus a back injury.

You mentioned injuries to Hasselbeck's receivers and problems on his offensive line. I think you're overlooking the fact that Hasselbeck has struggled with his own injuries. Let's see how well he bounces back this summer and into the season before assuming that two of the past three seasons were aberrations.

We all know Hasselbeck is a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback and one of the 10 best in the game when he is at his best. It's just been a while since he's been at his best -- long enough, I think, to not blindly assume he'll be at his best this season.


Jeremy from Phoenix writes: Hey Mike. Thanks for posting your ranking of all the QBs in the league. Glad to see Kurt Warner in the top five. My question doesn't necessarily relate to the NFC West. However, it relates to former Cardinals OC Todd Haley, so I will ask and hope for an answer. What do you think about the Chiefs giving Matt Cassel such a big, long-term contract this soon?

Speculation in the media has had the Chiefs waiting to see how well Cassel performs for at least 4-6 games before throwing a big contract at him. What if Cassel was successful last season simply because he was on the Patriots? What if the Chiefs start the season 0-6 or 1-5 and Cassel posts terrible numbers?

I understand the Chiefs are in a rebuilding phase and losses are expected in that process. But do you think it was a mistake to pull the trigger on a big contract so soon? Is there any particular reason or advantage the Chiefs would have for getting Cassel taken care of now? Or does Scott Pioli just have that much faith in him?

Mike Sando: The Chiefs were already paying $14.65 million per year to Cassel. The extension brings down the average and redefines Cassel as an average starter in terms of compensation. If you're willing to trade a second-round draft choice for a player earning $14.65 million per year, you had better think highly of the player.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The first stage in the process of determining compensatory choices for the 2010 draft passed quietly with the June 1 deadline for NFL teams to make qualifying offers to unrestricted free agents. No team extended an offer to a UFA candidate. That means no additional UFA signings this offseason will influence compensatory choices.

The compensatory formula is complex. AdamJT13 has come close to solving it. Basically, the NFL awards additional draft choices to teams that lost free agents more valuable than the free agents teams signed. Values are determined by salaries and on-field contributions.

I had pulled a list of free agents NFC West teams added and lost when I noticed AdamJT13 had already done it on his blog. He notes that it's not yet known whether NFL teams extended qualifying offers to any UFAs. I can provide a small assist here by confirming that no teams extended qualifying offers to any UFAs.

A team-by-team look at the early compensatory picture in the NFC West:
Arizona: The Cardinals added two UFAs from other teams and lost four. They paid $5 million per year to cornerback Bryant McFadden. They lost defensive end Antonio Smith to a deal worth $7.1 million per season. How much those players play and at what level they perform could prove influential. And if former Cardinals cornerback Eric Green enjoys a bounce-back season with the Dolphins, that could improve Arizona's compensatory ledger.

St. Louis: The Rams do not appear to be in strong position in the compensatory race. Center Jason Brown, added from the Ravens at $7.5 million per season, should more than cancel out the Rams' three UFA losses (offensive linemen Brett Romberg, Nick Leckey and Brandon Gorin). The Rams also added Kyle Boller, James Butler and Billy Bajema.

San Francisco: The 49ers also do not appear to be in strong position in the compensatory race. Additions Brandon Jones, Marvel Smith, Demetric Evans and Moran Norris could play quite a bit. The players San Francisco lost -- Bryant Johnson, Ronald Fields, J.T. O'Sullivan, Donald Strickland, Bajema and Sean Ryan -- appear unlikely to cancel out the additions.

Seattle: I would like to hear AdamJT13's analysis on the Seahawks' compensatory situation. The team spent $8 million per season for receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and nearly $4.4 million per season for defensive tackle Colin Cole. The team lost defensive tackle Rocky Bernard ($4 million), running back Maurice Morris ($2.1 million), fullback Leonard Weaver (nearly $1.8 million), receiver Bobby Engram ($1.25 million) and offensive lineman Floyd Womack ($1 million) among its seven departures.

AdamJT13 was good about helping out when I asked for his input earlier this year. Here's hoping we hear from him again.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have hired three scouts with ties to general manager Billy Devaney. The team dismissed three other scouts. The Rams have also replaced their security director. These things tend to happen when organizations replace their leadership. Coats: "The new hires are Drew Casani, Joel Patton and Jonathan Gannon. Also, Brad Holmes was promoted from combine scout to area scout; Gannon is now the combine scout."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com checks in with the Rams' young receivers. Wagoner: "As it stands, it appears second-year men Donnie Avery and Keenan Burton are all but sure things to sit atop the depth chart when the smoke has cleared. Laurent Robinson, acquired from Atlanta via trade before the draft, is also right in the mix."

VanRam of Turf Show Times takes a statistical look at Rams quarterback Marc Bulger. One thing stood out to me: Bulger's yards per attempt have fallen almost every year. That probably says as much about his supporting cast as it says about Bulger, and possibly more.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation provides NFC West rankings for wide receivers. The 49ers fall third on the list behind the Cardinals and Seahawks. That position seems pretty clearly defined within the division. The 49ers and Seahawks should be much better at receiver in 2009. Fucillo: "I've held back discussing [Michael] Crabtree because I actually expect his draft season foot problems to slow him down out of the gates. While I certainly expect contributions from Crabtree, I'd prefer to operate under a conservative assumption and be pleasantly surprised by whatever he does contribute. Furthermore, I think the 49ers have sufficient depth to cover any growing pains for Crabtree."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers praise for Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson while suggesting the team is moving closer toward extending Wilson's contract. Rewarding Wilson with an extension would send the right message to his teammates. Show up, play well, work hard, be a team player and get paid. It doesn't always work that way, of course, but it should in this case. And I think it will. Might it work for Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett? We won't know unless they give it a try. Their current approach hasn't worked to this point.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune rounds up Seahawks-related links while wondering how anyone could rank Rocky Bernard over Brandon Mebane among NFL defensive tackles. Bernard was certainly better a few years ago, but Mebane was in the Pac-10 at that time. Perhaps a change of scenery will help jump-start Bernard. I wondered last season whether Bernard missed having a veteran player such as Chuck Darby pushing him. Mebane was better than Bernard last season, although that might have said as much about Mebane as it did about Bernard. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Dude in Brooklyn writes: Sando, Sando, Sando. The Dude cannot abide. You cannot write "let's consult the games" and consult only one game before determining that offense wins championships. You're disappointing the Dude ...

The only Super Bowl teams this decade without a top-10 defense were the 2005 Seahawks (a slightly below average D), the 2007 Colts (the sole winner) and the 2008 Cards (considered a fluke by most and a miracle by all).

Since the merger in 1970, only three teams have won a Super Bowl with a below average defense: the '76 Raiders (18th of 28), '87 Redskins (18th of 28), and the 2007 Colts (21st of 32). The only defenses to play in the Super Bowl after finishing in the bottom 30th percentile in the NFL were the losing '91 Bills (27th of 28), losing '93 Bills (27th of 28), and losing 2008 Cards (28th of 32).

The Super Bowl teams without a top-10 offense include the 2000 Giants & Ravens (Champs), 2001 Patriots (Champs), 2002 Bucs (Champs), 2003 Panthers & Patriots (Champs), 2005 Steelers (Champs), 2006 Bears, 2007 Giants (Champs) and the 2008 Steelers (Champs). That's 10 of the last 18 Super Bowl teams and seven of the last nine winners. Those Super Bowls featured borderline quarterbacks such as Rex Grossman, Jake Delhomme, Brad Johnson (Champ), Trent Dilfer (Champ) and Kerry Collins.

Offense wins championships?! If you believe that, I've got some Chrysler stock and a PT Cruiser to sell you.

Mike Sando: I have proof that we do not necessarily disagree here. Scoring defense might be the most important statistic. I've made the case on this site, with the following notation:

Proclaiming that defense wins championships doesn't diminish the importance of other aspects of the game. Offensive categories have become more strongly correlated with victories over the past two seasons, particularly with Tom Brady and the Patriots' posting a 16-0 record this year [story was written in January 2008].

I think the importance of strong quarterback play grows in the postseason. The Jets didn't trade up to No. 6 to take a quarterback because they hoped he would become the next Rex Grossman.


John from St. Louis writes: Hey Mike. I saw your story about the rookies and who will stay. My question to you is what rookies do you think will have the biggest impact on there teams in the NFC west? I know its early but could you go out on a limb and try to pick rookie of the year awards? Thanks a lot sando keep up the good work!

Mike Sando: You're welcome. Chris Wells will probably get the most touches of the NFC West rookies. For that reason, and because he'll be joining a high-powered offense, I think Wells has the best chance to make the biggest impact among NFC West rookies.

Michael Crabtree would qualify as a close second. He could become the favorite depending on how the 49ers structure their offense. Aaron Curry and Jason Smith will have a harder time competing for such awards because of the nature of their positions, unles the Seahawks find ways for Curry to collect multiple sacks and interceptions.

I'm just not sure the 49ers' offense or the Seahawks' defense will perform as well as the Cardinals' offense. That could also help Wells.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

A quick look at 53-man rosters from Feb. 1, date of Super Bowl XLIII, provides a reference point for seeing how NFC West teams have changed so far this offseason.

I'll conclude with Seattle.

Gone from the Seahawks' 53-man roster and injured reserve list in the 58 days since the Super Bowl (12):

Offense

Charlie Frye, QB
Koren Robinson, WR
Maurice Morris, RB
Leonard Weaver, FB
Steve McKinney, C
Floyd Womack, OL
Bobby Engram, WR
Will Heller, TE

Defense

Howard Green, DT
Julian Peterson, LB
Rocky Bernard, DT

Special teams

Jeff Robinson, LS

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Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Brian from Maryland writes: Hey Mike, been reading since you started the blog, first time posting though. I wanted to cover the long-looming question about the Niners' first round pick. Everyone keeps stressing the "obvious needs" like SAM, OT, WR, QB ... the list goes on. We have heard names ranging from Orakpo, Maybin, Brown, A. Smith, Oher, Sanchez, Maclin ... the list seems to go on and on.

What I think people fail to realize is that the Niners will fill multiple positions in the draft, so it is important to find where the largest drop-off occurs per position.

  • QB -- While there is absolutely no reason for the Niners to draft a signal-caller after cutting Alex Smith's contract [see end of 2006, start of 2007 when he was last fully healthy], we must explore it due to everyone else's concerns. I think we are fine with Hill and Smith for now, as Smith will get his shot and get to learn, making him more comfortable with the system. Hill enters as the starter, and Smith will get a shot. Per Matt Maiocco, if Smith never gets a shot, then Hill was the right call. If not, he will be ready and the fans will love him since they will want a change at the position. Can anyone honestly tell me that we would be talking about Matt Cassel like we do if he did not sit for years behind Brady? I think they sit with what they have at QB ... plus the drop-off in QB's cannot be fully determined with the inconsistencies of drafting the position.
  • OT -- A very deep position in this draft, where the drop-off is almost negligible from rounds one and two. Unless looking for a book-end left tackle, any team can find a quality starting tackle [specifically a strong right tackle] in the second round. This is where the Niners need to be focused. Although it is not popular that the Niners have not signed an OT, Phil Loadholt seems to be a perfect fit for the supposed "run-heavy" Niners, and will be around for pick 43. Enough said, Singletary and McCloughan should be writing this draft card today.
  • WR -- While it remains a position of need for the Niners, Josh Morgan and Jason Hill are emerging, and Brandon Jones makes me comfortable enough for now. If the Niners were to add a player, it should be a big-body or someone proven (the anti-thesis of Maclin, Harvin, Heyward-Bey, etc.). I don't trust Nicks' separation ability for the next level, so if Crabtree were to fall, I think it's a no-brainer, but I don't see that happening. I think we can forget WR for the Niners in round 1. Once again, with QB also, it is an unpredictable position to draft, (Morgan a 6th, Hill a 3rd, Bryant Johnson a 1st).
  • SAM -- The Niners need an imposing force on defense, someone who strikes fear in opposing QBs. While Willis is amazing, he is not a rush 'backer who can get into the QB's head. Orakpo would be the perfect fit, but it is looking like he will not be available for the Niners at 10. For this reason, I think the Niners bite the bullet a bit and go with Everette Brown, who will need to add weight. Maybin showed he needs to play at 235, not 255, 265 like necessary for a SAM. So Orakpo or Brown look like the candidates. I think decent options can be found later, but the Niners need their version of Merriman/Suggs who not only gets sacks, but alters gameplans. Orakpo is this player, and hopefully Brown will be. If the Niners do not go with a rush OLB in the first round, I have to think it will only be because someone unexpected falls to them in the first round, [see Crabtree, Raji, Monroe].

So, the Niners go Orakpo/Brown in 1st and Loadholt in 2nd. Sounds like a quality draft to me ... fairly easy on the cap too.

Mike Sando: Great stuff, Brian. You have done the heavy lifting here. Not much more for me to say, other than to keep it coming. I agree that the 10th overall choice is too high for targeting a right tackle. The team should probably focus on a linebacker with pass-rush ability in that spot. And if someone falls to them unexpectedly, reconsider.

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Seattle Seahawks 2009 UFA Watch
Pos. Status
Ray Willis
OL
Re-signed
D.D. Lewis
LB
Re-signed
T.J. Houshmandzadeh
WR
Added
Colin Cole
DT
Added
John Owens
TE
Added
Koren Robinson
WR
UFA
Leonard Weaver
FB
UFA
Steve McKinney
OL
UFA
Chris Gray
OL
UFA
Jeff Robinson
LS
UFA
Charlie Frye
QB
UFA
Wesly Mallard
LB
UFA
Bobby Engram
WR
Chiefs
Will Heller
TE
Lions
Floyd Womack
OL
Browns
Howard Green
DT
Jets
Rocky Bernard
DT
Giants
Maurice Morris
RB
Lions
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Six unrestricted free agents have left the Seahawks to sign elsewhere. No team has watched more of its UFAs sign elsewhere this offseason.

All six former Seahawks qualify as either starters, part-time starters or experienced backups.

Three of the six were Mike Holmgren draft choices (Maurice Morris, Rocky Bernard, Floyd Womack). A fourth, Bobby Engram, might have had stronger ties to Holmgren than any of them.

Consider it a natural progression as a mostly new coaching staff changes schemes and adjusts personnel on both sides of the ball.

The Seahawks did re-sign Ray Willis and D.D. Lewis. It's unclear whether they will re-sign fullback Leonard Weaver.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Seattle Seahawks 2009 UFA List
Pos. Status
Jeff Robinson LS UFA
Chris Gray
OL UFA
Bobby Engram
WR UFA
Steve McKinney
OL UFA
Wesly Mallard
LB UFA
Floyd Womack
OL Browns
D.D. Lewis
LB UFA
Howard Green
DL Jets
Rocky Bernard
DL
Giants
Maurice Morris
RB Lions
Koren Robinson
WR UFA
Will Heller
TE UFA
Charlie Frye
QB UFA
Ray Willis
OL Seahawks
Leonard Weaver
FB UFA

Floyd Womack's departure to the Browns following eight seasons with the Seahawks marks the fourth time an unrestricted free agent has left Seattle this offseason.

Running back Maurice Morris and defensive tackles Howard Green and Rocky Bernard also departed.

The Seahawks did not push to retain them. The team made retaining linebacker Leroy Hill its top priority, using the franchise tag to keep him off the market. Re-signing tackle Ray Willis was a secondary priority.

Receiver Bobby Engram a
nd fullback Leonard Weaver stand as the highest-profile Seattle players yet to re-sign, but the Seahawks appear unlikely to invest much in retaining any of their remaining unrestricted free agents.

Seahawks UFA re-signed: Willis.

Seahawks UFA lost: Womack, Green, Bernard and Morris.

Seahawks UFA added: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR, Bengals; Colin Cole, DT, Packers; John Owens, TE, Lions.

Restricted free agents: None.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Tracking free-agent visits can become a part-time job during the initial rush of free agency. Now that things have settled, I've put together an unofficial list showing where NFC West free agents have visited and which players the division's teams have visited with.

These visits fall into four basic categories:

(Read full post)

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