NFC West: Roy Williams
Todd McShay set off alarms as he considered if NFL teams drafting sixth (St. Louis Rams) and 10th (Buffalo Bills) might consider selecting wide receivers with those choices.
The alarms grew louder as McShay, speaking in the video above, noted that Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon, widely rated as the top receiver in the 2012 NFL draft, did not possess prototypical size.
Blackmon, though obviously talented, doesn't fit the physical mold for receivers drafted among the top three overall choices over the past 25-plus years. We discussed the reasons back at the combine, when the Rams held the second overall choice and Blackmon was a consideration for them.
The Rams subsequently traded the second overall choice to Washington. They now hold the sixth overall choice. Blackmon would be a more logical value there than at No. 2, except for those alarms going off.
Consider recent draft history.
First, take a look at receivers drafted among the top five overall choices since 2000, listed in the first chart below.
Three of the seven are superstars: Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Andre Johnson. Another, A.J. Green, is coming off an impressive rookie season. Braylon Edwards has enjoyed sporadic success. The other two, Charles Rogers and Peter Warrick, fell far short of expectations.
Those seven players have combined for 12 Pro Bowl appearances (Fitzgerald 5, Johnson 5, Johnson 1, Edwards 1).
The next set of receivers, listed below, were drafted sixth to 15th overall. I selected that range because three NFC West teams -- the Rams, Seattle Seahawks (12th) and Arizona Cardinals (13th) -- hold picks in that area.
The 16 players listed in the second chart have combined for two Pro Bowls, one by Roy Williams and the other by Koren Robinson as a return specialist in Minnesota, long after Robinson had bombed as a receiver.
Receivers talented enough to command selection among the top few overall choices have fared better than the ones with enough question marks to push them down into the next tier.
That is something to consider when weighing how the Rams, Seahawks and Cardinals should use their first-round selections, even if the Rams did land Torry Holt with the sixth overall choice in 1999.
The St. Louis Rams aren't going to find the playmaking help they covet on a list featuring Plaxico Burress, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Patrick Crayton, Rashied Davis, Deion Branch, Jerheme Urban, Bryant Johnson, Roy Williams, Greg Camarillo, Jerricho Cotchery, Mark Clayton, Roscoe Parrish, Michael Clayton, Courtney Roby, Michael Spurlock, David Anderson, Legedu Naanee, Devin Aromashodu, Donnie Avery, Maurice Stovall, Andre Caldwell, Ted Ginn Jr., Steve Smith (Philly version), Jerome Simpson and Devin Thomas.
Roger Hensley of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asked colleagues how the Rams will address the issue. Jim Thomas: "There’s not much left at the position in free agency. The wide receiver shelves were cleaned out quickly, so barring a trade of some kind -- which seems unlikely -- the Rams are almost limited to getting help via the draft. And at No. 6 overall, there’s no guarantee that Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State will be available. So yes, the team is in a bit of a predicament at wide receiver."
Also from Thomas, regarding Mike Wallace: "He has a first-round tender. And you can only use your original first-round pick as compensation. The Rams no longer have their original first-round pick after trading down with Washington. So they can't acquire Wallace through the regular process of restricted free agency. Now, the Rams could always offer less in a sign-and-trade situation. But why would the Steelers want less than a first-rounder? They put the tender on him in an attempt to keep him." Noted: The Rams could, in theory, offer the sixth overall pick, but that would be a steep price to pay.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams should steer clear of Tim Tebow.
Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams' search for a backup quarterback continues in the absence of attractive options.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com quotes 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh regarding Harbaugh's relationship with Alex Smith: "It's been good -- strong relationship, as always. It's a very strong relationship."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee has this to say about the situation with Smith: "It's unclear if Smith agrees with Harbaugh that they are as tight as they've ever been. The team's offer did not exactly mesh with Harbaugh's statements of devotion during and after the season. While it's all but certain Smith will be the 49ers' quarterback this season, it also leaves an opening for backup Colin Kaepernick to take over before the three years are complete. Kaepernick has been a regular at the 49ers' training facility this offseason."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers have ruled out Tebow, according to CEO Jed York.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Early Doucet's re-signing means the Cardinals will return their top receivers from last season. Urban: "Doucet set career-highs in 2011 with 54 receptions, 689 yards and five touchdowns in his fourth NFL season, playing in 16 games for the first time. He came up with a pair of long touchdown catches against Carolina (70 yards) and San Francisco (60 yards) and scored on a game-winning screen pass in Philadelphia."
Also from Urban: The Cardinals have little salary-cap room, and there are tradeoffs associated with gaining flexibility.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle quotes Seahawks coach Pete Carroll as saying Peyton Manning reached out to the Seahawks while figuring out which team to join. Carroll: "He had contacted me about wanting to talk about coming here. By the time we got down to where we had our chance he had already set his sights on going in the direction wound up going, with Denver."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at the market for free-agent linebacker David Hawthorne. O'Neil: "Hawthorne has led Seattle in tackles each of the past three years, but right now, the market for free-agent linebackers looks to be a little softer than some expected." Noted: Looks like we're approaching that period where players reset their expectations before taking deals for less than they had hoped.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com puts together an overview of free agency from the Seahawks' perspective.
"Shades" from Chico, Calif., used the recently concluded NFC West chat to question why NFL teams seem to over-value draft choices, and specifically whether the San Francisco 49ers would be foolish to consider trading the seventh overall choice for Kolb:
These are unproven, college players. Kevin Kolb has been an NFL starting QB, has had success, and has a nice upside. If he were a collegiate player, he would surely go high -- perhaps even with the No. 7 pick if he were as he is today. Can somebody, anybody, please, please give me a triple Oy Vey? I'd be all teeth to see the 49ers land Kolb and it doesn't seem like a No. 7 pick is too much of a reach, given the state of the QB situation. Of course, I'd rather trade a large turkey leg, a Prince Purple Rain CD, a sack of frozen burritos, a case of frozen Otter Pops, a BBQ-slathered porksteak, and a gigantic bowl of corn for Kolb. Smile.
This is a question I'd like to throw open for discussion, then revisit Friday.
First, I'll provide a chart showing the last 20 players drafted seventh overall, with how many seasons they played and how many Pro Bowl seasons they have earned, courtesy of Pro Football Reference.
Rodgers-Cromartie capitalized when Cowboys receiver Miles Austin slipped. Toler made his interception after receiver Roy Williams failed to handle a pass from Jon Kitna.
The Cardinals lead 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
Good thing I started the Cowboys' defense in the ESPN.com Blog Network Gridiron Challenge.
The team's general manager at the time, Tim Ruskell, repeatedly assured Branch that the organization had no such plans. Ruskell wasn't lying. The Seahawks held onto Branch, but if they had cut ties with the veteran receiver in 2009 following three years of declining production, not even Branch could have expressed shock.
When the post-Ruskell Seahawks finally unloaded Branch this week, the biggest surprise came in the price New England paid in reacquiring the 31-year-old receiver. Branch will return the higher of the Patriots' 2011 fourth-round choices: the one acquired from Denver or the one originally belonging to New England. Wasn't that a little steep?
Randy Moss had commanded a third-round choice when New England traded him to Minnesota last week, an indication Seattle might be lucky to get a fifth-rounder for Branch. As Branch himself told reporters Tuesday, "I’m not Randy Moss. I wasn’t Randy Moss when I was here. And I’m not here to replace him."
The lesson, as always, is that any commodity is worth whatever someone can get for it at a given time. There is no sliding scale or reference chart based on a wide receiver's past production or anything else. Branch's value to the Patriots increased once New England determined keeping Moss was no longer tenable.
For perspective, and with an assist from Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information, I've classified 17 receiver trades since 2007 by compensation levels:
1. Roy E. Williams to Dallas (2008)
Price paid: Dallas sent 2009 first-, third- and sixth-round choices to Detroit for Williams and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: This one sets the standard for overspending. Williams is on pace for his first 1,000-yard season in Dallas, but this deal marked the last time (for now) an NFL team traded a first-round choice for a wide receiver.
2. Randy Moss to Oakland (2005)
Price paid: Oakland sent 2005 first- and seventh-round picks, plus linebacker Napoleon Harris, to Minnesota.
Comment: The Raiders never had the supporting cast to maximize this investment. Moss didn't hold up his end, of course, but the Patriots later proved Moss could function at a high level in the right environment.
3. Deion Branch to Seattle (2006)
Price paid: Seattle sent its 2007 first-round choice to New England.
Comment: Ruskell hoped Branch would add character and leadership to a position group he viewed as lacking in those areas. Branch did not have the talent to justify the price, however, and injury problems diminished what returns Seattle got from its over-investment.
Price paid: Miami sent 2010 and 2011 second-round choices to Denver.
Comment: Marshall is on pace for another 100-catch season, although he has only one touchdown reception in his first four games with Miami. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels comes from the New England tree. Both organizations like to load up on second-round draft choices.
5. Wes Welker to New England (2007)
Price paid: The Patriots sent 2007 second- and seventh-round choices to Miami.
Comment: Welker is on pace for his fourth consecutive 100-catch season since joining the Patriots. He had caught 96 passes over two seasons with Miami previously. The quarterback situation in New England allowed the Patriots to maximize this trade.
6. Chris Chambers to San Diego (2007)
Price paid: San Diego sent a 2008 second-round choice to Miami.
Comment: This deal never worked out the way San Diego planned. Chambers made some solid contributions early, but an ankle injury altered the course of his career with the Chargers. Malcolm Floyd emerged as a big-play threat, and San Diego cut Chambers during the 2009 season.
7. Braylon Edwards to the New York Jets (2009)
Price paid: The Jets sent 2010 third- and fifth-round choices, plus Jason Trusnik and Chansi Stuckey, to Cleveland.
Comment: Edwards probably had run his course in Cleveland. The Browns were starting over. Edwards has 52 receptions, seven for touchdowns, in 17 games with the Jets. Check back later on this one.
8. Anquan Boldin to Baltimore (2010)
Price paid: Baltimore sent its 2010 third- and fourth-round choices to Arizona for Boldin and a fifth-round pick.
Comment: So far, so good for the Ravens. Boldin has 28 catches for 363 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games with Baltimore. Long-term durability concerns played into Arizona's decision to make the trade. Can Boldin hold up?
9. Randy Moss to Minnesota (2010)
Price paid: Minnesota sent a 2011 third-round choice to New England.
Comment: Moss had become unhappy and the Patriots decided to get value for him while they could, possibly at the expense of their 2010 on-field production. The Patriots spent only a fourth-round choice for Moss, used his immense talent for three-plus seasons, then got a third-rounder out of him. Not bad. But at what short-term cost?
10. Randy Moss to New England (2007)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to the Raiders.
Comment: Moss' relationship with the Raiders had deteriorated to the point that Oakland needed to unload him despite the high price it paid for Moss in 2005. Getting a fourth-round choice wasn't bad under the circumstances, although the price was a bargain from the Patriots' perspective.
11. Darrell Jackson to San Francisco (2007)
Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2007 fourth-round choice to Seattle.
Comment: Viewed as a risky move within the division at the time, Seattle came out OK. Jackson didn't fit the 49ers' offense and his deteriorating knee was another hindrance.
Price paid: The 49ers sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Miami.
Comment: Ginn enjoyed a strong training camp before suffering a sprained knee in the regular-season opener. He has made a positive impact in the return game since coming back from the injury. San Francisco needs Ginn to emerge as a deep threat, too.
13. Deion Branch to New England (2010)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a fourth-round choice to Seattle.
Comment: The Seahawks got more in return for Branch than expected, but the Patriots can still come out OK. They've got Tom Brady, after all.
14. Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets (2010)
Price paid: The Jets sent a 2010 fifth-round choice to Pittsburgh.
Comment: Holmes served a four-game suspension to open the season. He caught three passes for 41 yards in his Jets debut Monday night. The Steelers had enough off-field concerns while dealing with the Ben Roethlisberger situation. Parting with Holmes made more sense in that context.
15. Greg Lewis to New England (2009)
Price paid: The Patriots sent a 2009 fifth-round choice to Philadelphia for Lewis and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: Oops. The Patriots cut Lewis before he played a regular-season game for them.
16. Mark Clayton to St. Louis (2010)
Price paid: The Rams sent a 2011 sixth-round choice to the Ravens for Clayton and a seventh-rounder.
Comment: This deal was working out very well for the Rams until Clayton suffered a season-ending knee injury against Detroit in Week 5. Clayton appeared to be a natural fit for the Rams' offense and he worked well with No. 1 overall choice Sam Bradford.
17. Troy Williamson to Jacksonville (2008)
Price paid: The Jaguars sent a 2008 sixth-round choice to Minnesota.
Comment: Williamson caught eight passes over two seasons for the Jaguars.
Also from Urban: Cardinals receiver Ed Gant, facing a four-game suspension, knows he'll have a tough time earning a roster spot.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 says the Cardinals' options at inside linebacker are limited. The list of free-agent linebackers includes Jeremiah Trotter, Adalius Thomas, Angelo Crowell and Junior Seau.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with agents for some of the Cardinals' unsigned draft choices. Sounds like the agents expect to get deals done relatively soon.
Clark Judge of CBSSports.com ranks the Arizona Cardinals' training camp venue as best in the league, with the Seattle Seahawks' venue third. Judge has this to say about the quarterback situation in Seattle: "Pete Carroll proclaimed Matt Hasselbeck as his starter, which is great. Except he also said he loves competition at positions, which is not so great for Hasselbeck and his future in Seattle. Carroll didn't trade for Hasselbeck; he traded for Charlie Whitehurst and paid a steep price to acquire him. So he has a conviction about him, which means he sees him as a future starter. The question, then, is: When does that future begin?" That depends upon Hasselbeck's performance.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects NFL owners to vote Aug. 25 on Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase the Rams. Thomas: "Barring the unexpected, club owners will vote on Kroenke's bid at the Atlanta meeting. There are details still to be worked out, but all signs point to league approval of Kroenke, the Missouri businessman who already owns 40 percent of the team." Kroenke's bid has appeared strong from the beginning. His familiarity with NFL owners and procedures gave him a tremendous advantage over other potential bidders.
Ron Clements of the Alton Telegraph says the Rams set high goals despite low expectations from the outside. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "We’ve talked a lot about winning the NFC West and beating our NFC West opponents. You’ve got to do that first before you can get anywhere in this league. You’ve got to beat your divisional opponents." The Rams have won one division game over the past three seasons.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com breaks down the 49ers' roster and declares Nate Clements a clear choice to start at cornerback after an impressive showing at mandatory minicamp practices. Maiocco: "Clements might have a big contract, but when he took the field for the mandatory minicamp, the first-team defense looked a lot better. There's no question he's a starter." Clements has much to prove this season. That's good for the 49ers.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects the 49ers to stick with Moran Norris as their starting fullback despite issues in the running game last season, with Brit Miller as the likely backup. Barrows: "Michael Robinson and Jehuu Caulcrick also are listed at the position. Robinson is a far better pass catcher (and runner after the catch) than he is a lead blocker, and his role on offense is on third downs. Caulcrick, meanwhile, has the size of a fullback but has yet to acquire the mentality. He was a gifted runner at Michigan State, but the 49ers are trying to train him to seek out tacklers rather than avoid them."
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat singles out 49ers players facing pressure as training camp nears. Barber on Manny Lawson: "He didn't express any bitterness when he arrived for the mandatory minicamp in June, but it's no secret that Lawson is unhappy with his contract, a deal that calls for a salary of $625,000 in its final season. The linebacker would love to prove that he is worth much more than that; his campaign begins next week."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat likes the 49ers' chances in the NFC West. Cohn: "They are loaded. The NFC West is weak and there for the taking. For heaven’s sake, Matt Leinart is the starting quarterback in Arizona. So, what’s the problem? For all their progress, the 49ers have unknowns at the two most important positions. Quarterback Alex Smith still is an unknown. He began last season on the bench behind Shaun Hill. He has improved, but no one is sure of him. He could be terrific or he could be average or he could be bad. All that is to be determined. Yet the 49ers have hitched their fate to his star, such as it is, and he must prove himself or they all will go down in flames."
Ben Malcolmson of seahawks.com says the Seahawks' minority coaching interns this year will be former NFL safety Lance Schulters, former defensive tackle Joe Salave'a, former running back James Jones and former receiver Reginald Moore.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Tod Leiweke's voice cracked several times while the Seahawks' CEO explained his decision to become CEO and minority owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Leiweke: "I’ve given this place everything that we had and we’ve built something special here. Walking away from that, those are the things that keep you awake at night. So there’s no way to resolve those asterisks other than to say that this is a dream come true and this place is in good shape."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks and owner Paul Allen will miss Leiweke. Brewer: "Allen can replace Leiweke's talent, as difficult as that will be. But he will have a hard time finding an executive to commit to the cause with as much humility, sincerity and flat-out toughness as Leiweke did."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times calls Leiweke the public face for the very private Allen. O'Neil: "Leiweke not only grew the Seahawks into the Cadillac of the city's sports scene, he then repaired the relationship between Allen's Trail Blazers and the city of Portland and ushered the Seattle Sounders FC into Major League Soccer."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks should have an easier time setting Golden Tate's value after other second-round choices reached agreements.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune praises Leiweke for always putting the fan first. Leiweke: "One of the first things I did was I bought season tickets and I lived life as a fan. It wasn’t so easy, even in that beautiful stadium. There were things that, as a fan, I didn’t like. I bought seats up the Hawks’ Nest, and I sat in the stands, and I made it a point not to sit in a suite."
Michael Lombardi of NFL.com ranks players by position across the league, creating values for every roster in the league. The Seahawks' roster came in 32nd with five points. Lombardi: "Only having five points looks bad for Seattle, but there is a silver lining. They have many players coming back from injuries and their point total could increase into the 50s, quickly assuming they can stay healthy. The rebuilding has started in Seattle."
- Seahawks coach Pete Carroll appreciated Williams' talents when both were in the Pac-10.
- Williams has some local appeal in Seattle after dominating at the University of Washington.
- Seattle has nothing to lose by giving Williams a shot.
- Williams has much to prove.
- The Seahawks' new regime probably will not rule out players with troubled pasts to the degree previous general manager Tim Ruskell once did.
- Seattle needs help at receiver, pending the addition of Brandon Marshall or another proven talent at the position.
Some background info from Clayton: "The former Lakes High School and former University of Washington star was the ninth player selected in the 2004 draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He caught 189 passes during his Jaguars career. Williams had some off-the-field problems in Jacksonville that included an arrest for marijuana possession, a DWI and another possession charge. Williams didn’t play football in 2009 but he’s ready to return to the field. At the age of 26, Williams welcomed the chance to return to his home turf. To participate in the minicamp, Williams had to sign an injury waiver with the team. If the three-day workout does well, he could be offered a contract."
The Seahawks aren't exactly set for life at safety, either.
What to do?
I've gone through the list of available safeties -- NFC West fan favorites Brian Russell and Mark Roman are out there -- and come up with a few fallback options, listed with their 2009 teams:
- Ryan Clark, Steelers. The 30-year-old longtime starter couldn't work out a long-term deal with Pittsburgh. The Cardinals are running their defense in the Pittsburgh mold. Clark could fit.
- Brodney Pool, Browns. Teams generally do not sever ties with productive 25-year-old starters, but the Browns decided against tendering Pool as a restricted free agent after he suffered a series of head injuries last season. Pool picked off four passes in 11 games last season, making 10 starts before his season was ended.
- Darren Sharper, Saints. The 34-year-old Pro Bowl choice would upgrade every secondary in the NFC West, but at what price? Sharper is probably most valuable to the Saints.
- Jermaine Phillips, Bucs. Injuries have severely limited Phillips' contributions recently. It's probably not a great sign that Tampa thought about moving him to linebacker. Still, Phillips is 30 years old, hardly ancient by safety standards, and he has 74 starts.
Other safeties who are unrestricted free agents: Ware, Russell, Roman, Nick Ferguson, Sean Jones, Will Allen, Todd Johnson, Clinton Hart, Roy Williams, Vernon Fox, Marquand Manuel, Mike Brown, Tyrone Carter and Lawyer Milloy.
Other safeties who are free agents (but technically not UFAs): John Busing, Hamza Abdullah, Aaron Francisco, Kennard Cox, Eric Bassey, Jamaal Fudge and Quinton Teal.
Also: ESPN's John Clayton notes that Jets safety Kerry Rhodes could be an option for Arizona via trade.
Four are in their 40s, 15 others are at least 35, 21 more are at least 30 and the other three -- specialist Kassim Osgood, safety Roy Williams and running back Willie Parker -- are 29.
Some of them broke into the league under head coaches Dan Henning, Tom Flores, Bruce Coslet, George Seifert, Lindy Infante, Dom Capers, Pete Carroll (the first time), Ray Rhodes (in Philadelphia), Mike Holmgren (in Green Bay) and Dick Vermeil.
The restricted market could be more interesting, but even then, it's tough to justify parting with first- or second-round choices for players seeking lucrative long-term contracts.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune questions the Seahawks' effort and intensity during their 38-17 defeat at Dallas. Boling: "I would debate (Jim) Mora’s contention that the Seahawks are really out there competing. They may be playing hard. They may be giving good effort, as he suggests. But that’s not all there is to competing. Very few players are stepping up to make plays. Very few are distinguishing themselves even in a loss. When they get behind, they tend to fall further behind. And that’s a real indictment. Some bad teams claw and fight and are just undermanned. The Seahawks are undermanned and seem almost resigned to it." I've gotten the same feeling in recent weeks.
Also from Boling: Seahawks receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh says some players must not have much confidence. Houshmandzadeh: "It’s a confidence thing for some guys. I don’t know who those guys are. Only they know who they are. Hopefully it doesn’t happen, but I’m sure that’s the case. But for the most part, when guys get to this level, the majority of guys don’t have that in them. But there has to be a reason for us to lose the games we’re losing by the margin we’re losing by. It’s unbelievable."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks are hurting themselves on offense. Williams: "Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said the mistakes are even more frustrating because they are correctable miscues that the team should not be making this late in the season."
Also from Williams: The Cowboys went after Marcus Trufant in the cornerback's first game back from injury.
More from Williams: Mora's frustrations are showing more and more.
Jim Moore of seattlepi.com says the Seahawks are finished this season. He also predicts regime change in the front office once the season is finished. Moore: "Can we finally admit it? Can we put the injuries aside and call it what it is? Healthy or unhealthy, the Seahawks just aren't very good. Stop it with the excuses -- my guess is that even if Walter Jones, Mike Wahle and Marcus Trufant had answered the opening bell and if Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill were 100 percent, this team would still be average at best."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks were not competitive Sunday even though no one from the Cowboys enjoyed a particularly strong game, and left tackle Damion McIntosh held up better than expected.
Also from O'Neil: Trufant struggled in his first game back from injury. Three flags for pass interference hurt Seattle.
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says everyone but the Seahawks could see this blowout coming. Brewer: "And here's the most sobering part about this loss: Reflect on it, and considering what you've seen over the past two seasons, this one wasn't that bad. Over the past 23 games (6-17 record), you've seen worse. The Seahawks lost a game by three touchdowns -- an indicator of a miserable effort -- and you're left clinging to what might have been if cornerback Marcus Trufant hadn't been whistled for three pass-interference penalties, or if Justin Forsett hadn't fumbled to set up Dallas' second touchdown, or if the replay officials had overturned Cowboys receiver Roy Williams' iffy touchdown catch."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com says the Rams brought in veteran running back Ahman Green for a tryout this week. The team has gone young for the most part this offseason, but the signing of veteran defensive tackle Hollis Thomas showed a willingness to bolster depth with established, if declining players.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams fullback Mike Karney, who hopes to upgrade the position for St. Louis this season. Karney: "When you're running the ball -- and that's the first and foremost thing we're trying to establish here with our offense -- you can't have the fullback going one way and the running back going the other way, unless the play's designed that way. When I'm leading to the hole, I want (Steven Jackson) to know what I'm seeing. And I want to know what he's seeing. Because if a defense is playing a certain front, a guy's playing a certain way, or a certain technique, and I tell him: 'Look out for this; watch for this,' and he sees that, then he'll be able to hit the hole or make the cut he needs to make."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams plan to use James Hall's versatility on the defensive line.
Also from Coats: The Rams are reaching out to kids on the first day of school.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers might be able to trust rookie running back Glen Coffee more than expected. Coffee's pass protection makes him more viable as a candidate for playing time.
Also from Brown: Former Raiders kicker Joe Nedney is still kicking with the 49ers.
Taylor Price of 49ers.com breaks down the 49ers' defensive domination against the Raiders in practice Wednesday. Coordinator Greg Manusky: "The guys performed in a winning fashion today and they made some plays. I think they were just playing their techniques and they started having fun with it."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider also describes the Raider carnage. Cornerback Dre Bly: "I told Shaun (Hill), 'Why don't you feed us like that in practice?' That buffet was good."
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Mike Singletary's passion for walking led him to "hoof it" for a 2-mile walk between hotels Wednesday.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat suggests the 49ers could re-sign injured fullback Zak Keasey after reaching agreement with him on an injury settlement.
Also from Maiocco: Hill appears to be in good position to win the starting job at quarterback.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee puts cornerback Eric Green's signing in context this way: "Remember that they lost one of last year's corners, Donald Strickland, to free agency, another, Walt Harris, to injury and converted Reggie Smith to safety. They added Dre Bly to replace Harris but could still stand to bulk up that unit."
Also from Barrows: an interview transcript featuring 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Onrea Jones is trying to make a strong impression in a training camp filled with talented receivers. Also, Beanie Wells was somewhat limited in practice after aggravating his ankle injury.
Also from Somers: He profiles second-year cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who wears a Toy Story backpack and drives a miniature car. Seriously. Says DRC: "I'm still a kid. I don't care how many years I've played or what profession I'm in. I'm going to be me and that's part of me, just being a kid."
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin plans to play through the bitterness he feels toward the organization. Boldin: "I think the fans want me around. Since I've gotten back out here in Arizona, everywhere I go, from the mall to the grocery to the baseball game, the fans have been real supportive. I feel like the fans know that Anquan is going to play and give us everything he has, the same Anquan he's always been." The Cardinals will pay $5.4 million to Boldin this season, or $317,647 per week during the 17-week regular season.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Matt Leinart feels good about his future as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Leinart's record as a starter is 7-9 -- not great, but also close to the winning percentage Bears savior Jay Cutler (17-20) has posted in the NFL.
Also from Urban: Cardinals offensive lineman Brandon Keith is better prepared to play if called upon.
Gregg Bell of the Associated Press says Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill is awaiting word from the NFL on his punishment for an offseason arrest. Hill is contesting the charge.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says rookie receiver Deon Butler shined during practice Thursday.
Also from O'Neil: an "exhaustive" injury update.
More from O'Neil: The Seahawks could be without Walter Jones and Marcus Trufan
t when the regular season opens. Coach Jim Mora on Jones' knee surgery, scheduled for Thursday: "We don't think it's anything significant, but we just want to make sure."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck isn't worried about Jones' health. Hasselbeck: "Maybe if it was somebody else, but he's just done it so many times -- no OTAs, no minicamp, no training camp, Pro Bowl. It's what he does. It's almost better (because) you know he's not going to get hurt out there. That's just how it's been out there."
John Morgan of Field Gulls says Trufant might be the "single most indispensable" defensive player for the Seahawks. Morgan: "A use of zone coverage will somewhat hide his absence, but by pushing Josh Wilson into the starting lineup, Seattle weakens its starting cornerback tandem and especially its nickel defense. Kelly Jennings could sub for Wilson at right cornerback on nickel downs, allowing Wilson to slot into nickelback. At right cornerback, Jennings would cover or team to cover its opponent's number one receiver. Kelly Jennings could play in half of Seattle's downs and most of its highest leverage downs against its opponent's best recceiver. Receivers like Reggie Wayne, Larry Fitzgerald, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Condon is best known in the NFC West for his handling of Steve Hutchinson's disputed departure from the Seahawks to the Vikings. That process played out in the public, but Condon kept a low profile throughout. I would expect him to work behind the scenes on Boldin's behalf.
Rosenhaus had become known for representing unhappy receivers in Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson and Boldin. Condon is better known for representing quarterbacks.
The NFLPA lists Condon as the agent for 38 signed players. The Browns' Braylon Edwards and the Cowboys' Travis Wilson are the only receivers besides Boldin. The NFLPA lists Condon's partner, Ben Dogra, as the agent for four veteran receivers: Lee Evans and Josh Reed of the Bills, plus the Cowboys' Roy Williams and the Chargers' Chris Chambers.
Condon represents a dozen NFL quarterbacks, including his only other Cardinals client, Matt Leinart. The list includes Matt Ryan, Brady Quinn, Chris Simms, Matthew Stafford, Peyton Manning, Chad Pennington, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Alex Smith and Marc Bulger.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Kevin Seifert
The draft won't fix these wayward teams overnight -- unless, of course, they follow the advice of NFC West blogger Mike Sando and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
Kevin Seifert: Well, Mike, first off I'd like to thank the Seahawks and Lions for making our jobs a bit easier for the next six weeks. Before last weekend's trade that sent defensive tackle Cory Redding to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson, we were weighing the candidacies of too many players for the No. 1 overall pick in the April 25-26 draft.
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|Baylor tackle Jason Smith would help solidify the Lions' offensive line.|
Would the Lions take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? Would they capitalize on the strong tackle class and swoop up Baylor's Jason Smith? Or would they make a compromise selection and take the player considered the safest pick in the draft, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry?
Seems to me this trade has eliminated Curry from the Lions' mix. Don't you agree? I mean, would you draft Curry after giving up a promising defensive tackle (and also a fifth-round pick) for someone who plays the same position? I don't think I would. They say Curry could project as a middle linebacker in the NFL, but it would be awfully hard to justify drafting a middle linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick.
So that pretty much settles it, right? Wouldn't you agree that Curry is much more likely to wind up with one of your NFC West teams, whether it's St. Louis at No. 2 or Seattle at No. 4? If it were up to me, the Lions would take the best left tackle in the draft, and that would be Smith.
Mike Sando: I tend to see Curry landing with Kansas City in that third slot. The Rams could use him, sure, but they pretty much have to emerge from this draft with a starting offensive tackle. Can they find one after the first round? Probably, but 'probably' might not be good enough for a team that has invested so much in Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. Upgrading the offensive line was the No. 1 priority this offseason. Signing Jason Brown solved the problem at center, but Alex Barron is the starting left tackle now that Orlando Pace is out. They're talking about having Jacob Bell move from left guard to right tackle. That doesn't sound promising.
As much as Steve Spagnuolo wants to build that defense, I'm not sure the Rams can resist taking a tackle. Once Curry makes it past the Rams, the Chiefs would seemingly be a good fit -- which would put Seattle in an interesting position. They've got Matt Hasselbeck, but should they consider Stafford under our scenario?
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jacob from Denmark writes: Hello and thank you for taking my question. Some believe the Eagles could be interested in trading up to get one of the highest rated OT's in the draft.
The Eagles have two first round picks, the Rams need young talent and with the Eagles' picks, they would have a chance of getting just that.
Even though I really would like to see Aaron Curry in a Rams jersey, I think they should try to get a deal done with the Eagles. Especially if they keep Orlando Pace, draft Eben Britton with pick number 21 (if Oher is gone) and give him a little time to develop into a better pass blocker.
Maybe they could give Pace some more rest and only use him on obvious passing downs, I think Britton will be an excellent run blocker immediately. And with the 28th pick, you never know, Rey Maualuga might still be there!!!
1.Do you think a trade is realistic?
2.How much can the Rams require for the number two pick overall?
3.Would it, in your view, make good sense for the Rams to trade down with the Eagles?
Mike Sando: Probably not realistic. Moving from 21st to second would, in theory, require massive draft capital. Using the Jimmy Johnson-style draft trading chart, the Eagles would have to part with more than the 21st, 28th, 53rd and 85th choices to make the trade. The trade chart is arguably outdated, but still, you get the idea.
In theory, yes, I think the Rams fit the profile of a team that could benefit from additional selections. It's just tough to drop 19 spots in the round.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jeff from Simi Valley writes: So how long do you think it takes until Matt Leinart requests a trade?
Mike Sando: I do think we'll be revisiting his situation regularly after reading Brian St. Pierre's comments about Ken Whisenhunt promising to let him compete for the No. 2 job. Going with Warner for another season relegates Leinart to the bench, again, unless Warner gets hurt.
Warner's contract carries guarantees that make him the likely starter in 2010 as well. And that will make Leinart more expendable than he's ever been. Stay tuned on this one.
Jim from Tucson writes: Mike, Bill Williamson is reporting that Denver is shopping Tony Scheffler. Should the Cardinals take a look? We've talked about how deadly a solid tight end could be on Arizona's roster. Depending on what kind of trade Denver is looking for, I think it could be a great match.
Mike Sando: Scheffler did catch 40 passes last season. I haven't seen him enough to project how he might fit into the Cardinals' offense. Here's what Scouts Inc. wrote about him:
Scheffler is a good-sized target who has above-average downfield speed, good body control and agility for his route-running skills. He has come a long ways in his ability to set up defenders and can separate well enough to gain a step on most safeties. He has adequate run after the catch tools, but does not have the afterburners to turn many catches into long touchdowns. He reads coverages well and does a good job of settling into soft spots in zone coverage to present a good target for the quarterback. He knows how to use his size and athleticism to be an effective receiver in the red zone and can reach up to highpoint the catch with his naturally soft hands. He is a decent blocker, at best, and needs to add more bulk and strength to sustain his blocks better. He will get rag dolled by some NFL linebackers and should get better with age and added strength.