NFC West: Shahid Khan

Shahid Khan appeared close to purchasing the St. Louis Rams, only to have minority owner Stan Kroenke exercise his option to become majority owner.

Khan, who purchased the Jacksonville Jaguars instead, wants to trade ahead of the Rams for a shot at Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports.

The Rams pick sixth and need a No. 1 receiver. It's unclear whether they're set on selecting Blackmon, but he would be a logical consideration for them -- unless Khan and the Jaguars move up from No. 7 to get Blackmon first.

The draft is minutes away from beginning, so we'll have answers soon.
Michael from San Francisco writes: First, I read your blog consistently and I'd like to say I really appreciate your insights -- which is why I want to ask a question. As a Niners fan, I am extremely happy with our draft this year, but I am curious, how long does it take to develop offensive (and I guess defensive) linemen in the NFL? It strikes me a rookie is going to get creamed by the crafty vets. Should I really be expecting this obvious upgrade to our line this year?

Mike Sando: I appreciate the support, Michael. Offensive linemen drafted early should be able to start right away and improve pretty quickly. The 49ers' new line coach, Mike Solari, was in Seattle last season when 2009 second-rounder Max Unger started 16 games and played pretty well. The 49ers have suffered through some growing pains with right guard Chilo Rachal, another second-round choice, but there's no reason the two 2010 first-rounders shouldn't play well enough to win as rookies. The transition should be easier for guards such as Mike Iupati because they're sheltered by a lineman on each side. Tackles tend to get exposed a little more, but the 49ers should be able to scheme around such troubles early in the season, at least to a degree.

My feel is that defensive linemen are a little more hit-or-miss and they take more time to become effective players. Even disappointing offensive linemen should start for a long time if drafted in the first round. Robert Gallery in Oakland comes to mind. He's a disappointment based on where he was picked -- second overall -- but he's also a perennial starter at guard and a good player.


Shawn from Minneapolis writes: Hey Mike, I was wondering if you had any insight on how Charlie Whitehurst has looked for Seattle in the organized team activities, etc. I've been a fan of his for quite a while and was wondering if you thought if he's going to start at some point this year or next year. What are your thoughts? Thanks for your time, I enjoy your blog!

Mike Sando: Thanks, Shawn. Whitehurst's presence puts pressure on starter Matt Hasselbeck even though Hasselbeck appears in little immediate danger of losing his job. Whitehurst has not come in and made a statement that he's a favorite to win the job. He appears to move well. Sometimes he appears to lock onto receivers a little bit. It's early. The exhibition season will be important for him to gain some experience and confidence. Right now, though, I expect Hasselbeck to start as long as he's healthy and able.


Nick from Salt Lake City writes: Hey Mike, love the blog and am a daily addict. As a lifelong devout Rams fan, my question is this: Does the NFL and its history of parity have a duty to not drag its toes as they have seemed to be doing in getting the new ownership straightened out? I understand there must be miles of red tape to go through, but when it is obviously slowing the franchise from being able to make strong moves to improve (as is being seen in Detroit), I would hope that that would give them a sense of urgency. And if you can give a lowly fan some insight as to why this may be taking so long, I would appreciate that as well.

Mike Sando: Thanks, Nick. Stan Kroenke dragged this out some by waiting the maximum amount of time before exercising his option to supersede Shahid Khan's bid by attempting to purchase full control of the Rams. Kroenke made that move April 12, after the NFL's primary spring meetings. The league is holding another round of meetings in Dallas this week, and owners have discussed the Rams' situation. I wouldn't expect the timetable to be any quicker, even though I realize the time is passing slowly for Rams fans. It's hugely important for the franchise to have ownership direction as quickly as possible, but the most critical period of roster building has passed. The big offseason decisions have been made (or not made, as the case has sometimes been for St. Louis).


Jesse from Tucson writes: Kerry Rhodes made a bold declaration at the first day of Cardinals' offseason camp.

"It's going to be fun," Rhodes said of playing with Adrian Wilson. "Me and him together back there, we have the best safety tandem in the league right now. You guys can write that down. We both can do a lot of different things and we're both flexible. That does a lot for a defense."

What are your thoughts on Rhodes statement? Is it good to come out so early, showing team excitement, or is it locker room fuel for the other teams?

Mike Sando: I held this item for a few weeks to show that such statements come and go. I haven't heard anyone make an issue of what Rhodes said. It's optimistic offseason talk and it wasn't disrespectful toward any specific safety tandems on other teams. We'll see if Rhodes can back up the talk. Any good safety playing alongside Wilson can claim he's part of a top safety tandem.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. had this to say about the change from Antrel Rolle to Rhodes this offseason: "That is a drop-off. I liked Rolle a lot because everything was in front of him still. He has only been a free safety for a couple years now. He spends offseasons with Ed Reed and is very conscientious about becoming a great player. Rhodes is a finesse player and still an above-average starting safety who at times can look better than he is, but is not a banger, not an elite cover guy and it's going to be a little tougher to do things you want to do with Adrian Wilson. I would rather have Rolle."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers could slash payroll by targeting their secondary. Nate Clements is getting closer to the heavily backloaded part of his contract. Barrows on safety Michael Lewis: "Lewis' status this year largely depends on Taylor Mays' progress. My guess is that Lewis begins the season as the safety starter and that Mays gradually takes over as the year goes on (provided that Lewis remains healthy)."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea says the 49ers are working toward a contract agreement with Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis. Maiocco: "But can the 49ers, among the lower-revenue teams in the NFL, afford to pay Davis so soon after (Patrick) Willis was awarded a five-year, $50 million extension? It’s a legitimate question for an organization that is campaigning for a new stadium that would provide a huge increase in revenue streams." The 49ers have shown creativity in how they structure deals. If they really want to sign Davis, they can get it done.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider revisits some of the 49ers' disappointing first-round picks over the years. Jim Druckenmiller makes the list.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry, who fizzled out after a strong start to the 2009 season. O'Neil: "There has been a lot of speculation that Curry might play the hybrid linebacker/end role that has been referred to as 'the elephant' but is actually called 'the Leo' in Seattle's defensive scheme. That's not Curry's role now, though. He is playing strongside -- or SAM -- linebacker, but expect him to have a heavy dose of pass-rushing responsibilities."

Also from O'Neil: Signing Chester Pitts would add depth to Seattle's offensive line.

Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com says the draft-day energy Pete Carroll and John Schneider brought to Seattle was palpable. LaCanfora: "I could have sworn Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was going to hoist himself on the shoulders of general manager John Schneider and begin galloping around the war room like Angus Young jamming above the head of Bon Scott at an AC/DC concert."

John Morgan of Field Gulls sizes up the Seahawks' defensive line. In watching minicamp, I wondered if the new staff would find a place for Craig Terrill, who has put together a six-year run in Seattle as a sixth-round pick.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on the Cardinals following their post-draft camp. He also says coach Ken Whisenhunt left open the door for the team signing another veteran quarterback to a team that already has Matt Leinart and Derek Anderson. Whisenhunt: "We've got two rookies who are vying for the third position and we feel good about Derek and Matt. I don't think we would ever not look at a player if we felt like he could help us win games, but at this point in the season, with what we have on the roster, I'm very encouraged by what we saw from Matt and Derek. But I am realistic about the rookie being the third quarterback and the progress he's going to have to make to fill that role."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with former Steelers teammates Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, who are reunited in Arizona. Urban: "For the third time, Porter and Haggans are teammates. They met playing together at Colorado State University. They were each drafted -- a year apart -- by the Pittsburgh Steelers, spending seven seasons together. And now, after Porter signed a free-agent deal with the Cardinals in March, the two 33-year-olds have been reunited in Arizona."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises questions about the recent report suggesting Stan Kroenke's plan to buy the Rams might involve Kroenke's wife taking over the team. Thomas: "On April 12, Kroenke exercised a right of first refusal to match Shahid Khan's purchase agreement with the Rams. Kroenke has to match Khan's agreement. It is believed Kroenke would not be allowed to match and then put together a group to represent the match. It also is believed that he would not be allowed to match Khan's offer and then say -- essentially -- that it's really his wife who is matching. Some league sources feel that if Kroenke's wife, Ann, were an option, Kroenke would've proposed this to Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez nearly two years ago, or several months after the death of their mother, Georgia Frontiere. That's when it became clear that the team could be up for sale."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the latest reported Kroenke proposal is one of several options being floated as Kroenke tries to comply with NFL rules on cross-ownership. Miklasz: "Why didn’t Ann Kroenke simply bid for the Rams at the time the Rosenblooms had their 60 percent share on the market? This would have been easier than (A) having Stan Kroenke match Khan and (B) Kroenke having to work around the cross-ownership guidelines. (Likely answer: the Kroenkes didn’t want to get in a bidding battle with Khan that would drive the price up; they probably preferred to wait, let Khan make a reasonable bid, then match. I’m only guessing here.)"

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams were pleased with Duke rookie quarterback Thaddeus Lewis at their post-draft camp. Coats: "Sam Bradford and veteran A.J. Feeley -- not necessarily in that order at this point -- appear to be in place as the Rams' top two quarterbacks. After the release last week of Mike Reilly, who spent the last month of the 2009 season with the team, the only other QBs on the roster are Lewis and Keith Null. Because of injuries to Marc Bulger and Kyle Boller, Null, a sixth-round draftee last year, started the last four games of his rookie season. He's probably in line for the No. 3 job — but could face a challenge from Lewis."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News Democrat wonders how Kroenke's wife could exercise Kroenke's option to purchase full ownership of the Rams.

The Big Question: Kroenke's motives

April, 20, 2010
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NFC Big Question: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Does Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke have the team's best interests in mind?

[+] EnlargeStan Kroenke
Garrett W. Ellwood/MLS/Getty ImagesRams minority owner Stan Kroenke's interests have been called into question.
A subscription-required report Monday in the Sports Business Journal suggested Kroenke was more interested in leveraging his 40 percent stake in the Rams than taking over full ownership of the team.

Reporter Daniel Kaplan cited sources saying Kroenke told Rams bidder Shahid Khan he would decline to exercise his option to purchase full ownership of the team in exchange for a "mid-to-high eight-figure fee." Kroenke would have remained onboard as 40 percent owner in such a scenario. Khan declined, Kaplan reported, and Kroenke then exercised his option to trump the bid from Khan.

The report seemed to run counter to what a source told Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, that Kroenke "fully intends to work with the NFL to find a way for Kroenke to become the team’s 100 percent owner."

The reporting from Kaplan and Miklasz isn't necessarily conflicting. The businessman in Kroenke could have simply been exploring his options before committing to buying full ownership of the team. That's his right and arguably his duty as a businessman.

This wasn't the first time Kaplan had reported Rams-related ownership news running counter to conventional wisdom. Kaplan previously cited sources saying the NFL had concerns about debt levels associated with Khan's bid to buy out 60 percent owners Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez.

That news and the conventional wisdom -- that Khan' financial footing appeared sound -- weren't necessarily at odds, either. The NFL could have had specific concerns. Khan could have been on solid footing overall.

My take? We're operating without enough information to fully assess the balance between Kroenke's interests and the extent to which those interests benefit the Rams.

Don Elliman, described by The New York Times as chief operating officer for the state of Colorado and former president of Kroenke Sports Enterprises, has suggested Kroenke isn't much for minority ownership. He wants full control. Elliman put it this way for a Times profile on Kroenke: "There was once a great line by one of George Steinbrenner’s partners that there’s nothing so limited as being a limited partner. A lot of people get into sports and wake up later and realize, 'I'm along for the ride; I'm beholden to the other guy.' That’s not Stan's nature."

It's not much to go on.

The timing of this ownership uncertainty is undoubtedly inconvenient for the Rams as they approach the 2010 NFL draft holding the top overall choice and hoping to win over fans. But the business of changing ownership is bigger than the business of the draft. Assurances from Kroenke would certainly help. The absence of those assurances naturally leads to skepticism, which is warranted, but if this process has taught us anything, it's that we shouldn't assume too much too soon.

Around the NFC West: 49ers' needs

April, 20, 2010
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Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee runs through the 49ers' needs heading into the draft. Barrows: "The 49ers must open up their attack and use the perimeter more often in 2010. That means improving the overall speed on offense. The team took a step in that direction by acquiring Ted Ginn Jr. from Miami. Ginn was one of the fastest players in the 2007 draft. If they pass on speedy running backs such as Clemson's C.J. Spiller and Cal's Jahvid Best in the first two rounds, someone such as Ole Miss' Dexter McCluster or USC's Joe McKnight could bring pizazz to the running game in later rounds."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sends Joe Haden and Anthony Davis to the 49ers in his latest mock draft. He has Maurkice Pouncey going to Arizona at No. 26, although the Cardinals are on the record saying they don't want to select offensive linemen early. Russell Okung and Earl Thomas are the choices for Seattle. Sam Bradford is the choice for St. Louis. Maiocco: "What about C.J. Spiller? I don't think the 49ers would take him at 13 or 17. And if my mock miraculously falls the way I diagram, we won't find out."

Also from Maiocco: A scout familiar with the 49ers said he thought the team would be wise to select quarterback Jimmy Clausen because the 49ers are presently working on a year-to-year basis at quarterback.

Tom Abate of the San Francisco Chronicle details the kicking battle between the 49ers' Joe Nedney and a robot. Abate: "The lighthearted contest, a stunt to highlight the three-day RoboGames competition that opens Friday at the San Mateo County Fairgrounds, ended when Nedney easily kicked a football 45 yards while his mechanical adversary twice failed to clear the goalposts at that distance."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have not drafted an offensive tackle since selecting Ray Willis back in 2005. Chris McIntosh was the last tackle Seattle drafted in the first round. Those streaks should end this year.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says draft analyst Rob Rang expects the Seahawks to select an offensive tackle -- probably Russell Okung -- with the sixth overall choice. A personnel person familiar with Seattle line coach Alex Gibbs told me he thought Gibbs might prefer Bryan Bulaga over Okung, but it's tough to know for certain how much input Gibbs will have if Seattle does take a tackle in that spot.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan could make sense for Seattle with the 14th overall choice. Williams: "Seattle's tentative starting defensive front line, defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Chris Clemons, who came to Seattle in the (Darryl) Tapp trade, and defensive tackles Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane, combined for nine sacks last season."

Also from Williams: defensive linemen and linebackers the Seahawks could consider on a round-by-round basis, according to Rang.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic considers options at nose tackle for Arizona heading into the draft. Somers: "Weight is a problem for Alabama nose tackle Terrence Cody, who is listed at 360 pounds. Tennessee's Dan Williams likely will be gone by the time the Cardinals pick. The club could decide to gamble and hope that someone such as North Carolina's Cam Thomas or East Carolina's Linval Joseph is available in the second round."

Also from Somers: a chat transcript featuring thoughts on Deuce Lutui, among other Cardinals subjects.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals could be more likely to move back in the draft than move up, even though general manager Rod Graves sounded more excited about using the team's extra third-round choice as ammunition.

Also from Urban: The proliferation of 3-4 defenses in the NFL makes it tougher for Arizona to find a nose tackle. Urban: "A player like Alabama’s Terrence Cody is considered by many best-suited for the second or even the third round because of ongoing weight issues. Others, like East Carolina’s Linval Joseph or North Carolina’s Cam Thomas, can be had after the first round as well."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says sources close to Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke say the billionaire remains focused on acquiring full ownership of the team, independent of whatever dealings Kroenke might have had with bidder Shahid Khan. Thomas: "Meanwhile, a backlash continues to grow over the absence of comments or statements by Kroenke about a commitment to keeping the Rams in St. Louis. The controversy began when Kroenke did not mention St. Louis in his April 12 announcement that he was exercising his right of first refusal. Radio personality McGraw Milhaven, who hosts a morning drive show on KTRS (550 AM), is asking fans to boycott Rams games if Kroenke doesn't make some kind of statement about keeping the team in St. Louis by the start of Thursday's draft."

Also from Thomas: Defensive tackle Gary Gibson has re-signed with the Rams.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says fans should not trust Kroenke. Burwell: "As far as I can tell, what we have learned about Kroenke is that every move he makes is straight out of a Machiavellian playbook. From his cunning 11th hour maneuver to gain complete financial control of the franchise, to this latest reported strategy to seek an eight-figure 'compensation' from would-be buyer Shahid Khan to step out of the buying process, his actions reek of cold-blooded duplicity."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' ownership uncertainty is hurting the team with fans. Miklasz: "So the Rams’ ownership saga gets crazier and more confusing by the day, which only creates distraction and frustration at a time when Rams fans would like to be in a happier mood, looking forward to this week’s NFL Draft. By the time this nasty ownership mess is sorted out, there may be about 248 Rams fans left in St. Louis."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Kroenke's reported dealings raise questions about what kind of owner he might become. Balzer: "No one can convince me that the fingerprints of Rams senior adviser John Shaw aren’t all over Kroenke’s tactics. Remember, it was Shaw who orchestrated the move of the Rams to St. Louis in 1995 and then, at the 11th hour, with the papers ready to be signed, suddenly demanded the controversial 25-percent clause be included in the lease that could end up allowing the Rams to move after the 2014 season. What choice did we have but to acquiesce?"

Also from Balzer: The Rams and player agents don't think it's necessary to begin early negotiations with the future No. 1 choice in the draft.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been out front on many Rams-related ownership stories, including the first report about Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez seeking to sell the team.

When news broke that minority owner Stan Kroenke wanted to buy full ownership, a move that trumped a bid from Shahid Khan, Miklasz accounted for various possibilities.

"One theory making the rounds is that Kroenke is pulling the power play as a ploy to get Khan to offer him more money for the 40 percent share," Miklasz wrote nearly a week ago. "But I talked to enough people in the know Monday night who insist that this is no game -- and that Kroenke genuinely wants to gain 100 percent control of the Rams and he believes there is a way to get it done with the NFL."

Daniel Kaplan's subsequent report for Sports Business Journal suggests it might be a ploy after all. The report, hidden behind a pay wall, would explain how Kroenke could make his ownership bid without worrying about cross-ownership rules that could affect his ownership of the NBA and NHL teams in Denver.

The involved parties have kept their public comments to a minimum. Uncertainty surrounding the Rams makes it tougher for the organization to credibly connect with St. Louis. That makes it tougher to sell tickets.

Update: More from Miklasz.

How I See It: NFC West Stock Watch

April, 15, 2010
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Shahid Khan, Rams bidder. The Illinois billionaire entered this week as the apparent favorite to take over majority stake in the Rams. Appearances can be deceiving. Khan abruptly found out his bid would be pushed to the background while Stan Kroenke attempted to increase his 40 percent stake into full ownership. Kroenke had that right. To my knowledge, no one publicly expressed an expectation it would happen. It did, and Khan's stock took a huge hit.

Rising

Kroenke. The billionaire owner of the NBA and NHL teams in Denver might need to adjust his portfolio to comply with NFL rules on cross-ownership. That shouldn't be too tough. Where there's a will -- and a billion dollars -- there's usually a way. Kroenke was probably underestimated after staying in the background as the Rams' minority owner for all these years. This was his first chance to take over the team and he pounced on it. He would instantly become the second-richest owner in the NFL (and in the NFC West).
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Shahid Khan plans to stand by Stan Kroenke's pending attempt to purchase full control of the Rams. Khan: "Earlier this evening, Stan advised me that he was going to pursue that opportunity (to purchase controlling interest in the Rams). I have had the chance to get to know Stan over the past 60 days. As I told Stan during our conversation earlier this evening, I enjoy his company, admire his success in sports, and certainly respect his right to try to purchase the Rosenbloom family's interest in the Rams."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expresses surprise at Kroenke's seemingly bold move. Miklasz: "One theory making the rounds is that Kroenke is pulling the power play as a ploy to get Khan to offer him more money for the 40 percent share. But I talked to enough people in the know Monday night who insist that this is no game -- and that Kroenke genuinely wants to gain 100 percent control of the Rams and he believes there is a way to get it done with the NFL." As Miklasz notes, the timing is poor for the Rams. But no matter what happened Monday, the league was going to begin a more earnest review of an ownership bid. The league is more familiar with Kroenke than Khan.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat recounts the evening Khan and Kroenke spent together at a Denver Nuggets game in February. Balzer on Kroenke: "Does he plan to challenge NFL cross-ownership rules? Will he sell the Nuggets and Avalanche? Does he have something up his sleeve where he would transfer ownership of those teams to family members? Kroenke’s son, Josh, a former basketball player at Missouri, is currently vice president of player development for the Nuggets."

Tim Klutsarits of examiner.com offers thoughts on Kroenke's bid. Klutsarits: "From a business perspective the move by Stan Kroenke tells me one of two things. The first is that he thinks he has enough votes from the NFL owners to waive the cross-ownership rule for him. ... The second option would be that Kroenke is making a business move and is wanting to get paid. ... I can't believe that the NFL would be interested, in the midst of trying to negotiate a new contract, in getting in a nasty court dispute over cross ownership. I don't know if they would win but I do know that they would not want to get in front of a jury or judge to make that decision. Stan Kroenke knows this too."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are meeting with tackle Vladimir Ducasse and receiver Dez Bryant as part of their draft preparations. Bryant and Michael Crabtree share the same agent, by the way, and Bryant could wind up getting drafted later than his talent would suggest. Sound familiar? Barrows: "Will the 49ers take a Big 12 receiver represented by Eugene Parker in two straight drafts? Boy, I really don't see it happening, but the 49ers are adding a bit of intrigue by bringing the Oklahoma State wideout in for a visit. My read on Bryant is that he's more physically gifted than Michael Crabtree but lacks Crabtree's intensity. Perhaps the 49ers figure that a passing offense that features Crabtree, Bryant and Vernon Davis is too dangerous to pass up. Or maybe they're appearing interested to drum up a draft-day trade. Who knows? (Which is exactly what the 49ers want the league to think). It's noteworthy that both Mike Singletary and Trent Baalke attended Bryant's workout in Lufkin, Texas last month."

Also from Barrows: Drafting Anthony Davis to play right tackle would give the 49ers more than one player known for inconsistent play on the right side of the line.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers are probably just doing their diligence by meeting with Bryant.

Brian McIntyre of scout.com expects former Saints defensive back Joe Porter to participate in the Seahawks' upcoming minicamp on a tryout basis. Seattle is low on numbers at defensive back and on the offensive line, at least by offseason standards. It's looking like the team could have a large number of tryout players for the camp beginning Tuesday.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks aren't expecting to see tackle Walter Jones at their voluntary minicamp, the latest indication Jones might not return. O'Neil: "Jones' agent has not returned repeated messages about his client's status, and attempts to contact Jones have not drawn a response. The Seahawks have acknowledged Jones is considering retirement, but were awaiting a firm, final conclusion from Jones. Seattle's approach to prepare for life after Jones is the only pragmatic one at this point. Jones is 36, and he has undergone two knee surgeries and missed 20 regular-season games since last suiting up. The Seahawks banked on his ability to come back and play left tackle last season, and when he couldn't, the offensive line never recovered."

Also from O'Neil: the latest on Leroy Hill. O'Neil: "He was arrested and taken to the Issaquah City Jail for investigation of misdemeanor assault. Hill was not included among the online listing of inmates Monday afternoon, indicating he had been released. A date for his arraignment could not be determined."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune has this to say about Pete Carroll's first minicamp as Seahawks coach: "Carroll’s focus during his first months on the job has been to create a competitive environment where all starting positions are up for grabs. That was evident in the team’s move to trade for San Diego restricted free agent quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, signing him to a two-year, $8 million deal with the expectation that he will push veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck for the starting quarterback job."

John Morgan of Field Gulls says it's pretty clear the Seahawks have strong faith in the 2010 draft class.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with nose tackle Gabe Watson, who is attempting to overcome knee troubles. Urban: "Watson said he’s down about 30 pounds from the end of the season. He needs to build back up some muscle mass, but ideally, he’ll play at 315 or 320 pounds. That’ll help his quickness and agility, important at a position where he’s the starter for now, especially with veteran Bryan Robinson still un-signed and a question mark to return. But Watson is also doing it with an eye on his star-struck knees and also his post-football life." This item makes even clearer the Cardinals' obvious need for a nose tackle heading into the draft. Unless I'm missing something, bringing back Robinson could be a necessity even if the team does draft at the position.

Kroenke bids to buy rest of Rams

April, 12, 2010
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Shahid Khan's bid to buy 60 percent of the Rams was on shakier ground than anyone might have realized.

The assumption had been that Khan would need approval from three-fourths of NFL majority owners to buy out the 60 percent stake held by Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez. Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke short-circuited those efforts by exercising his option to purchase that 60 percent. Kroenke already owns the remaining 40 percent, so he would own the Rams in full if successful in his bid.

That would leave Khan on the outside.

Kroenke already owns the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche in full. NFL rules limiting cross-ownership could prohibit Kroenke from taking over the Rams in full, or so it was thought. Can Kroenke get the NFL to bend the rules for him? Does the secretive billionaire have something else planned?

The bottom line for Rams fans: Kroenke, a Missouri native, would likely keep the team in St. Louis, at least for now.

Around the NFC West: Wells' time

April, 12, 2010
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Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Beanie Wells is looking forward to getting more playing time in his second season with the Cardinals. Bickley: "Wells won't reveal any specific goals for the 2010 season. But you can hear the excitement in his voice. He's preparing like never before, and eager to climb a different mountain. He is the perfect beast to usher in a new era of power football in Arizona. If he can hang onto the ball, he can carry this team a long way."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic does not expect the Cardinals to sign Kendall Simmons or Mike Brown before the draft, though both players visited Arizona recently. Brown played high school ball in the Phoenix area, as noted in the next item.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Joey Porter will wear No. 55 for Arizona, with Reggie Walker changing to No. 56.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are focusing as much on intangibles as physical ability when assessing quarterbacks. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "The teams that have been successful lately, it seems to me they have those leadership-type guys. Guys that can get the job done in a pinch. Certainly you want all the other things that go with [playing quarterback] -- a guy that can throw the football, all the physical qualities. But leadership to me is really important at that position."

Also from Thomas: The time has come for Rams part-owner Stan Kroenke to declare his intentions. Thomas: "On Feb. 12, Urbana, Ill., businessman Shahid Kahn reached a sales agreement to purchase 60 percent of the Rams from Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez. As part of that agreement, Kroenke was given 60 days to either: Stand pat and keep his current 40 percent share of the team, sell his 40 percent of the team or attempt to exercise matching rights to purchase the full 100 percent of the franchise."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says potential Rams No. 1 draft choice Sam Bradford has pursued varied interests without pressure from his parents. Burwell: "There was the cello and golf. There was football and there was basketball. There was hockey and just about anything else he could find a way to try, and there was no overly obsessive parent trying to redirect him into choosing one sport over the other and becoming some specialized athletic fanatic. Sam Bradford's life would not become a carefully orchestrated, force-fed extension of his parents. This rare athletic journey never became Kent and Martha Bradford's vicarious thrill ride."

Gil Brandt of NFL.com says the Seahawks put Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen through a three-hour workout Friday. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch represented the Seahawks. The Rams' Billy Devaney, Steve Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur attended Clausen's pro day.

Adam Caplan of scout.com expects Bucs free-agent defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson to visit the Seahawks this week.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com checks in with draft analyst Rob Rang for thoughts on the Seahawks. Rang hasn't seen a stronger safety class in the draft over the past 10 years, but he isn't convinced Seattle would use the sixth overall choice for Eric Berry, based on how teams value the position.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune also checks in with Rang for Seahawks thoughts. Rang points to South Florida's Nate Allen, Utah's Robert Johnson and Vanderbilt's Myron Lewis among safeties Seattle could consider in the later rounds.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee isn't expecting the 49ers to draft Bay Area running backs Jahvid Best or Toby Gerhardt. Barrows: "Best would be an excellent complement at running back, and he would be a shot of adrenaline to the return game. But given his injury history, pick 17 is too early for Best and pick 49 probably is too late."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says wide receiver ranks well down the list of priorities for San Francisco in part because the team likes Josh Morgan. Maiocco: "The 49ers are very happy with Morgan as the No. 2 man. He appears to be a good counterbalance to Michael Crabtree, who's expected to be the team's top wideout for a long time - at least through the remaining five years of his contract. It's surprising to anyone who's been around the 49ers that Morgan's stock fell leading up to the 2008 draft because of so-called 'character concerns' from his time at Virginia Tech. He has been great in the locker room, and a tremendous team player."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have not shown interest in former Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, and the team isn't likely to pursue him after signing Derek Anderson. Somers: "Bulger made some sense to team officials a few weeks ago, but he was still with the Rams then. The Cardinals couldn't afford to gamble at the position by waiting for Bulger's situation to play out, so they signed Anderson. It's early but they seemed pleased so far with Anderson. They love his arm strength and think his accuracy can be improved by fixing his mechanics." Signing Bulger could make sense for the long term, but it might unnecessarily muddy the current situation.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says fullback Jason Wright is working a 9-to-5 internship for free at Arizona State University as part of a program providing scholarships for athletes. Wright: "It's made me realize the real world is not as green as you think it is. This football gig is a pretty good gig. It’s been a good eye opener. It helps to make life post-football not be such a big mystery. ... Unless you are making Larry [Fitzgerald] or Kurt [Warner] money, you don’t make enough money where you can just sit on it and collect interest the rest of your life."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had this to say about Colt McCoy's private workout with the Rams: "Under the watchful eye of head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney, McCoy consistently hit his target squarely in the hands, showcasing the touch that made him one of the most accurate quarterbacks in college football history. After delivering a deep sideline pass that dropped right into the receiver's hands, McCoy yelled, 'C'mon baby! Now that's what I'm talking about!' McCoy's enthusiasm and energy kept the workout loose and relaxed."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Rams part-owner Stan Kroenke must declare his intentions by Monday regarding the ownership bid by Shahid Khan. Balzer: "A story published Friday in The Independent, a newspaper in London, claimed Kroenke could be selling his 40 percent in the Rams so he would be better positioned for a takeover of the Arsenal soccer club. Kroenke bought 9.9 percent of the team three years ago, and he has added shares since then. According to The Independent, he purchased seven shares two weeks ago, 'to take him within single figures of reaching the 30 percent mark that requires him to launch a takeover bid.' ... However, sources close to the Rams’ situation believe Kroenke’s interest in Arsenal is not 'relevant' to what he decides to do with his Rams’ shares."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee lists the 10 players he considers most likely to become 49ers through the draft. Rutgers' Anthony Davis tops the list. Barrows: "The 49ers need an offensive tackle, and Davis is the best tackle likely to be available. Earlier this week, Mel Kiper, Jr. compared the criticisms surrounding Davis to those Michael Oher experienced last year. Remember, the 49ers would have drafted Oher had Michael Crabtree not slipped to them at No. 10. The biggest impediment to Davis becoming a 49er? It might be the Raiders, who have the 8th pick."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat wonders whether Mike Singletary's affinity for Tim Tebow could lead the 49ers to draft the quarterback in the second round. Also from Maiocco: "If the 49ers were to select [Joe] Haden, it would make Nate Clements and his $6 million salary expendable. I'd think the starters would be Haden and Shawntae Spencer, with Tarell Brown as the nickelback."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks the Raiders and 49ers could have serious interest in Jimmy Clausen if the Notre Dame quarterback is available to them in the first round. Kawakami: "First off, he’s from Notre Dame, a school as ingrained in the York family as Hogwarts is for that Potter guy. Secondly, Scot McCloughan was the one true Alex Smith backer in the front office, and he’s gone. Jed York, Mike Singletary and acting GM Trent Baalke have sworn devotion to Smith in recent weeks, but that sounds like typical 49ers’ over-praise and over-commitment on an issue on which there is legitimate question. Also, Smith is signed only through this year and Carr is signed for two years, so we know that the 49ers don’t have their long-term QB situation quite figured out."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com sizes up tackle prospects that could interest Seattle.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times isn't reading too much into Walter Jones' re-emergence on Twitter. The veteran left tackle hasn't participated in the offseason program to this point, which may or may not mean anything. If Jones were serious about returning from multiple knee surgeries, wouldn't he be doing everything possible to rehabilitate the knee, including spending time at team headquarters under supervision of the training staff? Possibly not, but I'm skeptical about his ability to return at a high level.

Brian McIntyre' of Mac's Football Blog lists salary increases for Seattle's Kelly Jennings and Brandon Mebane, plus several other NFC West players, according to NFLPA records.

John Morgan of Field Gulls provides positional overviews for the Seahawks at defensive end, plus standup end, linebacker and defensive tackle.

Around the NFC West: Vetting Khan

March, 24, 2010
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says NFL owners want to know more about Shahid Khan before approving his bid to purchase at least 60 percent of the Rams. Texans owner Bob McNair, speaking in general terms and not specifically about Khan: "You want someone that's going to represent the league well in that city. I guess if it were someone that had a reputation as being a bad business person, or not treating people fairly, or not paying their bills, or something that would be very negative, you wouldn't want someone like that as a partner. Because he'd be a poor reflection on you. So there are things other than just the financial issues that have to be looked at."

Also from Thomas: Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo played in a golf foursome with Jeffrey Lurie, John Harbaugh and Brad Childress.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Barry Sims re-signed with the 49ers in part because he wanted to continue relationships with teammates on the offensive line. He also visited the Redskins. Sims: "You have to establish relations with everybody. I would really miss the guys in San Francisco because we have such a great group of guys."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Sims is looking forward to serving as a mentor on the line. Sims: "If they do draft an offensive lineman, I'd love to have him and I like working with young guys and try to mentor him -- like some of the older guys did for me when I got into the league. It's a lot different than college. To have someone been there and done that take you and show you how it's supposed to go, it's a fun role to have."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Sims was tempted to follow former 49ers line coach Chris Foerster to the Redskins, but he didn't want to leave the Bay Area after spending his entire career playing for the Raiders or 49ers.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says this about Seahawks tackle Ray Willis during a recent chat: "Ray Willis' fit is going to be a question. Willis wasn't considered a fit for Alex Gibbs' blocking system when he came out in the draft in 2005. Now, he's played five seasons and has a balky knee. We'll see what happens."

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune has some suggestions for former Seahawks coach Jim Mora, noting the improbability of Mora's claim that he'd never heard of Charlie Whitehurst. McGrath: "Clemson is 86.7 miles away from Flowery Branch. The coach on a crusade against lies and deception wants you to think he’s never heard of quarterback who starred on a campus that’s 86.7 miles away from where Mora used to work, who grew up in the same Atlanta suburb (Duluth, Ga., population 26,000) where Mora once lived, who retired as the third-leading passer in ACC history, who outplayed Jay Cutler in the Senior Bowl, who was drafted in the third round and went on to throw 51 passes against Seattle over two preseason games. Uh, sure. Mora either was fibbing in an attempt to ridicule his successor’s signature transaction, or he really is as clueless as his most vitriolic critics have submitted on the blogs."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic runs through recent moves made by the Cardinals. Tight end Ben Patrick, safety Hamza Abdullah, fullback Nehemiah Broughton and receiver Darren Mougey have signed with the team. Somers: "Mougey entered San Diego State as a quarterback but spent his final two seasons at receiver. At 6-5 and 215 pounds, he has good size. He was with the Falcons for part of training camp last season but was cut in early August."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals will have a hard time finding a suitable replacement for Karlos Dansby in the 2010 draft. Might Donald Butler or Pat Angerer make sense in the middle rounds?

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com suggests recently signed Cardinals outside linebacker Joey Porter might have some business with new teammate Reggie Walker, who wears the No. 55 jersey Porter has worn. Clark Haggans: "I'm staying out of that one."

Around the NFC West: Khan cruising?

March, 23, 2010
3/23/10
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Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Colts owner Jim Irsay as saying Shahid Khan's bid to purchase the Rams could be headed for approval. Irsay: "I think indications are that (Khan's) strength of wealth is there. His background and those sort of things are really positive. It's not something that we've got our final reports on, but all indications are that it's trending in a positive direction for him." Thomas also checks in with part-owner Stan Kroenke, who isn't saying how he'll proceed. Thomas: "In reality, Kroenke probably has only two options: maintain his 40 percent share or sell it. Because in pretty strong language Monday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the league wasn't inclined to bend its cross-ownership rules to allow Kroenke to match (Shahid) Khan's offer." Kroenke also owns the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch estimates there's a 20 percent chance Marc Bulger could return to the Rams in 2010. Miklasz: "Unless something unexpected develops, the Rams will draft Sam Bradford and they have A.J. Feeley to serve as an interim QB while they get the rookie ready to play. And what would be the point of keeping Bulger -- who makes big money -- around as a highly expensive third quarterback? That doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. If the Rams back away from Bradford AND decline to draft a QB in the 2nd or 3rd round -- a QB that figures in their short-term plans -- then I could see them revisiting the idea of keeping Bulger. But that is unlikely." I can't see Bulger returning.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat provides a general Rams update, noting that the team did not work out Sam Bradford or give him a physical examination during a recent meeting with him in Florida.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists the Seahawks' additions and subtractions to this point in free agency. O'Neil on Cory Redding: "Redding lost his starting job after three games. He got his first sack in the 10th game. But when coach Pete Carroll was hired, Redding was one [of] the players he mentioned in radio interviews as a lineman the team was hoping to find an effective role for. And to be fair, Redding was one of the most impactful players on the defense over the final month of the season. Coincidence or contract? You be the judge on that one."

John Morgan of Field Gulls isn't expecting much from new Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Morgan: "A team can wager a lot or a little on a low-value asset. It can see Whitehurst for what he is, a backup quarterback with some warts and some potential not unlike Brady Quinn or Derek Anderson, or it can lock onto one player, forego negotiations and pay the sticker price for his services. Seattle did the latter." I think the Seahawks settled for Whitehurst after determining they did not like Seneca Wallace, could not get Kevin Kolb for a reasonable price and did not feel comfortable with the quarterbacks most likely to be available in the draft. That doesn't seem like the best way to find a quarterback. The question then becomes whether the Seahawks paid too much for what they're getting.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com isn't sure where the Cardinals go from here in free agency. He thinks Sean Morey wants to return to the team despite making a free-agent visit to Seattle. I think there's a decent chance Morey winds up with the Seahawks. It's looking like Arizona will be overhauling much of its receiving corps. Anquan Boldin and Jerheme Urban are already gone. Morey was more of a special-teamer, but he counted as a receiver on game days when the Cardinals configured their 45-man roster. Taking him out of the mix could give Arizona three new receivers on game days who weren't part of the regular rotation when the 2010 season opened. Early Doucet supplanted Urban during the season. Also from Urban: "Veterans who are waiting now for bigger potential deals probably aren’t going to get them, and historically it’s even harder to get a decent deal after the draft because teams have filled up their holes with new talent that can be home-grown. What happens to Mike Gandy or Chike Okeafor, for instance (other than that they won’t be in Arizona)?"

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers need to hire another general manager after parting with Scot McCloughan. Knapp: "There are NFL teams that can afford to be creative and defy the standard structure of a front office. The 49ers are absolutely, categorically, definitively not one of them. They have a team president and head coach with less than three years' experience between them, a roster that has not been properly updated this offseason and a seven-year absence from the playoffs."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee provides an overview of Jed York's comments regarding Scot McCloughan's departure as general manager. Barrows: "York said that he has yet to decide on the structure of the team's front office moving forward, and that he wasn't sure whether he would have a general manager in the future. He said those decisions would be made after the draft. He was resolute, however, in stating that neither he nor his top lieutenant, Paraag Marathe, would become the team's general manager."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along York's commitment to Alex Smith as the starting quarterback. York sounded a lot like McCloughan. York: "I think it's great this is the first time he's had continuity at the offensive coordinator. When you have some weapons around him with Crab (Michael Crabtree) with Vernon (Davis) with Frank (Gore), I think Alex is poised to have a good season for us. And (we're) more excited that Alex is our starting quarterback."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says York's comments raised more questions. Cohn: "If the Niners don't have a GM what will they have?"

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says McCloughan would have kept his job absent personal issues, according to York.
Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly says the 49ers have good intentions in their ouster of general manager Scot McCloughan, and that McCloughan's agent could be angling for a confidentiality agreement relating to the "personal issues" behind his demise. Arkush: "While the lack of any official word from the Niners' organization on what actually is transpiring at present is making it look unaccountable -- and, in the eyes of some critics, rather deceiving, with up-and-coming organizational power broker Paraag Marathe rumored by some to be at the forefront of a 'blindside' of McCloughan -- sources tell us the team's murky stance is as much due to its genuine desire to do good by McCloughan, who is genuinely well-liked in the industry and respected as an evaluator, as anything."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee explains why he thinks the 49ers haven't resolved the situation involving McCloughan. "If McCloughan were to resign, the 49ers wouldn't have to pay him. The 49ers believe McCloughan will do so because the 'personal reasons' that have been cited in conjunction to his estrangement would be embarrassing to him. McCloughan, however, is holding his ground, an indication that he doesn't feel the reasons for his ouster are as damaging as the 49ers believe them to be."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat sorts through the 49ers' current front-office situation and says Marathe could one day become general manager. Maiocco: "The Eagles in January made 34-year-old Howie Roseman their GM. Roseman's began with the Eagles as their lead figure in salary-cap matters. Some view the Eagles as a template for what the 49ers might ultimately consider with Marathe. Marathe is the 49ers' cap man and their lead negotiator. He also spends game days in the coaches' box, where he assists [head coach Mike] Singletary with game management, challenges and rules interpretations. It's not out of the question to think at some point Marathe could become 49ers general manager."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks McCloughan's departure from the 49ers could diminish Alex Smith's future with the team. This was going to be Smith's make-or-break year, anyway. If they replace him before the season, they'd better have somebody demonstrably better. Otherwise they wasted the second half of the 2009 season and, arguably, the past five years.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Shahid Khan should know by May whether NFL owners will approve his plan to purchase the Rams. Thomas: "Khan has met on several occasions with Stan Kroenke, who owns 40 percent of the Rams. A league source familiar with the sale said Khan and Kroenke are getting to know each other." Kroenke has the option to keep his 40 percent, sell his 40 percent or move to purchase the remaining 60 percent. The first options appears most likely, but nothing is official yet. Thomas: "Khan must appear before the finance committee to answer any questions that it might have for him. But again, that can't happen until Kroenke declares and the final transaction agreement is in place. Kroenke's 60-day window to make a decision expires on or around April 12."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' affinity for Sam Bradford and the budding Khan-Kroenke relationship could set up the team for a brighter future. Miklasz: "The Rams are genuinely excited by the idea of making Bradford a centerpiece of their rebuilding. And by sending that signal along the NFL information pipeline, [general manager Billy] Devaney is letting it be known that he's dealing from a position of strength. If an NFL team wants to acquire that coveted No. 1 pick, they'll have to make a sweet offer."

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers five-year follow-ups on Seahawks draft classes. On the 2005 draft featuring Chris Spencer, Lofa Tatupu, Leroy Hill and Ray Willis: "It was not a perfect draft, but it certainly will not screw Pete Carroll and John Schneider quite like the 2003 and 2004 draft screwed Tim Ruskell. If Spencer develops, Hill and Tatupu regain their health, and [Alex] Gibbs helps turn Willis into a good right tackle, Carroll will be accredited the wins, but Ruskell found the talent."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits a busy week for the team. Farnsworth: "None of the moves made by the Seahawks this week will impact what they might do in the draft -- where they now have the sixth, 14th and 60th picks overall. As (general manager John) Schneider said twice Thursday, during the news conference to announce the addition of Whitehurst, the arrival of the Chargers former backup does not rule out the possibility that the Seahawks will choose a quarterback with one of its two picks in the first round."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Joey Porter's signing should help the Cardinals' pass rush, and it has already helped in another area. Urban: "The fact his signing has clearly energized guys like (Darnell) Dockett and Larry Fitzgerald inside the locker room can’t be discounted either. They have to feel the team is making the effort to stay on top."

Tony Grossi of the Cleveland Plain Dealer says the Cardinals had interest in Browns outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley. Grossi: "The big holdup with them, like other teams, was Wimbley's contract. Wimbley has voided the final year of his deal through performance incentives. There are buyback provisions built in, but as things stand, 2010 is his last year under contract. The fact he can be a free agent in one year hurt his marketability. Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt did not want to give up a high draft pick for Wimbley without a longer-term deal in place."

Joe Fortenbaugh of National Football Post wonders whether the Cardinals signed Porter only after Wimbley landed in Oakland. Wimbley would have been more appealing if under contract for years to come. That was one of the benefits of the Kerry Rhodes trade. Rhodes was under contract at a reasonable rate.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune takes an in-depth look at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll through the eyes of policemen and others outside the NFL. Boling: "Carroll used his position and visibility to create a nonprofit organization, A Better L.A., that helped involve corporate and monied entities. It brought together government and law-enforcement agencies, and helped support and fund the critical liaisons with the community. He began showing up in the neighborhoods in the middle of the night for face-to-face talks with gang members. And the most important thing … he didn’t make a splash and run. He committed."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' courtship of Brandon Marshall could take time.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along a quote from a Bengals beat reporter shooting down Cincinnati's alleged interest in Marshall as a smokescreen. Agreed.

Also from O'Neil: a look at players who have visited, are scheduled to visit or are reportedly scheduled to visit the Seahawks. Marshall, Dwan Edwards, Tyler Brayton, Ben Watson, Ben Hamilton, Chris Baker, Mike Bell and William James make the list.

John Morgan of Field Gulls says the Seahawks should play it cool on the Marshall front in an effort to drive down the price. That is exactly what will happen, in my view.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams could complete a deal with free-agent defensive tackle Fred Robbins by Monday, according to Robbins' agent.

Also from Thomas: Former Rams cornerback Jonathan Wade is scheduled to visit the Lions.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' methodical approach to free agency is a tough sell for a skeptical fan base. Miklasz: "The Rams are stuck in a strange and unenviable spot right now. The franchise doesn't have an owner. Oh, Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez technically maintain ownership, but they're on the way out after having sold majority control to Shahid Khan. But Khan still must gain league approval before taking over and the process might take two months or more. So the team is in transition, in between bosses. And it's awkward."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat quotes Rams general manager Billy Devaney on Marc Bulger, Richie Incognito and Matt Ware. The Rams have no plans to sign Incognito or Ware, contrary to rumors. Devaney on Bulger: "I don't care what anybody says [about Bulger]. This is a helluva kid. He’s a pro’s pro and understands everything. We told him as soon as there’s clarity and we have a feel for how this will play out, he’ll be the first person to know. It could be anything, and he understands that. Our position right now is that he’s still a member of the Rams and if that ever changes we’ll be up front with Marc."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill is "considering his options" after the team signed David Carr. Those options are limited because the 49ers control his rights.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says Alex Smith has lost every quarterback competition in which he has participated since joining the 49ers. What does that mean now that Carr is on board? Kawakami: "I would also guess that Scot McCloughan, Mike Singletary and Jimmy Raye are looking to add a little spice to the QB spot in training camp, with Carr getting a shot to unseat Alex Smith if possible. (Carr might not have come here unless he thought he had a real shot at the No. 1 spot.) But remember, Smith isn’t too good in summer-camp battles."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, initially critical of the team's interest in Carr, tweeted nice things about the quarterback once Carr signed. Damage control.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic recaps Anquan Boldin's career with the Cardinals. Larry Fitzgerald: "I'm going to miss him. Understatement of the day. Big part of what we were able to accomplish here, a dear friend, but I'm happy for him and his family."

Also from Somers: a look at a wild few days for the Cardinals, with thoughts on the contract clauses that have given the team trouble recently. Somers: "Owner Bill Bidwill was against voidable clauses, a commonly used contract element throughout the NFL. Bidwill has since dropped his objections to voidable years, and the trade for (Kerry) Rhodes brought some fans in off the ledge. But the Cardinals could face the same problem next year. Quarterback Matt Leinart, now the starter, was drafted a year after (Antrel) Rolle. Leinart's salary is due to increase nearly $5 million in 2010, to $7.36 million, and he's due a $5.5 million roster bonus. The Cardinals will have to make a decision about his future early in 2011."

More from Somers: Joey Porter and Larry Foote would be interesting additions if Arizona decided to sign either linebacker. Both played with current Cardinals linebacker Clark Haggans in Pittsburgh.

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