NFC West: Vance Joseph
I'll be heading to the NFL scouting combine Wednesday and beginning coverage from Indianapolis the following day. In the meantime, offseason storylines abound.
Let's take our usual morning spin around the division.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with general manager John Schneider for thoughts on Seattle's efforts to land a franchise quarterback. Schneider: "I've been blessed to be around a lot of really good quarterback people that have taught me a lot about the position, so I just kind of incorporate that with the quarterbacks I've been around. I just know if you panic at the position, it can set the organization back. So we're not going to do that." Noted: Wanting a franchise quarterback and finding one are not the same thing. The Seahawks realize they're not drafting early enough to land Andrew Luck or even Robert Griffin III. They know health concerns make Peyton Manning a risky proposition. Matt Flynn is another option, but an unproven one.
Also from Farnsworth: Walter Thurmond's injury rehab comes after the position he once manned changed substantially in his absence.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says a long-term deal for Calais Campbell would make more sense than using the franchise tag, which could send the team down a road similar to the one used for Karlos Dansby. Somers: "The amount the Cardinals pay Campbell now in a long-term deal will seem like a lot. Heck, it will be a lot. But in two or three years, if Campbell continues to play as he did in 2011, it won't be unreasonable. The cap is going to increase dramatically. Someone is going to have to be paid. It might as well be a 25-year-old defensive end who's done everything anyone could ask in his first four seasons." Noted: The franchise tag will tempt teams this offseason because prices have fallen. Campbell should have considerable staying power, however, and he is ascending. He appears to be a prime candidate for a longer-term deal.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says cornerback Greg Toler finished his college degree in criminal justice this offseason. Urban: "Rehabbing his knee, Toler -- a restricted free agent who is expected to be back with the Cards -- has every expectation to be ready for training camp. But he also likes the idea of having a degree. He said he was good in forensics in school, and while he didn’t necessarily see himself following his sister as a second lawyer in the family, he could see himself in some part of law enforcement."
Also from Urban: Coordinator Mike Miller's thoughts on the Cardinals' offense.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have been noncommittal regarding Randy Moss, who played for Rams coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. Fisher: "I thought the world of him over the six or eight weeks that I think we had him. I thought he was a terrific teammate and he did a great job in our locker room." Noted: Moss caught six passes for the Titans and 28 during the entire 2010 season, his most recent in the NFL. The Rams are weak enough at the position for Fisher to keep open all options whether or not Moss has a realistic shot at playing for the team at any point in the future.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams' draft plans remain in their formative stages given all the work Fisher and new general manager Les Snead face ahead of them.
Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis explains why the Rams aren't flush with salary-cap space. Balzer: "The reality is that Chris Long, Jason Smith and Sam Bradford ($15.595 million) count a combined $47.17 million against the cap, which is 37.5 percent of the projected cap space. Include Steven Jackson ($8.899 million) and the total is $56.069 million/44.6 percent. Finally, the percentage for five players goes over 50 percent when Ron Bartell’s $7.663 million is factored in. Those five players have a total cap figure of $63.732 million, which is 50.7 percent of the expected cap." Noted: The Rams held high draft choices at the wrong time. Had the current labor agreement been in place earlier, the Rams could have signed Long, Smith and Bradford at far lower rates.
Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis points to Cortland Finnegan, among others, as potential good fits for the Rams in free agency.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has this to say about the 49ers giving cornerback Shawntae Spencer permission to explore trade options: "The day after the season ended, Spencer expressed his intent to switch agents. Spencer's agent was David Dunn, whose close ties to coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke, represented a potential conflict of interest, Spencer said. ... Among the teams that could be interested are the Houston Texans, whose defensive backs coach, Vance Joseph, coached Spencer six years with the 49ers; Seattle Seahawks, whose secondary coach, Kris Richard, played with Spencer with the 49ers in 2005; and the St. Louis Rams, another NFC West team whose secondary needs strengthening." Noted: Spencer is scheduled to earn $3.2 million in base salary for the 2012 season. I have a hard time envisioning another team acquiring that contract.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee does not expect the 49ers to be big spenders in the free-agent market for receivers. Noted: Last offseason, the 49ers took a low-keyed approach to the market before going 13-3, winning a playoff game and securing funding for a new stadium. The team has zero incentive to overspend now.
Jill Tucker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers appear on course to open their new stadium for the 2014 season, a year earlier than once expected.
Also from Thomas: Marshall Faulk and Eric Dickerson would have been limited partners in a Dave Checketts' ownership group. Also, the Rams are renewing their efforts to sign safety Oshiomogho Atogwe to a long-term deal.
Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams have no plans to trade running back Steven Jackson.
Scott Kegley of 49ers.com checks in with Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who has nice things to say about 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan. Thompson: "Scot’s a grinder. I think he’s done a marvelous job if you look at his drafts. They’ve been solid every year. He’s gotten some outstanding Pro Bowl players through the draft, which isn’t as easy as some people might think it is. He’s accumulated draft picks and he has two [first-round picks] this year. I think we both have a strong belief that you build your team through the draft."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers should make a play for Chargers running back Darren Sproles in free agency. The idea has some appeal, but I'd be surprised if the 49ers made a strong play for Sproles.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coaches Mike Solari, Tom Rathman, Vance Joseph and Jason Tarver are helping to run drills at the NFL combine.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals need to restock the quarterback position now that Kurt Warner retired and Brian St. Pierre can become an unrestricted free agent. Somers: "The Cardinals job should be attractive to free agents, too, because of the team's offensive talent and Leinart's lack of experience. The Cardinals must find out whether Leinart can play this season. His salary increases from $2.5 million this year to $7.4 million in 2011, and he is due a $5.5 million roster bonus next spring. If Leinart struggles, the backup could be the starter before the end of October."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com also looks at the Cardinals' need to acquire quarterbacks. Urban: "taking a quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds can provide a gem once in a while. That’s how the Patriots ended up with Tom Brady, a sixth-round selection. Unlike other positions, however, teams don’t draft quarterbacks just to have a role player. A quarterback, because he does nothing if he doesn’t play, is drafted to hopefully evolve into a starter."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Nate Burleson wants to remain with the Seahawks and nothing has changed just because Seattle, as expected, did not use the franchise tag on him. Johns: "So now Burleson is headed into free agency and will be able to negotiate with the Seahawks and any other NFL team starting March 5, exactly as both sides have known for months. Nothing new here. Surely Burleson isn't going to turn down a huge offer from another team and the Seahawks run the risk of losing him. But if the Seahawks want Burleson -- and why wouldn't they, given the team's desperate need for playmakers? -- it seems like something can be worked out in this case."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, getting thoughts on Walter Jones. Holmgren: "That will be a huge hole to fill when he stops playing, and I hope he can play some more. I believe if I was still there I would be coaxing him into something. Trying anyway. But he has played a long time, and I think he has really been a warrior the last couple years because he's played on some bad wheels, a bad shoulder and things. He's played a lot of football."
Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks need to find playmakers in the draft. O'Neil: "General manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll inherit an offense that has withered. The Seahawks haven't chosen an offensive player in the first round of the draft since picking center Chris Spencer in 2005. The Seahawks also went three years without picking a quarterback and drafted more fullbacks (three) than tailbacks (one) in Tim Ruskell's five years as president."
It's pretty clear the Cardinals do more with less than the other teams in the division. They have fewer assistants than the other teams in the NFC West.
In most cases, I have recreated official titles for each assistant coach. That explains why the Cardinals have no offensive coordinator listed (Russ Grimm coordinates the running game, Mike Miller coordinates the passing game and Ken Whisenhunt calls the plays). I did not create a special category for 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan (he also carries the title senior assistant). Seattle's Carroll is also executive vice president. I did not create an extra category to reflect that title.
I have listed no offensive line coach for the Cardinals. Grimm handles those duties. The 49ers do not list a defensive quality control coach, but clearly someone must break down the upcoming opponents' offensive video (I am checking to see which assistant handles those duties). Update: Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver handles those duties. Also, I updated the chart to reflect Curtis Modkins' departure from the Cardinals to become Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Ray Brown is the new assistant offensive line coach in San Francisco.
The Rams are expected to hire a receivers coach after Charlie Baggett left. They could hire an assistant offensive line coach to replace Art Valero, who took the same job with Seattle. The 49ers might need to find a new offensive quality-control coach (Shane Day is interviewing with the Bears to coach quarterbacks for Mike Martz).
The Rams and Seahawks list special assistants to the head coach. These are largely administrative positions.
NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete after the Rams assigned titles to Frank Leonard, Paul Ferraro, Andre Curtis and Clayton Lopez.
The chart shows which coaches retained their titles from the end of last season (gray shading) and which coaches are new to their current roles (yellow shading). The Cardinals could face additional changes if they fill vacancies from within.
All four offensive line coaches remain in their roles from last season (subject to change if Russ Grimm becomes the Cardinals' offensive coordinator). Every other core staff position features at least one change in the division.
The 49ers and Rams have the largest staffs with 20 members apiece, counting head coaches. The Seahawks reduced to 18 after moving assistant offensive line coach Mike DeBord to tight ends and eliminating the job of assistant special teams coach John Jamison. The Cardinals have 13 coaches, a number that figures to rise by at least three.
The 49ers and Rams have full-time administrative assistants assigned to their head coaches. The Cardinals do not formally list an assistant strength and conditioning coach, although Pete Alosi does help John Lott in that area.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
NFC West coaching staffs are mostly complete. The chart provides a general overview showing which coaches are primarily overseeing key areas.
Some coaches have fancy titles. I'll list those below. Including those titles in the chart would have served them but not us.
The 49ers have two coaches assigned to linebackers and two assigned to the secondary:
- Jason Tarver is a defensive assistant/outside linebackers. Vantz Singletary is coaching inside linebackers. Coach Mike Singletary and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky are former NFL linebackers, so the 49ers have that position covered.
- Vance Joseph and Johnnie Lynn are both listed as secondary coaches.
The Rams have not named coaches at tight
end, linebacker or secondary. However, they have hired Andre Curtis and Paul Ferraro as unspecified defensive assistants. They have also hired Frank Leonard as an unspecified offensive assistant.
The Seahawks and Cardinals do not list administrative assistants as part of their staffs. Bill Nayes and Bruce Warwick fill those spots for the 49ers and Rams, respectively.
The following team-by-team list includes all the fancy titles, plus some coaches who did not appear on the chart: