NFC West: Will Blackmon

Team-by-team breakdown on waiver awards

September, 2, 2013
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The NFL awarded 45 players to other teams via waiver claims immediately following the mandatory reduction to 53-man roster limits Saturday.

Most of the players probably will not play leading roles for their new teams. Some could develop over time.

We have recently considered whether having a high number of released players awarded to other teams via waivers might reflect well on a team's roster strength. The thinking is that stronger teams release better players overall, and weaker teams find more of those players appealing. This sounds logical and appears true in some cases even though the overall numbers suggest this isn't necessarily the case.

In any event, the chart below ranks teams by the number of released players awarded to other teams via waivers immediately following the reduction to 53 players. A league-high five players released by the Green Bay Packers immediately found homes elsewhere via waivers. The Seattle Seahawks and Philadelphia Eagles were next with four apiece.

On the flip side, Kansas City and Jacksonville each received a league-high seven players off waivers from other teams. Cleveland was next with six, followed by New England (four), the New York Jets (three) and four teams with two apiece: Oakland, San Diego, Tampa Bay and Arizona.

The total number of claims submitted exceeds the number of players awarded because some players were claimed more than once. I do not yet have the total number of claims submitted. The numbers I've referenced here pertain only to players awarded via waivers.

Note that Seattle's strength in the secondary shines through. The Seahawks were the only team to have two of the defensive backs they released awarded to other teams via waivers. Ron Parker went to Kansas City. Winston Guy went to Jacksonville. Another former Seahawks defensive back, Will Blackmon, was not eligible for waivers when Seattle terminated his contract. The Jaguars signed him as well. Yet another Seattle defensive back, Antoine Winfield, was expected to retire following his release from the Seahawks.

Connections came into play with those waiver claims. The Chiefs' general manager, John Dorsey, worked with Seahawks GM John Schneider in Green Bay. They could be looking for similar players in some cases. Guy and Blackmon join a Jaguars team featuring former Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley as head coach.

Looking back on three things discussed here before the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 exhibition opener, a 31-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium:

1. Return specialists. The Chargers didn't do much to help the Seahawks identify their next kickoff returner. Seattle returned only one kickoff all evening, with cornerback Jeremy Lane gaining 21 yards on that play. Not much to go on there. Cornerback Walter Thurmond nearly scored on a punt return that gained 46 yards. Receiver Perez Ashford had a 27-yard punt return. Corner Will Blackmon had a 19-yarder. Seattle was set in the return game with Leon Washington last season, but the team released him after acquiring Percy Harvin, who subsequently underwent hip surgery and is out indefinitely.

2. Backup QBs and a guy taking their handoffs. Brady Quinn and Tarvaris Jackson both outplayed Chargers backup and former Seahawks starter Charlie Whitehurst. Jackson was especially impressive, completing all but one of his nine attempts for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 42-yarder to Stephen Williams. Jackson was accurate on that deep pass and on a separate 41-yarder to Williams. Quinn nearly took a safety early in the game before rebounding to find Jermaine Kearse for an 11-yard touchdown. Quinn completed 6 of 11 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. The No. 2 job behind Russell Wilson is Jackson's to lose, in my view. He only strengthened his position with this performance. In the backfield, rookie second-round choice Christine Michael carried 16 times for 89 yards, breaking free for a 24-yard gain in the fourth quarter. He looked good.

3. Rookie TE Willson. The Seahawks are looking for rookie fifth-round pick Luke Willson to develop into a solid second tight end to pair with starter Zach Miller. Willson could not come down with an early third-down pass from Wilson. He did catch another pass for a 15-yard gain and third-down conversion, this one from Quinn. Cooper Helfet made the most impressive reception by a Seattle tight end, diving to make a 23-yard reception.

Three things: Seahawks-Chargers

August, 8, 2013
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Three things to watch for Thursday night in the Seattle Seahawks' 2013 exhibition opener against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium (10 p.m. ET):

1. Return specialists. The Seahawks released dynamic return man Leon Washington before they knew the recently acquired Percy Harvin would undergo season-altering hip surgery. The team is listing Will Blackmon, Jeremy Lane and Bryan Walters as its top three kickoff returners. Golden Tate is listed as the punt returner. Blackmon returned three punts for touchdowns while with Green Bay, but that was way back in 2007 and 2008. How will the Seahawks' return game fare without Washington and Harvin?

2. Backup QBs and a guy taking their handoffs. Tarvaris Jackson and Brady Quinn are competing to serve as the No. 2 quarterback behind Russell Wilson. Jackson has greater experience in the Seahawks' offensive system, having run it with Seattle and Minnesota. Jackson has greater equity in the locker room after playing through a torn pectoral muscle as Seattle's primary starter in 2011. Does that mean Quinn has to win this battle decisively to beat out Jackson? Can Quinn make this decision a difficult one? Don't stop watching after the handoff, either. Rookie running back Christine Michael is a player of interest after Seattle made him a surprise second-round choice.

3. Rookie TE Willson. Luke Willson makes his Seahawks debut as a rookie fifth-round choice and potential complement to starting tight end Zach Miller. A foot injury has prevented Miller from practicing and will keep him out of this game. Another familiar veteran at the position, Anthony McCoy, is not back after suffering a torn Achilles' tendon during offseason workouts. Willson, Sean McGrath and Cooper Helfet are among the lesser-known tight ends with an opportunity to distinguish themselves.
Kevin Seifert and I will be getting together later Tuesday for a pre-draft "Inside Slant" podcast. One subject we'll discuss: areas teams could address in the 2013 draft with an eye toward contract situations that won't factor this season.

Examples jump out for two NFC West teams with strong rosters for 2013.

The San Francisco 49ers appear set in the short term at wide receiver and cornerback. The Seattle Seahawks are even stronger at corner -- best in the NFL, according to our recent rankings from Matt Williamson of ESPN.com.

But the picture can change dramatically for those teams at those positions in 2014.

Michael Crabtree is the only proven wide receiver under contract to the 49ers past 2013. The team's 2012 first-round choice, A.J. Jenkins, could strengthen the long-term forecast with a strong showing this season. Until that happens, however, the 49ers could stand to protect themselves. Anquan Boldin is on a one-year deal. Mario Manningham and Kyle Williams are coming off injuries and unsigned beyond this season.

Signing Crabtree to an extension could make sense at some point, but that wouldn't change the picture for 2014. Crabtree is already signed through that season.

So, while receiver isn't an immediate need for San Francisco, it's a position the team could justify addressing in the draft. Having Jenkins and another draft choice under contract for the longer term at low cost would buy flexibility with Crabtree if Jenkins and the draft choice were productive.

At cornerback, the 49ers have Carlos Rogers and Chris Culliver signed past 2013, with rights to Perrish Cox, who can become a restricted free agent. That's not a bad base to build around. But with Tarell Brown, Nnamdi Asomugha and Tramaine Brock unsigned past 2013, some longer-term planning could be in order.

Having 13 choices in the 2013 draft should give the 49ers ample options.

Seattle's corner situation appears rock solid for this season. Richard Sherman is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL. Brandon Browner fits the Seahawks' scheme and has gone to a Pro Bowl. Antoine Winfield should upgrade the nickel corner position significantly.

However, Browner can become an unrestricted free agent after the 2013 season. So can Winfield. Walter Thurmond and Will Blackmon are also signed through 2013 only. Sherman is on track to command top dollar following the 2014 season, when Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas is also due for a new deal.

Drafting a cornerback this year should not be an urgent priority for the Seahawks given their strength at the position right now. It would provide some longer-range insurance at a position that will need addressing in the not-too-distant future.
Aaron from Chicago wants to know why the Seattle Seahawks keep acquiring personnel from his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Cornerback Antoine Winfield was the latest addition to the "Minnesota West" roster in Seattle.

"Ever since we controversially signed Steve Hutchinson from them," Aaron writes, "it has seemed as though the Seahawks go out of their way to snatch whatever Vikings they can to stick it to us. It started with them signing Nate Burleson, then Sidney Rice and Heath Farwell, Darell Bevell and Tarvaris Jackson (for whatever reason). They even outbid us for T.J. Houshmanzadeh a few years back. They signed Ryan Longwell at the end of this past season. Obviously, it has continued with Percy Harvin and now Winfield."

Sando: It's a remarkable pattern, but there's likely no revenge factor. The people running the Seahawks during the Hutchinson controversy are long gone from the organization. They were involved in adding Burleson and Houshmandzadeh, but they had nothing to do with the Seahawks' more recent deals for Rice, Farwell, Bevell, Jackson, Harvin or Winfield.

Bevell's hiring as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator stands out as a factor behind the team's decisions to sign Rice and trade for Harvin.

John Schneider's presence as the Seahawks' general manager since 2010 provides a strong link to the NFC North in general. Schneider, after spending much of his career with the Green Bay Packers, played a role in Seattle adding former NFC North players such as Breno Giacomini, Will Blackmon, Cliff Avril, Steven Hauschka, Brett Swain, Frank Omiyale and others. Also, Schneider and Bevell were together in Green Bay. However, Seattle has added many more players without ties to the Vikings or the NFC North.

For a while, the Detroit Lions signed or otherwise acquired a long list of players with Seahawks ties. There were some connections between the organizations -- former Lions coach Rod Marinelli and former Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell shared a history with Tampa Bay, for instance -- but some of the overlap defied explanation.

Tyler Polumbus, Burleson, Will Heller, Rob Sims, Lawrence Jackson, Maurice Morris, Julian Peterson, Trevor Canfield, Marquand Manuel, Kole Heckendorf, Kevin Hobbs, Logan Payne, Chuck Darby, Keary Colbert, Billy McMullen, Travis Fisher, Cory Redding, John Owens, Joel Filani, T.J. Duckett, Kevin Kasper, Etric Pruitt and Mike Williams were among the players to play for both organizations.

Update: The Burleson signing did have a retaliatory aspect, as ZippyWasBanned noted in the comments section. Seattle signed him to an offer sheet featuring "poison pills" similar to the ones that helped the Vikings land Hutchinson.

NFC West links: Walton to run Rams D

February, 13, 2013
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Arizona Cardinals

Quarterback Kevin Kolb would like to stick with the Cardinals, but not at the expense of a better contract, writes Darren Urban of azcardinals.com. Kent Somers of azcentral.com also weighed in on Kolb's contract situation. Somers: "There’s little question Kolb, carrying a cheaper price tag, is a better option than anyone else on the roster or in free agency."

Dan Bickley of azcentral.com looks at alternatives to Kolb at QB for the Cardinals: Drew Stanton, Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer.

San Francisco 49ers

Will the 49ers make a play for Vikings receiver Percy Harvin? Don't count on it, writes CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco. "Good teams treat their draft picks like gold. Teams that want to win consistently generally do not hand out big contracts to attract players from other teams. Yes, Harvin's contract for 2013 makes him affordable, but he would want a lucrative extension from any team that acquires him," Maiocco writes. "The 49ers have done a good job of managing their salary cap, and I would not expect them to break the bank with a market-value deal for a big-name player from another team."

Free agent receiver Greg Jennings would be a "perfect fit" for the 49ers, according to Yahoo! Sports' Jason Cole.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman will be driven by the 49ers' loss in the Super Bowl all offseason. "That's sort of the life of a coach. Will it eat at me? Of course it will. But I'll use it as motivation going forward," Roman told SI.com's Peter King.

Seattle Seahawks

The team had three players -- Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas -- on NFL.com's All-Under-25 Team.

Defensive back/kick returner Will Blackmon signed with the Seahawks Wednesday, reports USA Today's Mike Garafolo.

St. Louis Rams

Detroit Lions assistant coach Tim Walton has accepted the Rams' job offer to be their defensive coordinator, reports Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Rams could lose promising wide receivers Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola in free agency, writes Ryan Van Bibber of Turf Show Times.

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