NFC West: William James

2011 UFA market: NFC West scorecard

August, 23, 2011
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With training camps winding down, I've found time to update rosters and put together team-by-team reference material for unrestricted free agency.

The names below match official NFL counts.

These are for players with at least four accrued NFL seasons whose contracts expired following the 2010 season. I've added comments for each team.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed (8): Ben Graham, Matt Ware, Hamza Abdullah, Ben Claxton, Lyle Sendlein, D'Anthony Batiste, Deuce Lutui, Stephen Spach.

New to team (7): Chansi Stuckey, Richard Marshall, Daryn Colledge, Nick Eason, Stewart Bradley, Floyd Womack, Jeff King.

Still unsigned (3): Alan Faneca, Jason Wright, Bryan Robinson.

Signed elsewhere (5): Steve Breaston (Kansas City), Gabe Watson (New York Giants), Ben Patrick (Giants), Trumaine McBride (New Orleans), Alan Branch (Seattle).

Comment: Sendlein, Colledge and Bradley were the big signings. Marshall provides needed depth at cornerback. Faneca and Wright announced their retirements. The Cardinals weren't aggressive in trying to re-sign the players they lost to other teams. The biggest move Arizona made, acquiring Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia, did not involve a UFA.


San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed (4): Ray McDonald, Tony Wragge, Dashon Goldson, Alex Smith.

New to team (5): Braylon Edwards, Jonathan Goodwin, Donte Whitner, Carlos Rogers, David Akers.

Still unsigned (5): Brian Westbrook, Troy Smith, Demetric Evans, William James, Barry Sims.

Signed elsewhere (6): David Baas (Giants), Travis LaBoy (San Diego), Jeff Reed (Seattle), Aubrayo Franklin (New Orleans), Takeo Spikes (San Diego), Manny Lawson (Cincinnati).

Comment: Re-signing McDonald signaled Franklin's departure. Getting Goldson back on the relative cheap was a victory. The 49ers wanted to keep Baas, but not at the price he commanded. The team thinks NaVorro Bowman has a bright future in Spikes' old spot at inside linebacker. Lawson wasn't strong enough as a pass-rusher to stick around. Safety depth is improved.


Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed (7): Raheem Brock, Junior Siavii, Brandon Mebane, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy, Michael Robinson, Kelly Jennings.

New to team (8): Branch, Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, Jimmy Wilkerson, Atari Bigby, Sidney Rice, Tarvaris Jackson, Reed.

Still unsigned (7): Jay Richardson, Craig Terrill, Chester Pitts, Brandon Stokley, Ruvell Martin, J.P. Losman, Lawyer Milloy.

Signed elsewhere (8): Will Herring (New Orleans), Olindo Mare (Carolina), Matt Hasselbeck (Tennessee), Chris Spencer (Chicago), Jordan Babineaux (Tennessee), Sean Locklear (Washington), Amon Gordon (Kansas City), Ray Willis (Washington).

Comment: Adding Jackson as the starting quarterback was the most significant move for the 2011 season. Mebane was the most important re-signing for the longer term. Hill was a bargain relative to how he's playing right now. Miller and Rice were the types of young, talented players who rarely change teams in free agency. The Seahawks were outbid for Herring and Mare. Can street free agent David Vobora fill some of the void Herring left?


St. Louis Rams

Re-signed (2): Adam Goldberg, Gary Gibson.

New to team (9): Daniel Muir, Quinn Ojinnaka, Harvey Dahl, Ben Leber, Zac Diles, Jerious Norwood, Cadillac Williams, Quintin Mikell, Mike Sims-Walker.

Still unsigned (5): Chris Hovan, Michael Lewis, Darcy Johnson, Clifton Ryan, Mark Clayton.

Signed elsewhere (4): Daniel Fells (Denver), Laurent Robinson (San Diego), Derek Schouman (Washington), Kevin Dockery (Pittsburgh).

Comment: Dahl and Mikell were the big additions. Clayton could return if and when his surgically repaired knee allows. Sims-Walker is a wild card. The team didn't flinch when any of its own UFAs signed elsewhere. Most of the moves made on defense were designed to improve St. Louis against the run. Remember that newcomer Justin Bannan was not a UFA. Denver released him.
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Fred Robbins/Chris ClemonsAP Photo/US PresswireFred Robbins, left, and Chris Clemons were among the best acquisitions in the NFC West last season.
The Seattle Seahawks acquired their leading sacker for 2010, Chris Clemons, from the Philadelphia Eagles one year ago Tuesday.

They acquired their backup quarterback and potential future starter, Charlie Whitehurst, from San Diego one year ago Wednesday.

By this time in 2010, the Arizona Cardinals had traded receiver Anquan Boldin, lost Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby in free agency, acquired safety Kerry Rhodes from the New York Jets and signed linebacker Paris Lenon, among other moves.

This March, we hear only crickets as the NFL lockout prevents teams from making roster transactions of any kind. The quiet period has shifted our football-related energies to the draft, which the league intends to operate pretty much as normal.

While draft classes can take multiple years to fully assess, free-agent crops tend to produce more immediate results, for better or worse. Let's take a look back at what NFC West teams got -- and still might get -- from their wheeling and dealing last offseason.

2010 unrestricted free agency

Best UFA signing: Fred Robbins, defensive tackle, St. Louis Rams.

Coach Steve Spagnuolo reached into his past with the New York Giants in seeking a needed upgrade to the Rams' defensive interior. Robbins outplayed the three-year deal he signed averaging $3.75 million per season.

Robbins started 16 games and collected a career-high six sacks for a defense that outperformed expectations. His presence on the line helped defensive ends Chris Long and James Hall produce at a higher level.

Worst UFA signing: David Carr, quarterback, San Francisco 49ers.

[+] EnlargeDavid Carr
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDavid Carr attempted only 13 passes last season.
The 49ers signed Carr and traded backup Shaun Hill in an effort to upgrade the position, but when they needed Carr to play, coach Mike Singletary gave him virtually no chance. Carr finished up the Carolina game before Singletary turned to third-stringer Troy Smith to start while Alex Smith recovered from injury.

It's tough to fault Carr much for what was, by all accounts, a messed-up situation. The 49ers' general manager, Scot McCloughan, left the organization shortly after the team acquired Carr. The team changed offensive coordinators early in the season. Singletary didn't know how to handle quarterbacks.

Conclusion: NFC West teams signed relatively few UFAs last offseason, in part because new rules prevented players with fewer than six accrued seasons from hitting the market. Jay Feely, Paris Lenon and Rex Hadnot signed with Arizona. Robbins and A.J. Feeley signed with the Rams. Ben Hamilton and Sean Morey signed with Seattle. Carr and William James signed with the 49ers.

2010 additions by trade


Best acquisition: Chris Clemons, defensive end, Seahawks

Seattle and Philadelphia seemed to be swapping spare parts when the Seahawks sent Darryl Tapp to the Eagles for Clemons.

Neither player had reached his potential previously.

Clemons set career highs with 11 sacks and 16 starts while filling the "Leo" position in coach Pete Carroll's defense. Tapp had three sacks and one start for the Eagles, making this deal a clear "win" for Seattle.

The Seahawks also received a fifth-round choice in return from the Eagles, but the player they selected with the choice, defensive end E.J. Wilson, was released during the season.

Worst acquisition: Stacy Andrews, guard, Seahawks.

The Seahawks could still come out OK on this one. The team had Andrews in mind as a candidate to play tackle in 2011, and that could still happen. But Andrews wasn't effective enough as a starting guard to stay in the lineup even though Seattle had serious manpower problems on its offensive line.

Perhaps Seattle can put Andrews to better use in 2011.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Whitehurst
Otto Greule Jr./Getty ImagesThe Seahawks acquired Charlie Whitehurst last year from San Diego as a potential future starter.
Conclusion: Charlie Whitehurst could have made the "worst" list for Seattle because he hardly played even though quarterback was a trouble spot, but his performance in Week 17 carried Seattle into the playoffs. He could still validate the trade. Ted Ginn Jr. was a disappointment as a wide receiver for the 49ers, but injuries and quarterback instability contributed. Ginn upgraded the return game. NFC West teams fared well in acquiring Leon Washington, Kerry Rhodes and Mark Clayton. Marshawn Lynch's memorable run against New Orleans in the playoffs made that deal look better.

2010 subtractions by trade

Best subtraction: Alex Barron, tackle, from the Rams.

St. Louis got nothing of lasting value in return for Barron, but the penalty-prone tackle was not missed. Rookie Rodger Saffold stepped in at left tackle and outperformed reasonable expectations for a rookie. Barron's time in St. Louis had run its course. The team was taking a risk with its depth by dumping Barron for linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who did not stick on the roster, but the move worked out well from the Rams' perspective.

Worst subtraction: Rob Sims, guard, from the Seahawks.

Seattle's thinking on the offensive line seemed disjointed.

Line coach Alex Gibbs retired a week before the season, changing the qualities Seattle valued in its linemen. Gibbs preferred smaller linemen, particularly guards. Sims was a solid starter, but he didn't fit the Gibbs profile. Seattle sent Sims and a seventh-round choice to Detroit for Robert Henderson, who did not earn a roster spot. The Seahawks also landed a fifth-round choice, used for strong safety Kam Chancellor.

The Seahawks used 11 starting combinations on their offensive line last season, and every one of them would have been better with Sims at left guard. Sims started 16 games for the Lions and played well, by all accounts. His presence in Seattle would have allowed the team to get more from Lynch in the ground game.

Conclusion: The trade that subtracted Boldin from the Cardinals might have qualified under different circumstances, but the time had come for Arizona to part with the exceptional wideout. The team picked up a third-round choice as partial compensation, a pick used for promising receiver Andre Roberts. The 49ers get mention here for the deal that sent Hill to Detroit and cleared the way for Carr's signing. Hill had a 10-6 record as a starter for San Francisco. Even if he wasn't the answer long term, he would have give the team better options in 2010. NFC West teams also parted with Deion Branch, Lawrence Jackson, Josh Wilson, Adam Carriker and Kentwan Balmer, among others, by trade last offseason.

Looking to the future

NFL teams remain unsettled from a roster standpoint while they wait for a labor resolution of some kind.

The Rams are the only NFC West team without serious question marks at quarterback. Lingering questions at that position will hang over the 49ers, Cardinals and Seahawks while the lockout continues.

Getting a new collective bargaining agreement in place before the draft would help those teams more than others by clearing the way for them to pursue veteran passers. Otherwise, these teams could feel extra pressure to address the position in the draft -- a difficult predicament given the hit-and-miss nature of quarterback evaluation in general.

Age before beauty in the NFC West

March, 8, 2011
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The NFL draft provides teams an opportunity to get younger.

Invariably, older players wind up playing extensively when injuries strike and/or some of those youngsters prove not quite ready for the big leagues.

In Arizona last season, 36-year-old Bryan Robinson made 16 starts at nose tackle even though the Cardinals used a first-round choice for the position.

In San Francisco, 36-year-old tackle Barry Sims started at least seven games for a third consecutive season, proving valuable when a broken leg sidelined Joe Staley.

In St. Louis, James Hall, now 34, and Fred Robbins, who turns 34 this month, started every game and provided stellar play on the defensive front.

In Seattle, strong safety Lawyer Milloy, the oldest non-specialist in the division, collected four sacks while starting 16 games.

Teams will once again add fresh young talent this offseason. Some of the older players will fade away. Others will rise up and produce again.

A few thoughts on the chart, which lists the 20 oldest non-specialists in the NFC West:
  • Cardinals guard Alan Faneca is considering retirement. The team has veteran guards in relief, but leadership could be a concern.
  • Brandon Stokley immediately showed his value to Seattle as a slot receiver. He also suffered another in a long line of concussions. It's hard not to wince every time he takes a hit.
  • Raheem Brock had nine sacks for Seattle. His contract is expiring. The team could use his production and Brock has earned a raise, but to what extent did his performance reflect a contract-year spike? Rewarding an older player following one strong season can be tough for a rebuilding team.
  • Arizona's Clark Haggans has a $2.5 million salary and $500,000 roster bonus this season. I'd be tempted to bring him back.
  • Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt defended Joey Porter's play, suggesting the veteran pass-rusher played more snaps than anticipated, diminishing Porter's ability to contribute as consistently. That is fair, but Porter surely will not return under his current deal, which carries a $5.75 million salary.
  • Takeo Spikes has continued playing well at inside linebacker for the 49ers. Will the 49ers' new staff move on in an attempt to get younger? Seems like Spikes should have value to a new staff in a transition year.
  • Another veteran linebacker, Na'il Diggs of the Rams, was playing well last season until suffering a torn pectoral. Looks like the Rams need to make outside linebacker a priority in the draft.

And now, on with the chart ...

Quick look at 49ers-Rams inactives

December, 26, 2010
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ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers offered no surprises Sunday when they named players inactive 90 minutes prior to kickoff at the Edward Jones Dome.

Defensive end Chris Long (thigh) and right tackle Jason Smith (ankle) are both active and expected to start for the Rams despite their injuries. Tight end Mike Hoomanawanui, given only an outside shot at returning this week, was among the Rams' inactive players.

Also inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, linebacker David Nixon, linebacker Curtis Johnson, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and defensive tackle Jermelle Cudjo.

The 49ers will play without third tight end Nate Byham (heel), who was named inactive along with cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback William James, safety Chris Maragos, defensive tackle Will Tukuafu, tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback.

Staley made the trip, as did former starting center Eric Heitmann, who is on injured reserve. They were walking laps around the field during early warm-ups. The 49ers could get Staley back from a broken fibula as early as Week 17. Barry Sims will start in his place again Sunday.

Hitting key points on MNF inactive lists

November, 29, 2010
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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Wide receiver Steve Breaston is active for the Arizona Cardinals despite his questionable status on the injury report.

Teammates Calais Campbell and Greg Toler, both starters on defense, will miss the Cardinals' game against the San Francisco 49ers. Both were named inactive. Alan Branch starts for Campbell (injured ankle) at defensive end. Michael Adams starts for Toler (foot) at right cornerback.

Toler had struggled some before suffering the injury. Adams is tenacious, but he lacks size.

Breaston will play despite a knee injury. Versatile running back LaRod Stephens-Howling is also active for the Cardinals. A hamstring injury sidelined him against Kansas City last week. Stephens-Howling has dynamic skills as a kickoff returner. The Cardinals use him as a running back and wide receiver on offense. He's particularly useful to them on second down, often with fullback Jason Wright and three wide receivers.

Inactive for the 49ers: kicker Joe Nedney, cornerback Tramaine Brock, cornerback Williams James, linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, left tackle Joe Staley and tackle Alex Boone. David Carr is the third quarterback. Barry Sims starts at left tackle for the 49ers. He was steady in relief last season, but perhaps a bit rusty against Tampa Bay last week. His matchup against the Cardinals' Joey Porter could be worth monitoring.

Inactive for the Cardinals: receiver Max Komar, safety Hamza Abdullah, cornerback Marshay Green, linebacker Reggie Walker, center Ben Claxton, Campbell and Toler. John Skelton is the third quarterback.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 29, 2010
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Arizona: Losing No. 2 receiver Steve Breaston to a knee injury affects the Cardinals on offense and special teams. The passing game was already producing sporadically. Opponents have contained Larry Fitzgerald relatively well. Take away Breaston and the job becomes less difficult, particularly with third receiver Early Doucet also unavailable. Undrafted rookie Stephen Williams becomes the No. 2 receiver. Max Komar, another undrafted rookie, becomes the third receiver. Rookie third-round choice Andre Roberts becomes the fourth receiver. Running back Beanie Wells was going to become a bigger part of the offense anyway. That transition should only accelerate without Breaston and Doucet, provided the Cardinals are winning or the score is close enough for Arizona to stick with its ground game. Removing Breaston also strains the Cardinals' punt-return team. Arizona doesn't have a proven, reliable punt returner. San Diego's secondary was opportunistic at home against Jacksonville. Turnovers are a concern for Arizona with so many new faces at receiver.

St. Louis: Running back Steven Jackson suffered a strained groin in Week 3 and it's unclear whether he'll play a full game if the Rams do clear him. If he plays, Jackson will be facing one of the NFL's better run defenses to this point when Seattle visits the Edward Jones Dome. Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford proved he could run the offense without Jackson, but that becomes more difficult over the course of a full game if Jackson cannot play. Having Jackson at less than 100 percent would also put additional strain on the Rams' offense. The Rams are also light at tight end while Billy Bajema and Mike Hoomanawanui recover from injuries. On defense, the Rams remain without starting tackle Clifton Ryan, who is battling migraines, and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe missed practice to rest a thigh injury. The Rams are healthier than they've been at cornerback, but it's still not a very good situation depth-wise if Seattle floods the secondary with receivers.

Seattle: Left tackle Russell Okung and left guard Chester Pitts are practicing following extended injury layoffs, but the Seahawks probably will not rush either into the starting lineup just yet. Okung could play a series in a reserve role as the Seahawks work him back into the lineup following a severe high-ankle sprain. Pitts is closer to being ready, but it's doubtful the team would move him into the starting lineup this week. The team expects receiver Mike Williams to play Sunday after suffering a shoulder injury against San Diego. Coach Pete Carroll was vague when discussing injuries to cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. Both are key figures on defense for Seattle. The team missed Trufant in particular when he left the game against San Diego. Trufant (ankle), Mebane (shoulder) and linebacker Aaron Curry (hamstring) will be limited in practice.

San Francisco: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and inside linebacker Takeo Spikes missed practice Wednesday. Spikes was able to play Sunday despite his knee injury. The team thought Ginn might return last week. His absence removes a speed element from the offense, although the 49ers weren't using him as much as I had anticipated before Ginn suffered a knee injury in Week 1. That could change with Michael Johnson taking over as offensive coordinator. Veteran cornerback William James remains limited by an ankle injury. Free safety Dashon Goldson is also banged up. Injuries are probably among the least of the 49ers' concerns at this point.

Definitive look at NFC West turnover

September, 8, 2010
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Roster turnover is a leading topic for discussion in Seattle following the release of T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular.

I've addressed the subject in depth across the division -- first May 26 and again July 30 -- and it's worth another look now that teams have reduced to 53 players for the regular season.

This time, I'm going to break down the changes by position, listing players no longer on the active roster at each main position group (with new players in parenthesis). Departures outnumber replacements because some players finished last season on injured reserve, meaning they were not part of the 53-man roster.

Some players no longer on the active roster remain with the team (they could be suspended, deemed physically unable to perform or part of the practice squad).

St. Louis Rams (34 off roster)

Defensive back: Eric Bassey, Quincy Butler, Danny Gorrer, Clinton Hart, Cordelius Parks, David Roach, Jonathan Wade (added Kevin Dockery, Jerome Murphy, Darian Stewart)

Defensive line: Victor Adeyanju, Adam Carriker, Leger Douzable, Leonard Little, LaJuan Ramsey, James Wyche (added Jermelle Cudjo, Fred Robbins, George Selvie, Eugene Sims)

Linebacker: K.C. Asiodu, Paris Lenon (added Na'il Diggs, Josh Hull)

Offensive line: Roger Allen, Alex Barron, Ryan McKee, Mark Setterstrom, Phillip Trautwein, Eric Young (added Renardo Foster, Hank Fraley, Rodger Saffold)

Quarterback: Kyle Boller, Marc Bulger, Keith Null, Mike Reilly (added Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley, Thaddeus Lewis)

Running back: Samkon Gado, Chris Ogbonnaya (added Keith Toston)

Special teams: Ryan Neill

Tight end: Randy McMichael (added Mike Hoomanawanui, Fendi Onobun)

Wide receiver: Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton, Brooks Foster, Jordan Kent, Ruvell Martin (added Mark Clayton, Dominique Curry, Mardy Gilyard)


Seattle Seahawks (33 off roster)

Defensive back: Jamar Adams, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Josh Wilson (added Kam Chancellor, Kennard Cox, Nate Ness, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond)

Defensive line: Lawrence Jackson, Patrick Kerney, Cory Redding, Nick Reed, Darryl Tapp, Craig Terrill (added Kentwan Balmer, Raheem Brock, Chris Clemons, Dexter Davis, Junior Siavii, E.J. Wilson)

Linebacker: Leroy Hill, Lance Laury, D.D. Lewis (added Matt McCoy; note that Hill is suspended for the first regular-season game)

Offensive line: Trevor Canfield, Brandon Frye, Walter Jones, Damion McIntosh, Rob Sims, Steve Vallos, Ray Willis, Mansfield Wrotto (added Stacy Andrews, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Ben Hamilton, Russell Okung, Chester Pitts, Tyler Polumbus)

Quarterback: Mike Teel, Seneca Wallace (added Charlie Whitehurst)

Running back: Justin Griffith, Louis Rankin, Tyler Roehl, Owen Schmitt (added Quinton Ganther, Michael Robinson, Leon Washington)

Special teams: Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson (added Clint Gresham)

Tight end: John Owens (added Chris Baker, Anthony McCoy)

Wide receiver: Nate Burleson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh (added Golden Tate, Mike Williams)


Arizona Cardinals (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Ralph Brown, Bryant McFadden, Antrel Rolle (added A.J. Jefferson, Trumaine McBride, Brandon McDonald, Kerry Rhodes)

Defensive line: Jason Banks (added Dan Williams)

Linebacker: Monty Beisel, Bertrand Berry, Cody Brown, Karlos Dansby, Gerald Hayes, Chike Okeafor, Pago Togafau (added Paris Lenon, Cyril Obiozor, Joey Porter, Daryl Washington; Hayes can return from the physically unable to perform list after six games)

Offensive line: Mike Gandy, Herman Johnson, Reggie Wells (added Alan Faneca, Rex Hadnot)

Quarterback: Matt Leinart, Brian St. Pierre, Kurt Warner (added Derek Anderson, Max Hall, John Skelton)

Running back: Justin Green, Dan Kreider (added Jerome Johnson)

Special teams: Neil Rackers (added Jay Feely)

Tight end: Anthony Becht (added Jim Dray)

Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin, Sean Morey, Jerheme Urban (added Andre Roberts, Stephen Williams)


San Francisco 49ers (24 off roster)

Defensive backs: Dre' Bly, Walt Harris, Marcus Hudson, Mark Roman (added Phillip Adams, Tramaine Brock, William James, Taylor Mays)

Defensive line: Kentwan Balmer, Derek Walker

Linebacker: Scott McKillop, Jeff Ulbrich, Matt Wilhelm (added NaVorro Bowman, Travis LaBoy)

Offensive line: Tony Pashos, Chris Patrick, Cody Wallace (added Alex Boone, Anthony Davis, Mike Iupati)

Quarterback: Nate Davis, Shaun Hill (added David Carr, Troy Smith)

Running back: Thomas Clayton, Glen Coffee, Brit Miller, Michael Robinson (added Anthony Dixon, Brian Westbrook)

Special teams: Shane Andrus, Ricky Schmitt

Wide receiver: Arnaz Battle, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill, Brandon Jones (added Ted Ginn Jr., Kyle Williams, Dominique Zeigler)


The first chart shows how many players are back -- at least for now -- from Week 17 rosters and injured reserve lists. Seattle has the fewest number back with 26.

The second chart shows how many players each team has shed since Week 17 last season. This counts players who were on injured reserve. Teams with lots of players on injured reserve had more players to lose.
Tags:

San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, Leonard Little, Jerheme Urban, Isaac bruce, Owen Schmitt, Josh Wilson, Justin Green, Derek Anderson, Walt Harris, Tony Pashos, Brian St.Pierre, Darryl Tapp, Sam Bradford, Mark Roman, Dan Kreider, Steve Vallos, David Carr, Randy McMIchael, Ralph Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst, Shaun HIll, Leroy HIll, Chris Patrick, Matt Leinart, Chike Okeafor, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Brian Westbrook, Bertrand Berry, Dominique Zeigler, Ricky Schmitt, Eric Bassey, Eric Young, D.D. Lewis, Nate Burleson, Alex Barron, Samkon Gado, Kyle Boller, Brit Miller, Patrick Kerney, Quincy Butler, Michael Robinson, Arnaz Battle, Ray Willis, Jerome Johnson, Derek Walker, Glen Coffee, Brooks Foster, Monty Beisel, Renardo Foster, Mansfield Wrotto, Seneca Wallace, Donnie Avery, Karlos Dansby, Alex Boone, Marcus Hudson, Adam Carriker, Cody Brown, Kurt Warner, Cordelius Parks, Jeff Ulbrich, Chris Ogbonnaya, Neil Rackers, Pago Togafau, Scott McKillop, Kentwan Balmer, Lance Laury, Sean Morey, Mike Gandy, Mike Reilly, Anquan Boldin, Trevor Canfield, Marc Bulger, Nate Davis, Cory Redding, Antrel Rolle, Matt McCoy, Brandon Jones, Alan Faneca, Anthony Davis, Keenan Burton, Jason HIll, Joey Porter, David Roach, Phillip Trautwein, Tyler Roehl, Taylor Mays, Mark Setterstrom, Travis LaBoy, A.J. Feeley, Craig Terrill, Keith Null, Cody Wallace, K.C. Asiodu, Jordan Kent, Kyle Williams, Stacy Andrews, James Wyche, Reggie Wells, Victor Adeyanju, Jonathan Wade, Thomas Clayton, Deon Grant, LaJuan Ramsey, John Owens, Bryant McFadden, Matt Wilhelm, Gerald Hayes, Jeff Robinson, Herman Johnson, Walter Jones, Mike Williams, Justin Griffith, Jason Banks, Jamar Adams, Kevin Houser, Anthony Becht, Damion McIntosh, Louis Rankin, Brandon Frye, Ruvell Martin, Paris Lenon, Leger Douzable, Ryan Neill, Danny Gorrer, Russell Okung, Anthony McCoy, Clinton Hart, Earl Thomas, Leon Washington, Andre Roberts, Chester Pitts, Dan Williams, Mike Iupati, Ben Hamilton, Ryan McKee, Kennard Cox, Kerry Rhodes, Fred Robbins, Chris Baker, William James, Rex Hadnot, Hank Fraley, Mark Clayton, Quinton Ganther, Na'il Diggs, Chris Clemons, John Skelton, Mardy Gilyard, Rodger Saffold, Daryl Washington, Golden Tate, Jerome Murphy, Navorro Bowman, Walter Thurmond, E.J. Wilson, Mike Hoomanawanui, Nate Byham, Fendi Onobun, George Selvie, Thaddeus Lewis, Stephen Williams, A.J. Jefferson, Anthony Dixon, Eugene Sims, Kam Chancellor, Dexter Davis, Jermelle Cudjo, Darian Stewart, Keith Toston, Tramaine Brock, Dominique Curry, Phillip Adams, Trumaine McBride, Kevin Dockery, Shane Andrus, Tyler Polumbus, Clint Gresham, Roger III Allen, Cyril Obiozor, Brandon McDonald, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Junior Siavii, Troy Smith, Ted Jr. Ginn, Raheem Brock

Valuing that veteran seasoning

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
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Age can be a sensitive subject, even in the NFL. Especially in the NFL, where a couple down seasons past age 30 can leave even accomplished players on the outside.

Teams try to find the right mix of youth, players in their primes and older veterans.

The St. Louis Rams, one of the NFL's youngest teams last season, signed a few players well in their 30s this offseason as they tried to add seasoning. Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed to veteran leadership as one of the things he likes about his roster.

I've gone through NFC West rosters to see how many players in their 30s each team employs. The numbers were about what I would have expected.
Arizona (13): punter Ben Graham 36, defensive tackle Bryan Robinson 36, kicker Jay Feely 34, snapper Mike Leach 33, guard Alan Faneca 33, linebacker Clark Haggans 33, linebacker Joey Porter 33, tight end Anthony Becht 33, linebacker Paris Lenon 32, linebacker Monty Beisel 31, safety Adrian Wilson 30, tackle Jeremy Bridges 30, center Ben Claxton 30.

San Francisco (13): kicker Joe Nedney 37, tackle Barry Sims 35, snapper Brian Jennings 33, linebacker Takeo Spikes 33, fullback Moran Norris 32, cornerback William James 31, quarterback David Carr 31, guard Tony Wragge 30, defensive end Demetric Evans 30, defensive end Justin Smith 30, cornerback Nate Clements 30, center Eric Heitmann 30, safety Michael Lewis 30.

Seattle (10): kicker Olindo Mare 37, safety Lawyer Milloy 36, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck 34, guard Ben Hamilton 32, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh 32, guard Chester Pitts 31, receiver Deion Branch 31, tight end Chris Baker 30, defensive tackle Craig Terrill 30, defensive tackle Colin Cole 30.

St. Louis (8): defensive end James Hall 33, defensive tackle Fred Robbins 33, quarterback A.J. Feeley 33, center Hank Fraley 32, linebacker Na'il Diggs 32, kicker Josh Brown 31, snapper Chris Massey 30 and punter Donnie Jones 30.

Several other players turn 30 this season: nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (49ers), guard Adam Goldberg (Rams), linebacker Gerald Hayes (Cardinals), kicker Shane Andrus (49ers), guard Reggie Wells (Cardinals) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (Seahawks).

Are the 49ers really any better?

July, 29, 2010
7/29/10
12:51
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Jesper from Denmark continues to see his NFC West blog legacy grow.

What began as his critical look at the St. Louis Rams has turned into a four-part series. We're back with a look at the San Francisco 49ers after covering the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday.

Thanks to all who reached out and volunteered to engage me in conversation. Facebook friend Aaron was the first to come through with his thoughts, so here we go ...

Quarterback

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith
Kyle Terada/US PresswireAlex Smith threw for 2,350 yards and 18 touchdowns last season.
Aaron: Alex Smith is coming off of his best statistical season and for the first time in his career is going to have a true No. 1 receiver in Michael Crabtree, a Pro Bowl target in Vernon Davis and the same offensive coordinator. There are still questions about whether he can put the team on his back and win, but if he can show some of what he did against Seattle back in 2007, then there is a chance he could start climbing the QB ranks. David Carr has more arm strength than Shaun Hill and might finally be over his shell-shocking in Houston. Nate Davis has the tools as a No. 3 quarterback who can develop. Verdict: improved just because Alex will be more comfortable and farther ahead in the playbook than a year before.

Sando: I'd rather have Hill than Carr as a backup if I were the 49ers. He won games as the 49ers' starter, knew the offense and had the respect of teammates. I also understood the thinking in going with a more physically talented player. The 49ers wanted someone with more long-term starting potential. The 49ers should be better at quarterback as Smith becomes more experienced in the system.

Running back

Aaron: Frank Gore is Frank Gore; I love him he does everything you want a back to do. He has the power you don’t expect out of someone his size. His ankles are what worry me, though. Two years in a row, he has had to miss games because of them. Glen Coffee and Anthony Dixon have not earned any of my trust. It almost feels like they are slower less powerful versions of Gore, with worse vision. Verdict: same or slightly better because the offensive line should improve.

Sando: Coffee should be improved in his second season. As a rookie, he was thrown into the lineup before he was ready and struggled behind a floundering line. As with quarterback, I think the situation has improved more than the talent has improved. The 49ers have had an offseason to set up their offense in a way that suits Gore and Smith together. They essentially had two offenses last season, one for Gore and one for Smith. There's still reason to wonder whether a back best suited for running out of the I-formation can produce consistently playing with a quarterback most comfortable with spread-type formations. But the 49ers have had plenty of time to remedy the situation. Gore should be in better position as a result.

Wide receiver

Aaron: Crabtree gets a full offseason to get the playbook and develop chemistry with Smith. He looked like a pro when he came in and now he truly gets to show his stuff. I see a possible Pro Bowler. Josh Morgan is a solid No. 2 who can show flashes of breaking away. Ted Ginn Jr. -- if he catches the ball -- can be a game-changer from the slot or out wide. Even if he's just a decoy, Ginn will help with what I feel is the one weakness on offense -- speed. Jason Hill, I love, and I wish he could stay healthy and get a good chance. I feel he'd be a better No. 2. In the games he's played in, he's produced. The rest of the guys are playing for the No. 5 spot on the team. I'm not so sure Brandon Jones will make it or is worth what we spent on him. Verdict: better.

Mike Sando: The 49ers haven't had the personnel at this position recently to justify putting three wide receivers on the field during early downs at the expense of Delanie Walker or Moran Norris. Their three-receiver stuff was reserved mostly for third downs last season. This is one area where the 49ers need to diversify. Ginn is the key variable. The threat of what he can do could matter as much as what he actually does. The speed factor could upgrade this largely inexperienced group. The 49ers' wide receivers have 26 career touchdowns. Only the Rams' wideouts have fewer (13) among division teams. That isn't necessarily bad, but it's a reminder that this group must prove itself. Isaac Bruce's retirement opens a roster spot for a player who might develop. Crabtree should improve with a full offseason of practice.

(Read full post)

The earlier item quantifying NFL roster turnover since last season ranks the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals among the three teams with the most changes.

Some of the research used for that project shows up in the latest version of the anabolically enhanced rosters found here periodically. Specifically, the 26th and final column shows which players were starters, backups or on injured reserve for NFC West teams in Week 17 last season.

Download the rosters here.

The column showing player ages makes it easy to see how roster attrition affects older players. I'll list below the players currently 30 or older who have been released, traded, announced their retirements or were not re-signed as unrestricted free agents since last season:

Seattle Seahawks (9)

Patrick Kerney, Walter Jones, John Owens, Deon Grant, Ken Lucas, Kevin Houser, Jeff Robinson, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Sean Morey, Ben Hamilton and Chris Baker.

Arizona Cardinals (9)

Kurt Warner, Chike Okeafor, Mike Gandy, Bertrand Berry, Neil Rackers, Morey, Brian St. Pierre, Ralph Brown, Dan Kreider,

Note: The team added 30-plus vets Jay Feely, Paris Lenon, Joey Porter and Alan Faneca.

San Francisco 49ers (6)

Shaun Hill, Arnaz Battle, Mark Roman, Walt Harris, Dre' Bly, Jeff Ulbrich

Note: The team added 30-plus vets David Carr and William James. In looking at the chart, note that receiver Isaac Bruce, 37, is still on the 49ers' roster for the time being.

St. Louis Rams (5)

Leonard Little, Marc Bulger, Lenon, Clinton Hart, Randy McMichael

Note: The team added 30-plus vets A.J. Feeley, Na'il Diggs, Hank Fraley and Fred Robbins.

Mailbag: Leroy Hill's trade value

May, 14, 2010
5/14/10
11:00
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Clayton from Seattle writes: Mike, I keep hearing how the Seahawks still need to improve their defensive line, particularly at the end position. I was thinking that they could trade Leroy Hill for one of the Giants' ends. New York has four starting-caliber ends in Justin Tuck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Osi Umenyiora and rookie Jason Pierre-Paul. At linebacker, Antonio Pierce was released after hurting his neck and Danny Clark just signed with the Texans. They might need a linebacker. Do you think this could happen?

Mike Sando: Hill is scheduled to earn $6 million in salary this season and he's likely facing an NFL suspension of some sort. Would the Giants or another team be willing to absorb that contract? Would Hill be willing to rework his contract? Those are the two primary questions I have when considering what value Hill might have in a trade.

Is Hill available? I would certainly think so. The Seahawks asked him to stay away from their offseason camps to this point. It's clear they are assessing their options at the position to determine whether they feel comfortable moving on without Hill.

As for the Giants, middle linebacker seemed to be their primary need in light of Pierce's demise. They drafted Nebraska's Phillip Dillard in the fourth round and it's looking like he could compete for the starting job. I just think the Giants would have been more aggressive in addressing linebacker to this point if they felt the position were one of great need. This could be a situation where the team likes its young talent better than outsiders like that talent.

Hill can be a good player, but he's not a middle linebacker. He wouldn't offset Pierce's departure. The writing is on the wall that Seattle wouldn't mind trading Hill. But would anyone take on that $6 million salary under the circumstances?


Mike from Costa Mesa, Calif., writes: Hey Sando, love your blog. I read it every day to keep up with my Cardinals and events in the NFC West. It's the essential resource for any FAN-atic pining away for the start of another NFL season.

Just a note to encourage you to keep an eye on Andre Roberts, the Cards' third-round choice out of the Citadel. I will admit that I didn't know much about this guy before the draft, but after doing my online research, I think the Cardinals may have a potential Steve Smith on their hands. This is especially true since, in the Cardinals' lineup, Roberts is likely to be covered one-on-one (with Larry Fitzgerald and sometimes Steve Breaston getting double coverage), and by the opponents' weakest defender at that.

If Early Doucet fails to impress this year, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Roberts as the No. 3 receiver by the end of the year. To tell you the truth, with the possible exception of Golden Tate, I believe the Cards may have landed the best receiver in the 2010 draft. In any case, we will have a pretty good idea if I'm right or not by the end of the upcoming season.

Mike Sando: Thanks for the compliments, Mike. The Cardinals hope you're better at evaluating receivers than evaluating blogs. I'm always skeptical regarding rookie receivers. They tend to flash some abilities during training camp, but it's tough to make the production carry over to exhibition games, let alone the regular season.

Breaston caught eight passes as a rookie. Doucet caught 14 as a rookie. It's possible for Roberts to ease into this season and develop over time, so I wouldn't judge him too definitively after one season. It's a bonus if a rookie receiver provides the type of production Arizona got from Anquan Boldin (101 receptions in 2001) or Fitzgerald (58 in 2004).


Jay from Sacramento writes: Mike, I noticed that the 49ers' new corner, William James, had a safety in last years Lions-49ers game. Anything from that game that made him stand out as a Mike Singletary type player? Enough to be so patient through the draft?

Mike Sando: Nothing I recall. James did not have a safety in that game. He did tackle Frank Gore for a 1-yard loss at one point, but he also made the tackle after a 50-yard pass from Alex Smith to Michael Crabtree (see video here). Crabtree got James turned around early in his route and there wasn't safety help at any point. The play-fake was very effective.


Julian from Ridgecrest, Calif., writes: First off, Sando, love your blog. Secondly, kind of a two-part question, I was just wondering if there have been any more developments with the approved L.A. stadium as far as getting a team to go there. And whichever team they get to play there (save 49ers or Rams), do you think there would be an impending division realignment for the NFC West or AFC West. The only reason I ask is because the Vikings and and 49ers haven't gotten their stadiums approved -- yet. With only six true West Coast teams (seven if you include Dallas), the addition of an L.A. team would bring the total eight. How do you see this all play out for the NFC West?

Mike Sando: Any team other than the Rams moving to Los Angeles would make divisional realignment a logical step. If the Jaguars moved to L.A., why not move them into the NFC West, with the Rams joining the AFC South? The old 49ers-Rams rivalry in the NFC West doesn't really resonate in St. Louis, anyway. The Vikings would be a more interesting case because of their stronger rivalries with teams in the NFC North, but those rivalries wouldn't mean a great deal to the people of Southern California.

As for new developments, I've seen none. The people trying to bring football to Southern California have done a good job making noise over the years, but nothing meaningful ever seems to happen. That makes it tough to take the speculation too seriously.
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Falling

Veteran cornerbacks. The 49ers appear to be moving on without 35-year-old Walt Harris and 32-year-old Dre' Bly. Their newest corner, William James, is younger (30) and has far fewer games on his odometer. The Seahawks have not re-signed 31-year-old corner Ken Lucas, who started six games for them last season and 106 games in eight previous NFL seasons. Lucas visited the Titans this offseason, but Tennessee signed 27-year-old Rams and Falcons castoff Tye Hill. Seattle drafted cornerback Walter Thurmond, 22. The Cardinals went younger at corner this offseason by trading Bryant McFadden, 28, while hoping Greg Toler, 25, takes over for him in the lineup. The Rams got younger at the position by parting with Jonathan Wade, 26, and drafting Jerome Murphy, 23.

Rising

NFC West storylines. The banter between Cardinals defensive lineman Darnell Dockett and 49ers tight end Vernon Davis indulged fans of both teams. Division rivalries are fun, anyway, and this is definitely a rivalry. Some 49ers fans like to point to the team's storied past while dismissing the Cardinals as a long-floundering franchise. That thinking is fine if we're on a field trip to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It's outdated in this context. The Cardinals have won the last two division titles. They swept the 49ers in 2008. The 49ers swept the Cardinals last season. Both teams have ascending Pro Bowl-caliber players -- Dockett and Davis among them. Both have young first-round quarterbacks trying to salvage their careers. Good stuff.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Chris Clemons projects as a stand-up defensive end for Seattle. Farnsworth: "Clemons is a ’tweener player who has been playing a hybrid position for the Seahawks since they acquired him in a March trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. There are others in line at the defensive end spot coach Pete Carroll brought with him from the University of Southern California -- Nick Reed, Ricky Foley and Dexter Davis. But the line forms behind Clemons."

Also from Farnsworth: quick bios on the aforementioned players.

Nate Davis of USA Today puts ex-Seahawks Walter Jones and Steve Hutchinson on his NFL all-decade team, but Torry Holt and Orlando Pace miss the cut among NFC West notables. Says ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer: "Walt and Steve were the best left guard-left tackle tandem for a few years that the league's ever seen. What we did with those two was mind-boggling. I saw Walt get beat one time in four years. My opinion -- greatest offensive lineman to ever play the game."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times has this to say about Seattle quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst: "It was very clear there was a difference in the way starter Matt Hasselbeck went through his progressions, came off his first read, and the way Whitehurst did. Whitehurst had many more instances in which he ended up throwing the ball away, neither finding nor forcing a spot to throw the ball. Hasselbeck is getting the majority of the repetitions during the practices, but Whitehurst is getting a healthy chunk, too. Mike Teel isn't seeing much time at all during the 11-on-11 team drills."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com recounts 49ers-Cardinals games from the last decade or so, noting that the 49ers once went 2-14, with both victories over Arizona. Urban: "Now that both teams have been revived to the level of division title contenders -- and given the dichotomy of the Cards’ 10-6 division-winning record if a year ago compared to the Niners’ sweep of Arizona despite a .500 record -- this season’s matchups may be the most anticipated since the two moved in together in the NFC West."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 says the Cardinals are enjoying one of their better situations at running back, at least in recent years.

Brian Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' pending sale is preventing the team from making offseason moves that would add salary. Burwell: "No matter how much general manager Billy Devaney and team president Kevin Demoff swear that they have not been hamstrung by the ownership being in limbo, we have to know better. Our own Jim Thomas has said that he's had several conversations with agents who have been told by Rams officials that they can't get business done on the free agent marketplace because they don't have the cash to make deals. No matter how much Rosenbloom says that he hasn't put the clamps down on spending, think about it. If you were selling a house, how much would you be willing to spend beyond the most superficial improvements?"

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says this about the Rams' status: "As I’ve noted in this corner of cyberspace, the Sam Bradford contract could become a big dilemma. If I represented Bradford, I wouldn’t finalize any deal until the ownership is resolved. Demoff has similar concerns from the Rams side, since the next owner will write the big checks on this massive contract. How much can he get done with ownership in limbo? Moving forward through the spring and summer, the Rams will need to make additional changes. Fans applaud Devaney for shedding failures like Alex Barron, but they fret about the remaining holes."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com looks at 49ers players with contracts expiring after the 2010 or 20100 seasons. Maiocco on center Eric Heitmann, whose deal runs through 2011: "He is getting up there in service and slowing down. This is the reason several people I spoke with before the draft believed the 49ers should’ve taken guard/center Maurkice Pouncey instead of Mike Iupati with the No. 17 overall pick. After Heitmann’s deal expires, the 49ers can think about him on a year-to-year basis."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' announcement on William James' signing shows where Dre Bly and Walt Harris stand with the team -- on the outside.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' coaches are stressing mechanics with their quarterbacks. Somers: "I know many people are going to read about the work on fundamentals and assume (Matt) Leinart is still having problems entering his fifth NFL season. But (Chris) Miller strikes me as someone who would work on fundamentals with any quarterback. And it's important to remember that Ken Whisenhunt and his staff emphasized ball security to Kurt Warner and worked with him on keeping two hands on the ball while moving around in the pocket. And Warner had already won two MVP awards. Leinart, I thought, improved as last week's minicamp progressed. He was erratic the first day but I thought he settled down and looked in command the last two days."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Steve Breaston would like to remain the Cardinals' punt returner, but Breaston knows it's a losing battle because he's too valuable as a receiver. Urban: "Breaston has broken his share of big returns -- Minnesota last year, for instance, and the franchise-changing TD against Pittsburgh in Whisenhunt’s first year that led to a milestone victory -- but it is his sure-handedness (Ken) Whisenhunt loved (he’s never dropped a ball), to go with Breaston’s complete fearlessness back there.)

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says it's unlikely the NFL will vote on Stan Kroenke's bid to purchase full control of the Rams until sometime this summer at the earliest. Thomas: "In the case of Kroenke, indications are that he might be given a period of time to come into compliance with cross-ownership rules, perhaps a couple of years. Kroenke may need that time given the tax complications of selling or transferring a team to family members."

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Steven Jackson's back surgery puts a damper on the Rams' offseason. Balzer: "It's certainly not a stretch to believe that any hope of (Sam) Bradford being on the field for the season opener at home against Arizona on Sept. 12 is now tied to Jackson’s health and ability to play at a high level. With the Rams now two weeks away from beginning OTAs, the identity of Jackson’s backup remains unknown. In reality, the Rams need more than just a backup, or a change of pace, as some have suggested, for what Jackson can do. They need a legitimate starter that could carry the load if Jackson has to miss games, which has happened for the last three seasons."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says new 49ers cornerback William James is scheduled to earn $755,000 this season, plus a bonus if he earns a spot on the 53-man roster. Maiocco: "He will likely compete against fellow veteran cornerbacks Karl Paymah and Keith Smith, and well as seventh-round draft pick Philip Adams, for spots on the team. Nate Clements, Shawntae Spencer and Tarell Brown are expected to be the 49ers’ top three corners."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News has no problem with the 49ers' confidence, as expressed by Mike Singletary and Patrick Willis. Asked if the 49ers were a playoff team, Willis said they were a championship team. Singletary: "I said last year, I thought we were a playoff team, we missed it. Do I think we’re a championship team? I agree with Pat. You put us on the field today, no. But when it’s all said and done… we’re going to do OK. I’ll put it that way. We’ll do OK."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune provides a transcript from an hour-long chat featuring Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson. Wilson on the transition from Jim Mora to Pete Carroll: "Yeah, all the way down the line it's different. Carroll is of course different than Jim Mora, just by his knowledge of winning. He's just trying to get us to that next level, but I guess for me as a defensive guy. Gus Bradley is the same guy. But going from Tim Lewis to Jerry Gray, who's a four-time Pro Bowler. And he knows football. I've got a couple friends from the Redskins that just say he is the 'Football Czar.' It's been fun working with him. He's already shown he knows a lot about the and about getting us in good situations."

John Morgan of Field Gulls revisits Deon Butler's rookie season with the Seahawks. Morgan: "Deon Butler did not do a whole lot, negative or otherwise."
The 49ers gained size at cornerback by reaching an agreement with veteran William James, the former Lions, Eagles and Giants defensive back once known as Will Peterson.

James, 30, started 14 games for the Lions last season. He was an unrestricted free agent, meaning James could factor into the equation for compensatory draft choices depending on his role with the 49ers.

Two of the 49ers' own cornerbacks, Dre Bly and Walt Harris, remain unrestricted free agents. James' agreement with the 49ers suggests the team could be moving forward without them.

Harris missed last season after suffering a serious knee injury. Bly, signed to replace Harris, picked off three passes, but he also drew a harsh reaction from coach Mike Singletary for showboating during a return against the Falcons.

The NFL lists Peterson at 6-feet tall and 200 pounds (Bly is listed at 5-10 and 188).

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