NFL Nation: Atari Bigby

Super XLV: Where are they now?

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
6:30
PM ET
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Exactly three years ago -- on Feb. 6, 2011 -- the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV.

Since then, much has happened to the 53 players who were on the roster for that 31-25 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas.

Free agency, injuries, retirement and declining performance cause roster turnover.

Still, it’s eye-opening that from the group that suited up for the Packers’ last championship, only 12 players (just 22.6 percent) remain under contract with the team for 2014. Another 11 are still officially members of the Packers, but have contracts that expire next month. There are 13 players with other NFL teams, and 17 are out of football -- perhaps for good.

Here’s a look at the status of every player who was on the active roster three years ago today at Super Bowl XLV:

Under contract for 2014

  • [+] EnlargeAaron Rodgers
    Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesThree years after being named MVP of Super Bowl XLV, Aaron Rodgers is still leading the Packers.
    QB Aaron Rodgers: Threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on the way to winning the Super Bowl XLV MVP, then won the NFL MVP award the next season. Signed a five-year, $110 million contract extension last April.
  • G Josh Sitton: Started Super Bowl XLV at right guard, but moved to left guard in 2013 and was a second-team, All-Pro selection. Signed a five-year contract extension on Sept. 2, 2011 that averages $6.75 million per season.
  • T Bryan Bulaga: Started at right tackle, but moved to left tackle last offseason. A training camp knee injury ended his 2013 season, and he now enters the final year of his rookie contract.
  • G: T.J. Lang: Served as a backup, but became the starting left guard the next season. Signed a four-year contract extension on Aug. 14, 2012 that averages $5.2 million per season. Moved to right guard last season.
  • WR Jordy Nelson: Caught nine passes for 140 yards and a touchdown in the Super Bowl, and went on to post 1,000-yard receiving seasons in two of the next three years. Entering the final year of his contract in 2014.
  • OLB Clay Matthews: Forced a fumble in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl that the Packers recovered and turned into a touchdown to pad the lead. Four-time Pro Bowler signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension last April.
  • LB A.J. Hawk: Started and made seven tackles in the Super Bowl. Was released two months later, only to re-sign a more salary-cap friendly deal. Is under contract through 2015.
  • CB Tramon Williams: Broke up three passes in the Super Bowl, including the one that sealed the game on fourth-and-5 from the Steelers’ 33-yard line in the final minute. Entering the final year of his contract. Scheduled to make $7.5 million in 2014, and could be a candidate to be released or restructured despite a strong finish to last season.
  • K Mason Crosby: Made a 23-yard field goal in the game and signed a five-year, $14.75 million contract on July 29, 2011. Struggled in 2012, but bounced back last year to post his best season.
  • P Tim Masthay: Capped his first season with the Packers by averaging 40.5 yards and allowing the Steelers just 5 yards on punt returns in the game. Signed a four-year, $5.465 million contract extension on July 26, 2012.
  • LS Brett Goode: Has been the long snapper since 2008 and signed a three-year, $2.715 million contract extension on Oct. 13, 2012.
  • CB Jarrett Bush: Special teams player who was pressed into defensive duty in the game after injuries to Sam Shields and Charles Woodson, and intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass in the second quarter. Signed a three-year, $5.25 million contract on March 26, 2012.
Headed for free agency next month

  • RB James Starks: Started the Super Bowl and rushed for 52 yards on 11 carries. Battled injuries most of his career, and might not be re-signed.
  • WR James Jones: Caught five passes for 50 yards in the game, and signed a three-year, $9.6 million contract on Aug. 2, 2011. Caught 59 passes for a career-high 817 yards in 2013, and could be a re-signed despite his age (will turn 30 next month).
  • DT Ryan Pickett: Started the game, made two tackles and was in on the play in which Matthews forced Rashard Mendehall's fourth-quarter fumble. Played in all 16 games last season with a base salary of $5.4 million, but might be at the age (34) where the Packers let him walk.
  • DT B.J. Raji: Capped a strong 2010 postseason with a pair of tackles in the game. Finished his rookie contract in 2013, and reportedly turned down an $8 million-per-year offer last season.
  • DE C.J. Wilson: Started the game, but played only 14 snaps. Biggest impact came the night before the game, when he kept things loose in the team hotel by playing piano and leading a team sign-along. Finished his rookie contract in 2013.
  • FB John Kuhn: Played on both offense and special teams in the game. Signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract on Aug. 1, 2011.
  • CB Sam Shields: Suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of the game. Had his best season in 2013 while playing under the restricted free agent tender of $2.023 million. Will command a big contract either from the Packers or another team in free agency.
  • LB Robert Francois: Went back and forth from the practice squad to the active roster throughout the 2010 season, and played on special teams in the game. Played last season under a one-year, $725,000 deal, but tore his Achilles tendon on Oct. 6.
  • TE Andrew Quarless: Caught one pass for 5 yards in the game. Suffered a major knee injury the next season and missed all of 2012. Returned last season to catch 32 passes for 312 yards (both career highs) in the final year of his rookie deal.
  • QB Matt Flynn: Served as Rodgers’ backup but did not play in the Super Bowl. Left after the 2011 season as a free agent, and after stints with Seattle, Oakland and Buffalo, he returned to the Packers last season for a one-year minimum deal and played in five games after Rodgers broke his collarbone.
  • C Evan Dietrich-Smith: Was inactive for the Super Bowl. Became a starter late in 2012 and for all of 2013, when he played under the restricted free agent tender of $1.323 million deal.
With other teams

  • [+] EnlargeMcCarthy
    Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCoach Mike McCarthy and the Packers have seen a lot of roster turnover since winning Super Bowl XLV.
    WR Greg Jennings: Started and became just the third player in team history to catch multiple touchdowns in a Super Bowl by recording touchdowns of 21 and 8 yards. Signed a five-year, $45 million contract with the Vikings last March.
  • G Daryn Colledge: Started at left guard, but left in free agency a few months later to sign a five-year, $27.5 million contract with the Cardinals. Has started every game for the Cardinals since.
  • C Scott Wells: Started at center and remained with the Packers through the 2011 season before signing a four-year, $24 million contract with the Rams. Has missed 13 games over the past two seasons because of injuries.
  • LB Desmond Bishop: Became a starter earlier in 2010 after Nick Barnett's wrist injury and made nine tackles in the Super Bowl. Also recovered the fumble that Matthews forced. Signed a four-year, $19 million contract in 2011, but was released after missing the entire 2012 season because of a hamstring injury. Signed with the Vikings last offseason, but appeared in only four games.
  • OLB Frank Zombo: Started the game and had the Packers’ only sack of Roethlisberger but battled injuries the next two years and was released. Signed with the Chiefs last year and appeared in all 16 games.
  • CB Charles Woodson: Started at cornerback, but broke his collarbone late in the second quarter and missed the remainder of the game. Played two more seasons with the Packers, who released him last year. Returned to his old team, the Raiders, and played in all 16 games last season.
  • DE Cullen Jenkins: Played 36 snaps and had a pair of quarterback pressures. Left in free agency the following year and signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the Eagles, who released him after two years. Signed a three-year, $8 million contract with the Giants last season.
  • TE Tom Crabtree: Played on both offense and special teams in the Super Bowl, catching one pass. Left last year to sign with the Buccaneers as an unrestricted free agent, but was limited to seven games because of injuries.
  • CB Josh Gordy: Was inactive for the game, and the next season was signed off the practice squad the by the Rams. Spent the past two seasons with the Colts.
  • G Nick McDonald: Was inactive for the game, like he was for every game that season. Was released in training camp the next year, and spent parts of the next two seasons with the Patriots. Did not play in 2013, but was recently signed by the Chargers.
  • OLB Erik Walden: Was inactive after suffering an ankle injury in the NFC Championship Game. Played the next two seasons before signing a four-year, $16 million contract with the Colts last year.
  • DE: Jarius Wynn: Was active but did not play. Played in Green Bay through 2011, and with the Titans and Chargers before landing with the Cowboys last season.
  • FB Quinn Johnson: Inactive for the game. Was traded to the Titans in 2011. Has played in 24 games for the Titans over the past three years.
Out of football

  • T Chad Clifton: Started at left tackle, but his long career with the Packers ended when they released him after he played in only six games in 2011. Was never signed by another team.
  • WR Donald Driver: Started the game and caught two passes for 28 yards before leaving with an ankle injury in the second quarter. Retired after the 2012 season as the team’s all-time leading receiver.
  • S Nick Collins: Started and made a key early play when he returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Suffered a neck injury in Week 2 of 2011 and hasn’t played since.
  • DT Howard Green: Claimed off waivers earlier that season and started the game. His hit on Roethlisberger led to Collins’ interception return for a touchdown. Returned in 2011 and played in all 16 games, but has not played since.
  • WR Brett Swain: Posted a team-high four special teams tackles. Was released the following season and played briefly with the 49ers. Was cut in training camp last season by the Seahawks.
  • S Atari Bigby: Played on special teams. Signed with the Seahawks the following season and played in 15 games. Played in eight games with the Chargers in 2012, but did not play in 2013.
  • CB Pat Lee: Special teams player who saw action on defense after injuries to Woodson and Shields. Played one more season in Green Bay before splitting time in 2012 between the Lions and Raiders. Did not play in 2013.
  • RB Brandon Jackson: Played as the third-down back, but did not have any carries in the game. Caught one pass for 14 yards. Signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Browns in 2011, but missed all of that season and played in only two games in 2012.
  • FB Korey Hall: Caught one pass for 2 yards and made one special teams tackle in the game. He played in 13 games with the Saints in 2011, and retired after going to camp with the Cardinals in 2012.
  • S Charlie Peprah: Led the Packers with 10 tackles (including nine solo stops). Returned as a starter in 2011, when he had five interceptions, but was released shortly before training camp in 2012. Played in five games for the Cowboys in 2012.
  • LB Diyral Briggs: Made one special teams tackle in the game, but never played in another NFL game.
  • LB Matt Wilhelm: Made two special teams tackles, but seven-year career ended after that game.
  • G Jason Spitz: Played on special teams. Left in free agency the next year and signed a three-year, $4.05 million contract with the Jaguars, who released him in training camp last summer. He signed with the Seahawks, but was released on Oct. 12.
  • TE Donald Lee: Played in the game, but did not have a catch and was released two months later. Played in nine games for the Bengals in 2001.
  • QB Graham Harrell: Inactive for the game. Remained with the Packers until he was released in training camp last summer. Also spent time briefly with the Jets before being released.
  • RB Dimitri Nance: Inactive for the game. Was released by the Packers the following summer and never played in another NFL game.
  • CB Brandon Underwood: Inactive for the game. Was released in 2011. Went to camp with the Raiders in 2012 and Cowboys in 2013, but did not make either team.
The San Diego Chargers continue to make cuts as they have jettisoned safety Atari Bigby.

This move is not a big surprise. Bigby, who had 79 tackles last season, was not considered a top starter. The Chargers probably will be able to easily find a replacement. In-house candidates Darrell Stuckey and Brandon Taylor are possibilities. One potential replacement could be former Arizona safety Adrian Wilson. He was cut Friday. Former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt is now on San Diego’s staff.

Thursday, San Diego cut linebacker Takeo Spikes. The Chargers also will likely cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay and left tackle Jared Gaither.

As for free agency, don’t be surprised if the team shows interest in Colts’ cornerback Jerraud Powers. He was in Indianapolis with new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. The team will let starting cornebracks Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer test the market.
With the NFL deadline for naming franchise players passing at 4 p.m. ET Monday, we await official word from the league as to whether any NFC West players received the designation.

This can be a nerve-racking time for teams and fans hoping to keep favorite players.

Using the franchise tag almost always keeps a player from leaving in free agency. Teams must balance those concerns with a player's actual value. This year, deciding against using the tag could allow good-not-great NFC West players such as Dashon Goldson, Delanie Walker and Danny Amendola to reach the market and sign elsewhere.

It's tough losing key players, but for some perspective, let's revisit the list of 2012 NFC West unrestricted free agents to change teams during the UFA signing period last offseason: Note: UFAs include only veteran players whose contracts expired. Released players are not UFAs.

Wrap-up: Browns 7, Chargers 6

October, 28, 2012
10/28/12
4:45
PM ET

A look at a bad day in bad weather for the nose-diving Chargers:

What it means: This was the Chargers' third straight loss. While blowing double-digit leads in the past two games to New Orleans and Denver hurt the Chargers enormously, this defeat offers its own pain. This was a winnable game against a poor team. Yet the Chargers -- who perhaps still haven’t gotten over seeing Denver score 35 unanswered points in the second half in Week 6 -- were completely flat Sunday. Yes, they can dig out of it, but this team is so down right now, a revival may be difficult.

Game-winning drive stalled: On their final drive of the game, the Chargers moved the ball well into Cleveland territory with their sights on winning the game on Nick Novak’s third field goal. However, the Chargers’ hopes ended following four straight incomplete passes by Philip Rivers.

Mathews fails again: In the end, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews had a nice day as he had 95 yards rushing on 24 carries. However, Mathews’ fumbling problem caught up to him again early in the game. Mathews has to find a way to stop fumbling. It is hurting his team. Mathews wasn’t the only Charger to fail, though. Robert Meachem dropped a potential touchdown and Atari Bigby dropped a potential interception return for a score. This was a team failure.

What’s next: The Chargers will try to bounce back at home Thursday against Kansas City. I envision many empty seats at Qualcomm Stadium.
SAN DIEGO -- With the outside perception of the San Diego Chargers taking a major tumble, the team, which for so long was built from the inside, changed philosophy in 2012 in a last attempt to keep that proverbial Super Bowl window from slamming shut and causing major upheaval in the organization.

After two playoff-less seasons and a reprieve from ownership, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith made an uncharacteristically heavy play in free agency. Taking advantage of one of the deepest classes in history, the Chargers nabbed more than a dozen free agents to infuse new life into a roster that was still talented but no longer arguably the stoutest in the NFL.

“I love what they have done around here,” said safety Eric Weddle, one of the Chargers' homegrown mainstays. “We hit the lowest of the lows the past two years by not making the playoffs. Getting new blood in here has helped.”

Among the veterans San Diego brought in were running backs Le'Ron McClain and Ronnie Brown, receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

“The thing about the new guys is they all love football,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “They love it. We need guys like that here. … It gives us a new start. Those guys won’t worry about the past. They weren’t here for the slow starts or the six-game losing streak last year. It’s all a new start.”

If this cleansing of the roster doesn’t work, the next restructuring will likely occur up top with the firing of coach Norv Turner and possibly Smith. Yet, in a season of new beginnings, spirits are high.

“I think we can be special,” Weddle said. “There’s still a lot of talent here, with a bunch of new talent. … People may not be expecting much from us this year because we haven’t done anything, so that’s fair. But it’s kind of nice to be under the radar for once.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThe Chargers aim to lean even more heavily on running back Ryan Mathews this season.
1. Ryan Mathews' workload: Outside of Rivers, there is likely not a more important player in this camp than Mathews. The Chargers all know if Mathews flourishes in his third NFL season, the team will have a strong chance to be successful. Mathews, the No. 12 overall pick in 2010, had a solid second season as he ran for 1,091 yards and averaged a terrific 4.9 yards per carry. This year, the Chargers want to see Mathews become consistent and stay healthy. He will likely be given the chance to to carry the ball 25 times a game, catch several balls out of the backfield and be a factor on third down and in short yardage. This camp is designed to get him prepared for a heavy workload. From what I saw and heard, it seems like Mathews might be up to the task.

“He’s working hard,” Rivers said. “Ryan knows what is expected of him.”

2. Sparking the defense: While the offense in San Diego needs some tweaks, the bigger fixes are necessary on defense, where former linebackers coach John Pagano is in charge of fixing a unit that fell apart last season. He replaces Greg Manusky, who was fired after one season on the job. The biggest issue -- it is a major point of emphasis in camp -- is getting off the field on third down. San Diego was last in the NFL in third-down defense in 2011. It gave up a first down on 49.2 percent of all third downs -- according to ESPN Stats & Information, the worst percentage in the NFL since the 1995 Cleveland Browns. The Chargers have added several pieces to the defense and it has a chance to be much more active -- particularly on passing downs, when No. 1 pick Melvin Ingram will be given a chance to make an instant impact as a pass-rusher.

3. Protect the quarterback: The San Diego offensive line was in shambles for much of last season, and it was a big reason why Rivers struggled for the first 10 games. Mainly due to poor health, San Diego used 13 offensive linemen last season -- literally taking players off the street at one point in November. With Jared Gaither, claimed off waivers from Kansas City, solidifying the left tackle spot, the unit improved dramatically late in the season. Gaither was re-signed and is being counted on to protect Rivers’ blind side. The steady Tyronne Green takes over for the departed Kris Dielman. Green has fared well when he's had to play. If this unit remains in good health, it should protect Rivers well. If not, trouble could persist. So far, the unit looks good in camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The passing game looks to be top-notch. After a sloppy start to last season, Rivers finished 2011 strong. He has looked good in camp, and has an interesting group of receivers. Yes, standout Vincent Jackson is gone, but the Chargers have an ensemble group that includes Malcom Floyd, free-agent signees Meachem (New Orleans) and Royal (Denver) and second-year player Vincent Brown. Together, this group should offer Rivers plenty of help.

“We like what we have there,” Turner said. “We like all the pieces. We think we can get some things done in the passing game.”

If the Rivers-led passing attack is back at an elite level, the Chargers will be a threat to win every game. When Rivers is on, San Diego has a chance to score every time the offense hits the field.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chargers must prove they are totally past their doldrums. The team feels good about itself, but it does every summer. We will not know if San Diego is out of its funk until it’s out.

Yes, the depth looks good, but will it be enough if injuries pile up for a fourth consecutive year? Yes, cutting down on turnovers is a point of emphasis in camp, but once the season starts, will the hard work pay off or will the killer interceptions and fumbles continue?

It has gotten to the point where we can’t trust this team until it shows it is has indeed rebounded.

OBSERVATION DECK

    [+] EnlargeEddie Royal
    AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziReceiver Eddie Royal, an offseason pickup, appears to have clicked with Chargers QB Philip Rivers.
  • Tight end Antonio Gates is turning heads on a daily basis. After dealing with foot-related injuries for four years, Gates is finally completely healthy. He’s slimmed down and he is making a lot of plays. If his health remains, the 32-year-old should make a huge impact.
  • Denver might have lost interest in Royal, but there is a place for him San Diego. Expect Royal to get a lot of work. He has impressed the coaching staff this summer and I expect him to be as favorite a target for Rivers during the season as he has been this summer.
  • The Chargers love what they see in Johnson. He is tough, smart and excellent against the run. They think he can bump the defense up a notch.
  • Linebacker Donald Butler looks good after a strong 2011 season, which was essentially his rookie season because he was injured in 2010. He is just another fascinating young defensive piece on this team.
  • Undrafted rookie quarterback Jarrett Lee looks like a keeper. He got extra work because of a knee injury to Charlie Whitehurst. I could see Lee making this roster. The Chargers were burned last year when they tried to sneak undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien onto the practice squad; he was claimed by San Francisco. If Lee continues to impress, I think the Chargers will find room for him on the 53-man roster. They need to develop a young quarterback at some point and Lee might be it.

  • The Nate Kaeding-Nick Novak battle at kicker will go down to the wire. If Kaeding stays healthy and kicks well in the preseason, he should win the job.
  • The Chargers love the skill level of Meachem. Perhaps he was lost in the shuffle of the dynamic offensive weaponry in New Orleans. He’ll get his shot in San Diego.
  • The Chargers are pumped about McClain, a free-agent pickup from Kansas City. He will play a lot and should be in the mix for some carries. They like the veteran stability he brings to the offense.
  • Center David Molk, a seventh-round pick, is getting some second-team reps. He may have a future.
  • The Chargers are very happy with pre-camp signings Franklin and running back/special-teamer Jackie Battle. Though they both signed late, I see them both being contributors.
  • Keep an eye on ex-Chief Demorrio Williams. The linebacker has been a camp stud, boasting terrific speed. The Chargers like him in coverage.
  • The Chargers will keep their eyes open for help at certain positions, including cornerback and offensive line, as the summer progresses.
  • Third-round pick Brandon Taylor, a safety, might not make an instant impact, but Taylor has impressed and will get some valuable time behind veteran pickup Atari Bigby, who himself has been outstanding this summer.

  • Brown has been getting looks as the third-down back and will be an occasional Wildcat threat.
  • Running back Curtis Brinkley flashed talent at times last season, but because of the logjam at running back, he is a long shot to make the team.

  • Rookie tight end Ladarius Green has nice receiving skills. I can see him making an impact behind Gates and Dante Rosario (a very nice backup). Green, a fourth-round pick, needs to learn to block at an NFL level, but he has terrific hands and natural size.
  • Undrafted rookie tackle Mike Harris has taken advantage of an early camp injury to Gaither, getting some reps with the first team. The UCLA product has a chance to make the team. Rivers has joked that Harris has gotten more first-team reps than any undrafted rookie tackle in the history of the NFL.
Four safeties from the NFC earned Pro Bowl honors last season.

All four played in the NFC West: Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor from Seattle, Dashon Goldson from San Francisco, and Adrian Wilson from Arizona.

On the surface, few positions appear stronger within the division. Beneath the surface, there isn't much depth -- at all.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sized up the situation in San Francisco recently, noting that C.J. Spillman is the team's only backup safety with even one regular-season defensive snap on his resume.

The 49ers can expect Goldson, an unsigned franchise player, to report at some point before the season. But San Francisco, like Seattle in particular among NFC West teams, lacks proven alternatives if injuries strike at safety. The drop from Pro Bowl talent to unknown backup can be a hard one.

It's a position to watch in the NFC West, for sure.

Arizona Cardinals

Starters: Wilson, Kerry Rhodes

Backups: Rashad Johnson (498 defensive snaps in 2011), James Sanders (462), Blake Gideon (0), Eddie Elder (0).

Comment: Rhodes missed nine games to injury last season. Johnson started in his place and played extensively during the Cardinals' late-season defensive revival. The experience Johnson gained should leave the Cardinals feeling better about the position. Sanders started six games for Atlanta last season. Arizona did not re-sign backups Hamza Abdullah or Sean Considine, who were special-teams contributors. Overall, the Cardinals feel very good about their depth in the secondary. Wilson's ability to play at a high level last season despite a torn biceps tendon improved the position's outlook. Wilson turns 33 in October, but appears to have quite a bit left.

Seattle Seahawks

Starters: Thomas, Chancellor

Backups: Chris Maragos (11 defensive snaps in 2011), Jeron Johnson (9), Winston Guy (0), DeShawn Shead (0).

Comment: Atari Bigby provided veteran depth last season. San Diego signed him as a potential starter in free agency. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. The Seahawks were high enough on Jeron Johnson, an undrafted rookie in 2011, to keep him on the 53-man roster over a draft choice, Mark LeGree. Maragos projects as a core special-teams player. Guy and Shead have made positive impressions in practice recently. This is one position where Seattle could stand to develop or acquire quality depth in case Thomas or Chancellor suffers an injury. But with two of the NFL's best young safeties in the lineup, the team should be set at the position for years to come.

San Francisco 49ers

Starters: Goldson, Donte Whitner

Backups: C.J. Spillman (16 defensive snaps in 2011), Colin Jones (0), Ben Hannula (0), Trenton Robinson (0), Mark LeGree (0), Michael Thomas (0).

Comment: The 49ers did not re-sign veteran backups Reggie Smith and Madieu Williams. They did not use an early draft choice for a safety or target a veteran in free agency. Spillman, undrafted from Marshall in 2009, is getting plenty of reps this offseason while Goldson remains unsigned as the 49ers' franchise player. Spillman is already among the very best special-teams players in the division (he joined Seattle's Heath Farwell among non-positional specialists on our all-NFC West team for 2011). It's a bit early to know whether the 49ers could count on Spillman at safety if an injury forced their hand. But with eight safeties on the roster, the 49ers do have developmental options at the position.

St. Louis Rams

Starters: Quintin Mikell, Darian Stewart

Backups: Craig Dahl (486 defensive snaps in 2011), Matt Daniels (0).

Comment: Dahl started three games last season and 24 over the past three. He gives the Rams decent veteran depth behind Mikell and the emerging Stewart. Daniels is an undrafted free agent from Duke. He was eager to sign with the Rams when he learned they had only three other safeties under contract. Rookie third-round choice Trumaine Johnson has the size to play safety, but coach Jeff Fisher said the plan will be for Johnson to remain at cornerback. "(Moving to safety) may be something that happens later in his career, but right now he helps us as a corner," Fisher told reporters during the draft.
Brock Huard, Mike Salk and I spent 13-14 minutes Thursday discussing where the Seattle Seahawks stand heading toward the 2012 NFL draft.

One question: Should the team focus on adding a front-line receiver to help new quarterback Matt Flynn, or should finding pass-rush help (and possibly linebacker help) stand as top priority?

I lean toward making pass-rush help a higher priority while the team finds out whether Flynn has the ability to maximize the existing weapons and make full use of additional ones.

The chart shows which players accounted for the Seahawks' 33 sacks last season.

Five of the players with at least 3.0 sacks are unsigned and/or will not return.

Anthony Hargrove has agreed to terms with Green Bay, Leroy Hill is unsigned and Raheem Brock is not expected back. Jason Jones, signed from Tennessee, should help pump up the numbers to a degree. But there's definitely room for another contributor.

Audio here.

AFC West free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
3/29/12
11:00
AM ET
AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Denver Broncos

Key additions: QB Peyton Manning, CB Tracy Porter, TE Joel Dreessen, TE Jacob Tamme, S Mike Adams, QB Caleb Hanie, WR Andre Caldwell.

Key losses: DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR, Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Fells, QB Tim Tebow, QB Brady Quinn, TE Dante Rosario.

Did they get better? The Broncos added Manning and that move changes the course of the entire division. Denver is instantly the favorite to win the AFC West again because of this addition. Yes, there are risks as the 36-year-old Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury that required several surgeries. Denver is convinced Manning is fully recovered and has been cleared to play.

If the 2012 Manning is anything like the Manning we last saw, Denver will be in good shape and the offense will be dangerous. The key is on defense. It has improved greatly and the Porter and Adams additions should help, even while losing Bunkley will hurt. Overall, this team made huge strides in the offseason.

What’s next: Denver’s biggest need areas are at defensive tackle (the Broncos may need two), running back, safety, receiver and linebacker. However, much of that need is for depth purposes.

Denver’s only true glaring hole is at defensive tackle. Expect the Broncos to use their No. 25 pick on the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team’s second-round pick is used on a running back unless the Broncos like one of the remaining veterans on the market.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key additions: CB Stanford Routt, RT Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Kevin Boss, QB Brady Quinn.

Key losses: CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, FB Le'Ron McClain, LB Demorrio Williams.

Did they get better? Had it not been for the Manning blockbuster, everybody would be taking about what the Chiefs did. I think the Chiefs’ work in free agency was among the best five in the NFL.

Instead of giving quarterback Matt Cassel serious competition, the Chiefs further committed to him by giving him some strong pieces on offense. Hillis will team with Jamaal Charles to make a dangerous running tandem. Winston is one of the league’s better right tackles and Boss and Tony Moeaki will give opposing defenses fits in double tight end sets. This will be a varied offense that will have many weapons. The Chiefs are solid on defense and Routt is a veteran who is comparable to Carr, but more experienced and is less expensive.

What’s next: The Chiefs could use a nose tackle, help at inside linebacker, secondary depth and offensive line depth. They will get a good player with the 11th pick and I think they will try to solidify the middle of the defensive line with someone like Memphis’ Dontari Poe. If the Chiefs can add an impact defender with that pick, it will complete an outstanding offseason.

Oakland Raiders

Key additions: G Mike Brisiel, CB Ron Bartell, CB Shawntae Spencer, CB Pat Lee.

Key losses: LB Kamerion Wimbley, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss, DT John Henderson, RB Rock Cartwright, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, CB Chris Johnson.

Did they get better? It’s difficult to argue this team improved. Just look at all the losses. It’s a pure fact of numbers, Oakland lost much more than it brought in. This team has more questions than it did at the end of last season and it has more holes. With limited cap space and the fact Oakland doesn’t pick in the draft until No. 95, the Raiders will have a difficult time adding any more impact players. Depth can be an issue.

I understand why this has happened. The new Oakland regime had to get things in order, and sometimes, before a team can make major steps forward as an organization, it may have to take a step back. There is still a lot of talent in Oakland, but it is clear the other three teams made more impactful additions.

What’s next: Oakland will be challenged to find impact players, but it will need to add depth at several places after finding a starting outside linebacker. Oakland needs depth at linebacker, the secondary, offensive line, running back and at quarterback. I think we will see Oakland be patient and add at spots all the way up into the season.

San Diego Chargers

Key additions: WR Robert Meachem, LB Jarret Johnson, WR Eddie Royal, FB Le’Ron McClain, QB Charlie Whitehurst, S Atari Bigby, TE Dante Rosario, LB Demorrio Williams

Key losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert, G Kris Dielman, S Steve Gregory, QB Billy Volek.

Did they get better? I’ve talked to a lot of scouts who believe the Chargers improved. The truth is they lost two good players in Jackson and Tolbert and so did not improve as much as Denver and Kansas City did. But the Chargers did get creative and added a lot of pieces for the price it would have cost to keep Jackson. They also retained key offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Jared Gaither. Meachem and Royal give quarterback Philip Rivers some interesting weapons.

Johnson will help the defense and he will make it tougher. The Chargers may have gotten a little deeper while losing some star power.

What’s next: The Chargers still haven’t addressed their greatest need outside of keeping its offensive line intact. San Diego will no doubt use its No. 18 pick on the best available pass-rusher to help Johnson is not a great pass-rusher.

Other needs include a big backup running back, offensive line depth and some more depth in all layers of the defense.

2012 NFC West UFA scorecard: update

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
12:30
PM ET
Michael Robinson's expected re-signing with the Seattle Seahawks would give the team a league-high four re-signings in the unrestricted free-agent market.

Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan and Heath Farwell previously re-signed.

Seattle and the other NFC West teams have added only two UFAs from other teams, however. I've put together UFA scorecards for each team in the division. Ages are in parenthesis. Here goes ...

Seattle Seahawks

UFA unsigned (age): defensive end Raheem Brock (33), defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson (31), safety Atari Bigby (30), quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (29), linebacker Leroy Hill (29), linebacker Matt McCoy (29), defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (28), linebacker David Hawthorne (26), running back Justin Forsett (26), linebacker David Vobora (25)

UFA re-signed: Farwell (30), Robinson (29), McQuistan (28), Bryant (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: tight end John Carlson (27)

Franchise player: none

Comment: Forsett has provided value, but the Seahawks will want to add a power back as depth behind Marshawn Lynch, who re-signed before free agency. Mike Tolbert, a free agent from the San Diego Chargers, could be worth a look if the running back market remains soft. Tolbert weighs 243 pounds, has 21 total touchdowns over the past two seasons, and caught 54 passes in 2012. The price would have to be right after Seattle committed to Lynch.

San Francisco 49ers

UFA unsigned: fullback Moran Norris (33), tight end Justin Peelle (33), safety Madieu Williams (30), quarterback Alex Smith (27), receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (26), guard Chilo Rachal (26), safety Reggie Smith (25)

UFA re-signed: cornerback Carlos Rogers (30), linebacker Tavares Gooden (27)

UFA added: none

UFA lost: guard Adam Snyder (30), linebacker Blake Costanzo (27), receiver Josh Morgan (26)

Franchise player: safety Dashon Goldson (27)

Comment: Randy Moss and potential addition Rock Cartwright do not appear in the listings because they were not unrestricted free agents. Re-signing Alex Smith and finding additional receiver help appear to be the top priorities. The 49ers are showing little outward urgency on either front, however.

Arizona Cardinals

UFA unsigned: defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday (36), kicker Jay Feely (35), long-snapper Mike Leach (35), outside linebacker Clark Haggans (35), outside linebacker Joey Porter (34), offensive lineman Floyd Womack (33), punter Dave Zastudil (33), tackle D'Anthony Batiste (29), safety Sean Considine (29), guard Deuce Lutui (28), safety Hamza Abdullah (28), tackle Brandon Keith (27), receiver Early Doucet (26)

UFA re-signed: none.

UFA added: Snyder (30)

UFA lost: cornerback Richard Marshall (27)

Franchise player: defensive end Calais Campbell (25)

Comment: The Cardinals have been in a tough spot. They would have faced criticism had they declined to pursue Peyton Manning. They could now face criticism for sacrificing the first week of free agency while waiting for Manning. The reality is that Arizona probably wasn't going to be all that aggressive in the market this offseason, anyway. It did hurt losing Marshall to the Miami Dolphins after coordinator Ray Horton called him the Cardinals' defensive MVP.

St. Louis Rams

UFA unsigned: cornerback Al Harris (37), quarterback A.J. Feeley (34), offensive lineman Tony Wragge (32), linebacker Brady Poppinga (32), punter Donnie Jones (31), offensive lineman Adam Goldberg (31), guard Jacob Bell (31), receiver Brandon Lloyd (30), cornerback Rod Hood (30), running back Cadillac Williams (29), defensive tackle Gary Gibson (29), receiver Mark Clayton (29), tackle Mark LeVoir (29), tight end Stephen Spach (29), safety James Butler (29), tight end Billy Bajema (29), quarterback Kellen Clemens (28), running back Jerious Norwood (28), linebacker Bryan Kehl (27), linebacker Chris Chamberlain (26), cornerback Justin King (24)

UFA re-signed: none

UFA added: cornerback Cortland Finnegan (28)

UFA lost: none

Franchise player: none

Comment: The Rams are not looking to re-sign many of their own free agents. They want to turn over the roster, and that is happening in a big way. The team's failure to secure playmaking help for quarterback Sam Bradford stands out as the biggest theme to this point. Finnegan was a welcome addition, but he isn't going to score many touchdowns.

The chart below shows a general overview.
The Seattle Seahawks' top priorities in free agency appear clear, at least when it comes to their own players.

Re-sign running back Marshawn Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant.

Lynch's agent of record, Mike Sullivan, recently took a job with the Denver Broncos. That would not affect negotiations as much if Lynch remained with Octagon Worldwide. The agent game can be an unpredictable one, however. That is something to file away.

Bryant has said he strongly wants to re-sign with Seattle.

The charts below expand upon Brian McIntyre's lists. I've added offensive and defensive snap counts from ESPN Stats & Information. The final column shows what players earned per year on their most recent contracts.

The second chart shows restricted free agents. Teams can retain rights to RFAs by making one-year qualifying offers.

On Sidney Rice heading to injured reserve

November, 30, 2011
11/30/11
4:02
PM ET
Initial thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' decision to place receiver Sidney Rice on injured reserve Wednesday:
  • Durability concerns were valid. The Minnesota Vikings wanted to re-sign Rice, but they had concerns about the receiver's ability to stay healthy. So did other teams considering options in free agency. Rice suffered a labrum injury in his shoulder during practice before the season. Knee problems slowed him during the season. Two concussions in recent weeks precipitated the IR move.

  • Rice's hip wasn't the issue. Most of the Rice-related injury concerns in free agency stemmed from the microfracture hip surgery Rice underwent while with the Vikings. Rice's hip seems to have held up OK.
  • Seattle has good depth. The Seahawks never had to worry about losing a receiver as talented as Rice in recent seasons. That is because they did not have any receivers as talented as Rice. How bad was their receiver situation in the past? They remain better at the position now, even without Rice. Rookie Doug Baldwin has taken some big hits, however. Can he hold up? Ben Obomanu has suffered from drops in recent weeks. Mike Williams has struggled. So, even though the depth is better than it was, questions remain. The group needs to improve.
  • Protecting Rice was a wise move. Rice represents a long-term investment. Seattle signed him for this season, sure, but the long-term future matters more -- both for Rice personally, and for the team. Rice is 25 years old. No sense in risking his health. This had to be an easier decision for all involved given those considerations and the fact that Seattle will not qualify for the playoffs, anyway.

The chart shows the players Seattle signed from other teams in unrestricted free agency. All but backup Atari Bigby and the long-ago-released Jeff Reed have missed games to injury.

Seahawks could need ex-Packer Bigby

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
5:03
PM ET
NFC West injury reports came and went Friday without a great deal of change.

Steven Jackson plans to play for the St. Louis Rams despite a quadriceps injury. The Arizona Cardinals hope to have Beanie Wells back from a hamstring injury. The San Francisco 49ers expect Frank Gore to play despite an ankle injury, although reports suggest his status is a little more tenuous.

One lower-profile injury of note: Kam Chancellor, strong safety for the Seahawks, missed practice again and was listed as doubtful for Sunday. It's looking like veteran Atari Bigby, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, will start against the Atlanta Falcons.

Bigby has been playing special teams and in sub packages. He's not hurting for experience or talent. Injuries spelled his demise in Green Bay. If he's healthy, though, the Seahawks could certainly do worse for a short-term replacement.

Chancellor has emerged this season as a big-hitting defender with play-making ability. His interception against Arizona all but clinched the Seahawks' victory in Week 3.

Tough lessons for Kevin Kolb, Cardinals

September, 25, 2011
9/25/11
10:56
PM ET
Kevin KolbAP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Cardinals continue to have problems at quarterback as Kevin Kolb fails to deliver in the clutch.
SEATTLE -- When the Arizona Cardinals needed their quarterback to drive them into field-goal range with the game on the line, Kevin Kolb threw an interception.

Fluke play? Not for the Cardinals during an unsightly 13-10 defeat to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday at CenturyLink Field.

Kolb had faced a similar set of circumstances right before halftime. The Seahawks picked him off that time as well, one of the leading reasons the Cardinals left Seattle with the same point total they managed with Max Hall and Derek Anderson as their quarterbacks during a 22-10 defeat here last season.

Watching the helplessly overmatched Hall flail away in the uncompromising Northwest elements on that September day in Week 7 last season represented rock bottom at the quarterback position for the Cardinals under coach Ken Whisenhunt. That game, as much as any other, forced the organization into the market for a quarterback good enough to upgrade them right now, not just in the distant future.

Kolb has generally delivered, with a few very specific and damaging exceptions. He's had a hand in four turnovers, all in opponents' territory, during the Cardinals' 1-2 start to this season. Switch a couple of those giveaways into positive plays and Arizona might not have lost to Rex Grossman and Tarvaris Jackson in consecutive weeks.

"I just have to be smarter with the ball, know the situation, think about every play, every down, and then have great trust that we're going to go in there and, worst-case scenario, we're going to kick a field goal," Kolb said afterward. "You have to sock it away and learn from it. It's hard to swallow. Trust me, it's hard to swallow."

Kolb delivered his postgame remarks with appropriate levels of regret and perspective. He wasn't buying the idea that Arizona, having lost a fourth-quarter lead during a 22-21 defeat at Washington last week, was only a couple plays away from being 3-0.

"Guess what, we're one play away from being 0-3, too, because Carolina had the ball there at the end," Kolb said refreshingly. "This game comes down to that. It's an inch in this league and you better be willing to go get that inch."

The Cardinals converted just three times in 14 chances on third down, marginally better than their 2-of-12 showing at Seattle last season. They averaged 4.6 yards per play, up from 4.1 here last season. Their lone touchdown this time was as spectacular as it was unrepeatable, with Kolb retreating to the Seattle 27-yard line before throwing a jump ball to Larry Fitzgerald against double coverage.

And those two interceptions Kolb threw Sunday outnumbered the one Arizona threw at Seattle last season.

[+] EnlargeKam Chancellor
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonKam Chancellor's fourth quarter interception snuffed out any chance of an Arizona comeback.
Kolb faced third-and-12 from the Seattle 36 with 1:15 remaining when Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor jumped his pass over the middle to tight end Todd Heap. I was watching free safety Earl Thomas on the play, figuring Thomas would be the Seattle defender most likely to make a play on the ball, but Chancellor caught it in stride. Kolb admitted to "getting a little bit greedy" on the play. Having seen an inside defender jump tight end Jeff King's route, Kolb figured he could find Heap with a back-shoulder throw.

"I probably had [receiver] Andre [Roberts] coming right underneath him wide open," Kolb lamented. "Just need to read it out, put the ball in the guy's hand."

Kolb was at his best running the Cardinals' no-huddle offense during an eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive midway through the second quarter. Arizona went back to the no-huddle sparingly in the second half, after Seattle had time to adjust.

"We mixed up a lot of packages, gave him a lot of different looks, blitzing from different places, dropping into different coverages to keep him off-balance," veteran Seahawks safety Atari Bigby said. "A lot of times with young quarterbacks, that can be difficult for them. I noticed they went into hurry-up mode so we could not change personnel on them, trying to control the game."

The five-year, $63 million contract Arizona handed Kolb should not obscure his relative inexperience. This was his 10th career regular-season start and his second in a row against a solid defense on the road.

"We're still growing around Kevin and what he does well," Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "There were a couple times where plays were mixed up and we didn't run them correctly. That is a product of getting familiar with our offense and that just takes time. It's not something you can snap your fingers and you are running efficiently."

Those are fair points, but it's also reasonable to expect better during clutch situations. There are times when Kolb's winning personality translates to mistakes when a more experienced passer would show greater restraint. As Kolb acknowledged last week, he must learn to walk the line between being aggressive and being careless.

The interception Kolb threw in Redskins territory last week stands as one example. The pass Seattle's Marcus Trufant picked off at the Seattle 17 before halftime Sunday was another. The Cardinals had first down from the Seattle 41 with seven seconds remaining. Kolb threw aggressively for Fitzgerald along the right sideline.

"It was Cover 2, a soft 2, and 'Tru' did a really good job of kind of slow playing it," said Fitzgerald, who had five catches for 64 yards and was shut out in the second half. "He is a nine-year veteran, he is a savvy guy and he just made a heckuva play."

The good news for Arizona is that Kolb appears to have the physical skills, mental makeup and work ethic to succeed. He should only improve as he masters an offense he began practicing only 52 days ago. But those expecting instant results in critical situations will have to wait at least another week.

Wrap-up: Steelers 24, Seahawks 0

September, 18, 2011
9/18/11
4:01
PM ET

Thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in their Week 2 matchup at Heinz Field:

What it means: The Seahawks have yet to get their offense going after two games against teams with strong defenses. They take a 0-2 record into their home opener against Arizona. Since the NFL expanded to 12 playoff teams in 1990, only 22 of 177 teams starting 0-2 have qualified for postseason. That stat might mean less in the NFC West after the 2010 Seahawks became the first team with a losing record to win its division.

What I liked: The Seahawks protected the football. Their run defense fared reasonably well through most of the game for a unit that was on the field far too long. Atari Bigby and Chris Clemons collected sacks.

What I didn't like: The Seattle offense was simply no match for the Steelers' veteran defense. That was no revelation for either team. Seattle failed to cross midfield on offense until the fourth quarter, an embarrassment no matter how strong the opposing team might be on defense. Before the game, news that Sidney Rice's shoulder injury could be serious made it tougher for Seattle to feel as optimistic about its immediate offensive future. The Seahawks' pass defense, untested against San Francisco in the opener, could not stop the Steelers' Ben Roethlisberger from finding Mike Wallace for a 2-yard touchdown and a 53-yard reception. Wallace topped 100 yards receiving.

What's next: The Seahawks open the NFC West portion of their schedule with a home game against Arizona in Week 3.

Why Seahawks wanted Bigby, not Milloy

August, 16, 2011
8/16/11
6:24
PM ET
Atari Bigby's signing in Seattle gives the Seahawks experienced, hard-nosed depth at strong safety with one giant "if" to consider.

Bigby
Bigby
Bigby has missed 24 games to injury over the past three seasons. He has value only if he can get and stay healthy.

The former Green Bay Packers starter tuns 30 next month, making him considerably younger than unsigned 2010 starter Lawyer Milloy. Milloy, 37, has missed only six games since 1996. He has played all 16 games in a season 13 times.

Why not just bring back Milloy, one of the toughest players of his generation?

There's a tradeoff in re-signing such a durable, competitive player amid a youth movement. Milloy returned to the Seahawks last season only after coach Pete Carroll promised to restore him as the starter. Milloy had not been happy as a backup in 2009. Any leadership he might have provided would have been muted from the bench in 2011.

Kam Chancellor is going to start at strong safety for the Seahawks this season. He's having a strong training camp. The team envisions pairing him with free safety Earl Thomas for years to come. Seattle considered bringing back veteran safety/cornerback Jordan Babineaux for veteran depth, but the Tennessee Titans signed him.

Back to Bigby. Ankle, groin and hamstring injuries limited him to four games with Green Bay last season. NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert put it this way in a November item entitled, "Another setback for Atari Bigby":
The Packers had envisioned Bigby as a long-term starter but he has slowly slid off their radar because of injuries and contract disputes. They opened the season with rookie Morgan Burnett as their starter, and Charlie Peprah took over after Burnett suffered a season-ending knee injury. We're a long way from next season, but you would have to consider Peprah and Burnett to be in much higher standing from an organizational perspective.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider was with the Packers when Bigby started 11 games for the team in 2009. Bigby comes to Seattle without the lucrative deal he once coveted, and with much to prove.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider