NFL Nation: D.D. Lewis
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.
They think the 49ers face at least as many questions as the Arizona Cardinals, from Alex Smith's abilities as a starting quarterback to the effects of playing two rookies on the offensive line.
Our conversation pointed to something I wrestle with all the time: perception vs. reality.
Sometimes those perceptions get out of hand. It could be happening in the NFC West right now. A few things to consider along those lines heading into the regular season:
- The Seattle Seahawks are taking flak for dumping T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Josh Wilson and others (Rob Sims and Nate Burleson come to mind) during an ongoing roster overhaul. It's fair to ask whether all the changes were necessary. It's fair to question whether Seattle might fall off some in the immediate term while less experienced players take over. But why pretend as though the Seahawks needed only some fine-tuning? They needed an overhaul and they're getting one. Sometimes a team gets a little worse before it gets better. But if you honestly assess each roster change, you might find more upgrades than downgrades. How much will this really team miss Ken Lucas, Cory Redding, Justin Griffith, D.D. Lewis, Damion McIntosh, Owen Schmitt, Mansfield Wrotto, Lawrence Jackson, John Owens, Darryl Tapp, Deon Grant, Lance Laury and the others? It's tough to argue that those players were part of the solution.
- The Cardinals are worse off without Kurt Warner. That much is a given. But should recent instability at quarterback significantly lower those already reduced expectations for the upcoming season? It's probably better to rule out Matt Leinart now than to do so four or five games into the regular season. Quarterback was already a concern. It's still a concern. But let's not pretend the 49ers are dramatically better off with Smith under center. I'm favoring the 49ers in the division because they're the safest bet following an offseason without much roster turnover. They appear slightly better than the team that went 8-8 in 2009. But it's no shock if the Cardinals win this division. I'd call it only a mild surprise.
- The Rams are easy to write off with a rookie quarterback under center and only six wins over the last three seasons. It's not the upset of the century, however, if they find a way to prevail in Week 1. They trailed the Cardinals 21-3 at halftime in the Edward Jones Dome last season. A concussion prevented Warner from returning. Final score: 21-13. If you're the Rams and you know Warner won't be there Sunday, and you know Marc Bulger posted a 57.8 rating as your quarterback in that 21-13 defeat, you're thinking you've got a chance this time around, right? Right.
- About those 49ers. Let's not get carried away with the 12-4 predictions, OK? One step at a time. The 49ers were 5-1 in the division last season. Are they really going to match that record or improve upon it and then add three more victories outside the NFC West? It's possible with AFC West teams on the schedule, but the 49ers have only seven true home games this season. Two of those are against New Orleans and Philadelphia. They play road games against Atlanta, Green Bay and San Diego. Find a dozen sure victories on that schedule and I'm guessing you're a 49ers fan.
To be continued in the comments section, and beyond.
Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.
Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, TE Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.
Franchise player: none
What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.
Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.
Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.
Franchise player: K Olindo Mare
What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.
Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.
Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin
What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.
An early look at the free-agent situation in the NFC West.
Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.
Key figures: The more than $17.7 million Arizona has paid to Dansby over the past two seasons should suffice as a parting gift if, as expected, the linebacker leaves in free agency. Dansby could be leading an exodus. Okeafor turns 34 in March and could be on his way out. Berry announced his retirement. Morey has had concussion problems. Gandy's return probably depends on whether he's willing to stay for less than the $5 million he earned last season. Safety Antrel Rolle does not appear on the list, but he would hit the market when free agency begins if the Cardinals decline to pay a $4 million roster bonus.
San Francisco 49ers
Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre' Bly, NT Aubrayo Franklin, CB Walt Harris, RT Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, LT Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich, LB Matt Wilhelm, CB Keith Smith.
Key figures: The 49ers have been proactive in re-signing their own players. That explains why relatively few big names appear on this list. The franchise tag appears well suited for Franklin, the only marquee UFA on the 49ers' list this offseason. Tagging Franklin at the $7 million franchise rate makes sense heading into labor uncertainty. Why spend lavishly on a long-term deal? Franklin has played at a high level consistently for only one season, and a lockout could keep him off the field in 2011. Re-signing Sims for depth would make sense. Ulbrich, meanwhile, has retired and joined the Seahawks' coaching staff.
Unrestricted free agents: DE Cory Redding, CB Ken Lucas, K Olindo Mare, LB D.D. Lewis, FB Justin Griffith, LT Damion McIntosh, SS Lawyer Milloy, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson.
Key figures: New coach Pete Carroll is on the record saying he likes what he's seen from Redding. Mare is coming off an outstanding season. Lucas has the size Seattle's new leadership wants in its cornerbacks. Milloy played for Carroll in New England. There isn't much more to say about this relatively nondescript group, and it's unclear how much the new regime will value these UFAs. Unrestricted free agency isn't the only road out of Seattle this offseason. The team will probably part with a few established players who haven't lived up to their salaries because of injuries and other factors. Patrick Kerney and Deion Branch come to mind.
St. Louis Rams
Unrestricted free agents: DE Leonard Little, DE James Hall, LB Paris Lenon, QB Kyle Boller, S Clinton Hart, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.
Key figures: Boller, 28, is the only player on the Rams' list younger than 30. Franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe and starting tackle Alex Barron become only restricted free agents under rules governing the uncapped year, explaining their absence from the Rams' UFA list. It's unclear how seriously Little and Hall figure into the team's plans for 2010. Chris Long's emergence late last season should make it easier for the team to move on without them, but the aging defensive ends did combine for 27 starts and 11 sacks last season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with some of the 49ers' undrafted free agents. Offensive lineman Alex Boone said not getting drafted was a humbling experience that showed him how actions have consequences. Brown: "Boone, a mammoth (6-foot-7, 328 pounds) tackle out of Ohio State, was arrested after being subdued with a Taser in what law enforcement officials say was a drunken tirade. The Orange County sheriff's office told the Associated Press in February that Boone was jumping car hoods, yanking on a tow-truck cable and trying to break a window when he was arrested. Boone was taken to a hospital and then to a jail medical ward."
The 49ers' Web site says the team has signed former Nicholls State kicker Alex Romero.
Also from 49ers.com: A transcript from coach Mike Singletary's latest session with reporters. Singletary isn't leaving the quarterback race to coordinator Jimmy Raye and quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson. Singletary: "Every day we talk about, 'What do you see? What's happening? What were the conversations?' Because for me, it's that quarterback that when he steps in that huddle, magic happens. There's something that wakes up everybody."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle says the last few months are a blur to new 49ers running back Glen Coffee. Ratto: "[Frank] Gore is at the stage of his own career where teams start wondering about the amount of tread left on the tires, no matter how much is actually there, and 812 carries and 157 receptions in three years suggests that the 49ers needed to get serious about either lightening Gore's load or finding potential future replacements."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Alex Smith and Shaun Hill took all the quarterback reps on the first day of the post-draft camp. Maiocco also runs a depth chart showing new names in prominent roles because not all veterans are in attendance.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic traces the link between contractual unhappiness and hamstring soreness. Anquan Boldin and Darnell Dockett demonstrate the theory. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Hey, we know what's going on, so I'm really not going to have much to say about that."
Also from Somers: Quarterback Kurt Warner took part in practice despite undergoing hip surgery recently.
More from Somers: Karlos Dansby says he's focused on football, not a new contract.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Boldin thinks the Cardinals didn't legitimately try to trade him in recent weeks. "I never give up hope [about being traded]," Boldin said. Can earning $2.75 million in salary from the NFC champs be that much of a hardship?
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune says the Cardinals' success last season is no match for economics. Bordow: "Yes, the flotilla of warm feelings that carried the Cardinals to the Super Bowl has washed up on shore. Once again, it's all about the money. Boldin and Dockett want their existing contracts renegotiated and they're going to refuse to do their chores until they get what they want."
Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says the Cardinals are taking a flier on Oliver Ross even though the offensive tackle hasn't played since 2006. Ross is one of three veterans participating in camp on a tryout basis. Former Rams tight end Dominique Byrd is also there.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Seahawks rookie receiver Deon Butler make a positive first impression at minicamp.
Also from Johns: First-round Seahawks linebacker Aaron Curry estimates he has spent 10 to 15 hours "staring" at his playbook. Said fellow linebacker Leroy Hill: "He's smart. A lot of the questions that [linebackers coach Zerick Rollins] was asking him in meetings, he was picking up just like that. I'm like, 'Man, I didn't even know that yet.' On the field, he's running with the first team and fitting right in. I think it's going to be fun to watch and play with him."
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com takes a big-picture view of the Seahawks' first post-draft practice. Farnsworth: "Hill was huffing and puffing a bit after his first on-field action since Week 13 last season, as he missed the final four games with a neck injury. But he also showed the traits that made retaining his services a priority for the Seahawks. On one play, Hill was all over a pass into the flat to running back Justin Forsett. Later, on a running play, Hill got to the back before the back could get anywhere near the line of scrimmage."
Mary Beth King of Seahawks.com opens the mailbag. She says the Seahawks like their current situation at running back.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times lists players who did not practice with the Seahawks on Friday: CB Kelly Jennings (shoulder), FB Justin Griffith (knee), LB D.D. Lewis (knee), G Mike Wahle (shoulder), T Walter Jones (knee), WR Deion Branch (knee), DL Cory Redding and DE Patrick Kerney (shoulder).
Also from O'Neil: A camp overview.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Curry fit in well on his first day of camp and did not appear out of place running with the starters.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts looks at the "upside" and "downside" of the Seahawks' various moves this offseason.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores Rams rookie running back Chris Ogbannaya's background. Ogbannaya's father grew up in Nigeria and moved to the United States in 1976. Ogbannaya: "He was lucky enough to get sponsored by a family in South Carolina who ended up being my godparents. Self-made man. Went to Clemson University. Went to medical school after that."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are counting on newly acquired receiver Laurent Robinson to contribute. Injuries slowed Robinson with the Falcons last season.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Steven Jackson likes the Rams' offseason additions. Jackson: "They've also made decisions in the draft and free agency to help me out. That's the biggest thing. You just don't want to throw it all on one guy, and don't give him anything to work with. I think in free agency and the draft, the things that needed to be addressed were addressed."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers could have interest in Torry Holt. Lynch: "But if Holt signs, does that mean [Isaac] Bruce will retire? And can Holt be as good as Bruce was last year? Holt and Bruce are friends, but those who know the Rams said Bruce wasn't thrilled when Holt surpassed him as the Rams' top option." Is Ricky Proehl in shape?
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says he hears the 49ers are "very wary" of Holt's knee issues.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jonas Jennings, Mark Roman and Bruce are not expected to attend the team's upcoming minicamp. Jennings could be released. Roman has been given permission to seek a trade. Bruce hasn't announced plans for 2009.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sizes up the Rams' new-look secondary. The corner spot opposite Ron Bartell is "wide open" heading into the 2009 season, coach Steve Spagnuolo said. Coats: "Tye Hill, the Rams' first-round draft pick in 2006, probably is the top candidate among the incumbent corners. He started 10 games as a rookie but has played in just nine games over the past two seasons because of injuries."
VanRam of Turf Show Times says Holt's departure will hit Rams fans again once the receiver signs with another team. VanRam: "Where could Holt end up? Strangely enough more teams have declared that they're not interested in the former Ram. The Giants and Jets have both declared themselves not interested; Carolina and Minnesota, too. Potential landing spots include Baltimore, Chicago, Tennessee, San Fran and Jacksonville."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with new passing game coordinator Mike Miller, who is mindful of the relationship Kurt Warner had with former coordinator Todd Haley. Miller: "I'm not trying to have a relationship that he and Todd had or that he and coach [Ken Whisenhunt] have. I am going to be myself, and I want to have the best relationship I can have with Kurt. That said, I think I have a good relationship with Kurt. With the way we do our pass game and how we install in the season, it was the three of us [with Haley], we all exchanged ideas."
Also from Urban: No, Miller wasn't playing video games when Urban snapped a photo of him.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 looks at tight end Brandon Pettigrew as a potential draft choice for the Cardinals. The team could definitely use stability at tight end.
Aaron Weinberg of Next Season Sports explains why Michael Crabtree could be the choice for Seattle with the fourth overall choice. Weinberg: "Draft experts who don't follow the Seahawks might be perplexed by the selection after the Seahawks signed WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh as their new no. 1 receiver. But, at 32 this September, and an aging Deion Branch, 29, Crabtree should help the Seahawks build for the future at a position that hasn't made it to the Pro Bowl in nearly 20 years."
Steve Wyche of NFL.com examines how the Julian Peterson trade could affect the first round of the draft. He also thinks Seattle could consider Crabtree.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Peterson trade was all about the Seahawks gaining flexibility on the field and in the draft. O'Neil: "Redding can't compare to Peterson in terms of popularity around the league. He has never been chosen to a Pro Bowl. Redding doesn't measure up in terms of pass-rush production, either. ... But Redding's arrival adds depth to a defensive line that had become the shallow end of the pool on Seattle's defense. The Seahawks did not re-sign Rocky Bernard and Howard Green in free agency, and while they added nose tackle Colin Cole, he has started only eight games in his NFL career."
Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks' linebacking trio was never able to make Seattle's defense among the best in the league. Brewer: "No matter how many Pro Bowl berths Tatupu and Peterson earned, no matter how physically marvelous Hill was, the defense lacked the balance that great defenses possess. So, as is custom in professional sports, it's time to try something different. On Saturday, that meant saying goodbye to Peterson, a congenial, big-play presence for three seasons."
John Morgan of Field Gulls is giving the Peterson trade a chance even though Seattle lost a potentially "irreplaceable" player. Morgan: "Seattle is stockpiling a specific type of defensive tackle. Players that are quick off the snap, hybrid single-gap/two-gap, that are stout against the run and hustle pass rushers. That type can be as good as Brandon Mebane or as bad as Howard Green. In totality, it should be very good against the run. Seattle almost must be a top 10 rush defense to justify this move."
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts says Seattle quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor attended Josh Freeman's workout at Kansas State.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts isn't convinced Aaron Curry makes sense for Seattle in the first round of the draft. Steffes: "I think the Hawks probably would prefer not to take Curry with the No. 4 pick. That would immediately revive the problem of putting too much money into one position. Signing Derrick Brooks to a modest deal to help bridge the gap to Herring or another draft pick is a possibility. The team will probably re-sign D.D. Lewis ASAP to ensure that they can make due in case the draft doesn't shake out the way they want. They will then hope to find a good linebacker in the middle rounds. They didn't take one last year, so they may have been planning this move over a year in advance." Lewis has agreed on a new deal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Floyd Womack's departure to the Browns following eight seasons with the Seahawks marks the fourth time an unrestricted free agent has left Seattle this offseason.
The Seahawks did not push to retain them. The team made retaining linebacker Leroy Hill its top priority, using the franchise tag to keep him off the market. Re-signing tackle Ray Willis was a secondary priority.
Receiver Bobby Engram and fullback Leonard Weaver stand as the highest-profile Seattle players yet to re-sign, but the Seahawks appear unlikely to invest much in retaining any of their remaining unrestricted free agents.
Seahawks UFA re-signed: Willis.
Seahawks UFA lost: Womack, Green, Bernard and Morris.
Restricted free agents: None.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The Seahawks could conceivably part with six or more unrestricted free agents in their 30s this offseason. Their two youngest UFA candidates -- Ray Willis and Leonard Weaver -- might also land elsewhere in 2009.
The chart ranks the Seahawks' scheduled unrestricted free agents from oldest to youngest, with ages rounded down to the tenth. Eight are in their 30s. A ninth, Rocky Bernard, will join them when he turns 30 in April.
The Seahawks have not placed Chris Gray on the retired list. That's why he appears among their UFA candidates.
Seattle will look for a younger snapper. The team may or may not bring back Bobby Engram. Charlie Frye almost certainly will not be back. Steve McKinney was a stopgap addition amid injuries, as was Koren Robinson.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks will not be big players in the early stages of free agency, according to general manager Tim Ruskell. Farnsworth: "[Leroy] Hill was priority No. 1. But the Seahawks won't be as free-spending when it comes to the others -- a group of 16 that includes fullback Leonard Weaver, offensive linemen Floyd Womack and Ray Willis, wide receiver Bobby Engram, linebacker D.D. Lewis and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard." Willis could appeal to the Redskins, who need a physical right tackle to replace Jon Jansen.
Also from Farnsworth: Honesty is the best policy for the Seahawks' new defensive staff.
Rob Staton of Seahawks Draft Blog passes along updated information from the mock drafts of Rob Rang and Chad Reuter. Rang still has the Seahawks taking receiver Michael Crabtree. Reuter has changed his forecast to Virginia tackle Eugene Monroe.
Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts thinks an increased salary cap will help the Seahawks. He also lists Kelly Jennings among players he might consider releasing. Releasing Jennings would actually cost the Seahawks slightly more against the cap than if he were to remain on the roster.
John Morgan of Field Gulls wonders how long Seahawks center Chris Spencer might last in the draft if he were coming out of college in 2009. Seattle selected Spencer in the first round of the 2005 draft, Tim Ruskell's first with the team. Morgan: "Spencer finally showed some life in 2008. He can still be great if injuries haven't taken the edge off his power and athleticism, but the time to prove that in Seattle blue is ending."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch holds up Drew Bennett's signing as the signature move for the Rams' previous front-office regime. He questions whether the Rams could quickly replace Orlando Pace and Torry Holt if the team released them. Also: "The old regime made another titanic gaffe by failing to secure a contract extension with the emerging cornerback, Ron Bartell. He will probably command elite (and possibly insane) dollars on the free-agent market, and the Rams could have gotten Bartell for a lower price had they acted sooner."
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 says the expected addition of former 49ers special-teamer Keith Lewis is consistent with other mid-level acquisitions in Arizona. The Cardinals have also signed defensive end Jason Banks, running back Chris Vincent and tight end Alex Shor.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Lewis' expected signing is a surprise because the Cardinals have depth at safety. I would see Lewis as more of a special-teams contributor. Somers also notes that the Cardinals' college scouts are in the final year of their contracts.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat expects the 49ers to take things slowly when free agency opens Thursday night at 9 p.m. PT. Maiocco: "The 49ers have compiled a list of 10 to 15 free agents to target, but the club plans to move much slower at the start of free agency to let the market settle down, one league source said." Team president Jed York: "You're always overpaying in free agency when you get that first-day guy. What we want to do is make sure we're building through the draft. And if we're going to spend a lot of money it's going to be on re-signing our own players and getting the right guys, as opposed to big flashy guys."
Alex Marvez of Foxsports.com says the Dolphins have agreed to terms with former Raiders safety Gibril Wilson, a player some NFC West fans -- particularly 49ers fans -- had asked about for their teams.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider thinks the 2009 draft sets up nicely for the 49ers because they need outside linebackers, running backs and fast receivers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle examines the 49ers' attitude toward Shaun Hill in light of recent events. Ratto: "Because [Mike] Singletary is so invested in his power to make others see his visions, the fact that he has left the door so open for [Alex] Smith surely indicates that Hill still has some persuading to do. And, no, the fact that Hill outranks [Jeff] Garcia in Singletary's mind doesn't count."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the Rams' decision to name Oshiomogho Atogwe their franchise player deprived the 49ers of a potential target in free agency. That's the thing about free agency in the NFL. The possibilities seem so much better in early February than they seem once we realize most of the top players won't be hitting the market.
David Fucillo of Niners Nation breaks down the 49ers' special-teams performance from 2008. Fucillo: "Kicker and punter are clearly fine going forward. The big question is in the return game. Allen Rossum is a free agent and the 49ers have to decide if they want Rossum back, or if they want to work on developing a returner of the future. They signed Michael Spurlock, a man who became the first Buccaneer to return a kickoff for a touchdown, to reserve/futures contract. If they want Rossum back, or they want to grab somebody in the draft, that sort of contract will not get in their way."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have concluded a hectic two-week period in which their coaching staff has taken on a new look. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "The thing I feel the best about is there won't be a change in philosophy or terminology on both sides of the ball."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains the reasoning behind the Cardinals' coaching moves, including the decision for Mike Miller and Russ Grimm to share coordinating duties on offense while Whisenhunt calls the plays. Grimm: "I don't see [my role] changing a whole lot. Maybe [I'll do] a little bit more if we need something for the running game. But for me to do both jobs, I couldn't do it and for [Whisenhunt] to do both, it's not smart. We'll all do it, and Mike will tie it all together."
John Morgan of Field Gulls ties together his thoughts on Matthew Stafford as a player the Seahawks could consider with the fourth overall choice. Morgan doesn't think the Seahawks need to select a left tackle with that choice.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites a Pro Football Weekly article in which Leonard Weaver's agent suggests the fullback probably won't return to the Seahawks in 2009.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks could used the transition tag instead of the franchise tag in restricting Leroy Hill's options this offseason. If they do that and Hill pulls a Steve Hutchinson on them, look out.
Also from Williams: A Seahawks roster analysis in which he says Will Herring or D.D. Lewis could fill in nicely for Hill if needed.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will place the franchise tag on Atogwe while they try to work out a long-term deal with the ball-hawking free safety. The Rams are scheduled to meet with Ron Bartell's agent at the combine Thursday.
VanRam of Turf Show Times says Chris Long's devotion to the game means the defensive end will develop consistency while striving to improve.
Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders sizes up the NFC West with thoughts on Long, Vernon Davis, Jim Mora and the Cardinals' coaching changes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Marco from Las Cruces writes: I have seen it mentioned before, but do you have any numbers on the NFC West teams and their salary cap space going into next season?
Mike Sando: A month has passed since Marco dropped that question into the NFC West mailbag. The Cardinals' deeper-than-expected run through the NFL playoffs accounted for some of the delay in responding, but mostly I wanted to provide an answer with meaningful context. We are now in position to do that.
The first thing to understand is that an NFL team's salary-cap space usually doesn't reflect how much money the team has to spend in free agency. As counterintuitive as that sounds, it's true -- and that's why "cap space" is overrated in attempting to gauge a team's options.
Think of your personal finances. Having $5,000 in a checking account may or may not mean you can afford that $2,500 plasma television. You might have automatic deductions for a mortgage and car payments looming. You might have a paycheck on the way. You might have all of these transactions to consider, which makes that $5,000 balance meaningless on its own.
Back to the NFC West.
Let's start our salary-cap exercise with the Cardinals.
The latest internal NFL data shows Arizona with about $40 million in salary-cap space three weeks before free agency. That is the highest figure in the league.
But what does that mean?
In theory, the Cardinals could sign Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and their own free agents, including quarterback Kurt Warner, without using that much cap space.
We could deduce as much from considering the 2009 salary-cap charges associated with the highest-paid players at defensive end (Jared Allen, $11.45 million) and defensive tackle (Tommie Harris, $9.1 million) while assuming Warner's new deal might count about $10 million against the cap.
But the reality is much different.
The Cardinals have fewer than 40 players signed for 2009, meaning millions more will vanish when they fill out their roster. Some of that cap space will go toward signing draft choices.
Once the Cardinals account for other cap charges -- incentives from 2008, salary escalators for 2009 and future miscellaneous expenses relating to various reserve lists -- their functional cap space figures to stand between $20 million and $25 million heading into free agency.
Even that figure is a bit optimistic.
Re-signing their own free agents, notably Warner and linebacker Karlos Dansby, could require more than $15 million in cap space.
The Cardinals would still have enough left over to pursue a high-profile free agent, but an aggressive approach to the market could require trade-offs.
With that, we take a comprehensive look at where NFC West teams stand in relation to the salary cap:
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike SandoDan Bickley of the Arizona Republic provides a checklist for the Cardinals as the team tries to sustain its current momentum.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic describes Ken Whisenhunt's conflicting emotions following a fantastic season punctuated by a painful defeat.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals felt Super Bowl XLIII was over-officiated, but Whisenhunt told players not to blame officiating for the defeat.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune wonders if the Cardinals' Super Bowl appearance marks a beginning or an end.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer runs a list of the Seahawks' players scheduled to become free agents. The unrestricted list features Rocky Bernard, Bobby Engram, Charlie Frye, Chris Gray (retired), Howard Green, Will Heller, Leroy Hill, D.D. Lewis, Wes Mallard, Steve McKinney, Maurice Morris, Jeff Robinson, Koren Robinson, Leonard Weaver, Ray Willis and Floyd Womack. Lance Laury is the only restricted free agent.
John Morgan of Field Gulls expects the Seahawks to have about $9 million in salary-cap room, a relatively low figure. The team had more than $20 million last week, according to an NFL source with access to salary data, but cap numbers are fluid, particularly at this time of year. I expect to provide some more definitive numbers this week.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have retained Art Valero in a new capacity while hiring Tom McMahon to coach special teams. Valero will assist offensive line coach Steve Loney, who was also retained by new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. The Rams now have 15 assistants under contract. They are nearly finished filling Spagnuolo's staff.
Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com wonders if Spagnuolo can deliver success to the Rams in keeping with what other first-time head coaches have delivered in Pittsburgh, Arizona and elsewhere.
Also from Gordon: A chat transcript in which he says receiver Michael Crabtree has "a lot of support" in the Rams' organization.
VanRam of Turf Show Times examines the decision to retain Loney and Valero despite the Rams' problems last season.
Gary Plummer of 49ers.com explains what makes play-action fakes effective, using a specific 49ers play against the Cowboys as an example. Even an average fake can be effective if the opposing front seven is selling out to stop the run.
Christopher Reina of realgmfootball.com recaps the 49ers' season while noting that Shaun Hill, though hardly an elite quarterback, might fit what Mike Singletary wants to do on offense. Hill had a higher passer rating than Donovan McNabb, Eli Manning and Jay Cutler.
Craig Massei of scout.com says the Cardinals' success this season should give the 49ers some hope for 2009 even though Singletary refused to call the 49ers a playoff-caliber team.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cardinals listed Anquan Boldin among their inactive players in Week 17, giving the Pro Bowl receiver another week to recover from a shoulder injury.
Boldin finishes the regular season with 89 receptions for 1,038 yards and 11 touchdowns in 12 games. The Cardinals expect him to play in their wild card playoff game.
Also inactive for the Cardinals: Safety Matt Ware, defensive end Travis LaBoy, offensive lineman Elliot Vallejo, offensive lineman Brandon Keith, defensive lineman Kenny Iwebema and defensive lineman Gabe Watson. Brian St. Pierre is the third quarterback.
Inactive for Seattle: Quarterback Jeff Rowe, kicker Brandon Coutu, safety Jamar Adams, linebacker Leroy Hill, linebacker D.D. Lewis, defensive lineman Red Bryant and defensive lineman Brandon Miller. Matt Hasselbeck is the third quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers players are backing Mike Singletary's bid to become head coach beyond this season.
Also from FitzGerald: Singletary singles out Donald Strickland for having a strong game against the Bills in Week 13.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have hired former NFL referee Ron Blum to assist with game-day operations. Blum also helps officiate practices.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer sizes up the Seahawks' injury situation before checking in with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Meanwhile, coach Mike Holmgren downplays Deon Grant's criticism toward defensive coordinator John Marshall.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says D.D. Lewis would start at linebacker for the Seahawks if a stinger sidelines Leroy Hill.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks left tackle Walter Jones will start against the Patriots despite a leg injury that prevents him from practicing.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' offensive struggles only intensify once the team reaches the red zone. The Rams have only 19 red-zone trips this season, less than half the average for the other 31 teams.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat provides an extensive injury update relating to the Rams. Also, rookie guard John Greco was more effective blocking for pass than run, while Oshiomogho Atogwe continued his ball-hawking ways.
Also from Korte: Rams coach Jim Haslett absolves quarterback Marc Bulger from blame on two of three second-half interceptions against the Dolphins.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals, fresh off defeats to the Giants and Eagles, hope to regain confidence playing at home against the Rams.
KTAR.com says Tom Dillon, former radio voice of the Cardinals and a 17-time honoree as Arizona Sportscaster of the Year, has died at age 65. Dillon also spent 20 years as the voice of Arizona State University sports.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times tells the story behind the tattoo on Josh Wilson's chest. Wilson, a second-year corner, had an image of his late father's football card etched into his skin during his freshman year at Maryland. Tim Wilson, formerly of the Oilers, died of a heart attack when Josh Wilson was 11 years old.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says veteran Seahawks linebacker D.D. Lewis is filling in nicely for the injured Lofa Tatupu. Leroy Hill calls Lewis the best backup in the league. Julian Peterson calls Lewis a cut about second string.
Also from Farnsworth: Jim Mora deflects questions about the coaching vacancy at the University of Washington.
Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts says the Seahawks' Seneca Wallace hasn't been nearly as effective as a runner in his current incarnation as a starter.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says Tatupu has played well after missing practice, including when he picked off three passes against the Eagles last season.
Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says the Eagles would thrive in the NFC West.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' defense hasn't faced a top-flight passing attack at full strength since a season-opening defeat at Philadelphia. That changes when Kurt Warner and the Cardinals visit Sunday.
Also from Thomas: Warner's returns triggers Warner nostalgia, not fun for Marc Bulger.
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the Rams' injury situation, from Steven Jackson to Leonard Little and Adam Carriker.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat checks in with Cardinals snapper Nathan Hodel, who grew up in the St. Louis area and has served as his own agent. Hodel has an MBA from Illinois.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says teammates respect 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, counter to outside perceptions.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers might have some dissenters, as evidenced when news of Mike Singletary's halftime antics surfaced.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News notes that Singletary was dropping his pants at about the same time the 49ers were honoring former linebacker Dan Bunz.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says quarterback Shaun Hill best fits the 49ers' personnel.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby has "no clue" what the future holds for him contract-wise. Dansby is earning $8 million this year as the team's franchise player.
Also from Urban: Moving Tim Hightower into the starting lineup might diminish the rookie's role on special teams.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the lives of interim coaches, from the Rams' Jim Haslett to former Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis.
Also from Somers: Steven Spach has been a quick study in Arizona because the Cardinals' offense is similar to the one he learned in New England.
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