NFL Nation: Jacob Bell

PHOENIX -- The Seattle Seahawks and especially the San Francisco 49ers added to their 2013 NFL draft hauls Monday when the NFL awarded compensatory selections to offset net losses in free agency last year.

The 49ers received the 131st overall pick, a fourth-rounder, plus the 246th and 252nd choices, both in the seventh round. The Seahawks received the 241st and 242nd overall choices, also in the seventh round.

Teams cannot trade compensatory picks.

"Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks," the NFL announced. "Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors. The formula was developed by the NFL Management Council. Not every free agent lost or signed by a club is covered by this formula."

The 49ers received compensatory choices because free-agent losses Blake Costanzo, Josh Morgan and Madieu Williams outweighed free-agent addition Mario Manningham according to the formula. The Seahawks received picks because free-agent losses Atari Bigby, John Carlson, David Hawthorne and Charlie Whitehurst outweighed free-agent additions Matt Flynn and Jason Jones.

I've put together lists below showing all unrestricted free agents added, lost and re-signed by NFC West teams last offseason.

Update: I've also made available for download an Excel file with tentative 2013 draft order, reflecting comp picks and known trades. This is unofficial. The league has not yet released the official order; additional trades could affect it.

The 49ers have a league-high 14 picks, including two picks in each of the second through fifth rounds. They're in prime position to stock their roster for the future.

By my accounting, the Cardinals hold the 7th, 38th, 69th, 103rd, 140th, 174th and 176th picks. The 49ers hold the 31st, 34th, 61st, 74th, 93rd, 128th, 131st, 157th, 164th, 180th, 227th, 237th, 246th and 252nd choices. The Seahawks hold the 56th, 87th, 123rd, 138th, 158th, 194th, 214th, 220th, 241st, and 242nd choices. The Rams hold the 16th, 22nd, 46th, 78th, 113th, 149th, 184th and 222nd picks.

Arizona Cardinals

Re-signed: D'Anthony Batiste, Mike Leach, Early Doucet, Jay Feely, Dave Zastudil
Added: Adam Snyder, William Gay, James Sanders, Quentin Groves
Lost: Richard Marshall, Sean Considine, Deuce Lutui

San Francisco 49ers

Re-signed: Tavares Gooden, Carlos Rogers, Alex Smith, Ted Ginn Jr.
Added: Mario Manningham, Rock Cartwright, Josh Johnson
Lost: Josh Morgan, Adam Snyder, Blake Costanzo, Reggie Smith, Madieu Williams, Chilo Rachal

Seattle Seahawks

Re-signed: Heath Farwell, Red Bryant, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, Leroy Hill, Matt McCoy
Added: Matt Flynn, Jason Jones, Deuce Lutui, Barrett Ruud
Lost: John Carlson, Atari Bigby, Charlie Whitehurst, Tony Hargrove, David Hawthorne

St. Louis Rams

Re-signed: Kellen Clemens
Added: Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, Quinn Ojinnaka, Steve Smith, Robert Turner, Jo-Lonn Dunbar, William Hayes, Trevor Laws, Mario Haggan, Barry Richardson
Lost: Brandon Lloyd, Chris Chamberlain, Donnie Jones, Jacob Bell, Bryan Kehl, Gary Gibson

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.

Heading over to see the new-look Rams

October, 21, 2012
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ST. LOUIS -- Good morning and welcome to Week 7.

Half of the NFC West is sitting out this Sunday after San Francisco defeated Seattle in the Thursday night game.

We've got the Arizona Cardinals visiting the Minnesota Vikings, and the St. Louis Rams playing at home against the Green Bay Packers, both at 1 p.m. ET.

I'm in St. Louis and will be heading over to the Edward Jones Dome early.

The Rams are 3-3 after going 2-14 last season. Their entire starting defense is healthy heading into the game. That's a big change from last season, when the Rams went into their seventh game without either starting corner and a long list of others, including quarterback Sam Bradford.

Seven of the Rams' starters from their seventh game last season aren't on 53-man rosters at present. That's an indication how much roster work was needed, and how much injuries set back the 2011 team.

James Hall, Fred Robbins, Al Harris, Jacob Bell, Jason Brown, Adam Goldberg and A.J. Feeley started in that seventh game last season, a surprise 31-21 victory over the New Orleans Saints following six defeats to open the season.

Harris retired. The others were released and are not under contract. Bell also retired.

Much has changed for the Rams. A victory over the Packers would give them four victories through Week 7 for the first time since 2006.
The season-ending knee injury to left guard Travelle Wharton means the Bengals will go from a nine-year veteran to Clint Boling, a fourth-round pick from a year ago.

Boling
Cincinnati shouldn't have to deal with this downgrade in experience. A few weeks before the draft, the Bengals signed Jacob Bell, an eight-year veteran. But Bell retired 32 days after signing a one-year, $890,000 deal (included $65,000 signing bonus) with the Bengals. He said he walked away from the game because of the fear of long-term heath risks, but his decision also came shortly after Cincinnati drafted Kevin Zeitler in the first round (meaning Bell would be a backup).

In hindsight, the Bengals had the right instinct in adding experienced depth at guard. They just didn't foresee such a run of bad luck at that spot. So instead of having Bell, who has started 100 career games in the NFL, the Bengals will turn to Boling, who has three career starts.

The Bengals are fortunate that Boling has been improving. He's a different lineman since last season, when he got overpowered by defensive linemen. The biggest adjustment has been getting his pad level down.

Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden insinuated that Boling's strong camp had the starting left guard job up in the air.

“Boling was doing very well. In fact, we had yet to set it as far who’s where," Gruden told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We’re just taking these games and putting everybody in different spots and taking a look at them, and try to find the best group. Unfortunately Travelle, he’s out. But he was doing good things also. But now Clint is going to have to step up and be that guy.”


Jacob Bell's recently announced retirement from the NFL after eight seasons provides the basis for the most recent "Blogger Blitz" video above.

Bell, 31, understandably pointed to the health risks associated with continuing his career. He has suffered multiple concussions over the years. Renewed concerns of health risks following Junior Seau's suicide factored into the decision.

Concussions aren't the only quality-of-life consideration for retired players.

Former Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks linebacker George Koonce, who entered the NFL with Seau in 1990, recently submitted a doctoral thesis at Marquette University focusing on another area of critical concern.

I'll pass along additional comments from Koonce, sent by email, as supplementation to the issues Bell raised:
"No one knows exactly what Junior was dealing with, but I do understand the difficulty of the transition he was in. When I retired from the league, I struggled to survive. It is a difficult and lonely time for a player. I had been playing football for most of my life and was engulfed with the role. When my playing days were over, I lost the only sense of identity that I ever knew. I found myself alone for the first time in my life.

"The support of teammates, friends, and family had gone from one extreme to the next. The separation from football was like a divorce and death. I did not prepare for any other career and did not feel as though I had any resources or skills to succeed without football. It took me at least a year after my retirement before I could piece myself back together and face the after-life struggles.

"As time passed, I began to realize that I was not the only one struggling. I started re-connecting with other retired players and the similarities of our struggles like depression, divorce and bankruptcy became apparent to me. I could not help but wonder how so many American football heroes could go from having everything to having nothing at all. ...

"I have identified common elements that contribute to the complexities with the transition out of football. The reality is that the majority of players exiting sport do struggle. Something has to change. I am committed more than ever to take my research to the next level to help prevent any future tragedies like the passing of Junior, Ray Easterling, Dave Duerson, Andre Waters and my fellow East Carolina Pirate alumni, Terry Long, as well as the suicide attempt by Tony Collins and countless others who have struggled with their transition."

Koonce advocates the NFL and NFL Players Association taking leadership in developing transition plans and support systems for players exiting the game.

That seems increasingly inevitable given recent events.
Jacob Bell has retired, according to Yahoo! Sports.

For many of you, I'm sure your first response is: Who?

Bell was a backup guard for the Cincinnati Bengals. Well, sort of. Bell signed a one-year, $890,000 deal (included $65,000 signing bonus) with the Bengals as a free agent on April 6. So, he was on the team for 32 days. I'm not sure that really qualifies you for being an ex-Bengal.

Some suggested that Bell decided to retire after the Bengals drafted Kevin Zeitler in the first round. But Bell had to know the Bengals were going to draft a guard early when he joined the team. I even called him "a safety net" when he signed with the Bengals.

Bell, though, was a starter for 100 of his 109 career NFL games with the Titans and Rams and possibly wasn't happy with becoming a backup. It's still stunning to think of someone turning down $890,000 because they couldn't handle a demotion.
Some might have been surprised when the Bengals agreed to a one-year deal with guard Jacob Bell. It has been four weeks since he visited Cincinnati.

Bell
But adding Bell makes sense, especially signing him to a short-term contract. The Bengals needed a right guard heading into the draft, and they could do much worse than a lineman who has 100 career starts. This isn't to say Bell was signed to be the starter, because he's a below-average run-blocker.

So, what does the signing of Bell mean? He's a one-year insurance policy. The Bengals will still likely draft Stanford's David DeCastro or Georgia's Cordy Glenn if one is available at one of the team's two first-round picks. The addition of Bell means they don't have to draft one of them.

The Bengals have more flexibility and can take the best player available at the 17th and 21st overall picks. They don't have to draft solely on need. And, even if the Bengals don't draft a guard, Bell will probably have to beat out Clint Boling and Otis Hudson for the job.

Finding someone to fill the spot long manned by Bobbie Williams was one of the last glaring holes in Cincinnati's starting lineup. The Bengals addressed left guard earlier this offseason when they signed Panthers free agent Travelle Wharton.
Leverage shifts from players to teams as NFL free agency moves along.

Contract values provide the most persuasive evidence.

As time passes, players with stratospheric expectations must lower their sights to find deals.

Team-issued statements from San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke have marked the changing landscape with unintended humor.

"We are extremely pleased to re-sign an All-Pro player like Carlos," Baalke said when the 49ers re-signed Carlos Rogers on March 16.

Notice the shift when quarterback Alex Smith returned to the team five days later, much deeper into free agency.

"We are pleased that Alex has chosen to continue his career as a 49er," Baalke said then.

The 49ers brought back Rogers. They waited out Smith. Big difference.

More of the same awaited Ted Ginn Jr.'s re-signing a day later.

"We are glad that Ted has decided to return to the 49ers in 2012," Baalke said.

Teams are more proactive in re-signing players early in free agency. Players come back to teams later in the process.

Forty-one unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams remained without contract agreements through Saturday. Eleven of them are at least 33 years old. Another 17 are at least 29.

As the chart shows, St. Louis saw little value in rushing out to secure players from a team that finished 2-14 last season. Nineteen of the 21 original UFAs from the Rams remain unsigned. Two, Brandon Lloyd and Chris Chamberlain, signed elsewhere.

Overall, only seven of the remaining 41 UFAs without contracts were players I listed as starters late in the season: Clark Haggans and Brandon Keith from Arizona; Tony Wragge, Brady Poppinga and Jacob Bell from St. Louis; and two Seattle linebackers, Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne.

Hawthorne stands out as a relatively young starter (26) with an established record of consistent production. He visited Detroit, only to have the Lions re-sign Stephen Tulloch. He visited New Orleans, only to have the Saints reach agreement with Curtis Lofton.

The Seahawks would be better with Hawthorne and Hill back on their roster. Like a lot of teams at this stage, however, they aren't facing a great deal of pressure.

That helps explain why it's been a quiet weekend around here so far.
The Bengals have visits set up with multiple defensive linemen, cornerbacks and running backs.

So, what are they doing about guard, their weakest position?

Livings
There has to be a sense of urgency to improve this area after Nate Livings, a two-year starter at left guard, signed a five-year, $19 million deal with the Dallas Cowboys (which includes $6.2 million guaranteed). This is definitely a case where the Cowboys overspent for Livings. According to Pro Football Focus, Livings ranked 56th among guards last season and was tied for 53th in 2010.

I'm just a little confused about the Bengals' plan here. By all reports, they weren't involved in pursuing the top three guards in free agency (Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs and Evan Mathis). And now the fallback options are gone with Livings signing with the Cowboys and Mike McGlynn joining the Colts.

The only known visit by a free-agent guard to Cincinnati has been Jacob Bell, who started 100 games in Tennessee and St. Louis. The team's official website suggest that guard Otis Hudson, a fifth-round pick in 2010, is still in Cincinnati's plans.

I understand the Bengals' plan of wanting to build through the draft and not go crazy in free agency because that's the model that most championship teams follow. It's just a little confusing to see the Bengals pursue a player like Bell and pass on sure-fire upgrades like Grubbs when they have the most salary-cap space in the NFL.

2012 NFC West UFA scorecard: update

March, 16, 2012
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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.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Arizona Cardinals

Key free agents: DE Calais Campbell (franchise tag), CB Richard Marshall, OLB Clark Haggans, WR Early Doucet, T Brandon Keith, G Deuce Lutui, K Jay Feely.

Where they stand: A strong finish to the 2011 season on defense gives the Cardinals a glass-half-full feel heading into free agency. Going from 1-6 to 8-8 was an impressive achievement. Arizona does have serious concerns on its offensive line. The situation at tackle is particularly questionable even if Levi Brown returns (and maybe especially if he returns, depending on your view). The line concerns might actually dissipate some if the team lands Peyton Manning, a quarterback with the ability to beat pressure with quick throws. But tackle is still an area that needs addressing for the long term. Injuries throughout the offensive backfield raise questions about that area as well. Kevin Kolb (concussion), Beanie Wells (knee), Ryan Williams (knee) and Anthony Sherman (ankle) missed extensive time or played at a diminished level for stretches.

What to expect: The Cardinals are one of the teams chasing Manning. That pursuit could consume them for the short term. Landing Manning would signal the end for Kolb in Arizona. The Cardinals have until March 17 to exercise a $7 million option on Kolb, the quarterback they acquired from Philadelphia for cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a fat contract. I'm expecting a resolution to Manning's situation before the Kolb bonus comes due simply because interest in Manning should be high enough to accelerate the process. The Cardinals had about $3 million in salary-cap space entering the week, according to ESPN's John Clayton. That figure could increase substantially once the team releases Brown or reworks his contract. Arizona still has strong coaching ties to Pittsburgh on both sides of the ball, but it's an upset if the Cardinals seriously pursue any of the aging veterans recently released by the Steelers. Developing young talent is the priority now. Re-signing Marshall, who fared well at corner, should be a priority. Does free-agent linebacker Stewart Bradley still factor prominently into the team's plans, particularly at such a high price?

St. Louis Rams

Key free agents: WR Brandon Lloyd, G Jacob Bell, CB Justin King, OL Adam Goldberg, LB Chris Chamberlain, G Tony Wragge, TE Billy Bajema, WR Mark Clayton, DT Gary Gibson, P Donnie Jones.

Where they stand: The Rams have no interest in staying the course from a personnel standpoint after going 15-65 over the past five seasons. They will seek fresh talent almost across the board as Jeff Fisher's new coaching staff seeks players for its schemes. The Rams are seeking playmakers in particular, starting at wide receiver. The offensive line needs addressing, although the Rams might try to minimize the turnover at offensive tackle for the short term, figuring they cannot afford to create new needs. But former starting center Jason Brown, benched last season, appears unlikely to return. The team also needs two starting outside linebackers, starting defensive tackles and perhaps two starting cornerbacks on defense.

What to expect: Mass roster turnover. I could see the team retaining as few as one or two players from its list of 21 projected unrestricted free agents. The Rams have a disproportionate amount of their salary cap tied up in recent high draft choices Sam Bradford, Chris Long and Jason Smith. The rookie wage scale will provide them cap relief even if the team remains among the teams picking very high in the 2012 draft. Bradford and Long are cornerstones. Smith could stick around at a reduced rate. The team still has hope for him under new offensive line coach Paul Boudreau. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan and defensive lineman Jason Jones, both free agents from Tennessee, have ties to Fisher and could make sense for the Rams. Despite the need for playmakers on offense, the Rams did not use the franchise tag on Lloyd, their most talented receiver. Questions persist about how effective Lloyd might be outside Josh McDaniels' offense.

San Francisco 49ers

Key free agents: QB Alex Smith, CB Carlos Rogers, FS Dashon Goldson (franchise tag), G Adam Snyder, WR Ted Ginn Jr., WR Josh Morgan, G Chilo Rachal, FB Moran Norris, LB Blake Costanzo.

Where they stand: Coach Jim Harbaugh has said it's a bit unsettling heading through the offseason with his starting quarterback unsigned. Smith and the 49ers are expected to reach agreement eventually. This relationship will almost certainly continue even if Smith does reach free agency without a deal in place. Smith would not fit nearly as well anywhere else. Harbaugh likes to use the word "equity" when describing players he wants to keep. The 49ers would rather bring back Smith than invite the disruption that Manning would bring, were they able to land him. The team needs help at wide receiver and possibly cornerback, depending upon what happens with Rogers. Getting Goldson at the relatively reasonable franchise rate ($6.2 million) was a plus for the 49ers' continuity in the secondary.

What to expect: Not a whole lot, most likely. The 49ers were a good team last season after taking a low-keyed approach to the free-agent market. They will presumably show interest in Vincent Jackson, Mike Wallace and any high-profile, productive receiver with the talent to upgrade their offense. It's a small upset if the 49ers land one of them, however, because their philosophy is built on a measured approach resistant to overpaying. They will have to address the receiver position in free agency one way or another, however. Re-signing Morgan would help. Pierre Garcon, Marques Colston, Mario Manningham, Plaxico Burress and Robert Meachem are among the other options in free agency. An upgrade at right guard would help the line, but the 49ers might be apt to develop 2011 draft choice Daniel Kilgore after investing first-round choices in their left tackle (Joe Staley), left guard (Mike Iupati) and right tackle (Anthony Davis).

Seattle Seahawks

Key free agents: DE Red Bryant, LB David Hawthorne, LB Leroy Hill, OL Paul McQuistan, DE Raheem Brock, DL Tony Hargrove, FB Michael Robinson, RB Justin Forsett, QB Charlie Whitehurst, LB Matt McCoy, TE John Carlson, LB Heath Farwell.

Where they stand: The Seahawks' long-term quarterback situation hangs over them as they head toward the 2012 draft with only the 12th overall choice. The team has built up the rest of its roster to a point where sticking with Tarvaris Jackson as the primary starter could hold back the team to a degree it did not through much of last season. Upgrading the pass rush is another priority for the Seahawks. With defensive end Raheem Brock publicly stumping for Seattle to land Manning, his former teammate, I couldn't help but wonder which one of them had a better shot at earning a roster spot with the team in 2012. It might be Manning, even if the Seahawks are relative long shots for his services. Brock failed to provide the pass-rush push Seattle needed opposite Chris Clemons. Linebacker is another position the Seahawks need to address, whether or not Hawthorne and Hill return.

What to expect: The Seahawks have roughly $30 million in cap space, according to Clayton, and will make every effort to land Manning. They feel they've got a shot as long as they can persuade him to get on a plane and check out what they have to offer in terms of the roster, coaching, facilities, ownership and more. If Manning goes elsewhere, I would expect the Seahawks to consider Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn. Securing him at a price lower than what Arizona paid for Kolb would be the goal. As badly as the Seahawks want to upgrade the position, they have said they will not panic. Overpaying for Flynn could represent panic in their eyes. On the pass-rush front, I'm increasingly skeptical the team will shell out for Mario Williams. The price could be too high for a player Houston has decided to let hit the market. Re-signing Bryant is a priority, but using the franchise tag for him was never an option given the $10.6 million price. A deal slightly north of the one teammate Brandon Mebane signed seems likelier if Bryant returns.

First look at Rams' 2012 free agents

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
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The St. Louis Rams have 20 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

I'm not sure any of them qualify as players the Rams absolutely must bring back, particularly with a new coach and new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd would help fill a need, but at what price? Would he fit as well in a new offense after producing at disproportionate levels to this point when paired with former coordinator Josh McDaniels, now in New England?

Guard Jacob Bell played for new coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. He might have more value to the new staff than he had to the old one; McDaniels wanted more powerful guards, such as Harvey Dahl.

This item, like the previous one for Arizona, expands upon Brian McIntyre's lists. I've added columns for offensive and defensive snap counts from 2011, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. The final column shows how much each player's previous contract averaged.

Update: Punter Donnie Jones is also an unrestricted free agent. His previous contracted averaged not quite $1.2 million.

.

Receiver Danny Amendola, listed with the restricted free agents below, has not played since suffering an elbow injury in the 2011 season opener.

The latest on Rams' Sam Bradford

November, 6, 2011
11/06/11
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Chris Mortensen says the St. Louis Rams are "optimistic" quarterback Sam Bradford can return from a high-ankle sprain Sunday.

The Rams listed Bradford as questionable on their Friday injury report. Bradford has not played in 21 days. High-ankle sprains generally take longer to heal, but Bradford has a better chance because his left ankle is the injured one. He plants on his right ankle when throwing.

I've had a hard time projecting a winner for the Rams' game at Arizona, in part because the quarterback situations have been muddied. I went with the Cardinals because they're home and I suspect Arizona should be able to run the ball well, but even that's tough to know for certain with Beanie Wells less than full strength and the Rams coming off a strong showing against New Orleans.

Bradford's availability at less than full strength adds another variable that is difficult to quantify.

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The St. Louis Rams have listed quarterback Sam Bradford as questionable for the second time this season.

Recovery times for high-ankle sprains can be unpredictable, coach Steve Spagnuolo has repeatedly said, but if Bradford returns Sunday, he'll beat reasonable expectations.

Three Cleveland Browns quarterbacks suffered high-ankle sprains last season. The youngest of the three, Colt McCoy, played in a game 28 days later. The oldest, Jake Delhomme, was forced into action prematurely after a 28-day recovery period. He played two quarters and still wasn't right a month later. The Browns' other quarterback last season, Seneca Wallace, returned to practice 31 days after suffering his high-ankle sprain.

Bradford was injured during an Oct. 16 game at Green Bay. Bradford did not play the next week after the Rams listed him as questionable. In retrospect, the team's optimism that week could have reflected Bradford's determination to play more than his realistic chances for getting onto the field so quickly. The team reassessed the injury and held out Bradford against New Orleans in Week 8.

Bradford practiced on a limited basis Friday.

There has been no clear pattern for players the Rams have listed as questionable. Seven of 13 did not play after appearing as questionable on previous Fridays this season. An eighth, Steven Jackson, was limited to only 14 offensive snaps after being questionable for Week 3.

The chart shows the players St. Louis has listed as questionable on Fridays previously this season, their injuries, whether they played and how much they played.

Three things: Rams-Chiefs

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
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Three things to watch for in the St. Louis Rams' preseason road game against the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday night at 8 p.m. ET:

1. Run defense: Coach Steve Spagnuolo blamed "gap integrity" for the Rams' generous run defense against Tennessee last week. He will be looking for improvement in this game. Veteran linebackers Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga are joining James Laurinaitis in the starting lineup for the first time since signing with the team this summer. I would expect them to remain in the lineup, most likely, for the regular season. It's important for them to get some time together in game situations before the regular-season opener against Philadelphia. Poppinga, 31, missed 10 games to a knee injury while with Green Bay last season. He started 15 games in 2007 and has subsequently seen his totals decline each season (12 in 2008, three in 2009 and one last season). The Rams held up well against Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles last season until allowing an 80-yard run. Kansas City led the NFL in rushing yards, so this should be a good test while the starters are on the field.

2. Offensive consistency. The Rams opened their most recent preseason game with an 83-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Brandon Gibson. The starters went to sleep on offense from that point forward. Steven Jackson found little room to run. Bradford took some big hits. The Rams will be looking for more consistency in this game. Their starting offensive line will be back together with left guard Jacob Bell's expected return from injury. Getting that group some time together will be welcome for the Rams.

3. Wide receiver competition. There should be time for Rams coaches to work backup receivers into the rotation while the starting offense is still on the field. Donnie Avery, Mardy Gilyard and Danario Alexander are the ones most likely fighting for a roster spot at this time, in my view. Avery and Gilyard appear to have the best chance in part because Alexander's chronic knee problems raise questions about his ability to hold up over time. Avery and Gilyard also made more of their opportunities in the game against Tennessee. Both need to play well, however, because the team could always bring back Mark Clayton once Clayton's surgically repaired knee has healed sufficiently.

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