NFL Nation: Jon Alston
Since 2005, linebackers drafted by Arizona have combined to start only 16 games for the team, with 2010 second-round choice Daryl Washington starting 11 of them.
Cody Brown (2009), Buster Davis (2007) and Darryl Blackstock (2005) combined to start two games for the team, both by Blackstock, despite entering the NFL as second- or third-round selections. Only Brown remains in the NFL.
The Seattle Seahawks have gotten 145 starts from second- and third-round linebackers during the same span. Overall, linebackers drafted by NFC West teams since 2005 have combined to start 423 games for their original teams: 180 for Seattle, 173 for San Francisco, 54 for St. Louis and 16 for Arizona.
Washington showed last season he's likely to help Arizona close the gap. The 49ers could lose 57-game starter Manny Lawson in free agency. Seattle could move on without 61-game starter Leroy Hill while teammate Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl choice with 84 starts, is coming off surgeries on both knees.
With that in mind, I'll continue our position-by-position series on relatively recent NFC West draft choices with a look at linebackers.
Italics identify what teams might have been thinking as they entered various stages of the draft.
In the charts, I've used the term "not active" to describe, in most cases, players who weren't on regular-season rosters recently, including Jon Alston, recently cut by Tampa Bay.
Some players described as "starters" or "backups" could see their roles change pending free agency, roster changes and other dynamics.
We'd better find perennial Pro Bowlers in this range ...
Feeling safe drafting linebackers in this range ...
Not really sure what we're getting here ...
More questions than answers, but worth a shot ...
Not too late to find special-teams contributors, and possibly more ...
Potential unrestricted free agents: P Mitch Berger, S Vernon Fox, T Brandon Gorin, Nick Greisen, G Ben Hamilton, G Russ Hochstein, DE Vonnie Holliday, CB Ty Law, WR Brandon Lloyd
Potential restricted free agents: LB Elvis Dumervil, OL Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler, DT Le Kevin Smith
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Broncos’ restricted class is talented. That will be the focus. It has been reported that Marshall, Orton, Dumervil, Scheffler and Kuper will all get one-year tenders. Marshall very well could be traded. It wouldn’t be a shock if Dumervil gets some action on the restricted market. Miami could be interested.
Potential unrestricted free agents: OL Andy Alleman, S Mike Brown, WR Chris Chambers, WR Terrance Copper, TE Sean Ryan, C Wade Smith, LB Mike Vrabel, WR Bobby Wade
Potential restricted free agents: RB Jackie Battle, QB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, OL Ikechuku Ndukwe, OL Rudy Niswanger, OL Ryan O'Callaghan, S Jarrad Page
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Chiefs are interested in keeping some of their unrestricted free agents. General manager Scott Pioli said at the combine the team has been in contact with several of their free agents. Chambers is the focus. The team is trying to keep him. Brown and Vrabel could also return with new deals.
Potential unrestricted free agents: S Hiram Eugene, G Cornell Green, T Langston Walker, LB Sam Williams
Potential restricted free agents: LB Jon Alston, OL Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, LB Jon Condo, QB Charlie Frye, QB Bruce Gradkowski, LB Thomas Howard, RB Luke Lawton, OL Chris Morris, LB Kirk Morrison, CB Stanford Routt, RB Gary Russell
Franchise player: DE Richard Seymour.
What to expect: The Raiders franchised Seymour and signed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to a record deal, so they’ve already been busy. It will be interesting to see how they tender Howard and Morrison. The Raiders could use some new life at linebacker and this could be the start of it.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DT Alfonso Boone, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, C Dennis Norman, WR Kassim Osgood. T Jon Runyan, DT Ian Scott, TE Kris Wilson
Potential restricted free agents: OL Jeromey Clary, LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, OL Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DT Travis Johnson, OL Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles, QB Charlie Whitehurst
Franchise player: None
What to expect: The Chargers have their hands full. It’s been reported they will give high tenders to Jackson, Merriman, McNeill and Floyd. Jackson and McNeill could still attract some interest on the restricted market. Sproles is not expected to be tendered, making him a free agent. The Chargers want him back. But if Sproles hits the open market, the multifaceted weapon could be scooped up quickly.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says you, the tortured 49ers fan, would have to "go out on a limb that would be out of Tarzan's comfort level to pick the 49ers as a playoff contender. They lack an established quarterback and a game-breaking receiver, and they're learning a new offense." Other than that, optimism boils over.
The Arizona Republic, following right along in the NFC West pride department, rolls out a feature breaking down "Cardinals low points in Arizona" -- and this might be one of them. The franchise is coming off a promising 8-8 season under Ken Whisenhunt, and this is what it gets? Alas, the Cardinals have earned our skepticism.
Mark McKenna of the Tri-City Herald takes a more optimistic view of hometown product Adam Carriker, the Rams' second-year defensive tackle. Back in the day, Carriker supposedly heaved a football 80 yards while wearing a protective boot on his foot. "I can't throw it that far anymore," Carriker said. "But I think I can still throw it a good 70." Carriker described himself as about 80 percent following shoulder surgery, but said he would be full strength by the regular-season opener.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee describes the 49ers' extreme makeover heading into camp. Barrows wonders how Mike Nolan and Martz will coexist. Barrows: "The 49ers have a conservative, defensive-minded head coach and a risk-taking, iconoclastic offensive coordinator who used to be a head coach. Both men have strong personalities. Both crave control. So far, the relationship between Nolan and Martz has been cozy and cordial, and both coaches realize their own success hinges on the other man. But with a head-coaching job on the line -- for both men -- who knows what will happen should the team struggle."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat breaks out a Q-and-A heading into camp. He still doesn't see a Larry Allen reunion as likely: "The re-signing of Larry Allen is not exactly a priority for the 49ers right now. He's asking for too much money."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals showed up almost in full as the team prepared to open camp in Flagstaff. Unsigned rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the only no-show.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch revisits the Rams' third-round draft choices from 2006, noting that none of the three will play a snap for the team this season. Jon Alston and Dominique Byrd are long gone. Claude Wroten, suspended for one year Wednesday, isn't eligible to return until May 2009. On the plus side, only eight Rams players must achieve "elite" status for the team to succeed this season.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times calls on the Seahawks to save the city from sports doom following the Sonics' move to Oklahoma City. Kelley pens Mike Holmgren's pre-camp address, working in a shot at NBA commissioner David Stern: "I want you cornerbacks to crack every wide receiver who dares come across the middle. I want you to treat them the way David Stern treated Seattle."
Danny O'Neill, also of the Times, takes a look at the Seahawks' situation at linebacker on his blog. The team will most likely keep seven, as usual.
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News reminds Mike Nolan of the coach's tenuous job status. Also: According to Purdy, Nolan took a shot at retiring quarterback Trent Dilfer in describing the team's priorities at the position this season. Thanks for the memories, Trent.
Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune catches up with Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who says his contract concerns won't impact his attitude this season.
Back with our first NFC West mailbag shortly.