NFL Nation: Lance Laury
Readiness factor: The Jets' coaching staff and much of the roster will remain intact, which reduces the learning curve. But the Jets won't have training-camp bonding time at SUNY Cortland, an enhancement Rex Ryan and his players prized the past two seasons. They already pulled the plug on their upstate training camp and will convene at team headquarters in Florham Park, N.J.
Biggest challenge: All their free agents. The Jets have some biggies, most notably at wide receiver. They must keep young quarterback Mark Sanchez's support staff stocked with weapons, and receivers Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith are about to hit the market. So are cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safeties Brodney Pool, Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo.
What a rush: The Jets quietly tied for eighth in the NFL in sacks last season but didn't have a fearsome presence in an overall defense designed to create mayhem. Of the 40 sacks they recorded last season, more than a quarter of them belonged to defensive backs and almost half were rung up by players who aren't under contract. The Jets released outside linebacker Jason Taylor (5 sacks). Defensive end Shaun Ellis (4.5 sacks) also has an expired contract.
Key players without contracts for 2011: In addition to the above, fullback Tony Richardson, cornerback Drew Coleman, top special-teams tackler Lance Laury, kicker Nick Folk, punter Steve Weatherford.
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.
Most revealing from my perspective was the chance to eavesdrop on general manager Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan discussing their roster numbers. On a dry-erase board, Tannenbaum tried to do the math and gave a glimpse of what the 53-man roster will look like, more or less.
Next to the team's official depth chart, Tannenbaum scrawled out the number of players they plan to keep at each position, with the caveat they can adjust for special teams.
Offense (25 players):
- Three quarterbacks
- Five running backs
- Five wide receivers (including Santonio Holmes)
- Four tight ends
- Eight offensive linemen
Defense (23 players):
- Six defensive linemen
- Four outside linebackers
- Four inside linebackers
- Five cornerbacks (I think because I couldn't decipher the abbreviation)
- Four safeties (I think for the same reason)
Add a kicker, punter and long-snapper, and that's 51 players, leaving two special-teams spots for everybody else to fight over.
The show suggested the bubble players were running back Danny Woodhead, fullback Jason Davis, receivers David Clowney and Larry Taylor, tight end Matthew Mulligan and linebacker Lance Laury.
Injuries, of course, can impact the numbers. The breakdown was done before defensive end Ropati Pitoitua suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon in Saturday's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
Pitoitua's injury was significant for Rodrique Wright, who had an "X" next to his name on the depth chart, suggesting the Jets planned to cut him.
"Hey, you going to make this [expletive] team?" Ryan says to Wright on the sideline after learning of Pitoitua's injury. "This kid just tore his [expletive] Achilles. Or do I need to pick somebody else up?"
"Hard Knocks" revealed others with an "X" next to his name or a "PS" to indicate practice squad. A slow and up-close pan of all the unmarked name plates helped determine who had been designated in the shot of Tannenbaum sketching out the roster.
These were the other "X" players still on the roster I could decipher thanks to the high-def on my big-screen plasma: quarterback Kellen Clemens, running back Chauncey Washington, center Robby Felix, guard Marlon Davis and tackles Dan Gay and Michael Turkovich. An "X" also appeared next to a blank spot at fullback, suggesting Jason Davis.
These were the "PS" players: defensive linemen Matthew Kroul, Ty Steinkuhler and Martin Tevaseu and safety Emanuel Cook.
Also notable about the depth chart, rookie Vladimir Ducasse was above Matt Slauson at left guard. Shonn Greene was on top of LaDainian Tomlinson.
Not a lot of surprises, but interesting nevertheless.
Yet based on Ryan's comments about his third-stringers late in the 9-3 victory over the Panthers, there's plenty of room to make an impression over the final couple weeks.
"Guys, we're dead with this group. We have replacements?" Ryan says into his headset to his defensive assistants in the press box. Ryan's voice gets angrier. "Do we have any replacements? Get me the No. Twos out there! I'm not going to lose this [expletive] game! Give me the [expletive] Twos out there. Finish the [expletive] job!
"We're leaving the Twos out there if we have to. Finish the game. I don't give two [expletive]. Some of those guys can't play dead in a B western."
Washington, for example, went from having an "X" next to his name to receiving a game ball for a jarring hit on punt coverage and strong running.
Ben Obomanu, Rob Sims, Chris Spencer and Darryl Tapp were tendered in their original draft rounds. That means the Seahawks would get a seventh-rounder for Obomanu, fourth-rounder for Sims, first-rounder for Spencer and second-rounder for Tapp if they declined to match offers from other teams for those players.
The team did not extend tenders to tackle Brandon Frye or linebacker Lance Laury. Linebacker David Hawthorne was tendered as an exclusive-rights free agent. He basically had no options.
I see no big surprises among these RFA tenders. The prices are relatively reasonable and none of the money is guaranteed.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Setterstrom was eligible to become a restricted free agent, but the Rams weren't willing to make him the required $1.01 million minimum offer for the right to match other teams' offers. Seahawks linebacker Lance Laury fell into the same category.
Both players could eventually re-sign with their teams for less than the $1.01 million. Their minimum salaries would be $535,000 in 2009. The chart breaks down minimum salaries by experience and season, as provided by the NFL Players Association.
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.
Final Miami 10 Buffalo 29 Final Jacksonville 10 Washington 41 Final Dallas 26 Tennessee 10 Final Arizona 25 New York 14 Final New England 30 Minnesota 7 Final New Orleans 24 Cleveland 26 Final Atlanta 10 Cincinnati 24 Final Detroit 7 Carolina 24 Final St. Louis 19 Tampa Bay 17 Final Seattle 21 San Diego 30 Final Houston 30 Oakland 14 Final New York 24 Green Bay 31 Final Kansas City 17 Denver 24 Final Chicago 28 San Francisco 20