NFL Nation: Mark Bartelstein

News that center Olin Kreutz has left the New Orleans Saints brings the obvious question: Are the Chicago Bears now justified in taking a hard-line stance in contract negotiations with him over the summer?

Kreutz
Kreutz
It's a convenient explanation, but I'm not sure it's the complete one.

To review: Kreutz's performance slipped noticeably in recent seasons. The Bears offered him a one-year contact worth $4 million when the NFL lockout ended in July, but they would not negotiate beyond that. Kreutz rejected the offer. The Bears signed free agent Chris Spencer, moved right guard Roberto Garza to center and watched as Kreutz signed with the Saints.

Agent Mark Bartelstein told ESPN that Kreutz had lost his passion for the game. Would that have happened if he had remained with the Bears? I'm guessing not. Kreutz played 13 seasons in Chicago and wanted to finish his career there. His pride took a hit when he sensed the Bears' ambivalence. Not all players are prepared or interested in changing teams in the twilight of their career, especially when their identity is as intertwined with the franchise as Kreutz's was with the Bears.

It's also worth noting that Kreutz hadn't exactly experienced a career renaissance in New Orleans. Pro Football Focus, which evaluates offensive linemen based on their per-play blocking effectiveness, has Kreutz ranked as its second-worst center this season.

This summer, I suggested the Bears had made the right move at the wrong time in jettisoning Kreutz. The opposite was true for Kreutz. He made a mistake in turning down the Bears' offer, even though it was probably the right time for him to end his career.

More optimism on Warner this week

December, 6, 2009
12/06/09
1:19
PM ET
Kurt Warner surprised the Cardinals a week ago when he decided against playing.

Could it happen again in Week 13?

Warner's agent, Mark Bartelstein, says Warner is feeling much better and probably will play against the Vikings. Bartelstein was the one who foreshadowed Warner's unavailability last week.

So, unless Warner experiences more concussion-related symptoms before kickoff, expect him to start against Minnesota.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

One thing about Kurt Warner: You rarely have to ask him to elaborate. He answers questions fully and completely.

In light of questions raised here earlier, I wanted to pass along a partial transcript from Warner's news conference after his re-signing with the Cardinals. Thanks to the Arizona public-relations staff for passing it along:

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says Kurt Warner isn't visiting the 49ers to gain leverage with the Cardinals, according to agent Mark Bartelstein. Bartelstein: "People assume things are being done to create leverage and that's not true. Anyone who knows Kurt Warner knows that's not the moral plane he operates under. He would never do something to create leverage."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers' interest in Warner reflects a new aggressiveness under team president Jed York. Kawakami: "Everything about the idea of Kurt Warner coming to visit the 49ers sounds like a fine match, ideal in every way, birds chirping and a new day dawning. Everything except for the 49ers' conservative philosophy, newly hired offensive coordinator, soggy home field, unproven receivers and even more unproven immediate prospects."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat questions whether Mike Singletary's recruiting powers will mean much in landing Kurt Warner. Maiocco: "Only after a player signs with the 49ers [for more money] will he say, 'It wasn't about the money; I chose the 49ers because I want to be a part of something special here with Mike Singletary.' "

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Bartelstein refuses to disclose which teams Warner plans to visit. Bartelstein said he promised those teams he wouldn't say anything publicly about the visits. Not to worry. Teams must disclose all free-agent visits to the remaining teams, which makes it pretty tough to conceal visits.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com contrasts the Cardinals' offer to Warner with what Warner is asking from the team. Urban: "The Cardinals are offering around $20 million for two seasons. Warner is seeking a two-year deal closer to $13 million or $14 million per season. He is also believed to be seeking greater guaranteed money than that offered by the Cards."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 lists guard Reggie Wells among the Cardinals' candidates for offensive player of the year. Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald are the other nominees.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks pried Colin Cole away from Green Bay even though Packers coach Mike McCarthy listed re-signing Cole among the team's offseason priorities. An NFL scout described Cole this way: "Not overly athletic, but athletic enough. He keeps the linebackers clean." 

John Morgan of Field Gulls takes an initial look at Cole's efforts during a Week 5 game against the Falcons. Enjoy the nice, clean screenshots.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the Rams' remaining options in free agency. The Rams are not in the mix for running back Derrick Ward despite a phone conversation between Ward and Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. Talks with Ron Bartell's agent hit an impasse over the weekend. Safety James Butler remains an option. Thomas: "Free agent possibilities at safety include Sean Jones [Cleveland], Jermaine Phillips [Tampa Bay], and Jim Leonhard [Baltimore]. Options at cornerback include Phillip Buchanon [Tampa Bay], Bryant McFadden [Pittsburgh], Jabari Greer [Buffalo] and Leigh Bodden [Detroit]."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Chip Scoggins of Access Vikings says T.J. Houshmandzadeh does not expect to make a decision before Monday, according to agent Kennard McGuire. Scoggins: "Houshmandzadeh is going to spend the night in the Twin Cities and consider contract offers from the Vikings, Bengals and Seahawks. Presumably there will be an announcement [Monday]."

John Morgan of Field Gulls contrasts what the Seahawks are getting in Colin Cole with what they might have gotten from Chris Canty. Morgan: "The difference between signing Canty and Colin Cole is the difference between overpaying a non-marquee player entering his prime and overpaying a replacement level player exiting it."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says he thinks the 49ers will draft an offensive tackle with the 10th overall choice, even as the team considers B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers officials are hoping Kurt Warner remains a free agent long enough to visit the team's headquarters in Santa Clara. Maiocco: "The 49ers are also expected to meet Monday with Redskins free-agent defensive end Demetric Evans. Warner and Evans are the only known free agents with whom the 49ers have scheduled upcoming visits."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch suspects the Rams are shopping receiver Torry Holt and offensive tackle Orlando Pace, possibly for modest compensation. Thomas: "The club has been extremely tight-lipped on the futures of Holt and Pace. Then again, they've hardly said they fit into the team's plans in 2009. At the NFL Scouting Combine, coach Steve Spagnuolo said only that the Rams would do what's best for the team. On Friday, Devaney said he didn't know what would happen with Pace and Holt. Both are seven-time Pro Bowlers and veterans of two Super Bowls with the Rams."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic had nothing new to report after speaking with Warner's agent Sunday. Somers: "Bartelstein declined comment when I asked if Warner still planned to visit the 49ers on Monday." Here is what Bartelstein would say: "I really don't want to comment specificially on that trip or any other trip. I've told people I wouldn't."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Kurt Warner plans to start visiting other teams after failing to reach an agreement with the Cardinals. Also from Somers: "According to NFL sources, the Cardinals are ready to open talks with strong safety Adrian Wilson's agent about a contract extension. Wilson has one year left on his contract."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Warner's visit marks a "significant development, if for no other reason than it should move the needle in terms of negotiations with the Cardinals."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes newly signed 49ers receiver Brandon Jones as saying he can provide a deep threat. Crumpacker expects the 49ers to draft another receiver after the first round.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee downplays the 49ers' interest in Kurt Warner while reading between the lines in free agency. He thinks Chris Canty would be an ideal fit for the 49ers' defense even if it meant relegating Kentwan Balmer to a backup role again.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are willing to find out whether Warner is bluffing. Agent Mark Bartelstein says Warner doesn't use other people.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Jason Brown is already talking about getting to work as a new leader on the Rams' offensive line. Wagoner: "The Ravens viewed Brown's switch back to center as a means to lower his value on the free agent market. While the dollars going to guards has been steadily on the rise in recent years, Brown believes he helped re-establish the market for centers with the help of his agents."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes the Rams' new center on the relationship between linemen and the quarterback. Brown: "You have to have the faith in your offensive line to where you say, 'Hey, I know these guys are going to give me the seconds that I need in order to get this ball off.' You know what? We have to bring that back (in St. Louis)."

Jim Flynn and Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report say Bucs receiver Michael Clayton could have earned more money from the Seahawks, according to a radio report.

Mike Parker of Seahawk Addicts thinks the Chiefs' trade for Matt Cassel could put them in the market to draft receiver Michael Crabtree, perhaps affecting the Seahawks' draft plans. The Chiefs also need to address their defense, however, and Aaron Curry could be their man.

Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News says former Seahawks defensive tackle Rocky Bernard was looking for a fresh start. Bernard: "I was looking for a fresh start. Last year was really rough. It was so frustrating. I thought a change of scenery would be good. I'm really, really excited to be coming to the Giants. I wanted to go to a team that has had a lot of success and has a really good defense. That's what the Giants have. It feels good to be part of a great organization. They're a good football team."

Doug Farrar of Field Gulls quotes John Morgan of Field Gulls as saying Bernard's performance dropped off in 2008 for reasons largely beyond the defensive tackle's control. Morgan: "Defensive tackles who can rush the passer, hold the point and tackle opposing backs are rare and valuable. Red Bryant has a lot to live up to."

Mike Klis of the Denver Post says the Broncos' deal with Cardinals free-agent running back J.J. Arrington might fall through.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Agent Mark Bartelstein explained Kurt Warner's position during a recent interview with Dan Bickley and Mike Jurecki on XTRA-910 AM in Phoenix. Thanks to Jimmy Shapiro of sportsradiointerviews.com for passing along the audio link.

I'm going to have to go Nick Burns on Bickley the next time he needs someone to repair his wireless connection in a press box (Week 4, the Meadowlands, you're welcome). Seriously, though, Dan hung me out to dry a little bit during this interview with Bartelstein.

In referring to my recent column about Warner, Dan slightly undersold what two NFL salary-cap managers had told me they thought Warner's value would be outside Arizona. One of the cap managers put the value at $6 million to $7 million per year. Another placed the value between $8 million and $10 million.

The Cardinals have been offering something in that $10 million range. We now skip ahead to that radio interview with Bartelstein.

Bickley: One of the sticking points in this chronology of these negotiations would have been a report that came out of ESPN.com which would have been a survey of general managers or people of that ilk at the scouting combine and Mike Sando deduced that Kurt's market value would be somewhere between $7 million and $8 million a year. Was that even good information to begin with?

Bartelstein: No. I actually talked to Mike about that. He talked to two guys that he was passing in the hall and he threw it out to them and they were not focused on it. I can promise you that was not his market value in the league. That much I can tell you for sure.

Bickley: It seemed rather low.

Bartelstein: All you have to look at is what the top quarterbacks in the league are earning and look at the performance that Kurt has put forth the last couple of years.

I do think the market value for Warner would be in that $6 million to $10 million range. If the market were appreciably higher, we would see teams lining up to sign Warner, and that would put pressure on the Cardinals.

Of course, Bartelstein would have an easier time driving up the price if Warner wouldn't keep talking about how he wants to finish his career in Arizona or possibly retire.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Gus Bradley, the Seahawks' defensive coordinator, is promising an attacking style.

Also from O'Neil: Bradley prefers "Gus" to his given name of "Casey."

Greg Johns of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says Bradley appears to have the same fire as new head coach Jim Mora.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune thinks the Seahawks' new defensive coordinator exudes a passion, humility and sincerity that will win over players.

Also from Williams: a full transcript of Bradley's interview with area reporters.

Scott Johnson of the Everett Herald says Bradley expects to demand more from players than the previous staff demanded.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes an initial look at the 49ers' draft needs.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Dan Reeves turned down the 49ers' offer to become offensive coordinator because he wanted to explore a job with the Cowboys. Reeves wound up turning down the Cowboys, too.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee sizes up the 49ers' needs on the offensive line. Barrows: "If Jonas Jennings could stay healthy, the 49ers would have one of the better tackle tandems in the league. He cannot. That was clear at this point last season and now, after Jennings' third right shoulder dislocation, it's as stark as a neon billboard."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams' hiring of 49ers scout Mike Williams has become official. General manager Billy Devaney: "Mike knows the players in the NFL and the players in our division. He knows rosters from the bottom up and the top down and how players move on and off rosters in the off-season. He will fill an important role in this area." Williams' experience in the NFC West should help him jump into the job with minimal transition time.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune quotes Warner's agent as downplaying retirement talk. Agent Mark Bartelstein: "He wants to take a deep breath and decompress and make sure he's doing the right thing. I don't think people should read too much into it. He loves to play. He hasn't lost any of his competitiveness or fire for the game."

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