Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: NFC West

by Ben Riley

Arizona Cardinals

Lots of Leisure Suits for Larry

Four years, $40 million dollars ($30 million guaranteed!), and the lost opportunity of signing former Rams linebacker Brandon Chillar: That's the true cost of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald's new contract with the Cardinals. Due to a plethora of ungodly performance guarantees built into Fitzgerald's previous contract, Arizona was literally without any cap space for almost all of free agency. In fact, even after Fitzgerald signed his new deal over a round of Frappuccinos at an airport Starbucks just prior to leaving on a three-week South American vacation -- and presumably while listening to his agent laugh maniacally in the background -- the Cardinals still had to wait 10 days for the NFL to sign off on the legal "nitty gritties" of the deal. As a result, the up-and-coming Chillar signed with the Green Bay Packers instead of the Cards, even though he actually wanted to play for Arizona (seriously). "I think they just had some in-house issues that they're trying to get fixed," Chillar later told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which pretty much sums up the entire history of the Cardinals franchise.

So what were the legal hang-ups that delayed league approval of Fitzgerald's new contract? According to Cardinals general manager Rod Graves, the problem stemmed from the potential for an uncapped year in 2010, which required the Cardinals to "figure out, because of those rules of capped years versus uncapped years, how we preserve the intent of what we had in the agreement." Your guess here is as good as ours, and why this couldn't have been figured out before Fitzgerald left to traipse around Belize flinging doubloons like a drunken pirate remains a complete mystery.

With the Fitzgerald mess finally behind them, the Cardinals can now focus on signing franchised linebacker to Karlos Dansby to a long-term deal. But now they have a new problem with wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who is scheduled to make a mere $2.5 million in base salary this year, $2.75 million in 2009, and $3 million in 2010. The Cardinals can't possibly offer Boldin "Larry Fitzgerald money," but there are rumblings that the Cardinals coaching staff (and the players) think Boldin is actually the better receiver. You can already feel the locker room tension, can't you?

Free Agency Recap

Obviously, there's not much to recap. After losing out on Chillar, the Cardinals did ink former Steelers outside linebacker Clark Haggans to a one-year, $1.5 million deal, which is smart considering that Haggans turned 31 in January. They've also resigned inconsequential receivers Sean Morey and Ahmad Merritt, defensive end Bo Schobel, offensive lineman Elton Brown, and two former Seattle special team castoffs, defensive end Joe Tafoya and receiver Jerheme Urban. Snore.

Draft Needs

Cornerback Roderick Hood quietly had an excellent season last year, and Eric Green is serviceable, but with Antrel Rolle moving to free safety the Cardinals definitely need some depth at this position. Draft pundits have fallen in love with the size and speed of Tennessee State's Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, but Troy's Leodis McKelvin is the better option if the Cardinals decide to go this route. At running back, Edge James seems destined to collapse this year (he turns 30 in August) and J.J. Arrington is looking like a bust, so someone like Felix Jones of Arkansas or Ray Rice from Rutgers could represent good value in the second round. Finally, the Cardinals perpetually need help on the offensive line, thus either of the guards from USC -- Chilo Rachal or Drew Radovich -- would make nice a second-day pick.

St. Louis Rams

So Long, Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuce

The Rams cut wide receiver Isaac Bruce in February after 14 years of productive-to-occasionally spectacular service. Although Bruce hasn't been a game-changing wide receiver for many years, even at age 35 he managed to provide the Rams with 12.2 points of DPAR last year, good for 46th in the league and ahead of guys like Derrick Mason and Bernard Berrian. The fact that the San Francisco 49ers signed Bruce to be their primary wide receiver is clearly insane, but the Rams will miss his sure hands and locker room leadership.

With Bruce gone, only three players remain on the roster from the Rams' 1999 Super Bowl championship team: left tackle Orlando Pace, wide receiver Torry Holt, and defensive end Leonard Little (four if you count the recently resigned Trent Green). There's nothing wrong with letting go of the past, but the problem with the Rams is that their younger players just aren't very good: Alex Barron and Richie Incognito are liabilities on the offensive line, and even after drafting two tight ends in 2006 (Joe Klopfenstein and Dominique Byrd), the Rams still felt the need to sign Randy McMichael last year. And as for Drew Bennett, their ostensible No. 2 receiver, he finished with -3.3 DPAR in 2007, 78th in the league and just behind Ted Ginn. It will be interesting to see what sort of production new offensive coordinator Al Saunders manages to squeeze out of this bunch.

Free Agency Recap

The smartest move the Rams made in free agency was to sign former Titans guard Jacob Bell to a six-year, $36 million contract ($20 million guaranteed) to help bolster the offensive line. Although the Rams tried to sign Alan Faneca, Bell may end up being the better long-term option, and if Orlando Pace manages to stay healthy, Steven Jackson should have fun running to the left side this year. The Rams also re-signed center Brett Romberg, who is adequate at best and will probably compete for starting time with Incognito. Journeyman wide receiver and Visine-spokesman Reche Caldwell was added to the roster, presumably to keep Dante Hall company on the bench after the offense goes three-and-out.

With his new five-year, $14.2 million contract (including a $4 million signing bonus), the Rams made former Seahawks kicker Josh Brown the highest paid kicker in NFL history. Note to Rams front office: In order to win games with clutch field-goal kicking, you need to be trailing by three points or less in the fourth quarter.

Draft Needs

There's no need to overthink things here: the Rams should take Michigan left tackle Jake Long with the second overall pick in the draft. He's an outstanding talent who could play right tackle immediately while preparing to ultimately take over for Pace in 2010. If the Dolphins take Long instead, the Rams seem interested in LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey, but Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston would actually be a better fit for defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. The team desperately needs help at wide receiver and someone like LSU's Early Doucet would give Bulger a big, reliable target over the middle. This is not a great year for centers, but Notre Dame's John Sullivan is an intriguing prospect who is strong and smart, and he should be available on day two of the draft.

San Francisco 49ers

Tha' Fanbase Canna' Take Much More o' This, Scotty!

Here's all you really need to know about the bizarre 49ers/Bears Lance Briggs-contract tampering scandal that led NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to strip the 49ers of their fifth-round pick and forced them to swap third-rounders with Chicago:

  • Briggs still plays for the Bears.
  • The 49ers probably couldn't have traded for Briggs last year anyway because he was tagged as the Bears' franchise player.
  • When asked to explain why the 49ers front office made two phone calls to Briggs' agent (Drew Rosenhaus) in October, the best the 49ers could come up with was that they were interested in resigning wide receiver Taylor Jacobs -- a player they had just cut two weeks prior.

Standing alone, the loss of a fifth-round pick might not seem devastating, but it's somewhat emblematic of the 49ers' troubled off-season as a whole. For example, after bringing Mike Martz on board to revamp the offense -- a questionable move in its own right -- new General Manager Scot McCloughan failed to land any of the premium free agent wide receivers (i.e., Bernard Berrian or D.J. Hackett) and instead signed the aging Isaac Bruce from the Rams and chronic underachiever Bryant Johnson from the Cardinals. After the fiasco that was Darrell Jackson (who was unceremoniously dumped in March), you would think the 49ers would have lost their penchant for NFC West wide receiver cast-offs, but apparently McCloughan is serious about going into battle with these guys.

Free Agency Recap

As expected, the 49ers signed former Bengals defensive end Justin Smith to a six-year, $35 million deal ($20 million guaranteed). Smith will replace the now-retired Bryant Young, and even though Smith's production slipped a bit last year, he should be a good fit for head coach Mike Nolan's 3-4 defense. The 49ers also lost defensive end Marques Douglas to the Buccaneers, making the Smith signing all the more critical to the 49ers' success this year.

Alex Smith's midseason injury proved that Trent Dilfer enjoys coaching the quarterback position far more than he enjoys actually playing football, so the 49ers were wise to cut him. To replace Dilfer, Mike Martz brought quarterback John Thomas "That's J.T. to You" O'Sullivan with him from Detroit, presumably so that Sullivan can hold the clipboard while fantasizing about his one touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson last year.

Draft Needs

The loss of guard Justin Smiley to the Miami Dolphins leaves a big hole in the offensive line. Luckily, the 49ers have the seventh pick in the draft, so they should be able to take Boise State's Ryan Clady or Pittsburgh's Jeff Otah ... What's that, you say? The 49ers traded their pick to the New England Patriots last year so they could move up and take Joe Staley? Bummer. Luckily, the 49ers do have a first-round pick, courtesy of their draft-day trade last year with the Colts, but they still will have to wait until pick No. 29 to make their first selection. The team has needs virtually everywhere so it's really a "best available" scenario, although gigantic guard Branden Albert from Virginia would be a nice fit. The 49ers are frustrated with linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, so don't be surprised if they reach a little for someone in the second round (keep an eye on Purdue's Cliff Avril).

(Ed. Note: In the 49ers' defense, if they had not made that trade with the Patriots, they would currently have two big holes on the offensive line. Instead, they have Joe Staley ready to move to left tackle in 2008.)

Seattle Seahawks

51 + 23 = $92.2 Million (And Worth Every Penny)

On March 21, the Seahawks signed linebacker Lofa Tatupu to a six-year, $42 million contract extension through 2015 (including $18 million in guaranteed money). The most remarkable aspect of Tatupu's contract is not that he will still make $1 million per year less than fellow linebacker Julian Peterson, or that he left money on the table so that Seattle could resign cornerback Marcus Trufant to an even more lucrative deal (more on that momentarily). Instead, what's truly impressive is that no less than four Seahawks -- Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant, Jordan Babineaux, and Craig Terrill -- agreed to restructure their own deals to provide the cap space to rework Tatupu's contract. That's a testament both to Tatupu's defensive leadership and the benefits of general manager Tim Ruskell's character-driven approach to personnel decisions.

As for Trufant, he agreed to a six-year, $50.2 million extension that will pay him approximately $8.3 million annually. That's about $1 million per year less than the deals that cornerbacks Asante Samuels and DeAngelo Hall received from the Eagles and Raiders, respectively. Of course, unlike Pennsylvania and California, Washington does not have a state income tax, which may explain in part why Trufant was willing to accept a "hometown discount."

Meanwhile, the Shaun Alexander death watch continues. Somewhat surprisingly, the Seahawks signed running backs "Orange" Julius Jones and T.J. "The Human Bowling Ball" Duckett in free agency, so it's only a matter of time before Alexander is either cut or traded, although it's hard to see how the Seahawks could get anything more than a seventh-round pick for him (and even that may be generous). Oh, how far a fantasy football god doth fall.

Free Agency Recap

And the winner of the D.J. Hackett sweepstakes is ... the Carolina Panthers. Steve Smith has to be excited about the possibility of facing single coverage for the first time in three years, though his excitement will wane when Hackett goes down with a non-contact injury in Week 3 or so. With Hackett gone, Deion Branch recovering from a torn ACL, and Bobby "Sure Hands but Unsure Thyroid" Engram on the wrong side of 35, the Seahawks suddenly have a lot of questions at wide receiver (and Nate Burleson isn't the answer to any of them).

Unlike Tatupu or Trufant, kicker Josh Brown wasn't willing to take less money to play in the Pacific Northwest, so now he'll kick for the Rams on Sundays in between visits to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery and Purina Farms and whatever else it is people do in St. Louis. In response, the Seahawks signed former Saints kicker Olindo Mare, who went 10-for-17 last year. Going from Josh Brown to Olindo Mare is sort of like trading in your Toyota Camry for a Kia Spectra, reliability-wise, so Seahawks fans will be hoping that Ruskell finds a late-round gem in the draft.

Draft Needs

The Seahawks pursued but failed to land Alge Crumpler (who signed with the Titans), so unless they are serious about the Jeb Putzier Experience, Seattle will be drafting a tight end on April 26. Fellow FO writer/Seahawks supporter Doug Farrar thinks Texas A&M's Marcellus Bennett is the guy to watch, but if he's not available in the second round, Notre Dame's John Carlson has the sort of work ethic and "intangibles" that make Tim Ruskell salivate, and he just may be the most complete tight end available this year.

With Jones and Duckett on the roster, the Seahawks no longer have a pressing need at running back, but Oregon's Jonathan Stewart is a potential superstar who apparently wants to play in Seattle. The Seahawks would be wise to snag him if he falls to them in the first round. If not, either defensive end Phillip Merling of Clemson or Derrick Harvey of Florida would satiate Ruskell's fetish for defensive players from the SEC.

Finally, we've said it before and we'll say it again: Seneca Wallace should be moved to wide receiver. For that to happen, the Seahawks will need someone other than "Chaz" Frye on the roster to serve as the backup quarterback. Despite his equally silly name, USC quarterback John David Booty could easily manage Seattle's West Coast offense, and he should be available in the fourth round.


61 comments, Last at 30 Apr 2008, 1:14pm

1 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

"Alex Barron and Richie Incognito are liabilities on the offensive line"

What exactly do you mean by "liabilities"? Barron has struggled with false starts, but he's an average tackle. Average is much better than being a liability. I have to disagree with you there.

What's your beef with Incognito? His attitude? His injury history?

2 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Alge Crumpler signed with the Titans, not the Panthers.

3 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#2 Fixed (I remembered this earlier today and literally went "D'oh!")

Also, my brother's emailed to inform me that Belize is not in fact in South America. So everyone please imagine Larry Fitzgerald flinging doubloons in Peru instead (which I'm almost positive is in South America).

4 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I really liked the editor's note balancing out the other side to the Staley trade. He looks like he'll be a pretty good left tackle and he's locked up for 28# overall money. (It also doesn't hurt that he played every snap of 2007). The team is better in 2008 for having Staley with a year's experience than whatever rookie tackle they'd be taking at 7#. I would add that I've gotten the impression that the 49ers are much more likely to look for the best remaining tackle at 29# to draft a bookend for the right side than they are to take a guard at that spot. Scot McCloughan is not one to overpay/overvalue a guard and this seems like a really good year to be drafting an offensive tackle.

5 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

bernard berrian is a premium wide receiver? since when? he sure signed a premium contract though, i'll give you that. and i guess hackett could be a premium wr if he could ever stay healthy. i wouldn't hold my breath on that.

at the prices paid, i'd think i'd rather have aging bruce and underachieving johnson then massively overpaid berrian and always injured hackett. at least it's close with hackett because who knows, he might be able to stay healthy this year. suggesting that anyone should have paid that much for berrian is just ludicrous though.

6 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Branden Albert will not reach pick 29. If by some miracle he reaches pick 23, the Steelers will take him. But he will probably go before pick 20.

7 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Denny Green's legacy lives on in Arizona. Though the new regime should have addressed Fitgerald's contract earlier. They let it linger until it caused them real problems.

Still for a 'less than great' team they are in a bad cap situation. If they cut Edge after this year does that free up much space or not?

8 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I wouldn't describe guard as a massive hole for the 9ers, seeing as Smiley was awful last year and David Baas, the 33rd overall pick in 2005, looked comfortably better than him when he stepped into the lineup. Tackle is a more pressing concern with the odds of Jonas Jennings actually turning up to play on any given Sunday being somewhat less than 50% these days. I'd be happy with picking someone like Cherilus to slot in at RT straight away and move Staley to the left. It might not be the best tackle combo for '08 but it's a long term plan.

9 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

"To replace Dilfer, Mike Martz brought quarterback John Thomas “That’s J.T. to You” Sullivan with him from Detroit, presumably so that Sullivan can hold the clipboard while fantasizing about his one touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson last year."

It's actually J.T. O'Sullivan. Nice try, though.

10 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

The niners' offensive line isn't as big an issue as conventional wisdom says it is. Staley, Snyder, Heitmann, Baas and Jennings isn't that bad, with Wragge as the back-up at the interior positions and Snyder able to move out to either tackle spot. Yes, the niners need depth, especially to offset the injury-prone Jennings but the line as a whole could be quite decent. Personally I expect to see a huge improvement from the departure of Jeff Hostler as OC, he must go down as one of the most out-of-his depth coordinators in league history.

The most pressing need for San Francisco is ROLB. Last year there were games where qbs had 5 or 6 seconds to stand in the pocket. Getting Manny Lawson back will help but they are desperate for a pass rusher opposite him. If Quentin Groves is available when the niers pick they'll snap him up in an instant.

I don't really but that the Seahawks underpaid for Trufant. Samuel got more money because he's a better player. Hall was overpaid by the Raiders, Trufant received a fair-ish deal for his talents.

It's amazing that any NFC West article can cover the Rams without mentioning their horrible, horrible defense.

Arizona. . . meh

11 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I know Jake Long is regarded as this years top tackle prospect but is he really an elite OT or is he simply the best of an good but not great group?

I think the Rams still have enough problems on defense to justify taking Gholston rather than an offensive player, especially if he is an elite pass rusher.

12 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Belize is Central America on the Yucatan Peninsula, not South America.

13 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Why would the Niners take a tackle at 29 when it might leave them reaching for a ROLB at 39? It would make much more sense to take the pass rusher first and the tackle second. Unlike almost every other team looking to draft a tackle the Niners don't need to find a LT as they have one of the best young tackles in the league already on their roster. In any event I expect the Niners first two picks to be ROLB and LDE (not necessarily in that order). They might take a WR if one of the top players slips, but not at 29. The Niners automatically upgraded their offense (probably more than any other team in football) when they canned Jeff Hostler and brought in Mike Martz. The defense was good against the run last year and had good coverage players, what was sorely lacking was a pass rush. Any pass rush at all. That is the area the Niners will be adressing on April the 26th.

he left money on the table so that Seattle could resign cornerback Marcus Trufant

Seriously it is time to put down the 'hometown discount' Kool-Aid. Taputu cost $18m guranteed (I have read that it is effectively $22m) and $42m in total. They could have signed Lance Briggs for that and had change left over, and for my mind Briggs is a superior player. Similarly for Trufant, if the Seahawks had been a bit more proactive in getting him locked up before the season they should have been able to retain his services at a more reasonable salary.

Instead, what’s truly impressive is that no less than four Seahawks — Patrick Kerney, Deon Grant, Jordan Babineaux, and Craig Terrill — agreed to restructure their own deals to provide the cap space to rework Tatupu’s contract. That’s a testament both to Tatupu’s defensive leadership and the benefits of general manager Tim Ruskell’s character-driven approach to personnel decisions.

I think it is a testament to the fact that if you offer to give someone their whole yearly wage in one up front payment they will generally agree. They will prefer it to waiting another eight months until they get their last game check. Can we please stop referring to these re-worked deals as though the players are doing the team a favour, it is total self interest at work, it has sod all to do with leadership.

If I asked everyone who worked for our company to take their pay in one lump sum at the start of the year the staff would love it but by the end of the year we would probably be out of business.

14 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

As always Ben, good article, but can we please dispatch with the "Joe Player Experience" cliches? Its time we throw that tired gag under the bus.

15 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

by dispatch, I meant dispense...its Friday, gimme a break

16 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Hey Jimmy- Take notes on what Seattle does in the offseason, that my friend is how a quality franchise is run. I wont mention the consecutive division titles or playoff appearances. I will mention that Hasselbeck isn't helping jail-bait with beer bongs, Ruskell isn't tampering with other players under contract, nor he is thumping his chest after signing a kicker. Fact of the matter is, you won't find seattle signing a WR to silly contract that will hurt the team 4 years down the road. They draft well, keep the players that matter, and for the most part - sign good free agents. You won't find drunk-driving killers on the seahawks, nor any top draft pick QBs who are a bust. (I know, Alex as had a different O-cord. every year, its not his fault).

17 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Aww sounds like Jimmy is just upset that his team does not have that 'team' mentality. Ohh by the way.. Briggs is not even close as being good as Lofu.
It really just sounds to me that you are jealous of the type of moves that the Seahawks are doing to keep their own GOOD and YOUNG players

18 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

You won’t find drunk-driving killers on the seahawks

You are of course correct, the Seahawks have no drunk driving killers. They spend their first round picks on drunk driving rapists instead (ie Jerramy Stevens).

I actually agree with you that the 'Hawks are a well run franchise, I am not sure that I have ever said they aren't. I do think that people are giving them too much credit for signing their own players for a discount. I am not sure they are getting much of a discount at all. In fact I would go so far as to say that if the team and player are both saying there was a hometown discount in 99% of cases they are simply lying for PR purposes. The article expresses amazement that Taputu signed for $1m a year less than Peterson, ignoring the fact that Peterson is a much better and more unique player.

Similarly for players who 'help the team' by restructuring their contracts. It is only helping if they end up with less money, otherwise it is knowing where your bread is most easily (and profitably) buttered. I am not saying that restructuring contracts doesn't ameliorate difficult cap situations, just that if you haven't given anything up it can't be altruistic.

19 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


I hope you are pleased with the tone of your post, it really does you credit. No really, you don't seem at all small minded. Really. Those words in capitals really help with the emphasis, otherwise what you are actually trying to say might get watered down.

Briggs is not even close as being good as Lofu.

See we agree, Briggs isn't as good, he is better. Better against the run and better in coverage, neither player really has the speed to be a great pass rusher.

20 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#9 Thanks for the courteous reminder. As a Riley, I feel the need to whack at unnecessary O's.

#12 Of course, technically Central America isn't a continent at all, though sixth grade geography students across the land must be wondering why not.

Stuart is probably right that Albert will be taken before pick no. 29, though you can never be sure with the draft. But in the last couple of days, Albert's "stock" has soared, and he's making the pitch that he can play left tackle. He's creeping into top 10 territory.

21 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Fact of the matter is, you won’t find seattle signing a WR to silly contract that will hurt the team 4 years down the road.

No, but there is Deion "AWOL" Branch and his $6.76 million cap hit this season. Every team makes mistakes.

#18 - As far as Peterson being "better" than Tatupu, that's impossible to quantify from a position perspective, but I'd absolutely debate it from a value standpoint. Peterson has been a bit of a disappointment in pass coverage, and while he's been an excellent speed-rusher, he also tends to disappear for stretches of time. Tatupu will occasionally get undone by bigger tackles and he's not perfect, but he's pretty impressively close. The way he's run that defense since his first minicamp has been one of the key factors in Seattle's defensive resurgence.

22 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

You want to talk about tone. I would think your tone was kind of harsh as what people are saying about the TEAM that seattle has. Lofu would have been gotten more money if he became a free agent, Seattle would have given him more money than if he wanted it. Also do not jump to the conclusions as to what the restructured contracts are since no details were given out. Ohh and Lofu is better than Briggs. He has been in the league 3 years, 3 pro bowls. The MLB position is tougher than the OLB position as Lofu has to call the plays for the defense, line up the guys which he does alot. The thing that makes Lofu great is his intelligence. Briggs could not handle the MLB position. It still sounds like to me that you as a 49'ers fan just has sour grapes because Seattle is a classy organization. As far as Jeremy Stevens and Koren Robinson.. they were drafted before Tim Ruskell came here. Tim Ruskell changed the franchise into the class act that it is now.

23 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Ah, The Seahawks expose the "Rainier Factor" to the rest of the world, or why UW MBAs (and, presumably MDs and JDs) take lower salaries to remain in the Emerald City. It's not the team folks, it's the Sound and the mountains, the local beer and wines, the ability to snow ski and windsurf the same day. The sheer density of Starbucks everywhere you turn... oh wait, that's not so different than anywhere else.

Oh, and Belize's currency has been pegged to the USD for many years, though doubloons might be a better bet these days.

24 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#21, Doug

You are of course correct that it is impossible to quantify the exact impact player A has and how much greater it is than player B. I guess you are left with watching them and forming an opinion. It does suprise me when you say Peterson has been a disappointment in coverage, when he was in SF he was an absolute monster. It may be due to his switch to the weakside, it may be he has never fully recovered from the achilles injury. In the Bay he was used to entirely remove TEs from the passing game (even Gonzales in his prime 1 on 1). I remember one game when the Niners had injuries in the secondary when he played the whole game at corner, and did it pretty well.

As for comparisons between Peterson and Taputu it isn't as though I don't think Taputu is any good - I will happily agree that he is a fine player - I just think Peterson is better (and consequently gets more attention from the opponent's blocking scheme which may explain his disapearances). Barring coaches tape becoming available and me having the time to watch a couple of season's worth of film to grade it all these conversations will always come down to subjective opinion, all you can do is qualify them as much as possible.


It still sounds like to me that you as a 49′ers fan just has sour grapes because Seattle is a classy organization.

If you care I am actually a Bears fan.

Ohh and Lofu is better than Briggs. He has been in the league 3 years, 3 pro bowls

He played well as a rookie, but only got to the Pro Bowl because he was a high profile young player on a good team (for another example of this phenomenom see Dallas Cowboys and 2007 Pro Bowlers). I'll even give you his second nomination. There is now way he deserved to go last year though. If the whole NFL season is considered the NFC Pro Bowl MLBs should have been Urlacher and Willis. Willis made it and deservedly so, Urlacher had a bad month or so with a back injury but finished the year on fire and ended up with five sacks and five picks (despite the fact that every team tries its upmost to stop him ruining their gameplan). If the voting had been held after week 17 Urlacher would have getten the nod. Taputu is a very good player, but he falls just below the elite level. Has Taputu ever been voted All Pro? Briggs has been twice, to go with his Pro Bowls. In terms of the skills required to play Mike in Seattle's scheme and Will in Chicago's the positions are nearly interchangable, both are clearly excellent players. I would say the biggest difference between them is that Briggs gets upfield faster in the run game and uses his hands better in contact to get off the block.

25 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

St. Louis has a wonderful variety of good miniature golf courses.

26 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Comparing Peterson to Tatupu is silly--they play different positions, and the team expects different things from both of them. I'm willing to bet that there is many a GM that would have been delighted to sign Tatupu to that contract, and far fewer than half would pay Peterson more than Tatupu right now, depending on team needs.

Briggs would be nowhere near as good in the middle for the Hawks as Tatupu. Better athlete, but not the guy you want calling signals, adjustments, etc.

I would be interested in the source for the assertion that all the 4 re-negotiators did is just take all their money up front. Sounds like somebody is just making sh*t up to make a point that may just be dead wrong.

27 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Some quick thoughts:

-It seems that the gist of this article is that Seattle, while flawed, has some real strengths and still has no serious competition in this division. Is that a fair statement?

-Fact of the matter is, you won’t find seattle signing a WR to silly contract that will hurt the team 4 years down the road.

How's Deion Branch working out?

-So how exactly DID Seattle end up with such a fantastic LB corps? I don't follow the NFC west all that much (although now that I live in Niners country, I'm trying to start rooting for them...but they're not making it easy...) I noticed in the playoffs just how good their LB's really are...

-Hypothetical question...if the Patriots had agreed to SWAP picks with the Niners in 2008, instead of just outright getting the Niner's 2008 first pick in exchange for the Pats 2007, would the Niners have lost their first round draft pick (from the Patriots) as a punishment for spygate? :-)

28 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Why you be bustin on my man Nate Burleson? OK, he's ain't exactly Mr. Conistency, but he had more of an impact on the team last year than Deon Branch.

May I politely inquire about Burleson's DPAR/DVOA from last year (particularly if you can factor in his fine work on punt returns?)

29 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Hate to do nothing but point out an error, but Clemson is not in the SEC, so if Ruskell really has a fetish he won't draft Merling. Sorry a dedicated LSU fan can't let that egregious error pass.

30 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Burleson was pretty poor in both DVOA/DPAR. Nate has his uses and he can certainly help, but he's not a #1 (or 2) by any means.

27, They drafted both Tatutpu and Hill in the 2005 draft. Lofa was a 2nd round pick, Hill was a 3rd. The Hawks then signed Peterson in free agency after the 2005 season.

31 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I would be interested in the source for the assertion that all the 4 re-negotiators did is just take all their money up front. Sounds like somebody is just making sh*t up to make a point that may just be dead wrong.

I would be interested in any information about at all how the contracts have been re-worked. Until then I will carry on assuming that it has been done in the tried and tested way that teams have done this kind of thing for the last ten years. If you on the other hand have any light to shed on this matter I am all ears.

Otherwise you could just be making sh*t up to make a point that is dead wrong.

Seriously if you know of a different way of ameliorating a player's cap hit without either extending his contract or getting him to take less money tell us all about it. Until then you could be less agressive toward people who are posting their best take on a development in good faith.

32 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

or any top draft pick QBs who are a bust.

Rick Mirer

33 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

9: John Thomas "J. T." O'Sullivan (linked)

34 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Hey, Mirer got us a 1st round pick and Walter Jones! Mirer was a great pick, it just took him 4 years to make an impact for the hawks.

35 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#31 - Right. Guaranteeing a proportion of the base salary (or something else) for the next season is just the standard approach to this kind of contract renegotiation to free up short term cap room. It happens all the time, all across the league, so when an announcement like that is made, the automatic assumption is that this is what has happened. It's hard to see why those players would accept a pay-cut, and as Jimmy says, I don't see what else would do the trick. Some fiddling about with the wording of bonus clauses to make them NLTBE, perhaps? That wouldn't help the players, but it wouldn't hurt them either.

36 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re: 21

Yikes! Branch costs $6.76M against the cap this year?! I still like the trade, but didn't recall the numbers on the contract they gave him. If he'd stayed healthy, he might have earned it, but yeesh . . .

Ben, that rundown of Seattle's WR corps was a bucket of cold water. I know they've got a couple of young guys on the roster that they like, but right now the opening day starters would be Engram and "Wrong Way" Burleson. Probably Obomanu in the slot. Not a lot there to inspire a great deal of confidence at WR.

37 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Further fuel for the Tatupu/Peterson/Briggs debate:

Lofa Tatupu: 25 years old, likely to improve
Lance Briggs: 27 years old, likely as good as he's going to get
Julian Peterson: 29 years old, likely to decline

38 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#35, Shush

I think I see what you mean. If NLTBE incentives were removed from a contract that may have effect of stopping the money that would have been carried from this year's cap to the next from moving. The problem with creating space that way would be that the money created this year would become unavailable in its entirety next year, rather than being spread out over (up to) five years.

OK, that could clearly scan better but I think it is what I mean.

39 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


I'd agree that the team needs pass rush, and if a good OLB is there at 29, they can wait on tacking an OT. This a very good crop of OTs, though, and taking one would be consistent with the team's BPA philosophy (I really like the Cherilus suggestion someone else had).

I'll stick with my point that tackle is still more likely than guard at 29. McCloughan isn't big on taking guards in the first round, and if a tackle doesn't quite pan out, you can always try him at guard. Did I mention this is a good crop of tackles?

I also noticed how "Jim Hostler" has now become "Jeff Hostler." He was so bad that he had to change his name....

40 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Tatupu is not likely to improve. He's maxed his skill set. Still a great player, but just because he's 25 doesn't mean he's likely to improve.

41 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Why wouldn't the Seahawks resign Darrell Jackson? Would he not go back to the team or what?

42 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#38 - I think we're both talking about the same idea.

My thought was that it may in some cases be possible to take a bonus clause which is currently LTBE and re-word it so that it becomes NLTBE without actually changing the real-world conditions which would fulfil it. This would, as you rightly say, move all the money in question back one season. And yes, this does strike me as probably less desirable for the team than simply pro-rating the hit on some base salary or similar. But I think it's probably possible, if for some reason a team wanted to do it.

43 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Re: 41

There's some bad blood between D-Jack and the Seahawks' FO.

If memory serves, Jackson put up an 1199-yard season ('04?), leaving him just shy of an incentive bonus. Jackson seemed to believe that Whitsitt (previous pres.) indicated he'd get his $$$, but nothing was committed to paper. Whitsitt was fired, and Ruskell saw no reason to honor promises which may or may not have been made and weren't in a contract.

During the Super Bowl season, Jackson missed most of the season for an injury of questionable (from the team's perspective) severity. I don't recall specifics, but during the following off-season I recall Jackson generally making his unhappiness known. In my mind, Jackson's attitude precipitated the early-season trade for Deion Branch.

Despite the seemingly obvious fit, I'd be surprised to see Jackson in a Seahawks uniform again.

44 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

so let me get this straight...

falling in love with DRC's workout numbers=bad.

falling in love with vernon gholston's workout numbers=good


you can't have it both ways.

45 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


maxing out your skillset isn't the only way a player can get better, especially one whose biggest job is to recognize opposing schemes, etc.

46 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

re 44)falling in love with DRC’s workout numbers=bad.

falling in love with vernon gholston’s workout numbers=good


you can’t have it both ways.

I've heard some lately say that combine numbers are more indicative of success at certain positions, and less at others. I personally don't know any truth in that, but if you believe it then yes, you can have it both ways.

47 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

#22 Taputu is a very good player, but he falls just below the elite level. Has Taputu ever been voted All Pro?

Lofa won his first of what should be many first team all-pro awards this year. He is an absolute stud. Additionally, if I'm not mistaken, he is considered one of the most cerebral linebackers in football.

As a biased Seahawks fan I am somewhat concerned that the defensive headset may help level the playing field for many of the other linebackers who may be more physically gifted but less mentally prepared. It will be interesting to see how that change will affect the NFL next season.

48 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

so let me get this straight…

falling in love with DRC’s workout numbers=bad.

falling in love with vernon gholston’s workout numbers=good

What about the 14 sacks Gholston had last year? It's not ok to fall in love with those?

49 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Blind side pass-rusher is the position, more than any other in the NFL except maybe KR, where a truly dominant athlete (of the right kind) is likely to succeed even if their "skills" are limited. Guys with Gholston's physical tools are incredibly rare (significantly more so than guys with DRC's) and the last two to enter the league are DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman. Couple that with Gholston's outstanding college production against good competition (including a dominant performance against the draft's top OT) and you have a very, very exciting prospect. I really think he ought to go #1 - certainly if the Dolphins decide to run a 3-4.

50 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

“Alex Barron and Richie Incognito are liabilities on the offensive line”

What exactly do you mean by “liabilities”? Barron has struggled with false starts, but he’s an average tackle. Average is much better than being a liability. I have to disagree with you there.

What’s your beef with Incognito? His attitude? His injury history?

:: SoulardX — 4/3/2008 @ 9:27 pm

Barron is a mediocre pass-blocker, like Kwame Harris of the 49ers. Which is why Harris was benched and is now a Raider. However, unlike Harris who could really be a nasty run-blocker, Barron doesn't have the attitude necesseary to be a solid run blocker so he's marginal, at best, in that area. Over-all he's one of the worst tackles in the NFL, doing nothing well.

The only saving grace since he was drafted lower in round 1, he's not as big as bust as D'Brickshaw Ferguson who, to date, has shown he's not any better than Robert Gallery or Alex Barron at OT. Gallery, while a bust at OT, has shown himself to be a good at OG.

51 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

So, trying to take a big picture look at the NFC West...

The 49ers may have made a very big mistake hiring Mike Martz. They have what looks to be a bust at QB, with a fairly questionable offensive line, and a nothing-to-write-home-about receiving corps. They do have a great tailback, but Martz hates to run the ball. And you have the Nolen v. Smith clash. Plus Nolen is very much on the hot seat. Oh, and the defense was one of the worst in the league last year.

The Cardinals aren't terrible, but aren't very good. Larry Fitzgerald's absurd contract crippled them in free agency, likely ended their long-term ability to keep Boldin, and may very well cause a lot of turmoil in the locker room. And the big free agent signing of a couple of years ago, Edge James, looks to be about to hit a big downslide and a replacement is likely to be drafted. The defense was bad last year, and with missing out on signing Chillar, and re-signing Dansby isn't a given just yet.

The Rams aren't all that bad, but nothing special. Bulger is a good QB, and Jackson is one of the best tailbacks in the league. However, the offensive line needs some big upgrades -- and probably a completely overhaul if the injuries to Pace continue -- and the receiving corps, outside of Holt, looks terrible. The defense had yet another terrible year in 2007, and improvement doesn't seem to be a given at this point.

The Seahawks, on the other hand, look pretty good. Shaun Alexander is done, and they'll get more production out of whoever they sign as a replacement. The signing of Branch was a terrible idea, but the passing game will be pretty solid with Hasselbeck. And that defense is starting to look like one of the better units in the league, and improvement is a given at this point.

Putting it all together, it seems the NFC West is going to continue to be terrible overall, with the Seahawks being the best team year-in and year-out if but for nothing more than on the basis that they are the only semi-competent team in the league. When Mora takes over this team in 2009, it looks like he'll have to run that team in the ground to keep it from consistently being the best the NFC West has to offer.

52 Re: Four Downs: NFC West


It is hard to disagree with your overall conclusion - ie that Seattle look to be the ongoing class of a weak division. I don't understand how Martz's hiring is a big mistake. Last year the Niners coaching on offense was truly excreble, game plans a seven year old would have come up with (and I am not talking about the bright kid who reads three years above his age, I mean the kid who is always sucking his thumb, has constant streams of bogeys running down his top lip and has to sit near the front of the class so the teacher can make sure he doesn't cut himself on his safety paper) combined with poor execution and zero in-game adjustment. Bringing in any coach to sort out that mess would be an automatic improvement, bringing in a guy like Martz who has a very strong track record is surely a good move.

I assume that you dislike his tendency to throw too often and get his QB nailed. I doubt that he will be so pass happy in SF as he was in Detroit and his later years in St Louis, as you point out the best player on the team is Frank Gore and the offensive line is built for drive blocking. It is also probably worth remembering that in St Louis the O-lines got badly injured his last two years and Detroit have had poor line play as a franchise signiture for years. Also both teams had terrible defenses which meant the offense had to play catch up whilst playing behind the same crappy offensive lines just described.

I could write you an essay detailing examples of terrible offensive coaching by the Niners last year, a Niners fan would write you a book. Hiring Martz will probably have a bigger impact in terms of improving his team than any other move this offseason.

53 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Tha’ Fanbase Canna’ Take Much More o’ This, Scotty!

Exactly who is talking to Scotty in this Scottish brogue? Maybe Scotty is talking to himself this way?

Here’s all you really need to know about the bizarre 49ers/Bears Lance Briggs-contract tampering scandal....

That is absolutely NOT all you need to know. In fact, this is a shallow assessment. Here's what the NFL front office itself says (when it speaks off the record):

“It was bound to happen - some team was going to end up as the poster boy for these rules violations,” a high-ranking NFL executive said Monday during the league meetings, speaking on condition of anonymity. “And it had to be a fairly irrelevant team that wouldn’t fight it.”

Very disappointing article from someone who apparently doesn't know the NFC West that well.

54 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Also, of course, doesn't know Star Trek that well.

55 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

re 53: So the niners are irrelevant....sooo harsh. So true.

56 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Yeah, no kidding. Ouch.

But then according to Riley all you need to know is that the 9ers are screwups. Man, that is some lazy reporting.

So, when the NFL strings you up as an example because you're too insignificant to fight, what are you supposed to say back to the NFL?

57 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Hmm. There are 64 starting offensive tackles in the league. Half of those are about average. Of those 32, nearly 10% were taken in last year's draft (the aforementioned Joe Staley plus Joe Thomas and Tony Ugoh).

Is that about the average replacement rate for a single draft class, or was this just a great draft for linemen?

58 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Ugh, that last comment should have been "Half of them are *above* average."

59 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

Well, I doubt the average shelf-life of an above average offensive tackle is as long as ten years, so you'd expect at least three in a typical draft. 2006, for example, can boast Marcus McNeill, Jeremy Trueblood, Eric Winston and Jeromey Clary. 2005 has Jammal Brown, Khalif Barnes, Adam Terry and David Stewart. What is unusual is to see three players playing at that level as rookies - and to see any player at all as good as Joe Thomas. I think it's fair to say that was a good draft for offensive tackles, especially as it's likely that some more will emerge as good starters over the next few years.

60 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I don't understand the point about Seattle GM Tim Ruskell's "fetish for defensive players from the SEC." They have exactly one defensive starter from the SEC: safety Deon Grant. Their other ten defensive starters: Patrick Kerney (ACC), Darryl Tapp (ACC), Brandon Mebane (Pac 10), Rocky Bernard (Big 12), Lofa Tatupu (Pac 10), Leroy Hill (ACC), Julian Peterson (Big 10), Marcus Trufant (Pac 10), Kelly Jennings (ACC), Brian Russell (Mountain West). Other key defensive players/recent draftees: Josh Wilson (ACC), Baraka Atkins (ACC), Marcus Tubbs (Big 12), Craig Terrill (Big 10). What am I missing here?

61 Re: Four Downs: NFC West

I don’t understand the point about Seattle GM Tim Ruskell’s “fetish for defensive players from the SEC.”

Simple mate, when you don't know jack, you make it up. This was one of the dumber articles on FO and shows a (typical) lack of understanding the teams the author was writing about.

Frankly, rooting for an NFC West team, I can see ALL the blurbs are garbage. Like this:

The fact that the San Francisco 49ers signed Bruce to be their primary wide receiver is clearly insane, but the Rams will miss his sure hands and locker room leadership.

Who said the 49ers signed Bruce to be the #1? With their idiotic Offensive Coordinator fired, Lelie and Johnson, both deep-ball guys with speed and an ability to change the game are the candidates for that honor.