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26 Feb 2008

Four Downs: NFC West

by Ben Riley

Arizona Cardinals

Hello Escalator, Will You Give Me Back My Dime?

Did the Arizona Cardinals finally turn the corner last year? Here are three reasons to think the answer is yes:

  • Head coach Ken Whisenhunt led his team to a surprising 8-8 record and instilled in the Cards a toughness and discipline that the team has lacked since, well, forever. Whisenhunt also brought offensive line coach Russ Grimm with him from the Steelers, a big reason why the Cardinals jumped from 23rd to 8th in Adjusted Line Yards last year.
  • Despite suffering a rash of injuries, the defense did enough to keep the Cardinals in the playoff hunt all season. In particular, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett made his first Pro Bowl and former Eagles cornerback Roderick Hood quietly had an outstanding season. Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast remains one of the more innovative minds in football. You'd hear a lot more about him if he had a little more talent surrounding him (and if he didn't coach in Arizona).
  • They still play in the NFC West.

Nonetheless, here are three reasons to remain skeptical:

  • Who is the quarterback? Matt Leinart seems to prefer watching "E!" to ESPN, and he demonstrated an unbecoming selfishness after he was benched because Kurt Warner outplayed him. At the same time, it's hard to imagine the Cardinals are serious about going into battle in 2008 with the aging, injury-prone Warner at the helm. Leinart's been renamed the starter, but should he falter early, Whisenhunt may be tempted to try his quarterback-by-rotation scheme all over again. We all know what that means: more sideline shots of Brenda Warner. Shudder.
  • The Cardinals are ostensibly $30 million under the cap, but that's before factoring in the $17 million devoted to disgruntled wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald this year, due to a series of escalators in his contract that essentially guarantee him $32 million over the next two years. Add to this the $8 million they'll need to pay newly franchised linebacker Karlos Dansby, and the fact that the Cardinals have less than 35 players under contract, and all of sudden this team looks dangerously close to entering Redskins-like cap hell. The team is desperately trying to renegotiate Fitzgerald's contract to clear up cap space, but if they can't reach an agreement, the front office will have virtually nothing to spend in free agency. For a team that wants to make its run now, that's not good.
  • They are still the Arizona Cardinals.

Who Could Leave?

The Cardinals have already cut safety Terrence Holt, offensive tackle Oliver Ross, and defensive end Chris Cooper to clear up cap room. The $6.5 million saved helps a little, but remember that some of that money will have to be spent on replacement players for the guys who just got cut, so it doesn't solve the problem by any means. As a result, outside linebacker Calvin Pace -- who wants somewhere in the neighborhood of $15 million in guaranteed money -- is unlikely to stick around, even though the Cardinals' coaching staff would love to keep him.

Whom Should They Sign?

(A misleading $30 million in cap room, a mere 34 players under contract)

Alan Faneca would be a perfect fit for this team, having played for Grimm and Whisenhunt for most of his career, but it's hard to imagine the Cards will have the money to pay for him. By the same logic, they could also target Steelers left tackle Max Starks. For some unknown reason, Pittsburgh slapped the transition tag on Starks, which means the Cardinals will have to write some weird poison pill into any offer they make to him. ("This contract shall become fully guaranteed if you are forced to play for a team with mascot based on the lead singer of the Village People...")

St. Louis Rams

Logic Isn't the Answer, for a Number of Reasons

It takes a particular level of incompetence (and, to be fair, a horrific slate of injuries) to finish 3-13 in a division as weak as the NFC "Don't Call Us Double-A" West, and yet Scott Linehan is still the head coach of the Rams -- for at least one more year, anyway. Linehan knows that this is a make-or-break season for him, so he has spent this off-season revamping his entire offensive coaching staff. In addition to hiring Al Saunders -- along with the 1,400-page playbook that comes chained to his leg -- as their new offensive coordinator, the Rams also have a new running backs coach (Art Valero), a new offensive line coach (Steve Loney), and a new quarterbacks coach (Terry Shea). Also, a bunch of other coaches have been shuffled around internally.

Many people are starting to wonder if Saunders' reputation as an "offensive genius" is largely due to Kansas City's awesome offensive line in the late 1990s. We'll find out this year, because the Rams' offensive line is a joke. The team does have talent at the skill positions, but they may regret signing Marc Bulger to a long-term deal -- and they may really, really regret Linehan's inexcusable decision to keep playing Bulger after he suffered a rash of injuries midseason.

The team's long-term success will hinge more upon the hiring of Billy Devaney as the new executive vice-president of football personnel. Rams general manager Jay Zygmunt has spent most of the 21st century burning first-round picks on busts like running back Trung Candidate (2001), defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (2003), and offensive tackle Alex Barron (2005), making Zyggy somewhat of a leper messiah among Rams fans. Everyone agrees that Devaney is a savvy talent evaluator who will bring much needed expertise to the front office, even if he was responsible for shipping Matt Schaub to the Texans a few weeks before the world learned about Michael Vick's penchant for canine rape stands.

This is going to be tough year for the rebuilding Rams. The offensive line is in shambles, their quarterback is injury-prone, and the defense appears to be transitioning from a 4-3 to a new 3-and-some-random-guys-wandering-around sort of scheme. Add to this the fact that they are somewhat strapped for cash (ranking 26th in unofficial cap room), and it's clear that there will be some tension between those who will want to build methodically for the future (Devaney) and those who will need to win in 2008 if they want to keep their job (Linehan).

Who Could Leave?

Veteran tackle Todd Steussie did his best plugging in for the approximately 4,268 injuries the Rams offensive line suffered last year, but he's too old to be much use anymore, and the same is true for 37-year-old center Andy McCollum, who should retire. McCollum's backup, Brett Romberg, is also an unrestricted free agent, though he's unlikely to attract much attention. Outside linebacker Brandon Chillar -- the first person of East Indian descent to ever play pro football -- is an unrestricted free agent who the Rams would be wise to resign (but probably won't).

The Rams also face looming problems at wide receiver. Isaac Bruce managed to put up decent numbers last year, but he'll turn 36 in November, and he's under contract for $5.3 million this season. It seems likely that Bruce, a locker room leader, will be willing to renegotiate his contract, but if not, the front office may be forced to cut him. Little-used Marques Hagan may also be let go to free up roster space for a wideout in the draft.

Whom Should They Sign?

(Approximately $7 million under the cap, 45 players under contract)

Like about half the teams in the NFL, the Rams will think about participating in the Overpaying for Alan Faneca Sweepstakes during free agency. Apart from the opportunity to play alongside Orlando Pace (who should be recovered fully from the season-ending triceps tear he suffered in Week 1), it's unclear why Faneca would want to join the Rams, particularly given that their cap situation will preclude them from winning a bidding war for his services outright.

The Rams are going to need linebackers and lots of 'em if they transition to a 3-4 scheme, particularly if Chillar departs for greener pastures. The Rams have nowhere near enough money to go after soon-to-be-ex Bears linebacker Lance Briggs, but former Broncos linebacker Al Wilson might be in their price range.

San Francisco 49ers

Nolan, Nolan, Nolan / Keep Them Niners Rollin' / Rawhide!

If the past twelve months of presidential campaigning has taught us anything, it's that 1) Dennis Kucinich has a surprisingly hot wife, and 2) success is a relative measure that depends as much upon expectations as it does actual performance. No one understands this principle more than 49ers head coach Mike Nolan. After finishing 7-9 in 2006, the Niners became everyone's "sleeper" pick to win the NFC West last year, and "everyone" includes us. (Whoops.)

Instead, the team stumbled through an ugly 5-11 season that reached its nadir in mid-November, when Nolan publicly questioned the confidence and ability of injured "franchise" quarterback Alex Smith. "You can look at it two ways and say 'Yea!' or 'My God!'" said Nolan regarding Smith's season to that point. Between the Nolan-Smith infighting and Denise York's apparently sincere desire to move the team stadium to Santa Clara (Spanish for "San Jose"), suffice to say most Niners fans are firmly in the "My God!" camp regarding their team and its future.

Much like the Rams, however, the Yorks inexplicably refused to fire their head coach and instead hope that shaking up the coaching staff and front office will solve their problems. The big news was the hiring of Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. At this point, there's not much that anyone can say about Martz that hasn't been said a thousand times before: The man really loves to pass the ball. Given that the Niners leading receiver last year was Darrell Jackson (-9.5 DPAR, -28.4% DVOA), however, Martz will need to get as-yet underwhelming tight end Vernon Davis more involved in the offense, and don't be surprised to see Frank Gore spread out wide as well. Of course, none of this changes the fact that it will be Alex Smith or Shaun Hill throwing the football.

The other major change is the promotion of Scot McCloughan from vice president of personnel to GM. It's not entirely clear whether McCloughan or Nolan bears responsibility for the Alex Smith fiasco, but McCloughan is now firmly in control of shaping the 49ers roster. Even after overpaying for Nate Clements last year, the 49ers still have a ton of room under the cap, and McCloughan has vowed that the Niners will be "involved" in free agency.

Who (Else) Could Leave?

The 49ers have already lost three outstanding veterans. Eleven-time Pro Bowl guard Larry Allen retired in January, as did 14-year veteran defensive end Bryant Young, and the emergence of outstanding rookie linebacker Patrick Willis led to the release of 12-year veteran 'backer Derek Smith (who signed with San Diego). Quarterback Trent Dilfer looked shocked last year that he actually had to play football, so don't expect him back in red and gold.

The 49ers would like to resign defensive end Marques Douglas but are not prepared to overpay for him, which means he's likely gone. McLoughlan is also said to loathe paying big money for guards, so Justin Smiley will undoubtedly hit the market.

Whom Should They Sign?

(Approximately $30 million under the cap, 48 players under contract)

The 49ers aren't happy with former Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, and they have a ton of money to spend in free agency, so under normal circumstances one might assume the Niners would be targeting Northern California native and soon-to-be unrestricted free agent Lance Briggs. According to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports, however, the NFL is investigating charges by the Bears that the 49ers tampered with Briggs by holding contract talks with his agent during the season. The 49ers deny that they did anything improper, but the NFL investigation may open the door for other teams to make a run at Briggs, although the 49ers are still considered the front runner for his services. The 49ers are also high on Bengals defensive end Justin Smith and are targeting him in free agency (and have been accused of tampering with his contract too).

With Mike Martz as offensive coordinator and the flotsam and jetsam that currently serves at the 49ers wide receiving corps, Bernard Berrian is another player the Niners might poach from Chicago. And no Four Downs is complete without the obligatory mention of Seattle wide receiver D.J. Hackett, although after the disastrous Darrell Jackson acquisition the Niners may be leery of adding yet another oft-injured Seahawks receiver to their roster.

Late-breaking note: ESPN's John Clayton reports that the 49ers are going to sign running back DeShaun "DePAR Hate Me" Foster, for unknown reasons.

Seattle Seahawks

In the Midnight Hour/They Cry Mora, Mora, Mora

For the past several seasons, the public perception of the Seattle Seahawks has largely been defined by head coach Mike Holmgren and his high-octane (you may substitute "latte-fueled" if you still find Seattle-based coffee references amusing) West Coast offense, but all that is about to change. In January, after leading the Seahawks to their fourth straight division title, Holmgren announced that 2008 will be his last year with the organization, and Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell wasted little time in publicly announcing what everyone suspected already -- namely, that Seahawks secondary coach Jim "Not Junior" Mora will take over in 2009.

Leaving aside whether it's ever a good idea to have a lame duck head coach, and ignoring the very open question of whether Mora really deserves another head coaching gig, the reality is that Holmgren is no longer a good fit for the evolving Seahawks. Last year, Seattle continued its steady improvement on defense (-5.4% DVOA, 11th overall in 2007; 2.6%, 20th overall in 2006) and the front seven appears poised to become one of the NFL's elite units. Obviously, the comparisons of Patrick Kerney (60 tackles, 14.5 sacks) to now-retired Grant Wistrom were a little misplaced.

The offense, in contrast, managed to bounce back to a DVOA ranking of 14th after tallying an abysmal 27th-ranked performance in 2006, but don't be fooled; unlike the injury-ravaged 2006 season, the Seahawks were relatively healthy last year, so the "improvement" in DVOA simply reflects that, when healthy, the Seahawks offense is capable of mediocre football. And part of that mediocrity resulted from Holmgren's inexplicable refusal to bench Shaun Alexander last year.

Alexander is the poster child for the Curse of 370, but it is one thing for your skills to decline with age (understandable and inevitable) and quite another to become the laughingstock of the NFL because of your all-too-apparent fear of taking a hit (unacceptable and embarrassing). This is not the first time Holmgren has shown stubborn loyalty to an over-the-hill veteran –- Alexander himself had to wait until Holmgren finished running Ricky Watters into the ground before he got his chance to start –- but it may be the first time he's done so for a player with so little influence in the locker room. In any event, Alexander claims that he won't restructure his contract, which if true all but guarantees that he won't play for the Seahawks this year (although he'll still count for $2.3 million against this year's cap and $4.6 million in 2009.)

Who Will Stay?

The Seahawks have already partially answered this question by re-signing right tackle Sean Locklear ($12 million in guaranteed money) and franchising cornerback Marcus Trufant, who had a career year. Locklear is an underrated lineman and both sides seem happy with his deal, but "Tru" poses a bit of problem for the front office. Trufant would like a long-term contract, but he wants Nate Clements-like money. This is a problem, because Trufant doesn't deserve Nate Clements-like money (neither does Nate Clements, for that matter). Perhaps for this reason, rumors are swirling that Trufant may be traded to the New York Giants.

Believe it or not, the Seahawks also rushed to resign backup offensive lineman Floyd "Ham Hock" Womack (we've stripped him of his cool "Pork Chop" nickname due to his frequent injuries). This move freed up significant cap space, for reasons that defy easy explanation. Think of it as the football equivalent of Theo Ratliff's Expiring Contract.

That leaves wide receiver D.J. Hackett and kicker Josh Brown as the two players most likely to leave Seattle via free agency. Football Outsiders have been vocal supporters of Hackett throughout his career, but it's hard to stay too excited about a receiver made out of balsa wood. Hackett's agent stated earlier this week that he intends to "test the market," so don't expect him back in blue and teal. As for Brown, well, Seattle ranked 19th in field goal/extra point DVOA last year, yet Brown wants to be among the highest paid kickers in the league. Is he worth $2.5 million? Probably not, and kickers come cheap in the late rounds of the draft (think "Gostkowski") -- or, even better, in free agency (think "Bironas").

Whom Should They Sign?

(Somewhere between $9.5 and $17 million in cap room, 44 players under contract)

Seahawks fans still haven't fully forgiven Ruskell for losing Steve Hutchinson to free agency two years ago, so the Seattle GM wasted little time in signing former Panthers guard Mike Wahle to a long-term contract in January. Wahle is a two-time Pro Bowler, and while he won't make anyone forget Hutchinson, he should significantly upgrade the line by allowing Rob Sims to slide over to right guard and gently nudging Chris "Old Man" Gray into retirement.

The Seahawks are definitely interested in Alge Crumpler, who would give Holmgren something that he's always wanted: a big tight end with good hands who isn't an alleged rapist. Yes, Crumpler is aging and banged up, but remember that the Seahawks just went an entire season with 35-year old Marcus Pollard at their starter, so they aren't afraid of aging tight ends per se. Crumpler played under Mora and Ruskell in Atlanta, so they know his skill-set, although the character-obsessed Ruskell might have some questions regarding the "MV-7" eye black patches Crumpler sported in apparent support of Michael Vick at the end of last season. If Crumpler lands in Tennessee or Tampa Bay instead, the Hawks might take a look at Eric Johnson, Ben Troupe or Michael Gaines -- yawn -- but drafting a tight end in the second or third round is a better option.

*All projected cap numbers courtesy of www.askthecommish.com. These numbers are "ballpark" and are subject to change and the whims of Larry Fitzgerald. The intention is to give an approximate idea of each team's available resources before free agency and the draft begin.

Posted by: Ben Riley on 26 Feb 2008

46 comments, Last at 03 Mar 2008, 3:17pm by Quentin


by Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:13pm

The Seahawks are definitely interested in Alge Crumpler, who would give Holmgren something that he’s always wanted: a big tight end with good hands who isn’t an alleged rapist.

I feel terrible for laughing as hard as I did.

by citizen jason (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:16pm

Love the heading titles, as well as the * reference at the bottom.

To answer the question on the front page, I don't see any of these teams being good enough to knock off the Seahawks yet. Barring injuries, I think Seattle's defense will be good again, and--with Wahle, a new running back, and a TE capable of catching a pass in the playoffs--there offense should be able to at least remain mediocre, which will enough, I think. Not that thats' sayin ga lot.

I also don't think the Holmgren lame duck thing is a big deal. I think something like that varies from team-to-team. With a more veteran team, I don't see it as being as big of a deal--I'd guess some of the players actually like knowing who it will be instead of dealing with all that uncertainty next year.

by JerseyChris (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:25pm

Fred Thompson's wife > Dennis Kucinich's wife

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:33pm

#3 - by far. Ms. Kucinich is kind of creepy, albeit, still attractive. Ms. Thompson is the total package...nevertheless, I can't understand why either one of them is with either of their husbands, unless Dennis is hung like a racehorse.

The Deshaun Foster SF signing doesn't make much sense to me, unless Nolan is going to try and run Gore into the ground next season.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:39pm

Is it really fair to say Alexander is afraid to take a hit? I haven't seen too many Seattle games, but it seemed to me that he was running the same way he always has, except slower. He never was a bruiser to begin with, but where he was once able to sidestep and then accelerate for an extra two yards, now he gets drilled mid-stride.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:53pm

Can I lead the chorus of the Cardinals for Sleeper team for the sixth year in a row?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:54pm

Brenda Warner > Bubby Brister's mother

by R. Magill (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 3:57pm

Wasn't Mark Chmura, another Holmgren TE, accused of rape as well?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:03pm

1. "Ham Hocks" was John Hannah's nickname at Alabama. I refuse to see it applied to someone of Womack's ability.

2. Didn't Algernon's brother also play tight end for the Seahawks? Just a random tidbit that really means nothing, unless Carlester wants to sell him on the city of Seattle.

3. And if I'd read the entire article before posting, I could have got all this into one post. Oh well.

by Charger Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:29pm

Between the Nolan-Smith infighting and Denise York’s apparently sincere desire to move the team stadium to Santa Clara (Spanish for “San Jose”) ...

best line on this site this year so far.

by Nathan (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:43pm

As the person probably most flagged for discussing politics against the rules, I will refrain from discussing the line.

If you want us to stay out of politics, then do so yourselves. I've never seen a website so forceful about not talking about politics, and that brings it up so often.

Seriously. Stop it.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:46pm

#11 - Nobody's discussing politics - we're ogling politicians' wives! This is no more a political discussion than a debate over the merits John Jackson vs. his bitter rival, Jack Johnson.

by chip (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:51pm

Terry Shea is still in the league? He's been fired 3 times in the last 4 yrs. Prior to the NFL, he posted an 11-44 record at Rutgers and was Big East COY with a 5-6 record. How do these guys keep landing on their feet?

by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:52pm

Also, no discussion of political wives is complete without referencing Carla Bruni.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 4:56pm

a) I best loved the "DPAR Hate Me" line, in a pretty well delivered humorous article overall. Well done, Ben.
b) Don't be so hard on the Rams, Ben. Although a lot of it must have been hard to resist. But the "some random guy wandering around scheme," etc., was funny, but come on, after a while it was kind of piling on. Is Alex Barron a bust? I don't think so. I think he gets a lot of false starts and then otherwise is as good a blocker as any young tackle except for Jammal Brown, as good as Marcus McNeil even, and probably will eventually, 4 to 6 years from now, at least reach the tier below the Orlando Pace/Walter Jones level, at his pinnacle. But that's getting ahead of myself. Right now, he's just pretty good.
c) Just to add to b), or to make its ultimate point, the 3-13 Rams are part of the reason the NFC West is so bad, so it's kind of double-jeopardy to criticize them for not just going 3-13, but doing it in the NFC West.
d) I think/thought the battle for the NFC West title next year would turn out to be pretty competitive, relatively, and I'm not yet quite convinced otherwise, but this article definitely did have the affect of making it feel like nearly a foregone conclusion that Seattle will win it again. Of course we haven't even reached free agency yet.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 5:02pm

As a Seahawks fan I kind of wonder what the running performance of Weaver and Morris were when draw plays are factored out and how that compares with Shaun. The offensive line particularly because fo Sims and Gray was completely ineffective at run blocking for basically every game not against the Ravens (which just completely defies any explaination). It seems like if I had a dollar for every time I saw Sims just tossed on his ass I'd be Paul Allen.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 5:25pm

Was Clements really overpaid? I watched all the niners' games last year and thought that he played really well considering that the pass rush was abysmal. No corner in the game could have maintained blanket coverage for the lengths of time he was asked too. That had a lot to do with the decline of Harris as well, Walt was basically the same corner, he was just being asked to do too much.

Clements never got an $80 million deal anyway, the deal is really a six year - $53 million contract (less than $8m a year). That's pretty fair money to me, as he's still a great corner. It would be worth it because he managed to slow down Fitzgerald, the niners hadn't come close to managing that before Clements.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 5:38pm

Re: 15

I was sorta surprised to see the Barron as bust reference myself. Going further I thought the whole poor drafting point was weakly supported (Candidate was very late in the first round). If the Rams do try to go 3-4 next year, it's going to be tough for them to show a lot of improvement.

Separately Seatle still solidly looks like the best of this division. The Cards could threaten, but they will have to do something about Fitgerald to get better. They would be better off cutting him than paying him under his current contract. Not sure why they didn't take care of this last year when they had more leverage (injury risk). San Fran's Martz might turn Hill into the next Bulger, but with those receivers it could also get really ugly.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 5:41pm

Re: 16

I was really surprised that Sims was starting for the Seahawks. This is a guy the Browns let go when their OL was still a disaster. Did he get a lot better or was Seattle just that desparate?

by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 5:49pm

18- I think you've got the wrong Sims. Rob Sims is a 2nd year player that was drafted by the Hawks in the 4th round of the 2006 draft.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 6:06pm

#12, With his laid-back, Hawaiian-influenced rhythms, I'm surprised Jack Johnson has a bitter rival.

by Matt (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 6:09pm

I disagree with evaluation of Davis of San Francisco. The guy has no receivers around him, no quarterbacking and was only in his second year and was still nearly able to post a positive DVOA. Given the circumstances that's really not too bad. However, the historic underuse of tight ends in the Mike Martz offense isn't a positive sign.

by mawbrew (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 6:11pm

Re: 19

No, I had the wrong Rob. It was Rob Smith that was on Cleveland's practice squad. Ooops.

by Cyrus (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 7:18pm

Very interesting article about Stevens. I was horrified halfway through reading it, but then it just kept continuing on and on.

If I end up near a college campus after law school, I am very tempted to figure out a way to donate legal services to girls who have been assaulted. I just can't believe the sort of shenanigans that went on in that case.

by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 7:48pm

The 49ers evaluation is off the mark in a lot of ways. Larry Allen and Derek Smith are definitely NOT outstanding players in this league anymore; Larry Allen was actually part of the problem with the offensive line last year since he just can't pass protect anymore. He's going into the Hall of Fame when his turn comes, but he's washed up. Derek Smith hasn't been a decent linebacker since 2005. I don't want to waste my time nitpicking everything I'd like to but I'm surprised Clements' contract is considered overpayment by anybody with any cap knowledge. The 49ers had plenty of cap room last offseason, so they absorbed 10M upfront. The last year of the deal has already voided, so instead of the reported 80M/8, its 64M/7 right now. Clements' cap number is only 5-6 million for the next three years, and its only the last 2-3 years of that deal where the base salary becomes exorbitant, and of course, the contract will be restructured or he'll be released before that part of the contract ever kicks in. Not overpayment.

by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 8:26pm

..."which means the Cardinals will have to write some weird poison pill into any offer they make to him. (”This contract shall become fully guaranteed if you are forced to play for a team with mascot based on the lead singer of the Village People…”)"

Splendid. Viva Steely McBeam!

As for the Jerramy Stevens thing, I linked that in the NFC South thread, and as I said then, anyone who is tempted to sign him should be made to read that article in full.

And I'd like to see Miami go at Hackett, Douglas and Calvin Pace.

by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 8:27pm

..."which means the Cardinals will have to write some weird poison pill into any offer they make to him. (”This contract shall become fully guaranteed if you are forced to play for a team with mascot based on the lead singer of the Village People…”)"

Splendid. Viva Steely McBeam!

As for the Jerramy Stevens thing, I linked that in the NFC South thread, and as I said then, anyone who is tempted to sign him should be made to read that article in full.

And I'd like to see Miami go at Hackett, Douglas and Calvin Pace.

by Ben Riley :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 9:55pm

#24 I should have been clearer: Larry Allen and Derek Smith were outstanding players who are now past their prime, though San Diego seems to think that Smith still has something in the tank. As for Nate Clements, I wholeheartedly agree that far too often the media focuses on the nominal value of a contract instead of the real numbers, but in Clements' case, I think even the underlying guaranteed money was too high. The Niners had cap room last year but that doesn't mean they had to blow it on a cornerback who is way too vulnerable to double moves.

#15 First, thanks for the props. Second, I've been watching a lot of Alex Barron on tape lately and -- shameless plug alert -- it's possible that I'll have more to say on this subject in PFP 2008.

Thanks to everyone else for reading and commenting.

by Insancipitory (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 10:26pm

18, different Sims, same result. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Seahawks a couple years ago, and Hutch left for New Bethlehem to welcome Purple Jesus. Honestly, the guy is big, seems strong, appears to practice well, then in the game... well, it's not pretty.

by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Tue, 02/26/2008 - 10:59pm

Re 28: You'd be vulnerable to double moves if your pass rush routinely took 4 or 5 seconds to reach the qb.

A db behind a terrible pass rush is akin to a rb behind a terrible offensive line.

by justanothersteve (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:00am

15/18 - Alex Barron probably wouldn't be considered a bust if he had been picked in the third round. Then he'd be ok with what he is - a somewhat better than average OT. But you expect a bit more when you're picked about midway in the first round. If the king of false starts learns to remember the snap count for entire games at a time, he probably won't be considered a bust. He's a better blocker than most people think.

by Independent George (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 10:16am

If the king of false starts learns to remember the snap count for entire games at a time, he probably won’t be considered a bust.

What does Luke Petigout have to do with the NFC West?

by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 11:01am

Too much fun not to share it.

Rereading Peter King's Draft Report :

Some correct :
[...]to get Alexander at 19 -- he'll be a better pro than Ron Dayne -- [...]

And some less :
I will say this: Peter Warrick will be the offensive rookie of the year or my name is Giovanni Carmazzi.

Easy fun but I always read the Giovanni Carmazzi's column.

by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 11:04am

I'm an idiot but I don't understand the reference to a QB drafted in the third round this year. Can someone explain please ?

by LyleNM (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 1:30pm

How much of Josh Brown's 19th ranked FG/XP DVOA was due to Boone Stutz?

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 3:34pm

No worries, Ben, I don't consider myself any sort of authority on Alex Barron, or the Rams. I'm a Hawks fan and see them twice a year, and in years past there were usually at least one other game, if not more, during the year of theirs that would catch my interest, in prime time or whatnot, but I have not seen much of him. He seemed solid enough, about the assessment I made, but I will be buying PFP2008 no matter what, anyway, so I look forward to reading more about it.

On the Nate Clements subject, in a similar capacity I'm siding with Karl. And I did see 4 49ers games this year. Most all were early. But I thought Clements looked pretty good. Better than I thought. I know, it was a lot of money. So to separate two discussions -- did he live up to the contract, distinct from did he perform well -- to not allow the size of his contract to color the true value of his performance, I thought he turned out to be better than I was expecting. I'm a Seahawk fan, so I was probably unrealistically thinking he was overrated as a Bill and would be a disappointment. Now, that's not too far off from the general consensus, but watching him more than I had before, I think I was the one who was wrong.

by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 4:12pm

Re Alexander,

He is awful now. I live in Western Canada so I always get Seahawks games. Granted I now have Sunday Ticket so this is no longer an issue, but I go to Seattle 3-4 times a year to catch games live.

And Yes, he has regressed to the point that he can no longer be considered a starter in the NFL. I cant speak to his measurables (40 time, injuries etc..) but I can tell you his heart is absolutely 100% not in the game anymore.

Everytime I go to Seattle I am blown away by how much the fans HATE Alexander. Not even dislike, they fully hate him. And you know what, I dont blame them.

I was a RB in HS and college, so I tend to watch how they play closer than any other position. I have seen every seahawks game for the past 4 years, and there is only 1 game I can think of that Alexander ran hard. It was a monday nighter I believe against Chicago, and SA had just gotten back on the field after being injured for a few weeks. Holmgren gave him the ball 30-35 times if I remember correctly, and SA had 200 yards. That game he was awesome, he wouldnt let the Hawks lose, amazing performance. The thing is thats the only one I remember. Sure he has had some great statistical games, but they have never been games where SA absolutely staked a claim as the best player on the field.

Now Alexander is being paid like hes the best, but he is not producing at all. He literally dives out of the way to avoid being hit. He is a turnstile at best when blocking, and his hands are average at best.

Seahawks its time to cut the man. Jonathan Stewart or Felix Jones should be your focus. I personally though Justing Fargas would have made a great Seahawk, but the Raiders didnt let him escape.

Side Note - Hasselbeck is soooo under rated is ridiculous. I dont know if its akin to the air in the Rockies but recievers drop everything in Seattle. Im telling you that if he had more reliable recievers he would be a top 5 QB. Guy is deadly accurate, tough as nails and should get more credit for being a top notch QB.

by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 4:27pm

The game you're thinking of was against Green Bay, in the 2006 season. Late in the season, the game started in snow but finished in slush.

by dgriot (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 4:27pm

#4 - I believe the reasoning for signing Foster has to do with not wanting to resign Hicks and Michael Lewis (WR/KR).

Instead of Lewis and Hicks (who couldn't outshine Michael Robinson, a QB-to-RB project) doing returns, Rossum is the go-to KR/PR while Foster would serve as a better backup.

Of course, I think letting Thomas Clayton and M.Rob battle it out for 2nd string would be decent enough, but I guess the 49ers feel they need an experienced backup for a season or two.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 4:49pm

more sideline shots of Brenda Warner. Shudder.

Seriously you have to stoop to this level? How about if she read this, how would you feel?

by Benaroo (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 5:38pm


I think we should give FO the benefit of the doubt and assume they are objecting to the constant sideline shots of Brenda Warner as terrible Production values for a football game rather than insulting Ms. Warner. I too find it annoying when the camera leaves the field to find Ms. Warner in a booth. The thought of it makes me shudder because Production values are already so mediocre across the league. I don't want them getting worse.

by Big Hungry Joe (not verified) :: Wed, 02/27/2008 - 11:54pm

There was a scouting report on Barron when he was coming out in 2005 that sticks in my mind - "He'll play 10 years in this league, but you'll be mad at him every one of those days". Seems reasonably accurate, but I can't remember whose it was, to give them props.

by JoshuaPerry (not verified) :: Thu, 02/28/2008 - 5:48am

IMO, hot blonde vs hot red head with a pierced tongue is the most pertinent political discussion we can have

by mlc0808 (not verified) :: Thu, 02/28/2008 - 6:41am

Re #30: 'A db behind a terrible pass rush is akin to a rb behind a terrible offensive line.'

That is an excellent point that I have never heard put in that way before.

Good stuff.

Pass defense begins with the pass rush.

by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Thu, 02/28/2008 - 5:58pm

Re: #37, Ironically Shaun Alexander's number.

You obviously haven't been watching Alexander for long, or you've got the same selective memory that's been plauging fans around the PNW for the past 18 months.

As an Eagles fan who left Philly and circumlocuitously wound up in the PNW, I've found eerie similarities between the fans in the region as of late, and it kind of annoys me. Seattle-ites can't pull it off with the same pizzaz.

The game you're thinking of was against Green Bay, and if that's the only game where you think he carried the team to victory, you just don't know. Games against Arizona, Carolina, and New Orleans in 04, against Chicago in 03, against Atlanta and Kansas City in 02, against Oakland, Denver, and Jacksonville in 01. Those were all close games where Alexander took the team on his back and dragged it to victory despite the rest of the teams' having an off game those nights. That's not counting games where the entire team's clicking and Alexander has a monster day in a blowout, like essentially the entire 05 season.

It's clear that Alexander is no longer a great running back. You don't have to respect his game nowdays. But you do have respect what he did for the team in the past.

I never liked ungrateful, venemous fans when I lived in Philly. But it's even more irritating when it happens in Seattle, where it's not supposed to happen. At least in Philly you expect it.

by Quentin (not verified) :: Mon, 03/03/2008 - 3:17pm

Wow, I just stumbled onto Fitzgerald's cap number. Because of LTBE incentives in his contract, he now counts for an astronomical $16.5 million against the cap. No wonder they want to renegotiate.