How it is possible I am not sure, but there is still a bit of news circulating around regarding the NFL even though the league is in a lockout. Whether it is Kurt Warner telling the players to give in to the owners' demands or more quarterback talk, we are at a standstill. Free agency must happen before the season begins and most think it will, so there are also talks about where specific players could sign. Hit the jump to find out what is happening with our NFC West Rivals and possible plans they may have once the lockout is lifted. Here is your NFC West Roundup.
2011 Free Agency Primer: Defense - Field Gulls
The Seattle Seahawks looked towards solidifying their makeshift offensive lines in the earlier rounds of this year’s draft, so filling holes on the defensive end will have to come via free agency. Seattle could use some help across the board on defense and they have an owner in Paul Allen that may be willing to pay the price it takes to bring in some coveted players. The only unit that seems to be pretty solid, as explained by Danny Kelly at our brother blog Field Gulls, is the linebacker brigade, but even they could use some depth. Skepticism is rampant on whether first tier free agents would want to join the rebuilding Seahawks team. Click the link to find out some of the names that Seattle could be targeting for help in the upcoming season. To answer your question, yes, Nnamdi Asomugha is on the list, but has an asterisk next to his name because it is doubtful he would join Seattle.
The difference between Seattle’s quarterback situation and that of the Arizona Cardinals is surrounding personnel. There is no doubt that Seattle is in a rebuilding stage, while the Cardinals may be an offensive lineman or two and a quarterback away from another playoff run. Kyle Orton has been a name atop most lists as a wanted quarterback that could be traded for if the Denver Broncos decide Tim Tebow is their guy. It is rumored that Denver may ask for a second round pick for a team to acquire Orton, so this may dissuade some franchises. Giving up a second round pick when your team is already rebuilding does not sound very appealing, as you will need as many picks as you are able to get. Mike Sando at ESPN thinks that the ‘Hawks would be better served to retain Matt Hasselbeck and groom Charlie Whitehurst some more (or even start him if no deal can be made with Hasselbeck). I tend to agree, which is why I doubt they would enter any sort of bidding war if Arizona goes after a guy like Kevin Kolb or Kyle Orton. Side note: If you have ESPN Insider, click this link to see why ESPN writer KC Joyner thinks Orton may be a better option than Kolb, another piece I agree with.
At this point, it is a foregone conclusion that Alex Smith rejoins the San Francisco 49ers for at least one more season, holding down the fort for Colin Kaepernick. Once Kaepernick is up to speed, Smith may be shown the door- or maybe not. With new head coach Jim Harbaugh entering the scene, a new era of quarterback play will come along with him. Harbaugh played in the NFL as a quarterback so he will undoubtedly bring some of his experiences and expertise with him. Can Alex Smith revitalize his career based upon the new coaching staff and how they train him? The first overall pick out of Utah in 2005 could have success with the West Coast Offense that Harbaugh is planning on employing. Hopefully for Cardinals fans, his struggles will continue and we get to face another rookie QB in our division this season.
Not only is Alex Smith the favorite to be the guy under center week one for Jim Harbaugh, but they also draw comparisons as players. This link from Mike Sando contains a chart comparing some of their statistics for the first six seasons of play. Wildly, many of the numbers are similar, making people think that Harbaugh is looking in the mirror and seeing a bit of Smith in himself. We will see, as Smith will likely only come back on a one-year deal and if he fails to improve, Colin Kaepernick will be called into action quicker than he may have expected. This is a low risk move by the new head coach, but possibly a high reward.
Steven Jackson has been one of the most powerful and dominant running backs in the NFL over the past few seasons. Unfortunately for him, he has also been one of the most injury prone backs as well. He sustained groin and finger injuries last season, which has Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinking Jackson may have lost a step- permanently. He explains that Jackson is no longer the threat that he once was in the open field and therefore his effectiveness may be minimized. Fortunately for the St. Louis Rams, they have a pretty good young player in Sam Bradford that will add a dynamic passing game to their offense, taking a lot of pressure off of the Pro Bowl half-back. With more weapons being added in this last draft, Jackson’s draft may prove to be insignificant in the overall scheme of the offense anyhow. The Rams are also looking to bring in a free agent running back to help reduce the carries Jackson is forced to take per game. Overall, I wouldn’t get too excited over this news; Steven Jackson will still be a force in the Rams backfield.
A bit more serious side of the news comes to us from Joplin, Missouri, a town about 280 miles outside of St. Louis. If you have not heard, Joplin was recently devastated by a tornado, killing at least 116 people. St. Louis Rams players Adam Goldberg, James Laurinaitis, James Hall, Jason Brown and Sam Bradford recently visited Joplin on a charter plane along with DeMaurice Smith. They hung out with the children signing autographs and throwing the ball with them, trying to lighten the mood of the tragedy that occurred. This is a great piece of news and not only did players visit the city, but the Rams organization donated $25,000 to help with relief efforts. What a classy act by the Rams franchise and their players.