NFC West Inside Slant - 5/15/05

Mike Holmgren takes a trip through the spin cycle, Seattle takes a look at increasing its Boulware quotient, the Rams get a new rug, the Cardinals begin building the bridge to their best receiver, and the Niners decide against a trip to Boston (David, that is) in this week's NFC West Inside Slant.



Teams still seeking to fill holes after unrestricted free agency and the draft aren't out of luck just yet. Come June 1, teams can cut veterans without taking the entire cap hit next season. There isn't expected to be a big rush for the names likely to be available, but there are a few early presents under the tree.

The market for two big names in particular -- cornerback Ty Law and linebacker Peter Boulware -- is beginning to heat up.

Law is being courted by Detroit, Miami and the New York Jets, among other teams. However, he's unlikely to sign in the immediate future as suitors wait to see how his broken foot progresses.

Boulware is also coming off a serious injury. At age 30 and coming off toe and knee injuries that cost him all of last season, there is a very real risk factor with the former Ravens pass-rushing linebacker. But that didn't keep nine teams from contact ing him within days of his release from Baltimore.

Seattle doesn't have much cap room, but might be willing to cut a few players to create the necessary space. The Seahawks are in dire need of an outside pass rusher, and in return Seattle offers Boulware the opportunity to play with younger brother Michael, a Seahawks starting safety.

Another intriguing possible destination is Cleveland. The Browns are looking to switch to the 3-4 defense, but lack the quick outside linebackers to pull it off successfully. They know Boulware possesses that quality -- heck, they've seen it first-hand twice a year since the Browns became a franchise again in 1999. Boulware had been with the Ravens since 1997 - his entire NFL career.

Is it worth spending a few million dollars on a 30-year-old linebacker who had shoulder issues to go with his other ailments? Well, of course... according to his agent. "He's healthy and when healthy he's one of the premiere pass rushers in the league," agent Roosevelt Barnes said. Barnes also represents brother Michael.

Coach Mike Holmgren recently raised a few eyebrows by saying his Seahawks didn't have an attitude problem last season. While his comments seemed to contradict statements made by new team president Tim Ruskell, the coach was probably just tired of hearing the media harp on the same issue all offseason. In addition, it’s likely that Holmgren sees persistent attitude issues on his team as a knock on his authority and ability to motivate.

"We had a good attitude last year," Holmgren said after the team's recent minicamp. "We just lost some real tough ballgames."

Ruskell jumped into his new role by boldly outlining his expectations in a letter to players. Ruskell demanded full participation in the team's offseason workout program while stressing the need for players to believe in the team concept without worrying about who gets credit. He also stressed good citizenship as a core value.

"These things alone do not guarantee success," Ruskell wrote, "but a lack of complete team-wide participation in the aforementioned areas almost always guarantees failure."

Reporters seized on Ruskell's comments after the letter became public in late March. And when reporters hinted that Ruskell hadn't done enough to upgrade the defense after the draft, Seattle 's new president insisted that an attitude adjustment would be more important than a roster overhaul. A theme was born.

"Much has been said and it almost implies that our attitude last year was bad," Holmgren said. "It was not bad last year. We had a good group last year. That has not been said enough. We had a good group last year that got injured a little bit. But the new fellas that we have brought on board and our draft choices are very impressive guys to me in that fact that they have great attitudes. We brought in people that think the way we think.

"Then some of the people that are not here anymore, they probably wanted to be some place else. You put those two things together and yeah, I like our attitude."

--Agent Peter Schaffer's clients apparently earn more money in the media than they do in the wallet. LB Chad Brown provides the latest case in point. Brown, released by Seattle last month, recently signed a two-year deal with New England. Widespread reports (led by ESPN’s John Clayton) suggested the deal was worth $4 million. But a vastly different story emerged when the paperwork was filed with the NFLPA. Turns out Brown's two-year deal is worth less than $2.5 million, with only $485,000 up front. Brown could earn more in incentives.

Another Schaffer client, CB Kelly Herndon, signed a modest deal with the Seahawks this offseason. Widespread reports suggested the deal included a signing bonus worth $4.5 million – when, in fact, Herndon received a $3.6 million bonus with $900,000 in first-year salary.


--RB Shaun Alexander (tendered at $6.323M, has not signed tender).


--QB Brock Huard is looking like the fourth-best option on a team that keeps three passers.
--LB Curtis Randall (not tendered as ERFA).
--P Ken Walter performed poorly last season and won't be back unless Seattle suffers through more problems at the position.

--DT Rocky Bernard (tendered at $656,000) shows pass-rush potential but hasn't been very consistent.


--WR Alex Bannister: UFA; $4M/4 yrs, $1M SB.
--SS Terreal Bierria: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Kerry Carter: Potential ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--OG Chris Gray: UFA; $1.785M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB.
--TE Ryan Hannam: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck: Potential UFA; $47M/6 yrs, $16M SB.
--LT Walter Jones: UFA; $52.5M/7 yrs, $16M SB; 2005 cap: $4.9M.
--S Marquand Manuel; RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--TE Itula Mili: UFA; $6M/4 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2005 cap: $1.175M.
--CB Kris Richard: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DE Ron Smith: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--C Robbie Tobeck: UFA; $1.785M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB; 2005 cap: $890,000.
--WR Jerheme Urban: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--WR Jason Willis: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--OL Floyd Womack: UFA; $5M/2 yrs, $2M SB; 2005 cap: $2M.

--P Leo Araguz (FA; terms unknown).
--LB Kevin Bentley: UFA (not tendered as RFA by Browns); $650,000/1 yr, $150,000 SB.
--DT Chartric Darby: UFA Buccaneers; $3M/3 yrs, $800,000 SB.
--CB Andre Dyson: UFA Titans; $17.5M/5 yrs, $3M SB.
--DE Bryce Fisher: UFA Rams; $10M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Kelly Herndon: RFA Broncos; $15M/5 yrs, $3.6M SB.
--WR Joe Jurevicius: FA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Jerome Pathon: FA Saints; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Jamie Sharper: FA Texans; $17.5M/5 yrs, $1.5M SB.

--LB Chad Brown Released, Patriots, $2.3M/2 yrs.
--FB Heath Evans: UFA Dolphins; $540,000/1 yr.
--MLB Orlando Huff: UFA Cardinals; $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--CB Ken Lucas: UFA Panthers; $36M/6 yrs, $13M bonuses.
--DE Brandon Mitchell: UFA Falcons; terms unknown.
--DE Chike Okeafor: UFA Cardinals; $25M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Jerry Rice (released).
--S Damien Robinson (released; failed physical/shoulder).
--P Tom Rouen: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.
--LB Anthony Simmons (released; failed physical/wrist).
--OT Chris Terry (released/failed physical)



Consider the sword rattled.

The Cardinals could fine receiver Anquan Boldin $3,000 for skipping their mandatory three-day minicamp. They probably won't, although they won't say. And even if they do, three grand is a can of soda even to a guy who makes only $380,000.

But Boldin and agent Drew Rosenhaus have put the team on notice that if the former Pro Bowler is not in possession of a new contract by the time it heads to Flagstaff, Ariz. for training camp, Boldin could skip that one, too. His message sent, Boldin returned to the Cardinals' Tempe, Ariz. training facility on Tuesday to resume his voluntary offseason conditioning. He'll have his first chance to play pitch-and-catch with new quarterback Kurt Warner.

"Not being around football is pretty tough for me anyway," Boldin said. "I went through it in college for an entire year (after knee surgery). I don't know how I made it through that." In a back-handed sort of way, that knee injury placed the player and the team where they are today. Absent that, Boldin would have been drafted much higher than 54th overall in the 2003 draft, where the Cardinals viewed him as an exceptional value.

He might even have been a top 15 or a top 10 selection and signed for a ton of money -- like Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald did not miss a year in college due to a blown-out knee. He was drafted third overall by the Cardinals, and he got close to $20 million in guaranteed money with a chance to make as much as $60 million before he begins rattling his sword.

Fitzgerald did not catch 101 balls as a rookie. Boldin did, breaking the NFL rookie record. Fitzgerald caught 58 as a rookie. Boldin is scheduled to make $380,000 this season -- or perhaps $377,000 if the team fines him -- and $480,000 in 2006.

Even the Cardinals realize that is embarrassing. In fact, they initiated the new contract talk two years ago after that dazzling rookie season. "For me, I just wanted to get back around my teammates," Boldin said upon his return. "I missed the camaraderie. I think we have a good chance of going somewhere this year and I don't want to miss out on that.

"I just think I am a piece of the puzzle around here. I'm pretty aware of that. No one is bigger than this game. I think we had a pretty good draft. I think we did a great job in free agency. I think it is important for me to get back here and work with those guys."

Boldin claims that he has no plans to hold out at training camp. That's two months away. And in the interim, it could be a very hot summer in the desert.

-- While it is true that the state bird of Virginia is the cardinal, the Cardinals are making Virginia the state of choice for players. The team drafted CB Eric Green from Virginia Tech and G Elton Brown and LB Darryl Blackstock from Virginia. They also signed two undrafted rookies from Virginia : LB Isaiah Ekejiuba and CB Jermaine Hardy.

-- Rookie RB J.J. Arrington isn't from Virginia, but he knows about Cardinals, too. "When I was in elementary school, my first mascot was a Cardinal," Arrington said. "So hopefully it will be my first and last mascot." Arrington's initial experience as a Cardinal was not so much an eye-opener as an eye-closer. "I was just pretty much drained," he said of a three-day minicamp. "I studied each night and then went to sleep. I think it was the first time I had gone to bed at 9 in about six years."




--MLB Ron McKinnon is the epitome of the dedicated warrior, but his time might have run out; undersized and aging; likely won't command starter's pay.
--WR Nate Poole (not tendered as RFA) is good enough to be a fourth receiver, but on this roster he's in danger of being nudged out because he is not a punt returner.
--OG Cameron Spikes has played extensively the past two seasons, mainly by default; would be a fine depth player to retain at the right price.



--RB Damien Anderson: Not tendered as RFA; terms unknown.
--OT Jerry Bridges: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--RB Troy Hambrick: UFA ; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--S Quentin Harris: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DT Ross Kolodziej: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--QB Josh McCown: RFA; $1.43M/1 yr.
--CB Robert Tate: UFA ; terms unknown.
--DE Peppi Zellner: UFA ; 2 yrs, terms unknown.

--OT Ian Allen: Not tendered as RFA by Eagles; terms unknown.
--S Robert Griffith: FA Browns; $4M/2 yrs, SB unknown.
--OL Adam Haayer: Not tendered as RFA by Vikings; terms unknown.
--LB Orlando Huff: UFA Seahawks, $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--DE Chike Okeafor: UFA Seahawks; $25M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--OT Oliver Ross: UFA Steelers; $17.5M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Ray Walls: UFA Ravens; terms unknown.
--QB Kurt Warner: UFA Giants: $4M/1 yr, $2M SB.

--OT Anthony Clement (released).
--CB Renaldo Hill: UFA Raiders; terms unknown.
--TE Freddie Jones: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.
--QB Shaun King (released).
--RB Emmitt Smith: UFA ; retired.
--CB Duane Starks (traded Patriots).
--S Michael Stone: UFA Rams; $530,000/1 yr, $75,000 SB.
--LB Ray Thompson (released).
--DE Kyle Vanden Bosch: UFA Titans; terms unknown.
--WR Karl Williams (released).
--LB LeVar Woods (released).



And then there were none.

That was the result of the decision to rip out the 10-year-old AstroTurf from the Edward Jones Dome and replace it with FieldTurf for the 2005 season. Players in St. Louis and elsewhere applauded as the final NFL stadium with the old turf joined 22 others that have FieldTurf or its derivative.

Earlier this year, the RCA Dome in Indianapolis replaced its AstroTurf with FieldTurf. It was no coincidence that the surfaces in St. Louis and Indianapolis were voted as the two worst last season by NFL players.

The decision in St. Louis took longer than expected because of the need for the surface to be removable after the season, so the dome could continue to host major shows that need to access electrical outlets on the floor. A tray system that would accommodate those needs is not quite ready for NFL play, but FieldTurf officials are confident they will be able to supply the Edward Jones Dome with such a system in 2006. The company charged the St. Louis CVC (Convention and Visitor's Commission) just $168,000 for the labor required to lay the field.

It will be removed up after the season and donated to a local school.

"We took a hit on this one," FieldTurf CEO John Gilman joked. "But we'll get them next time around."

Rams coach Mike Martz was very vocal about replacing the surface during the 2004 season, especially when running back Steven Jackson injured his knee twice just falling on the previous rock-hard surface.

A pleased Martz said, "This is important for a lot of reasons, primarily the health concerns of all the players. This is exciting to be able to play on a more forgiving surface."

Aside from player safety, the CVC had another motivation for agreeing to the current solution. The Rams' lease required that after 10 years, the stadium must remain in the top 25 percent of NFL stadiums. The field is part of that.

Said Bruce Sommer, director of facilities for the CVC, "This is not something that we had an option to do or not to do. Fortunately, we're going to be able to do it in a way that takes care of our other business, which obviously has always been another primary concern of ours."

Rams players were ecstatic.

"I definitely like it," wide receiver Shaun McDonald he said. "You won't be too nervous getting tackled anymore."

Added wide receiver Kevin Curtis, "I'm not an expert on it, but I know if I've got (an injury) kind of nagging me, it seems like if you play on that hard surface, it just exposes it even more. Pretty much everyone I've talked to doesn't really enjoy playing on that."

The Rams also have a FieldTurf surface in their practice facility.

--The Rams played host to a high school combine for local players in Missouri and Illinois May 15. Becoming more popular around the country, they are places where sometimes unnoticed players can be seen and information on their workouts disseminated to colleges.

Wide receiver Dante' Ridgeway, one of the Ram's two sixth-round picks this year, acknowledged that participating in a similar combine in Decatur, Ill., jump-started his career. "After he worked at the combine, he got a scholarship offer from Ball State," Kris Knox, Manager of DMH Sports Medicine, said. "He would be our biggest prize."

Said Ridgeway, "It opened some doors. The coach that actually recruited me was there. I think it helped me out a little bit, as far as getting noticed."


FRANCHISE PLAYER: OT Orlando Pace (signed a long-term contract March 16).


--S Zack Bronson spent the entire 2004 season on injured reserve after suffering a foot injury in just his second practice with the team. It is unlikely that he would be re-signed.
--TE Cam Cleeland improved as a blocker during the 2004 season, and the team had been trying to re-sign him until Roland Williams was added. There is no longer any interest in Cleeland.
--OG Chris Dishman tore the ACL in his knee during a late-season practice as he tried to come back from an earlier injury. The earliest he could return would be late spring or early summer.
--S Antuan Edwards upgraded the position after being claimed on waivers from Miami during the 2004 season, but he didn't make many plays. The Rams pulled a three-year offer before free agency started.
--DE Erik Flowers wasn't able to make an impact during the season and was inactive for seven games. It's 50-50 that he would return for the minimum.
--OG Tom Nutten was a warrior throughout the season, playing with several injuries. He underwent offseason toe surgery and hasn't decided if he wants to continue playing. The Rams signed him out of retirement last August.
--S Aeneas Williams is considering retirement after a season curtailed by an arthritic nerve in his neck that prevented him being the big-play maker he has usually been.



--S Jerome Carter (4/117): $1.244M/3 yrs, $319,000 SB; 2005 cap: $336,333.

--OG Darnell Alford: UFA ; $540,000/1 yr; 2005 cap: $455,000.
--CB Dwight Anderson: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--LB Trev Faulk: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--WR Mike Furrey: Potential ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--FB Joey Goodspeed: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Arlen Harris: Potential ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--WR Dane Looker: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--LB Jeremy Loyd: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--QB Jamie Martin: UFA ; $790,000/1 yr, $15,000SB/$10,000 RB; 2005 cap: $480,000.
--LS Chris Massey: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--OT Orlando Pace: Franchise FA: $52.9M/7 yrs, $15M SB; 2005 cap: $6M.
--OT Blaine Saipaia: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--P Kevin Stemke: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--OL Scott Tercero: Potential ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--LB Drew Wahlroos: Potential ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.

--LB Chris Claiborne: UFA Vikings; $10.5M/3 yrs, $3.6M SB; 2005 cap: $2M.
--LB Dexter Coakley: FA Cowboys; $14.15M/5 yrs, $3M SB; 2005 cap: $1.6M.
--CB Terry Fair: FA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Brandon Green: FA Jaguars; terms unknown.
--S Michael Hawthorne: FA Packers; $630,000/1 yr, $90,000 SB.
--CB Corey Ivy: Not tendered as RFA by Buccaneers; terms unknown.
--S Michael Stone: UFA Cardinals; $530,000/1 yr, $75,000 SB.
--OG Rex Tucker: FA Bears; $590,000/1 yr, $50,000 SB.
--DE Jay Williams: FA Dolphins; $2.665M/3 yrs, $300,000 SB; 2005 cap: $865,000.
--TE Roland Williams: FA Raiders; $690,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB; 2005 cap: $480,000.\

--QB Chris Chandler (released).
--S Rich Coady: UFA Falcons; $540,000/1 yr.
--DE Bryce Fisher: UFA Seahawks; $10M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--G/C Matt Lehr: UFA Falcon; $2.13M/3 yrs, $500,000 SB.
--LB Tommy Polley: UFA Ravens; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--P Kevin Stemke (released).



Coach Mike Nolan seems content with his group of 49ers wide receivers, despite the fact only one has started in the NFL and the eight players have combined for just 72 catches. Nolan has all but ruled out the possibility of the 49ers signing controversial free-agent David Boston, saying it is a matter of trust with his team and staying true to what he says he wants his team to look like.

Although split end Brandon Lloyd is the top returning wideout, the No. 1 spot right now appears to belong to flanker Arnaz Battle. He will be able to handle the blocking chores of the flanker position, and he is better at going over the middle.

"If anybody is performing a little more consistently, it would have to be Arnaz," Nolan said.

The biggest disappointment of the group continues to be Rashaun Woods, who was the team's first-round pick last year. Woods rarely got on the field as a rookie, catching just seven passes. When asked who would be the No. 3 receiver behind starters Battle and Lloyd right now, Nolan said there was competition for that spot between second-year players Derrick Hamilton, a third-round draft pick, and undrafted P.J. Fleck.

Rookies Rasheed Marshall, who played quarterback at West Virginia, and 6-foot-3 speedster Marcus Maxwell of Oregon are also in the mix for roster spots.

Despite the lack of experience at the position, Nolan said he is not expecting to add anyone of note in June, when teams are expected to release some veterans for salary-cap purposes.

"There is always a possibility, but I don't foresee that right now, in all honesty," Nolan said.


--Coach Mike Nolan said he will have no teacher's pets in his first year as coach. Generally, a draft pick or acquisition during the former regime does not get the kind of breaks that a player the new coach brings in. But Nolan disputes the notion that there are "his guys" and players who belong to former general manager Terry Donahue.

"When I took this job, they are all my guys," Nolan said. "I don't have any favoritism to guys I drafted or favoritism toward the free agents. If somebody makes us better, that guy moves right up the line. If you make a mistake, you got to move on. I'm not going to protect any bad decisions I've made."

Andre Carter recorded 12.5 sacks in 2002 and appeared destined to be one of the better pass-rushers in the NFL. But his production has dropped off the last two seasons, due partly to injuries. He has recorded 8.5 sacks in his last 22 games.

There were plenty of questions whether he would fit into the team's new 3-4 scheme, and his name surfaced in trade talks around draft time. If the team's first full-squad minicamp was any indication, Carter will have a significant role with the team this season.

"Andre Carter is guy that early on everybody said, 'How's he going to fit?'", 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "He's going to fit extremely well."

Nolan said the 49ers are looking at Carter to fill the old pass-rush specialist role that the organization employed with Fred Dean and Charles Haley. Carter and Jamie Winborn, both listed as outside linebackers, will have different roles. Nolan said that both occasionally will be on the field at the same time.

MEDICAL WATCH: Rookie tight end Patrick Estes, a seventh-round draft pick, was held out of minicamp due to recent arthroscopic surgery on his knee.... Cornerback Shawntae Spencer, who strained a hamstring, was also held out of the last two days of practices.

FRANCHISE PLAYER: LB Julian Peterson (signed tender of $7.288M).


--WR Curtis Conway, a 12-year veteran, would like to play another season but it probably won't be with the 49ers, who need to develop some younger players.
--OT Jerome Davis (not tendered as ERFA).
--QB Brandon Doman (not tendered as ERFA).
--C Brock Gutierrez started 15 games after Jeremy Newberry was injured. The 49ers need to find more stout depth at this position in case Newberry's injury problems continue.



--DT Tony Brown: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--TE Steve Bush: UFA ; terms unknown.
--S Dwaine Carpenter: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--DT Chris Cooper: UFA ; terms unknown.
--OG Eric Heitmann: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Terry Jackson: UFA ; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Brandon Moore: RFA: $656,000/1 yr.
--OG Rob Murphy: ERFA; $455,000/1 yr.
--LB Julian Peterson: Franchise FA; $7.288M/1 yr.
--LB Saleem Rasheed: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--CB Rayshun Reed: ERFA; $305,000/1 yr.
--LB Ray Wells: ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.

--DE Marques Douglas : UFA Ravens; $4.5M/3 yrs, SB unknown.
--OT Jonas Jennings : UFA Bills; $36M/7 yrs, $12M SB; 2005 cap: $1.9M.
--PK Joe Nedney: FA Titans; $665,000/1 yr; 2005 cap: $455,000.

--FS Ronnie Heard: UFA Falcons; terms unknown.
--FB Jasen Isom: Not tendered as ERFA/Saints; terms unknown.
--OT Kyle Kosier: RFA Lions; terms unknown (did not match offer).
--PK Todd Peterson: UFA Falcons; $790,000/1 yr, $25,000 SB.
--DT Daleroy Stewart: Not tendered as RFA/Texans; terms unknown.
--DE Brandon Whiting (released/failed physical).
--CB Jimmy Williams: UFA Saints; terms unknown.
--WR Cedrick Wilson: UFA Steelers; $8M/4 yrs, $2M SB. Top Stories