Chris Wesseling

Offseason Low Down

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Team Notes: NFC South, West

Friday, April 08, 2011




NFC West:

49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh has repeatedly talked up free agent Alex Smith, presumably as a fallback option in case the lockout drags on through the summer. The Niners are a lead-pipe lock to draft an early-round QB unless they manage to pry Kevin Kolb away from the Eagles. Candidates for the Week 1 gig resemble a Hollywood Squares panel at this point. … Frank Gore (hip fracture) has already been fully cleared to resume football activities. New coach Jim Harbaugh and GM Trent Baalke have both stated that Gore will continue to be a workhorse in the final year of his contract. He remains a top-10 fantasy pick. … Harbaugh made it clear that Anthony Dixon will be Gore's primary backup. Brian Westbrook won't return to San Fran.

49ers quarterbacks produced a 113.8 passer rating when targeting Vernon Davis in 2010 compared to 85.3 to Josh Morgan and 64.8 to Michael Crabtree. We wouldn't count on a breakout season for Crabtree unless he sees a major QB upgrade. … K Joe Kedney is expected to face competition for his job this summer.

Cardinals: The Cardinals are expected to give strong consideration to Mizzou QB Blaine Gabbert if he's still around at No. 5 overall. A better way to appease Larry Fitzgerald would be to import a veteran upgrade, and Arizona has been heavily linked to both Kevin Kolb and Marc Bulger. It should be clear that John Skelton isn't the answer after failing to complete even 50 percent of his passes in a late-season trial run. … The coaching staff attributes Beanie Wells' disappointing 2010 season to a September torn meniscus that plagued him throughout the year. A fully recovered Wells would be a strong bounce-back candidate. We'll be tracking training camp reports closely to see if he's recaptured his rookie-year form. We still prefer Wells to the more pedestrian Tim Hightower if both backs are healthy.

The front office remains confident that Fitzgerald will sign a new deal to remain in the desert. Fitz wields plenty of leverage, as the Cards will have to shell out $23 million to franchise tag him in 2012. … Four-year vet Steve Breaston drew a first-round tender offer. The Cardinals aren't expected to compete with other offers if he makes it to the open market. Early Doucet and Andre Roberts would see increased snaps should Breaston sign elsewhere.

Rams: Sam Bradford will return to a shotgun-heavy offense similar to the one he ran in college with pass-happy coordinator Josh McDaniels taking over. Even with offseason practices in danger of being lost, Bradford's fantasy arrow is pointing up. … The Rams are expected to draft a change-of-pace back this month, with a successor to Steven Jackson possibly on the docket for the 2012 draft. While the offense should see continued improvement, S-Jax's 3.38 YPC from Week 12 on is a red flag. It's not a bad idea to shop Jackson around in Dynasty and keeper leagues after he finished in the bottom quarter of metrics compiled Pro Football Focus as well as Football Outsiders.

Brittle breakout candidate Danario Alexander has had no issues with his troublesome left knee this offseason. His fantasy outlook could take a hit if the Rams manage to nab Alabama's Julio Jones at No. 14 overall, as many suspect. GM Billy Devaney will be in the market for a free agent addition if Jones escapes his grasp. … Donnie Avery is right on schedule in his return from ACL surgery. Like the rest of the receiver corps, Avery will be an injury risk in 2011. … Perennial fantasy tease Laurent Robinson is expected to be on the roster bubble this summer. … The Rams tight ends are undraftable in McDaniels' tight-end unfriendly offense.

Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck was "miles" away from signing a new deal before the CBA deadline, and it now looks like Seattle will go in a different direction at QB. If the Seahawks don't manage to land Kevin Kolb, there's a good chance Charlie Whitehurst will open the season as the starter with an early-round pick waiting in the wings. … Leon Washington signed a four-year, $12.5 million contract to return as the explosive kick-return specialist. He's the clear third wheel in the backfield behind Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett.

Starting receivers Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu also signed long-term deals. Obomanu didn't get starter's money, and Williams' contract isn't worth the paper its printed on if he doesn't show up in shape after the lockout. … Deon Butler is no lock to make the Week 1 roster after suffering a double fracture in his right leg late last season. … Coach Pete Carroll still has high hopes for Golden Tate, but it's clear that talent will be imported at the position this offseason. The depth chart is in flux leading up to the draft. … K Olindo Mare intends to give Seattle a "hometown discount" once free agency kicks off.

Follow Chris Wesseling on Twitter.


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Chris Wesseling is a senior football editor and Dynasty league analyst for Rotoworld.com. The 2011 NFL season marks his fifth year with Rotoworld and his third year contributing to NBCSports.com. He can be found on Twitter @ChrisWesseling.
Email :Chris Wesseling



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