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Around the Division

Friday marks the end of the first week of free agency. Here's a look at the NFC West Division and how the off-season is shaping up thus far.
Arizona Cardinals 


Most of the talk in the desert this off-season has been Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who is due to make $14.6 million in salary this year and $17.4 million in 2009. The Cardinals have tried to restructure Fitzgerald's deal, but the parties have not yet come to an agreement.

Meanwhile, the team used a franchise tag to hold onto linebacker Karlos Dansby, but lost linebacker Calvin Pace, who landed a huge deal with the New York Jets.

Wide receiver Bryant Johnson visited with Buffalo and is also expected to meet with the Washington Redskins. Johnson has been a solid third wideout for the Cards, working behind Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin and will be missed in that offense if he bolts to another team.

Arizona's biggest signing this free agency period to date has been at defensive end when they added former Titans Travis LaBoy. LaBoy had six sacks last season and is expected to compete for the starting spot with former Pro Bowler Bertrand Berry. Berry's seasons have been cut short the last two years due to season-ending injuries.

The Cards also signed TE Jerame Tuman from the Steelers to help out in the run game, and are hoping to land Rams LB Brandon Chillar, who paid them a visit earlier this week.

Arizona has all seven of their picks in the NFL Draft. That includes the 16th overall pick in the draft, the 19th pick in the second round, the 18th pick in the third round, the 17th pick in the fourth round, the 16th pick in the fifth round, the 19th pick in the sixth round, and the 18th pick in the seventh.

San Francisco 49ers 


The first significant move this off-season came in the promotion of Scot McCloughan to General Manager, giving the former VP of Player Personnel the final say on all personnel matters.

Meanwhile, head coach Mike Nolan's priority was fixing last year's last ranked offense, which led to the hiring of an experienced offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Nolan also hired a new running backs coach in Tony Nathan, added an additional offensive line coach in Chris Foerster, and adjusted Ted Tollner's role from offensive assistant to quarterbacks coach.

The 49ers re-signed QB Shaun Hill, who will compete with Alex Smith for the starting role. The team will express their faith in their former #1 overall pick by executing a buy back clause in Smith's contract on or before March 15 that will extend the original deal from a 4 to 6-year agreement.

The club also re-signed DT Isaac Sopoaga shortly before free agency kicked off, and then quickly landed former Bengals DE Justin Smith, former Vikings LB Dontarrious Thomas, and former Lions QB J.T. O'Sullivan.

Three released players also fell into the 49ers lap in WR Isaac Bruce, RB DeShaun Foster and CB/RS Allen Rossum.

The team bid farewell to two of its offensive linemen in free agency in Justin Smiley and Kwame Harris and stand to lose DE Marques Douglas, who is attracting interest from the Bucs and the Titans.

McCloughan indicated that he could still pick up a few offensive linemen in free agency, but that it's a very deep position in this year's draft where the 49ers have all seven of their picks.

Although the 49ers traded their 2008 first round pick to the New England Patriots to move up in last year's draft to get right tackle Joe Staley, San Francisco does get a pick (29th overall) in the first round of 2008, courtesy of a trade with the Colts.

The 49ers also have the eighth pick in the second round, the seventh pick in the third round, the eighth pick in the fourth round, the seventh pick in the fifth round, the eighth pick in the sixth round and the seventh pick in the seventh round.

Seattle Seahawks 


The NFC West division champions answered a few important questions about their future early on this off-season with Mike Holmgren deciding to return for the final year of his contract. The Hawks already named his successor in former 49ers defensive coordinator and Falcons head coach Jim Mora, Jr.

They also slapped the franchise tag on CB Marcus Trufant. Trufant enjoyed a Pro Bowl season in 2007 with seven interceptions.

The Hawks lost their clutch kicker in Josh Brown, who signed a long term deal with the St. Louis Rams, and that could be their most significant loss.

Seattle picked up a veteran running back T.J. Duckett from the Lions, hoping the inside runner can complement the bounce it outside style of Shaun Alexander, who struggled in 2007 with a wrist and knee injury.

Addressing the run game was a priority for Holmgren this off-season and led to the hiring of line coach Mike Solari from the Chiefs, the signing of former Pro Bowl guard Mike Wahle from Carolina, and the re-signing of right tackle Sean Locklear.

The verdict is still out on one of their unrestricted free agents in wide receiver DJ Hackett. Hackett enjoyed some of his better games against the 49ers in 2006, but injuries kept him on the sidelines for most of the 2007 season. 

Starting defensive tackle Chuck Darby wound up on injured reserve last season and apparently landed in Detroit with the Lions on Friday.

UFA LB Niko Koutouvides, a key special teams contributor, signed on with the Broncos.

Seattle has six picks this year in the Draft with their first pick coming at 25th overall. They also own the 24th pick of the second round, the 23rd pick of the third round, the 22nd pick of the fourth round, the 23rd pick in the sixth round, and the 26th pick in the final round.

St. Louis Rams


Three wins in 2007 led to some significant changes with the Rams this off-season.

Billy Devaney was hired from Atlanta to serve as the Executive VP of Player Personnel.

Head coach Scott Linehan held on to his job, but adjusted the majority of his offensive coaching staff, starting with the addition of longtime offensive coordinator Al Saunders. The Rams also hired Steve Loney to coach the offensive line, Terry Shea as quarterbacks coach and named Art Valero as the assistant head coach/running backs coach.

The offensive line was a weak link for the Rams in 2006, leading to the signing of Titans guard Jacob Bell in free agency and the re-signing of Adam Goldberg.

The team has also reportedly agreed to terms with Tampa's tight end Anthony Becht.

St. Louis made quick work in replacing retired kicker Jeff Wilkins by stealing the Seahawks kicker in Josh Brown. 

The Rams apparently opted to go in a younger direction, and let go of an offensive staple in future Hall of Famer Isaac Bruce, who quickly signed on with the 49ers.

The Rams will need to most of their upgrading in the NFL Draft, where they have eight picks including the second overall pick. They hold on to that second pick in each of the first six rounds, and will also pick again at 14th (from Denver) in the sixth round. In the final round, the Rams hold the 10th pick (from Cincinnati), having traded their second pick in the seventh round to Minnesota.

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