• Our Rams insiders have had a hard time understanding the rationale for tendering RFA FS O.J. Atogwe at the lowest level — a move that saves $5.75 million but also greatly increases the risk of the team losing one of its few quality players and getting nothing in return. "I guess they're thinking the best way to get a deal done is to have some other team set his market value, but they have yet to really talk much at all about a new deal," said one perplexed team insider. "They did re-sign Craig Dahl, who played pretty well in place of Atogwe when he got hurt. I'm honestly not sure just how to read the situation." If the Rams had given Atogwe a higher tender, they would have had to pay him 110 percent of his 2009 salary as the team's franchise player, or $6.976 million. The Rams still have the right to match any offer sheet that Atogwe signs.
• Rams part-owner Stan Kroenke is remaining typically evasive regarding his plans for the future, but team insiders believe he will willingly accept Illinois businessman Shahid Khan as the new majority owner and maintain his 40 percent share of the team. By all accounts, Khan, who is expected to meet in the near future with the league's finance committee, and Kroenke have hit it off extremely well.
• With the Cardinals reportedly paying newly acquired OG Rex Hadnot $3 million annually over three years, team insiders suspect he could give incumbent OLG Reggie Wells, who did not grade out all that well at season's end, a run for his money.
• It's starting to look like the Cardinals and UFA PK Neil Rackers could be parting ways before too long. "They like him, but he hasn't made a lot of clutch kicks lately, and they weren't thrilled late last season when he continued kicking when he was not 100 percent healthy," said one team insider. "He's also a pretty high-maintenance guy who wears everything on his sleeve. The market for kickers is really off because of what the Raiders paid Sebastian Janikowski, and the franchise money Olindo Mare and Jeff Reed are getting. The Cardinals aren't likely to pay that kind of money to Rackers."
• Rumors persist in Seattle that restricted free-agent OG Rob Sims, who has had his share of struggles, is not long for the team.
• Niners president/CEO Jed York confirmed our sources' contention that the "mutual parting" of GM Scot McCloughan from the organization had been in the works for a while, with director of player personnel Trent Baalke having taken on a greater role. "We've been prepared for this," York said in a March 22 conference call addressing McCloughan's exit. "I would say our (draft) board is 90-95 percent set ... and Trent has been intimately involved in putting that board together."
• Newly re-signed Niners OT Barry Sims, who did a nice job replacing the injured Joe Staley at left tackle last season, envisions himself in the same swing-tackle role he filled in 2009. "Yes, I assume that would be the case," Sims said, "to provide depth and, with my experience, be able to play both sides and really help the younger guys develop a little quicker."
• There is now serious concern that Giants FS Kenny Phillips will not be ready for the start of the regular season. Although his post-microfracture rehab is reportedly going well, Phillips has not yet been cleared to run even. When asked if Phillips might be ready for the start of training camp, head coach Tom Coughlin didn't sound like it was a reasonable possibility. The likely route is to place Phillips on the PUP list.
• Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin to PFW on what QB Kevin Kolb's most impressive trait is: "I think it's his control. That's something people don't see (in) a lot of quarterbacks, but he's in control. He knows who the ball is going to before it's snapped, and right after the snap he can see what the defense is doing. That's something he does very, very well. I think it also has helped him, playing behind one of the better quarterbacks (Donovan McNabb) to ever play the game."
• Vikings head coach Brad Childress indicated that the team is not interested in free-agent RB Brian Westbrook "right now," although things could change. If the Vikings cannot find a back in the draft who can handle backup duties to Adrian Peterson, their thoughts on Westbrook could change. He's a smart pass protector and has been an excellent receiver in the past, though injuries clearly play a part in any decision to sign him.
• The Lions have a number of defensive needs, but they also know they have to find a running back. It's very likely the team will see how the draft goes before looking to the free-agent ranks for help. But they are well aware of the void at the position, with Kevin Smith coming off ACL surgery, and are sure to try to upgrade there in April or later.
• It's quite likely the Packers will strongly consider cornerbacks high in the draft, in great part because 35-year-old Al Harris is coming off a very serious knee injury that we hear will take six months to fully recover from (he underwent surgery Nov. 30). But the majority of our Packers sources are betting that Harris, a conscientious workout warrior of the highest order, will defy the odds and make his physical presence felt for at least another season.
• An intriguing young Packers sleeper we hear could be worth keeping an eye on is DE Ronald Talley, who spent his rookie season in 2009 on the practice squad. Word is the team really likes the 6-3, 286-pound frame of the undrafted rookie from Delaware.
• If the Bears' first pick in the draft (in the third round for a third straight year) is not a safety, team insiders think the odds could swing in the direction of an offensive lineman who could possibly figure in the mix at left guard from the get-go. With Frank Omiyale expected to shift to right tackle, the front-runner at left guard at present is undersized Josh Beekman, who lost the starting job to Omiyale early last season. As far as intriguing sleepers on the Bears' O-line are concerned, keep an eye on both Lance Louis and Johan Asiata at left guard and James Marten at right tackle.
• The Saints opted not to match the offer sheet Mike Bell received from the Eagles, and we're told New Orleans' faith in backup RB Lynell Hamilton played a role in the team's decision to let Bell walk. While Reggie Bush plays a hybrid rusher-receiver role, Pierre Thomas and Hamilton are likely to be the team's two primary rushers next season. The Saints could explore other free-agent options, but they already met with ex-Raider Justin Fargas and he left town without a contract.
• Darren Sharper will likely wait until after the draft before deciding on where he'll play next season. While Sharper has spoken highly of other teams with the hope they might offer him a deal, sources say the Saints are still the front-runners to sign him.
• RFA CB Richard Marshall is not participating in the Panthers' voluntary offseason conditioning program to show his displeasure with being tendered at the second-round level. Marshall is hoping another team will send him an offer sheet, but it doesn't appear that there's much of a market for his services at this time.
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