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NFC Whispers

Seahawks believe healthy Gallery will rebound

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By PFW staff

Following are a number of whispers we've been hearing from around the NFC:

• In his first year with the Seahawks, free-agent addition Robert Gallery had a real roller-coaster season. But after struggling the first half of the season with a groin injury, we hear the team was quite pleased with the former Raider first-round draft pick's play at left guard down the stretch. "He was one of a lot of veteran guys who wasn't in the best of shape because of not having a full conditioning program. They're looking forward to him hopefully being a lot healthier next year."

• Might the 49ers all of a sudden not be in such a big hurry to re-sign free-agent QB Alex Smith after his lackluster effort in the team's playoff loss to the Giants? "I think they still want to re-sign Alex Smith in a big way," said one inside source on the scene. "He'll be affordable, and he wants to come back. I would be shocked if they don't re-sign him."

• The odds are looking pretty strong that Kellen Clemens, who played under new Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with the Jets, will return as Sam Bradford's backup next season. "Obviously I'm a big fan of Kellen," Schottenheimer said. " … I think here's a guy that understands what it means to be a pro. He was unbelievable in meetings for us in New York. It does not surprise me that he came in here and played well because he takes his craft very, very seriously."

• With the crowd at running back increasing with Ryan Williams returning to the mix after sitting out last season, our Cardinals sources would be very surprised if free agent Chester Taylor is brought back.

• There have been some whispers out of Green Bay that the team might be toying with the idea of converting DE Mike Neal, who was a big disappointment this season, to outside linebacker.

• Even though the Packers are well-stocked with young running backs like James Starks, Brandon Saine and Alex Green, who showed some flashes before suffering a season-ending knee injury, our sources suspect the team will still re-sign RB Ryan Grant, probably to a one-year deal.

• At the Super Bowl, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz again expressed hope RB Jahvid Best (concussions) would be able to resume his playing career. "We're optimistic and we're encouraged, but concussions are different than ACLs, and they're different than hamstrings," Schwartz told PFW. "There's no timetables for any of those things. It's just one of those situations. You have to be objective and you have to wait until the player's passed, but we feel very confident that he'll be back and he'll continue with what appears to be an outstanding career. "

• NFL sources tell PFW that the Eagles remain committed to trying to re-sign WR DeSean Jackson after it appeared maybe his ship had run its course in Philadelphia. That said, there already are some concerns from the team that Jackson's belief of his own value is higher, maybe a lot so, than what the team's perceived value of him is.

• The Cowboys secretly have to be worried that free-agent OG Carl Nicks, one of their preferred targets in free agency, might be willing to return to the Saints for something of a hometown discount. Nicks reportedly is the top target of the Cowboys to fill one of their OG needs, but he also has let it be known his preference would be to return to New Orleans, despite the Saints' long list of important free agents to bring back.

• In addition to making a big play at quarterback, expect the Redskins to do the same at wide receiver. They like Leonard Hankerson and think Santana Moss can remain effective in the slot. But a speedy playmaker who can tilt defenses and change coverages will be on the menu as well, we hear.

• Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier told PFW why he thinks new defensive coordinator Alan Williams will work out in Minnesota: "I think the fact that he's such a great teacher. That was one of the things I had a chance to observe when I was in Indianapolis working with him. … When I think back to Bob Sanders, when he came to our team along with Antoine Bethea — two guys who were very young, very raw but tremendous (talents) — just to see how he worked with those guys and developed their talents by teaching them the basics of the position, and then eventually, both became Pro Bowlers, and in Bob's case, Defensive Player of the Year."

Cliff Stein's services will be as valuable as ever to the Bears as new GM Phil Emery prepares his plan for free agency. It wasn't exactly clear if Stein, the Bears' senior director of football administration and general counsel, would be retained at the outset of team president and CEO Ted Phillips' search for a new general manager, but Stein received strong endorsements from Emery and Phillips upon the completion of the GM search. Stein, a well-respected salary-cap guru, will play an instrumental role in determining how the Bears value impending free agents, including RB Matt Forté, with Emery, whose background is in scouting, relying on his expertise.

• Injury-plagued OLB Thomas Davis would like to stay with the Panthers and is willing to restructure his contract to facilitate his return. The Panthers would like to have him back, but the team is expected to release him before March 15, when he's due an $8 million bonus, if the two sides can't work out a very modest short-term deal (which would include a massive pay cut) by that time. Releasing him, of course, would not preclude them from working out a deal later in the offseason. Davis tore his right ACL for the third time in 22 months in Week Two of the 2011 season, bringing his season to an end. We're told the team feels he still has a chance to be a big contributor and battle for a starting spot, but he's just not a player any team can count on to stay healthy at this point.

• Some team observers in Atlanta have suggested the Falcons should at least consider parting ways with RB Michael Turner this offseason, but we hear the team's commitment to him through at least 2012 — he's signed through 2013 — is solid.

• The Panthers are taking a hard look at the quarterbacks in this year's draft class and have interest in adding a signalcaller with a skill set that resembles Cam Newton's. Ideally, the team would have a backup quarterback that could take over if Newton were to get hurt and not have to drastically change the offense. Carolina didn't have that last season, when Derek Anderson, who is due to become a free agent, backed up Newton, and third-stringer Jimmy Clausen also doesn't fit the mold.

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