Around the NFC West: Rams strike early

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have found a 320-pound anchor for their offensive line. Jason Brown agreed to terms on a five-year, $37.5 million contract. Thomas: "Brown fits the parameters of what the Rams are looking for in free agency as they attempt to rebuild a team that has lost 27 of its past 32 games. So does New York Giants safety James Butler, who could be the next free agent to sign with St. Louis."

Also from Thomas: The Rams stay in touch with Ron Bartell even as the free-agent cornerback meets with the Saints.

VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at other free agents of interest for the Rams. He sees Billy Bajema as a younger, cheaper version of Anthony Becht.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com summarizes the Rams' activities on the first day of free agency. Wagoner: "In his four-year career, Butler has played in 58 games after he was an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Tech. It was there in the ACC that Butler became friends with current Rams cornerback Tye Hill. Butler and Hill are friends and have worked together on a business venture or two. More important, the Rams envision Butler as a strong safety where his 6'3, 215-pound frame should make him a good fit next to free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe. It also doesn't hurt that Butler played for [Steve] Spagnuolo for two seasons in New York and has a good understanding of the defense already."

Niners general manager Scot McCloughan explains his thinking on the draft and free agency in his latest mailbag. He explains why the 49ers want a bigger back to compliment Frank Gore. McCloughan: "The big back would be someone who, if Frank were to get hurt, could come in and carry the load for two, four or six weeks. I don't see a smaller back being that type of guy."

Niners quarterbacks coach Mike Johnson says he has watched 5-7 games with Shaun Hill as quarterback, plus 2006 games with Alex Smith under center. Johnson: "They have different styles. Alex Smith is more of a guy who did more of the eight-man protection, bootleg-type things. When you look at Shaun Hill, he did more with Mike Martz, when they had an empty [backfield] scheme, with four or five receivers out. Both of them did a good job of managing the game from those standpoints."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle sums up the 49ers' first day of free agency.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Moran Norris' re-signing signals the 49ers' dramatic shift away from the Martz offense.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat follows up an earlier item about Kurt Warner and the 49ers. The conclusion: "I have to believe the Cardinals and Warner will come to some kind of resolution within the next couple days."

Also from Maiocco: more on Demetric Evans' expected visit with the 49ers.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals were mostly quiet on the first day of free agency, except for Kurt Warner.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Warner received no offers from other teams on the first day of free agency, according to Warner's agent. Somers: "Steelers cornerback Bryant McFadden is scheduled to arrive for a visit Sunday night, according to NFL.com. The Cardinals are shopping for a cornerback to compete with Rod Hood for a starting job. McFadden was drafted out of Florida State by the Steelers in the second round in 2005. He didn't become a regular starter until this season, however, when he started eight of 10 games. It will be interesting to see what contract offers McFadden will receive, because the market for cornerbacks has skyrocketed in the past week."

Also from Somers: He's skeptical about Warner possibly heading to the 49ers.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recaps the Seahawks' visit with free-agent wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Farnsworth: "Houshmandzadeh flew from his home in Southern California to Seattle with his wife and daughters, and they then were taken to the team's headquarters on the shores of Lake Washington in owner Paul Allen's seaplane. Houshmandzadeh, 31, met with [general manager Tim] Ruskell, as well as coach Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp to discuss what his role would be."

John Morgan of Field Gulls provides a scouting report on Jon Stinchcomb while acknowledging it's unclear if the Seahawks have any interest.