Around the NFC West: Atogwe and beyond

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says letting safety Oshiomogho Atogwe depart in free agency could raise questions about new owner Stan Kroenke if the decision came down to money. But there were probably other factors. Miklasz: "And I also realize that Atogwe's role had changed in the Steve Spagnuolo defense. Atogwe was no longer a sweeper back, looking to pounce on loose footballs at the rear of the Rams defense. Atogwe had to line up more frequently in the box, or close to the box. This cut down on Atogwe's takeaway rate. Rams safeties have to be enforcers in the Spags system. Atogwe was more of a free-lancer with nice range. This wasn't an ideal fit." Earlier: my thoughts on the Atogwe situation.

Also from Miklasz: He'd like to see Kroenke keep a higher profile. Miklasz: "We still don't have a handle on what to expect from him as the owner. When the new agreement is in place, the NFL will open its annual free-agent market. Will the Rams be major players, conservative shoppers or stay on the sidelines? Will Kroenke encourage GM Billy Devaney to go out and do what he needs to improve the roster? Or will Kroenke urge caution?"

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receivers could get together with Sam Bradford on their own. Danario Alexander: "I'm sure we're going to get together. Sam is going to get us all together and we'll go probably a week or two, just working on routes and stuff like that."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes that the Cardinals did not extend restricted free-agent tenders to tight ends Ben Patrick and Stephen Spach. The NFL Players Association lists each as having four accrued seasons even though Spach has played in parts of five. Both would qualify as unrestricted free agents under long-accepted terms of the previous labor agreement, but those definitions could change under a new deal. In the meantime, none of this really matters.

Also from Somers: Getting a new labor deal would help the Cardinals in particular. Somers: "Cardinals officials have said little about the labor negotiations, but the folks running the football department had to be fearful of a prolonged lockout. The Cardinals need a productive off-season to solve their problems, and a long lockout would mean a condensed time frame in which to re-sign and players and pursue free agents."

More from the Republic: An elementary school honors the Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald with a mural of the Pro Bowl wideout. Said a teacher: "His mural has a dual purpose. It honors Larry Fitzgerald, but at the same time it provokes a question that students must answer one day. How will people paint you when you grow up? Will you leave a positive legacy?"

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' assistant coaches would suffer a 20 percent pay reduction immediately and a 40 percent cut beginning in August during a lockout, with the ability to earn back all the money if the team played a full schedule in 2o11, according to NFL Coaches association executive director Larry Kennan. Maiocco: "Kennan said the 49ers and the Raiders generally rank below the top teams when it comes to how they treat their coaches. Kennan said the New York Giants, Packers, Cowboys, Broncos, Dolphins, Colts, Steelers, Redskins, Eagles and Ravens are among the teams with the best reputations for working with assistant coaches."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers' long-term interests hinge of getting a labor deal suitable to them. Lynch: "In the long run, the 49ers need a strong deal for ownership so they can fund their new stadium. Unlike many of their fellow owners, the Yorks are not billionaires. They also don't have a thriving side business that could help fund the football operation. Also, the 49ers are one of the lowest revenue teams, if not the lowest, in the league. Consequently, the 49ers will likely push for a huge set aside for stadium construction not only in savings realized from lowering the percentage devoted to players' compensation, but also from their fellow owners. Being a low-revenue generator, the 49ers will likely want to retain as much revenue sharing as possible."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat passes along Mike Singletary's comments regarding Alex Smith's 2010 season, as told to ESPN's Colin Cowherd. Singletary: "I’ll put it this way. I believed in Alex Smith before the season started. I think the most important thing for a guy that has struggled like Alex has -- I think the most important thing for him is to get him off to an early start. And our first five games were brutal. And so they were all playoff teams. And so we don’t get off to a good start. And when you don’t do that, then maybe Alex begins to look at himself and think ‘Maybe I’m not the guy.’ Maybe some of the players begin to look around and go ‘I thought we had it maybe we’re not.’ I just felt that if we could have got off to a better start then I think the season would have been a whole lot different."

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle says Matt Hasselbeck's price went up when the Seahawks failed to reach agreement with him before the league year expired. He expects the San Francisco 49ers in particular to show interest in Hasselbeck. How much interest? That is hard to say. Coach Jim Harbaugh has been talking up Smith recently, in part because the 49ers haven't had other options at quarterback. Hasselbeck would present another option. I don't think the Seahawks would panic if they lost Hasselbeck to a division rival; they're building for the longer term and realize Hasselbeck hasn't posted a single-season passer rating higher than 75.1 during the last three seasons. They also realize Hasselbeck might be their best option, and it makes little sense to get worse at a critical position.