Around the NFC West: Lower franchise tag

The Arizona Cardinals' plans to open contract talks with defensive end Calais Campbell come as NFL teams gain new leverage in negotiations with top players.

Andrew Brandt of National Football Post recently explained how the new collective bargaining agreement will lower valuations for franchise players. Brandt: "The calculation for the tag is now no longer based on the average of the top five salaries for a player’s position for the preceding year, but the average of the top five salaries at a player’s position for the preceding FIVE years! Thus, for 2012, franchise tag calculations compute from the top five salaries at each position -- not from 2011 -- but from an average of the top five salaries at each position for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011." Noted: Teams were already using the franchise tag without giving much thought to the salary-cap implications. Lowering the tag values will only make the tag easier to use.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Campbell's contract runs out after this season and he's a player the team needs to re-sign. Somers: "It's surprising the team has waited this long. Campbell is in the last year of his rookie contract, and he is four months away from unrestricted free agency. The Cardinals have no young players behind Campbell, and losing him would be a blow because they have other needs to address." Noted: The Cardinals had no trouble using the tag for Karlos Dansby, but Campbell's ability to rush the passer should make him more valuable. He should receive a long-term contract.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Darnell Dockett expects the organization to re-sign Campbell. Dockett: "We need to (re-sign him), and I trust Rod Graves and the organization, they’ll do right by Calais. He’s young and is a good leader. He’s only got upside. I don’t think he’s fully developed into his body, to be honest. Another 10 pounds, that dude will be walking around like a gorilla around here." Noted: Campbell, at 6-foot-8 and a lean 300-plus pounds, is one of the most physically impressive players in the NFL.

Also from Urban: Patrick Peterson's development at cornerback.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com explains why Red Bryant is the team's Ed Block Courage Award winner. Bryant: "Getting this honor means a lot, given the fact that I’m coming back from an injury that a lot of people didn’t feel like I would probably come back from -- because I had an ACL coming out of college on the same knee. So, to come back and play at a high level, it’s just a testament to the trainers and the hard work and the encouragement my teammates gave me."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are happy with their towering cornerbacks.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas has continued to improve despite depressed interception numbers.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle saw good things from Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung, who fared well against Cowboys outside linebacker Demarcus Ware even when Seattle did not help Okung in protection. Up next: Baltimore's Terrell Suggs.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, whose role in the offense was diminishing even before a mid-foot sprain sidelined him indefinitely. Thomas: "From Troy Drayton to Ernie Conwell, Roland Williams, Brandon Manumaleuna, Randy McMichael, Daniel Fells, and more, no Rams tight end has caught more than 47 passes for more than 458 yards in a season since the franchise moved to St. Louis in 1995. It looked like that was about to change with Kendricks on the scene. But Kendricks had trouble with drops in the early going, dropping what looked like sure TDs in Game 1 against Philadelphia and Game 4 against Washington."

Kathleen Nelson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Sam Bradford's workload has increased. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Got more reps today than he did yesterday and certainly more than he had last Thrusday. And yet, we try not to give them all to him because the more you put on him, then you're going backwards a little bit. I think he's progressing pretty good. He's a tough guy."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team's ground game is gaining momentum.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com quotes 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman as saying the team's modest offensive stats reflect game situations. Roman: "When you're up, you're not going to throw as much, right? And, probably, your yards-per-carry aren't going to be as high because you're facing loaded defenses. And your defensive stats are probably going to be down because those teams are throwing it around. So the only stat that matters is winning. Everything else is statistical analysis and information gathering. So whatever we need to do to win, we'll do. And if it's throwing it or if it's running it, whatever that equation is on a week-to-week basis, we'll do. Everything else, really, is water cooler talk." Noted: The Green Bay Packers average 105.3 additional yards per game than the 49ers average. They have an 8-0 record and have obviously led their opponents a significant amount of the time. The 49ers are more conservative on offense by design, not just because they've been leading games.

Also from Maiocco: Ray McDonald takes another step in his return from a hamstring injury.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee is interested in seeing how the Giants combat the 49ers' ground game.

Also from Barrows: a look at the alley-oop play R.C. Owens helped make famous.