Around the NFC West: Combine's timing

The NFL scouting combine has traditionally served another purpose beyond evaluating college prospects.

For years, team executives and agents have used the event as a springboard into free agency. That might not be the case to the same extent this week because the gap between the combine and the March 12 start to free agency is longer than it has sometimes been in the past.

Around the NFC West: Feb. 20, 2013

"Most agents don't think a lot of re-signings will happen during this year's combine," ESPN.com's John Clayton wrote. "That won't stop teams from trying to get deals done. General managers and negotiators will be busy. Teams can start designating franchise players this week. Negotiations will be conducted to get teams under the cap. Players will be released. Trades can't be formalized until March 12, but deals can be discussed to set up potential trades."

Free agency began Feb. 26 in 2009 and March 4 in 2010 before the lockout affected 2011. The signing period opened March 16 last year.

This year, the combine should help Seattle and San Francisco get a better feel for trade markets relating to their backup quarterbacks. Both teams could benefit if the combine confirms fears that the 2013 quarterback draft class isn't particularly strong. Both teams' general managers will have opportunities to speak with their counterparts from other teams.