Around the NFC West: Balmer's challenge

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers could consider defensive linemen in the draft even though the team appears solid up front. Maiocco on Kentwan Balmer: "His development has been slow, and he will not be able to accomplish a lot this offseason. He's in the midst of a six-month rehabilitation from shoulder surgery. The club hopes he'll be cleared to resume on-field work in June. Balmer was the 29th overall pick in the 2008 draft. Like so many young defensive linemen, he has not been productive. He was getting onto the field about one-third of the time on base downs, and doing just OK, prior to sustaining a torn labrum in his right shoulder. It looks as if he takes his job seriously, and he works hard. But, at this point, I don't know if he has what it takes to contribute on a good defense."

Florida Danny of Niners Nation says the 49ers had the best defense among non-playoff teams last season. He credits the team's focus on establishing a clear identity in 3-4 principles.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation says quite a few mock drafts have the 49ers selecting offensive tackle Trent Williams in the first round.

Steve Wyche of NFL.com says Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney plans to continue his career. Kerney: "I've got a couple good ones left in me. ... Gonna be in sick shape." Kerney is always in tremendous condition. The question is whether he can hold up physically over the course of a season after multiple surgeries, and to what degree his salary makes him vulnerable.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the screen game is one positive from the Seahawks' 2009 season and something the new coaching staff can build upon. Williams: "The Seahawks were one of the better screen teams in 2009, with nine of Seattle’s 38 plays of 20-plus yards or more through the air on screen passes to a running back or receiver. The plays were either screen passes called in the huddle or an audible at the line of scrimmage (smoke screen) because of pressure coming up front. Although they struggled at times to effectively run them during Mike Holmgren’s tenure, the screen game was a staple in his offense because of the ability for a big play when a team blitzed. Holmgren considered screens like a long handoff -- another way to get an elusive running back or receiver the ball in space."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says linebacker Karlos Dansby has been consistent in his desire to earn the most amount of money possible, whether from the Cardinals or anyone else. Urban: "Darnell Dockett and Anquan Boldin chose to take extensions earlier in their career in part for the security, and obviously it has affected them down the road. The Cards were more leery of doing something like that with Dansby because of his injury and practice issues earlier in his career, and by the time they decided to shift gears, Dansby got it in his head he’d rather test the open market. That’s been delayed because of two years with the franchise tag (and do not overlook the fact Dansby has been essentially playing for a contract for three seasons now, so we will see if anything changes when he gets a long-term deal)."

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 considers reasons for the Cardinals to keep Mike Gandy and reasons to let him go. I think the Cardinals should bring back Gandy if the price is right and Gandy has recovered sufficiently from the injuries that slowed him last season. The margin for error on the offensive line shrinks without Kurt Warner, who could anticipate the rush well enough to get rid of the ball quickly.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch passes along a few comments from Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who has not yet studied Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in detail. The Rams have so far focused on their pro personnel evaluations.

Also from Thomas: Spagnuolo isn't saying anything meaningful about the quarterback situation in St. Louis. It's a big upset, though, if the Rams return with Marc Bulger as their starter. Spagnuolo: "There's still a long ways to go here. You know this is all in layers. Free agency. Draft. And what happens afterwards. So to make any rash decisions now, we wouldn't do that."

More from Thomas: a chat in which he shoots down suggestions Bulger cleaned out his locker in anticipation of not returning in 2010. Thomas: "Here's a news flash for you: Ryan McKee also cleaned out his locker. So did about 65 other Rams. James Laurinaitis has less stuff in his locker than Bulger. This 'locker cleaning' all took place on Jan. 4. So, going back to early January, here's another news flash: Philadelphia and Green Bay were eliminated in the wild-card round."

Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says the Rams could check out former Browns receiver Donte Stallworth, who was with Spagnuolo in Philadelphia. Spagnuolo: "I know that he has just become available, so we are looking at everybody. But I happen to know Donte personally, and I kind of like him. That is going back a little while now, three or four years ago when he was in Philadelphia." I'm not sure how eager the Rams would be to welcome a player with a DUI manslaughter conviction. Comparisons to Leonard Little's situation would be inevitable.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat cites a source saying prospective Rams owner Shahid Khan wants Stan Kroenke to keep his minority share in the team. The source: ""He doesn’t need any money from Stan. He can handle the deal on his own if he has to. But he has a strong desire for Stan to stay in so he would have a St. Louis partner and a strong link to the community. He values that connection."