Around the NFC West: Rams' draft priorities

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams would target defensive line in the first round of the draft if they did not select a wide receiver. Thomas: "Sure I think defensive line, particularly DE, becomes the most likely position at No. 14 if the WRs are gone. I've mentioned some of the names that probably will be there and could be on the Rams radar already -- DEs Aldon Smith, Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan (and I guess, Ryan Kerrigan, too), and DT Corey Liuget. As for the bench press guy, Oregon State's Stephen Paea, you can't take a guy just because he's an excellent weightlifter. Paea didn't do any of the other combine workouts because of an injury, so it's a little harder to get a read on the guy." The Rams struck gold in free agency last offseason when they landed defensive tackle Fred Robbins from the Giants. Robbins played better than the Rams reasonably could have expected. James Hall was exceptional, too. Both players are getting up there in age, however. Adding talented young players to the line might help Robbins and Hall extend their careers while giving coach Steve Spagnuolo the depth he covets along the line.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Christian Ponder might be a better fit for the Seahawks than fellow college quarterbacks Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker. O'Neil: "I think he's a better athlete than people expected, he's a good fit for the West Coast offense. The fact he has had multiple surgeries on his throwing arm is a concern. He's like an injured pitcher, but I think he's a very intriguing possibility."

Also from O'Neil: Seattle kickoff returner Leon Washington, who re-signed Tuesday, came at a bargain price when the team acquired him from the Jets. O'Neil: "In exchange for sliding down 97 spots in the final two rounds of the draft, the Seahawks got Washington, who beat the San Diego Chargers with two kickoff returns for scores in Week 3 and added a third kickoff return for a touchdown later in the season. No Seahawk had ever returned more than one kickoff for a touchdown in his Seahawks career before Washington."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Brandon Mebane's agent, Chuck Price, for thoughts on negotiations between Seattle and the defensive tackle. Price: "They made it clear that they would like Brandon to stay,” Price said. “And Brandon has made it clear that he’d like to be there. So we’re really working hard to keep Brandon there."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have no plans to release players this week. Somers: "Outside linebacker Joey Porter is due to make $5.75 million in 2011, but those paychecks don't come until the season starts. The Cardinals don't have to release Porter unless some sort of salary cap is in the place and they need the room. Since the Cardinals didn't spend much last year, that's probably not going to be necessary. Quarterback Derek Anderson likely won't return, either. He's due to make $4.1 million in 2011."

Also from Somers: Adrian Wilson, who underwent surgery on Tuesday for a torn abductor, joins Cardinals teammate Lyle Sendlein among players whose performance suffered while they played through undisclosed injuries. Somers: "Sendlein suffered a severe left shoulder injury in the second game of the 2008 season, yet played through it. His effectiveness was hampered by a lack of strength in his left arm and shoulder, and he was criticized at times for poor play."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com reflects on news that Wilson played through the injury all last season. Urban: "Wilson stayed out there and played. Heck, he even played in the Pro Bowl banged up. And as everyone — including Wilson -- knows, it wasn’t his best year. Was it because of the injury? Did it make that big of a difference? Wilson never let on anything was wrong. But it could have been a factor. We’ll have to see the next time I talk to him. I’m sure A-Dub is looking forward to having that conversation."

Also from Urban: an update on procedural moves involving Arizona players. Urban: "Wide receiver Steve Breaston confirmed an ESPN report he has been extended a tender offer, and I would assume the Cards are doing that for a handful of guys who potentially could qualify as restricted free agents. Again, it’s housekeeping in a way, since everyone is in limbo until a new CBA is reached."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reflects on Wally Yonamine's impact as the first professional football player of Asian descent. Yonamine, who passed away at age 85, also became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan after World War II. 49ers owner John York: "One day, I was surprised by an unknown caller on the telephone. Wally Yonamine reached out to me and asked that I present him into the Japanese American Sports Hall of Fame, in 2002. That phone call introduced me to a wonderful new friend and a man that is very important in 49ers history, the 49ers first Asian American player. Wally will be sadly missed by me and those with a love of 49ers history." More on Yonamine here.

Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh deserves the benefit of the doubt on the quarterback front even though praising Alex Smith has rankled some fans. Poole: "Smith's career numbers aren't as bad as is suggested by the fan base's treatment -- an avalanche of boos, with an occasional trickle of support. Despite the handicaps of Neanderthal coaching, mostly ordinary wide receivers and the fact that the team's best deep threat is a 250-pound tight end, he has been an average quarterback. When Smith told me after the season finale that he didn't see himself coming back to San Francisco, I imagined fans cheering in the background. I was happy for Smith, who needs a fresh start, and the fans were happy for themselves and the 49ers. Now that Harbaugh is resorting to persuasion, visualizing a fresh start in San Francisco, Smith could have second thoughts. This new era will be much friendlier to quarterbacks."