Around the NFC West: Hill, Atogwe and more

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle examines the 49ers' attitude toward Shaun Hill in light of recent events. Ratto: "Because [Mike] Singletary is so invested in his power to make others see his visions, the fact that he has left the door so open for [Alex] Smith surely indicates that Hill still has some persuading to do. And, no, the fact that Hill outranks [Jeff] Garcia in Singletary's mind doesn't count."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the Rams' decision to name Oshiomogho Atogwe their franchise player deprived the 49ers of a potential target in free agency. That's the thing about free agency in the NFL. The possibilities seem so much better in early February than they seem once we realize most of the top players won't be hitting the market.

David Fucillo of Niners Nation breaks down the 49ers' special-teams performance from 2008. Fucillo: "Kicker and punter are clearly fine going forward. The big question is in the return game. Allen Rossum is a free agent and the 49ers have to decide if they want Rossum back, or if they want to work on developing a returner of the future. They signed Michael Spurlock, a man who became the first Buccaneer to return a kickoff for a touchdown, to reserve/futures contract. If they want Rossum back, or they want to grab somebody in the draft, that sort of contract will not get in their way."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have concluded a hectic two-week period in which their coaching staff has taken on a new look. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "The thing I feel the best about is there won't be a change in philosophy or terminology on both sides of the ball."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com explains the reasoning behind the Cardinals' coaching moves, including the decision for Mike Miller and Russ Grimm to share coordinating duties on offense while Whisenhunt calls the plays. Grimm: "I don't see [my role] changing a whole lot. Maybe [I'll do] a little bit more if we need something for the running game. But for me to do both jobs, I couldn't do it and for [Whisenhunt] to do both, it's not smart. We'll all do it, and Mike will tie it all together."

John Morgan of Field Gulls ties together his thoughts on Matthew Stafford as a player the Seahawks could consider with the fourth overall choice. Morgan doesn't think the Seahawks need to select a left tackle with that choice.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites a Pro Football Weekly article in which Leonard Weaver's agent suggests the fullback probably won't return to the Seahawks in 2009.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks could used the transition tag instead of the franchise tag in restricting Leroy Hill's options this offseason. If they do that and Hill pulls a Steve Hutchinson on them, look out.

Also from Williams: A Seahawks roster analysis in which he says Will Herring or D.D. Lewis could fill in nicely for Hill if needed.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will place the franchise tag on Atogwe while they try to work out a long-term deal with the ball-hawking free safety. The Rams are scheduled to meet with Ron Bartell's agent at the combine Thursday.

VanRam of Turf Show Times says Chris Long's devotion to the game means the defensive end will develop consistency while striving to improve.

Vince Verhei of Football Outsiders sizes up the NFC West with thoughts on Long, Vernon Davis, Jim Mora and the Cardinals' coaching changes.