Hard lessons for NFC West hopefuls

Peyton Manning is probably the closest thing to an irreplaceable player in the NFL.

Four NFC West players stand as shining examples of just how little leverage the typical player can have when miscalculations and/or unfavorable circumstances conspire against them:

  • Deuce Lutui, Cardinals guard. News that Lutui had fired his agent seemed predictable even though Lutui was ultimately responsible for his ill-fated decision to stay away from the team this offseason. The Cardinals moved on by signing Rex Hadnot and Alan Faneca. The best way out of this mess for Lutui would be to report in shape, play well and take his chances at some point in the future. Former teammate Anquan Boldin got what he wanted only after taking this approach (he also fired his agent).

  • LenDale White, ex-Seahawks running back. White apparently thought he had it made playing for his former college coach. He found out Carroll's mantra about every player needing to compete applied to everyone and perhaps even especially to former USC players. White probably won't find a better opportunity than the one he squandered.

  • Oshiomogho Atogwe, Rams safety. It's tough to fault Atogwe for his approach without knowing exactly what the Rams have offered on a multiyear deal. I would be more apt to call Atogwe a victim of the new labor system. Either way, Atogwe appears to be drawing minimal interest in the market. The league simply isn't likely to value him the way the Rams valued him when they made him their franchise player last offseason.

  • Manny Lawson, 49ers linebacker. His decision to stay away this offseason while asking for a new contract might not matter much in the end. The safe assumption is that Lawson will eventually report in shape and ready to contribute. Still, Lawson lacks leverage and he would have a better chance realizing more of his potential if he became a full participant in the 49ers' offseason program. He is only hurting himself by staying away.

Every one of these talented, mostly young players can be replaced without much trouble.