Revisiting offseason issues in NFC West

June, 16, 2010
6/16/10
1:30
PM ET
Revisiting top NFC West storylines this offseason:

Mass retirements

Walter Jones, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Patrick Kerney and Bertrand Berry combined for 20 Pro Bowls during their NFL careers. Each retired this offseason.

[+] EnlargeWarner
John David Mercer/US PresswireKurt Warner's retirement may tip the competitive balance heading into the 2010 season.
Warner's departure from the Arizona Cardinals was by far the most significant based on how well he probably would have played had he returned in 2010. No other move this offseason will affect the 2010 standings as much. The San Francisco 49ers' chances improved significantly when Warner walked away.

Quarterback turnover

Every team in the division changed its No. 2 quarterback. Sam Bradford, Charlie Whitehurst, Derek Anderson, A.J. Feeley, David Carr and J.P. Losman are new to the NFC West this season. Predicting the division is tougher with so many changes and potential changes at the position. The door is open for Matt Hasselbeck to re-emerge as the top quarterback in the division. The big question, I think, is whether we're underestimating Matt Leinart in Arizona. He's not getting much credit at all.

49ers stadium vote

The team moved closer to having a new stadium in Santa Clara for the 2014 season. Getting Measure J passed doesn't guarantee anything, but the 49ers' ability to clear this hurdle suggests the team's ownership and front office have made progress. That's a welcome development for 49ers fans -- even those not wanting to see game days relocated from San Francisco.

Ownership uncertainty

The St. Louis Rams appeared less flexible than they would have liked this offseason during an ownership change that remains in progress. All signs point to Stan Kroenke finding a way to become full owner of the team. Rams fans should welcome the development because Kroenke has resources and an established record as an effective sports franchise owner.

In Seattle, meanwhile, the Seahawks continued to operate as usual while owner Paul Allen underwent cancer treatments. The long-term prognosis for Allen remains unclear.

Stability in Arizona

The Cardinals endured lots of changes this offseason, but they signed coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves to contract extensions through the 2013 season. They also re-signed strength-and-conditioning coach John Lott, whose addition and retention Whisenhunt had made a priority.

Failing to re-sign Whisenhunt and/or Lott in particular would have raised questions about the Cardinals' direction and stability. Those are non-issues at this point.

[+] EnlargeCarroll
Juliann Tallin/US PresswirePete Carroll took over as the Seahawks' head coach.
Drama, intrigue in Seattle

The Seahawks' strange and ultimately futile dance with Mike Holmgren -- followed by Jim Mora's abrupt firing and Pete Carroll's quick hiring -- marked the most dramatic offseason in Seattle since Holmgren stepped down as general manager in late 2002.

This was an organization in turmoil for a while. The Seahawks regained their footing and put together a unified front office.

Surviving change atop 49ers

Losing general manager Scot McCloughan five weeks before the draft qualified as a potentially ominous development.

The 49ers held together their front office and smartly promoted from within. Adding a GM from the outside might have undercut coach Mike Singletary, quarterback Alex Smith and others just as the 49ers finally appeared in position to make a serious run at a playoff spot.

This offseason was about continuity for the 49ers and they managed to achieve it even though McCloughan left them. Re-signing Patrick Willis, sticking with Smith when Donovan McNabb was available and getting the stadium measure passed added to the sense of stability and direction for the franchise.

Line dances

The 49ers lucked into offensive line coach Mike Solari when the Seahawks decided to hire Alex Gibbs to coach their offensive line.

The team of Solari and assistant line coach Ray Brown looks like a significant upgrade at a critical time for the 49ers. Solari's familiarity with offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye -- they worked together in Kansas City -- was a bonus.

Gibbs is the right hire for Seattle as the team more fully adopts the blocking scheme for which Gibbs is best known. Hiring him at Solari's expense strengthened a division rival, however.

Cardinals exodus

Warner, Berry, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Karlos Dansby, Bryant McFadden, Mike Gandy and Chike Okeafor combined to start 107 games for the Cardinals last season. All are gone -- some by design, some against the Cardinals' wishes.

Arizona fans should be excited to see how the Cardinals develop some of their younger players. The organization has done a good job plugging holes with youth in the recent past. This roster has turned over to a degree generally not seen among playoff teams, however.

At least the Cardinals recovered to some degree. Adding Kerry Rhodes, Alan Faneca, Joey Porter, Paris Lenon, Rex Hadnot and Jay Feely helped.

Steven Jackson
Jeff Curry/US PresswireKeeping running back Steven Jackson healthy will be very important for the Rams.
Back surgery for Steven Jackson

The Rams' best player and only Pro Bowl representative wore down last season. Surgery to repair a herniated disk should give him a chance to bounce back in time for training camp and the regular season.

Still, it's fair to wonder if the Rams overused Jackson following his injury last season, and whether they've done enough to shore up their depth in case Jackson wears down again in 2010.

RFA unrest

This was a league-wide phenomenon with special application in the NFC West stemming from Oshiomogho Atogwe's unusual transition from franchise player to minimally tendered restricted free agent to street free agent.

Atogwe might wind up re-signing with the Rams anyway. If that happens, the RFA storyline becomes much ado about not so much -- particularly with the Cardinals' unhappy RFA, Deuce Lutui, re-signing this week.

Fellow NFC West RFAs Rob Sims, Darryl Tapp and Alex Barron found new addresses via trade.

Divisional smack talk

The jaw-jacking between Arizona's Darnell Dockett and San Francisco's Vernon Davis provided cheap entertainment for a while this offseason.

At one point, Dockett asked Davis how he spent Week 18 last season.

"Oh, that's right," Dockett tweeted. "He was home watching the cardinals in tha playoffs!"

[+] EnlargeVernon Davis
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireWe'll see if the verbal sparring between Vernon Davis (pictured) and Darnell Dockett carries over into the regular season.
To be continued.

Brandon Marshall non-acquisition

For a while, the Seahawks were the only team showing serious interest in the Denver Broncos' most productive receiver.

Marshall wound up landing in Miami, a relief to the rest of the NFC West.

The Seahawks might have a cheap alternative in Mike Williams, the surprise of the offseason for Seattle. The next trade-related question for the Seahawks is whether they'll add Marshawn Lynch from the Buffalo Bills.

Jerry Rice, Russ Grimm to the Hall

Four recent Hall of Fame enshrinees played at least briefly with NFC West teams. Another, Grimm, coaches in the division.

Rice's election headlined the 2010 class.

Another former NFC West star, Cortez Kennedy, made the list of 10 finalists.

Farewell to a legend

Merlin Olsen's death from cancer saddened those who knew him and those who appreciated the warmth and dignity he projected.

Even opponents liked him.

Not even Rice could match Olsen's career total of 14 Pro Bowls.

Farewell to a non-legend

LenDale White's sudden and quick release from the Seahawks came as an unexpected jolt.

Carroll proved he wouldn't give a free pass to his former players at USC.

Your turn: Any major issues we're missing here? Fire away.

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