Thursday, March 20, 2014
A look around the NFC West in free agency
By Nick Wagoner
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- It's well-documented that the St. Louis Rams have elected not to be too active in the opening week-plus of free agency. But while the Rams have held steady, the rest of the NFC West teams have been at least mildly active either attempting to improve rosters or retain talent.
With that in mind, let's take a spin around the division to see what's been going on elsewhere in the NFL's best division.
The Cardinals have probably been the busiest team in the division with plenty of comings and goings. They suffered some hits, namely the loss of linebacker Karlos Dansby to Cleveland and receiver Andre Roberts to Washington. Those are the biggest departures but Arizona has had many. In all, the Cardinals have lost 16 players to other teams or retirement (or have yet to sign anywhere). Of course, only five of those players were starters, so Arizona hasn't been on the receiving end of anything from which it can't recover.
On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals have been proactive in bolstering the roster with outside free agents. Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer fills a huge need on the line and should give the Cards some flexibility in the draft. The Cardinals also picked up potential contributors in tight end John Carlson and receiver/returner Ted Ginn.
San Francisco 49ers
Much like Arizona, it has been a busy offseason for the 49ers, who have spent most of their time looking to retain key free agents. The Niners have lost their share of starters, too, with five heading to other destinations. But safety Donte Whitner and cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are the only significant losses for San Francisco, and the Niners immediately covered for Whitner by signing Antoine Bethea from Indianapolis.
In addition to Bethea, perhaps the most important move for the Niners was keeping receiver Anquan Boldin. They've also added depth at corner with Chris Cook and made two of the more well-known moves for non-starters in trading for quarterback Blaine Gabbert and signing offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
As is always the case with Super Bowl champions, the losses are almost certain to outweigh the gains. The Seahawks are no exception. Tasked with the difficult job of choosing where to spend their money amongst a good crop of free agents, the Seahawks were able to keep their top priority, defensive end Michael Bennett.
That was a wise move and allowed Seattle to keep its most important free agent. It also cost the Seahawks their share of important pieces. Some of those pieces include receivers Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, cornerbacks Walter Thurmond and Brandon Browner, defensive ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and offensive tackle Breno Giacomini.
The Seahawks have built a deep, talented roster that should allow them to replace many of those departing and, in fact, some of those players already got replaced last year.
Bottom line: Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle have all taken more meaningful hits than the Rams in terms of departures so far. But they've also been far more active in patching those holes and, like the Rams, keeping their own important free agents. To this point, it's hard to see how the Rams have made up ground on their opponents aside from some possible backtracking caused by players lost to free agency.