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Friday, March 11, 2011
NFC West labor impact

By Mike Sando

NFC labor impact: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A team-by-team look at how a continued labor impasse and extended NFL freeze on transactions would affect the division:

Arizona Cardinals: A prolonged stoppage would prevent the Cardinals from lining up a veteran quarterback before the draft, putting the team in position to repeat what happened last offseason.

A year ago, the Cardinals wanted a shot at signing Marc Bulger in free agency. The St. Louis Rams didn't release him right away, however, and the Cardinals felt as though they couldn't wait. They made a play for Charlie Whitehurst, then signed Derek Anderson.

Bulger could make sense for the Cardinals again this offseason, but they will not be able to sign him, or anyone, with a freeze on transactions. They hold the fifth overall choice in the 2011 draft, which will unfold as scheduled. But with no quarterback and three of their five starting offensive linemen headed for free agency, the Cardinals would head into the draft with too many acute needs to address.

And if the stoppage continued into the summer, the Cardinals' new defensive coordinator, Ray Horton, would be working at a severe disadvantage.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks put themselves in position to wheel and deal during their second offseason under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.

They have more than two dozen players with expiring contracts. That was by design in quite a few cases. Seattle showed little hesitation in making player trades and other transactions last season. A stoppage would prevent the Seahawks from addressing their many roster needs aggressively.

Getting a labor agreement at the last minute would threaten to compress the signing period, making it tough to assimilate new players.

The Seahawks have a new offensive coordinator, Darrell Bevell, and a new assistant head coach/offensive line coach in former Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable. A transaction freeze would prevent them from promoting the scheme and mentality they want to establish.

The quarterback situation would remain unsettled. Seattle could feel additional pressure to consider one with the 25th overall choice in the draft.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers arguably have more at stake than any NFL team because they have no starting quarterback, plus new schemes on offense, defense and special teams.

That combination would be difficult to overcome during a normal offseason. Regular league rules would have allowed the 49ers additional minicamp practices. A stoppage would give them no practices at all and no chance even to hold meetings involving players.

A prolonged shutdown could leave the 49ers with fewer realistic options at quarterback heading into the season. Re-signing Alex Smith could make more sense at that point. He would at least have some familiarity with the players on the 49ers' roster, and his price would be reasonable.

St. Louis Rams: The Rams are eager to sync up quarterback Sam Bradford with new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. That could not happen during a stoppage.

Bradford and teammates have said they'll gather for informal workouts. That cannot hurt, but teams with new coordinators need organized time together.

Ideally, the Rams would have addressed a few positions in free agency to narrow their needs heading into the draft. Signing a veteran receiver or acquiring a veteran outside linebacker would have given the Rams additional flexibility in the draft.

Every team in the league will experience those kinds of inconveniences during an extended shutdown. The situation with McDaniels stands out as the clearest threat to the Rams.