NFC West: 2014 Free Agency Week 1 Recap

Free-agency review: Seahawks

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
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Here's a look at where things stand with the Seattle Seahawks after the first week of free agency:

Bennett
Most significant signing: Keeping Michael Bennett, the team's best defensive lineman last season, meant the Seahawks accomplished their No. 1 goal among all their free agents. Bennett had said he wouldn't give the Seahawks a hometown discount, but he signed for a reasonable sum of $28.5 over four years. Bennett agreed to the deal because the Seahawks were willing to give him $16 million in guaranteed money. Re-signing kicker Steve Hauschka on Monday to a three-year, $9.1 million deal was also a key move.

Most significant loss: It was fairly obvious before free agency began that the Seahawks wouldn't be able to keep both Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate. That proved true when Tate signed a five-year deal with the Detroit Lions for $31 million, including $13.2 million in guaranteed money. The Seahawks were offering Tate about $10 million less.

Biggest surprise: No huge surprises, but the Seahawks really wanted to keep defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who had a breakout season in 2013 with 5.5 sacks. But Seattle felt they couldn't afford to match the offer McDonald received from Tampa Bay of $12 million for four years.

What's next?: Seven Seattle free agents signed elsewhere in the first week of free agency, which shows how difficult it is to keep together a Super Bowl-winning team. However, Tate and McDonald are the only two the Seahawks seriously considered keeping. It's possible Seattle could still sign defensive end Jared Allen or defensive tackle Henry Melton, but the team has to look to the future when big-money deals are coming for safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson, which could cost as much as $35 million in 2015.

Free-agency review: 49ers

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Boldin
Most significant signing: Receiver Anquan Boldin. Fans may not like it when a team's most significant move is keeping one of its current players, but imagine if Boldin had walked. In his first season with the 49ers, Boldin became a critical part of the offense. Receiver was one of the team's biggest need areas. Re-signing Boldin helps keep this offense dangerous. The team's plan was to try to keep its best players, and Boldin was the top priority. That alone makes free agency a success.

Most significant loss: Cornerback Tarell Brown. I think safety Donte Whitner is a better player than Brown. But unlike Whitner, the 49ers have yet to replace Brown, who signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the crosstown Oakland Raiders. Brown is a solid player. His departure leaves a hole at the position.

Biggest surprise: The signing of former Indianapolis safety Antoine Bethea. About four hours before the start of free agency, word filtered out that Whitner was going to agree to a deal with his hometown Cleveland Browns. Shortly after free agency officially began, the 49ers had a deal done with Bethea. It was surprising in both swiftness and quality. The thought was that if Whitner were to leave, the 49ers would have to scramble to find a replacement. But Bethea is a comparable player to Whitner and a good fit for the defense.

What’s next? The 49ers are concentrating on adding players at cornerback and receiver. They took some looks at both spots in recent days, but nothing materialized. There are some pieces remaining on the market at both spots, but fit and price could be issues. The 49ers are fully expected to use early-round picks to address both positions in the draft.

Free-agency review: Rams

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
A look at what the St. Louis Rams have done through the first week of free agency.

Most significant signing: There's not much to choose from, but the obvious pick is offensive lineman Rodger Saffold's five-year deal with the team. He was the Rams' No. 1 priority and they were able to land him after one of the most dramatic and bizarre free-agent situations in recent memory.

[+] EnlargeRodger Saffold
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRodger Saffold's versatility has paid off for the St. Louis Rams.
Most significant loss: It's a tossup between backup quarterback Kellen Clemens and left guard Chris Williams, but we'll go with Williams based solely on the fact that he started all 16 games for the team in 2013. Losing Williams is far from a damaging blow, but that's one starting spot the Rams now have to fill.

Biggest surprise: The crazy saga that was Saffold's near departure to Oakland followed by the quick turnaround and new contract with the Rams is the runaway winner here. The Rams had already moved on to other targets and were in the middle of hosting one replacement (guard Davin Joseph) and had another possibility (guard Daryn Colledge) on the way to St. Louis when the news broke that Saffold's deal in Oakland fell apart. In a matter of hours, the Rams went from scrambling for replacements to landing their top target.

What's next? There's not much to be found on the market after the usual waves of free agency came and went in the first six days. The Rams will continue to explore the bargain bin for depth on the offensive and defensive lines, for a backup quarterback and possibly for help at wide receiver and in the secondary.

Free-agency review: Cardinals

March, 18, 2014
Mar 18
9:00
AM ET
Most significant signing: Arizona vastly upgraded its offensive line when it signed left tackle Jared Veldheer. He gives the Cardinals an anchor on the left side, a position that hasn’t been solidified -- nor sturdy -- for the past 10 years. At 6-foot-8 and 320 pounds, Veldheer changed the complexion of how Arizona’s offense can work. The Cards now have an answer for the tough defensive ends and outside linebackers in the NFC West, putting one a few steps closer to becoming a playoff team.

Dansby
Most significant loss: Without a doubt, Arizona’s biggest loss is inside linebacker Karlos Dansby. He provided a bridge between the secondary and defensive line, and was able to cross it seamlessly and often. Dansby’s loss will impact the defense because of his ability to go sideline to sideline. He had a career season in 2013 after shedding weight. Dansby was also the conductor of the defense and was held in high regard throughout the locker room.

Biggest surprise: The one name that’s stood out from the Cardinals’ haul thus far is Ted Ginn Jr. The speedy receiver is a perfect fit for Bruce Arians’ offense but his addition wasn’t expected. Like Veldheer’s signing, the idea of signing Ginn became a reality when the Carolina Panthers didn’t make a strong push to re-sign him. By landing Ginn, Arizona has a dual-purpose player -- Ginn can assume the kick returner role, while being a solid backup for Patrick Peterson on punt returns -- and will be Arizona’s third receiver, the one whose speed can take the top off defenses.

What’s next? The Cardinals solved a lot of their problems that plagued them throughout 2013, but there are still some areas left to be fixed. Arizona will target a right tackle, safety, cornerback and tight end during the second wave of free agency as well as in the draft. Of those, the Cards will most likely aim for a safety and tight end in the draft while trying to snag another offensive lineman or two and a cornerback in free agency. With that being said, the draft could yield a talented corner who would come at a cheaper price than some of the veterans on the team. General manager Steve Keim will still approach the second wave of free agency like he did the first: looking for instant-impact players. However the second wave may yield more veterans, who Arizona has utilized in the past, as well as a slew of backups.

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