NFC West: 2014 next big thing NFC

The next big thing: 49ers

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
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The 49ers are just settling into their offseason.

San Francisco has advanced to the NFC Championship Game in all three seasons under coach Jim Harbaugh. They have lost twice, and advanced to the Super Bowl last season. Moving forward, the objective will be winning a Super Bowl.

Because this team has a big window, the next big thing for the 49ers is securing their long-term health. That means extending the contracts of Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick this year. Harbaugh has two years left on his deal and Kaepernick has one year, although he can be franchised after that.

Both Harbaugh and Kaepernick are going to be among the highest-paid men in their respective roles in the NFL. While the talks aren't likely to be simple, both deals will likely get done, and it’s a focal point of the offseason.

The next big thing: Rams

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
12:00
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ST. LOUIS --The NFL scouting combine is less than a month away, with free agency set to start soon after, and the St. Louis Rams have much to figure out before the new league year begins.

General manager Les Snead insists his team doesn't have one particular need, other than more experience for his team. That can't come until next season begins, but the Rams have plenty of business matters to tend to before they reach that point.

First and foremost, the Rams have some difficult decisions to make in terms of their salary cap. As it stands, the Rams figure to be right up against next year's salary cap (how close remains to be seen until the new figure is released) and they'll need money to sign a rookie class, any of their own free agents, and any other help via free agency. Likewise, a possible big-money extension for defensive end Robert Quinn looms in the background.

To create some salary-cap flexibility, the Rams will likely hone in on center Scott Wells (2014 cap figure of $6.5 million), guard Harvey Dahl ($4 million) and cornerback Cortland Finnegan ($10 million). Once those decisions are made, the Rams can turn their attention to important in-house free-agent offensive lineman Rodger Saffold.

The next big thing: Seahawks

January, 23, 2014
Jan 23
12:00
PM ET
RENTON, Wash. -- Obviously, the next big thing for the Seahawks is the Super Bowl against the Denver Broncos. Nothing else matters at the moment.

However, when the big game is over, the Seahawks have difficult contract decisions to make because they know a day of reckoning is coming when they will need to pay some star players big bucks in the near future.

It won't be this year, but soon for cornerback Richard Sherman and quarterback Russell Wilson. Sherman has one year left on a deal that counts only $690,000 against the salary cap next season. He will soon command a salary of well over $10 million a year.

Wilson will make only $662,000, next season, but after that, some big-time renegotiating is going to happen. And the day will come when the Seahawks will have to pay Wilson at least $20 million more per year than he's making now.

All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas also has only a year left on a deal that pays him $3.7 million in 2014.

So some maneuvering will be in order soon, and some players currently on the roster will have to move on because of salary-cap limits.

The immediate concerns are wide receiver. Golden Tate is a free agent who made only $880,000 this season. Doug Baldwin is a restricted free agent with a salary that counts only $560,000 against the cap. Can Seattle keep both of them and pay Percy Harvin's six-year, $67 million deal?

Maybe, but certainly not if receiver Sidney Rice stays. He has two years left on five-year, $41 million contract. It's unlikely he will return.

No doubt the Seahawks wish they had signed defensive lineman Michael Bennett to more than a one-year deal at $4.8 million. He won't be easy to keep after the sensational year he's had.

Seattle also must make a decision on starting right tackle Breno Giacomini, a free agent who counted $4.7 million against the cap this season.

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