|ESPN.com: NFL Nation||[Print without images]|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
A look at the key loss and his replacement for each team in the division:
Who's out: Antonio Smith, DE
Who's in: Calais Campbell, DE
Outlook: The Cardinals made no significant effort to retain Smith when the Texans stepped up with a lucrative offer. They planned for Campbell, a 2008 second-round choice, to replace him. Arizona's reluctance to overpay a 3-4 defensive end was understandable, but the move also carries risk. Smith had established himself as a solid and versatile starter.
Campbell played nearly 20 percent of the Cardinals' defensive snaps last season. He's 6-foot-7 and 290 pounds, so he looks the part. Can he play? The Cardinals will find out.
Who's out: Walt Harris, CB
Who's in: Dre' Bly, CB
Outlook: Harris' career as a starting corner appeared to be waning last season, but he was the projected starter for 2009 when a knee injury sidelined him during organized team activities. Harris is probably finished for the season. His career might also be over.
Losing Harris deprived the 49ers of a respected veteran leader with a strong grasp of the team's defense. His cover skills were questionable, however, and Bly arguably represents an upgrade at the position.
The 49ers have struggled to force turnovers in recent seasons. Bly is known for his fearlessness in making plays on the ball, but Harris had more interceptions over the previous three seasons (15 to 10).
Who's out: Orlando Pace, OT
Who's in: Jason Smith, OT
Outlook: The Rams are worse in the short term without Pace, but they needed to trim bloated salaries and reshape the roster under a new coaching staff.
Smith has been getting some time at left tackle in practice after working exclusively on the right side earlier in the offseason. No mat
ter where the Rams play Smith in the short term or how slowly they bring him along, the team will presumably move him into the lineup before the regular-season opener.
Smith's youth, enthusiasm and athletic ability should help the offensive line develop a fresh identity. Pace was declining and increasingly injury prone. Releasing him and drafting Smith made sense for a rebuilding team.
Who's out: Bobby Engram, WR
Who's in: T.J. Houshmandzadeh, WR
Outlook: Engram's contributions were significant over the years, but Houshmandzadeh provides an upgrade, albeit at a much higher price.
Houshmandzadeh is younger and more physically imposing than Engram. And while Engram's rapport with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was significant, his familiarity with Mike Holmgren's offense no longer mattered once the team installed a new system.
Houshmandzadeh has caught more passes for fewer yards per reception in recent seasons. He expects to catch about 85 passes for the Seahawks this season.