Tuesday, March 5, 2013
2013 Offseason Playbooks: NFC West
By Mike Sando
Now that Gary Horton and Field Yates have completed their "Offseason Playbook" series for NFC West teams, I wanted to pull them together in one place.
These are detailed looks at each team with sections on offensive and defensive philosophies, team needs and suggested free-agent additions.
For example, the section on the Rams' offensive philosophy gets into the types of routes the team likes to run and which ones they're interested in improving the most.
With that in mind, let's take a quick run through these Insider playbooks:
What struck me: Horton and Yates don't necessarily see a quick solution at quarterback. They do think the Cardinals might be wise to consider offensive tackle Jake Long in free agency. "Long's physical attributes have not diminished to the point where he can no longer be effective," they write, "and a change of scenery could help to rejuvenate his previously stellar career." Drafting a tackle would be cheaper. Signing Long and still drafting for the line would fulfill promises from general manager Steve Keim to make the offensive line a top priority. Levi Brown is still part of the equation. His five-year contract, signed less than one year ago and carrying $1.4 million in annual bonus proration, is scheduled to count $6.4 million against the cap. Brown has played right tackle in the past. Trying him at guard might be another option.
St. Louis Rams
What struck me: Horton and Yates list wide receiver over offensive line as the top team needs. The point they made about Chris Givens and Austin Pettis resonated. Givens became a big-play threat early last season. He showed an ability to catch a wider variety of passes as the season progressed and the team played without Danny Amendola. Pettis showed up in the red zone. But as Horton and Yates point out, "They are young guys who can't be counted on every down." I think the Rams were wise to withhold the franchise designation from Amendola because the $10 million-plus price tag was too high. It's tough to envision another team paying more for Amendola than the Rams would be willing to pay for him, namely because Amendola has been injured lately. So, if the Rams can re-sign Amendola, draft another wideout and continue to develop their younger options, including Brian Quick, they can make progress at the position.
San Francisco 49ers
What struck me: While there's broad consensus the 49ers will want to use the draft to supplement their defensive line, Horton and Yates see former Oakland and New England defensive lineman Richard Seymour as a good fit in free agency. Seymour is coming off a hamstring injury. That could lower his price on the market, which would be important. The 49ers already have $8 million in 2013 cap space committed to Justin Smith. How much could the team justify allocating to Seymour, possibly as a rotational player? Seymour had been playing better than 75 percent of the defensive snaps when healthy in recent seasons. He's 33 years old, same as Smith. The contract Seymour signed with Oakland is voiding, making him a free agent. His cap number was $8.8 million last season. It was scheduled to hit $19.1 million in 2013, but all parties had to know the Raiders would let the deal void before assuming that kind of charge.
What struck me: Horton and Yates, while noting that Seattle plans to use multiple tight ends frequently, did not list tight end among team needs this offseason. While Zach Miller has played well for Seattle, I think the team could use a second tight end to use in tandem. I wouldn't be surprised if the Seahawks drafted for the position relatively early, even with the 25th, 56th or 87th choices. Adding weapons for quarterback Russell Wilson makes sense. Miller's production as a receiver in the playoffs -- 12 receptions for 190 yards and a touchdown -- reinforced his status as a player the team should feature as Wilson continues to grow. While Miller has a $6.8 million salary and $11 million cap figure for the 2013 season -- big numbers for a player with 75 catches over three seasons -- Seattle has the flexibility to carry those charges. Miller's contract, like the one for receiver Sidney Rice, becomes easier on the cap in 2014.