Posted by: mdegeorge | August 11, 2011

NFL Free Agency Diagnosis: NFC West

The 2011 NFL season has come courtesy of an unprecedented time in the league’s history. Essentially two offseasons worth of transactions have been jammed into around two weeks to completely reshape the entire league in the blink of an offseason eye. Most of what you thought you knew about a team can be thrown out, with some teams having close to 40 percent of their rosters overhauled instantly.

Let’s try and bring some order to this mess, since the pressure is going to ratchet up starting Thursday when the first round of preseason games kicks off and the hot stove might cool a bit. Below are the lists of departures and arrivals for each of the 32 NFL teams and just what they mean for teams.

We’ll finish up the NFC with its West division.

Matt Hasselbeck says "See ya" Seattle. (Courtesy of Creative Commons)

Arizona Cardinals

Signed: S Hamza Abdullah, S Husain Abdullah, CB Michael Adams, OT D’Anthony Batiste, LB Stewart Bradley, C Ben Claxton, G Daryn Colledge, WR Early Doucet, DE Nick Eason, P Ben Graham, TE Todd Heap, OT Brandon Keith, TE Jeff King, G Deuce Lutui, CB Richard Marshall, FB Reagan Maui’a, C Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Chansi Stuckey, S Matt Ware, G Floyd Womack, DL Vonnie Holliday, QB Kevin Kolb, S Matt Ware

Lost: QB Derek Anderson, DT Alan Branch, WR Steve Breaston, RB Tim Hightower, CB Trumaine McBride, TE Ben Patrick, DT Gabe Watson, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

Diagnosis: Well, there’s a big of turnover for you. The Cards are betting on Kolb as their franchise quarterback/excuse to keep Larry Fitzgerald in the fold long-term. That ships Anderson out of town. At least they’re surrounding him with weapons. Hightower is gone, as it’s time to turn over the reins of the league’s worst running game to high draft picks Beanie Wells and rookie Ryan Williams. Breaston is gone, but the combination of more touches for Doucet and new slot receiver Stuckey should compensate; they also load up a formidable tight end tandem with Heap and Spach. The offensive line is also fortified with Colledge and Womack. A porous defense is strengthened by Bradley, the two Abdullahs, Holliday and Eason. It’s a big statement in a division where we’ve all seen it doesn’t take much to get ahead.

St. Louis Rams

Signed: LB Chris Chamberlain, G Harvey Dahl, LB Zac Diles, OT Renardo Foster, DT Gary Gibson, OT Adam Goldberg, G John Greco, S Quintin Mikell, DT Dan Muir, RB Jerious Norwood, LB Brady Poppinga, WR Mike Sims-Walker, LB David Vobora, RB Cadillac Williams

Lost: TE Daniel Fells, WR Andrew Hawkins, WR Laurent Robinson

Diagnosis: Year two of the Sam Bradford era begins with him finally getting a legitimate target in Sims-Walker; that puts favorite target Danny Amendola back in the slot, a position more appropriate for his talents. They also take some of the heat off Bradford by fueling the running game with Williams and Norwood to split the carries with Steven Jackson in the league’s 25th-best rushing attack and provide third-down options for one of the least productive teams in the league in that area. The defense is solidified up the middle by Muir, Poppinga, Diles and Mikell. They also made some moves on the offensive line, but it’s a shame they weren’t able to do more on the defensive side of the ball

San Francisco 49ers

Signed: K David Akers, LB Antwan Applewhite, LB Blake Costanzo, WR Braylon Edwards, C Jonathan Goodwin, DT Ray McDonald, CB Carlos Rogers, QB Alex Smith, S Donte Whitner, S Madieu Williams, G Tony Wragge

Lost: G David Baas, QB David Carr, CB Nate Clements, DT Aubrayo Franklin, LB Travis LaBoy, LB Manny Lawson, K Jeff Reed, LB Takeo Spikes

Diagnosis: Well, another year, another chance for Alex Smith to establish himself as the starter. The Niners presumably brought him back with the intention to start, though they also drafted Colin Kaepernick. Whoever’s under new center Goodwin, at least they’ll be better protected. The concern is on the other side of the ball, where most of the big names on a successful unit were poached by free agency. They replenish the linebacking corps and add Williams and Whitner. But they lose big names like Clements, Franklin, LaBoy, Spikes and Lawson. That’s a lot of ammunition to say goodbye to, and while first-rounder Aldon Smith will help, this defense will likely suffer.

Seattle Seahawks

Signed: DT Alan Branch, DE Raheem Brock, G Robert Gallery, LB Leroy Hill, QB Tarvaris Jackson, CB Kelly Jennings, LB Matt McCoy, DT Brandon Mebane, TE Zach Miller, OT Tyler Polumbus, K Jeff Reed, WR Sidney Rice, RB Michael Robinson, DT Junior Siavii, DT Jimmy Wilkerson

Lost: DT Amon Gordon, QB Matt Hasselbeck, LB Will Herring, OT Sean Locklear, K Olindo Mare, C Chris Spencer, DT Craig Terrill, G Ray Willis, LB Lofa Tatupu

Diagnosis: Most of the teams that added a veteran quarterback this season did so with a quarterback of the future waiting in the wings. The Seahawks, however, did so to have a competition between Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst. They at least bring in weapons for whoever the winner is, with Miller and Rice major upgrades over the existing personnel. That’s not the only questionable move. Gone is 2/5 of the offensive line, replaced by Gallery, who failed to meet expectations in Oakland. They lose their offensive quarterback in Hasselbeck and defensive quarterback in Tatupu. There’s also no effort to help the second-worst rushing game in the league, though the combination of Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Leon Washington can’t be that bad again. While they do strengthen the defensive line, it’s tough to say they’ve tangibly improved this offseason.

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