NFC West offseason grades: Rams steal the show, Cardinals get lowest mark
The Rams earned the highest grade in the NFC West after a wild offseason
The NFC West might have had the most exciting offseason of any division in the NFL this year and that's if we only count what the Rams did. After winning the division in 2017, it's pretty clear that their plan this year was to also win the offseason.
Just in case you lost track, the Rams made a total of six trades over the past four months. Not to mention, they also signed Ndamukong Suh.
Oh, and just in case you're wondering how much Sherman and 49ers fans used to hate each other, it's been nearly three months since he signed in San Francisco and he's stilling trying to figure out how to unblock 49ers fans on Twitter.
The 49ers weren't the only ones who made a big move at quarterback. The Cardinals practically spent half their offseason adding quarterbacks. Not only did they sign Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon, but they also nabbed Josh Rosen with a top-10 pick in the draft.
As for the Seahawks, well, they did a few things this offseason, it's just not clear if any those things are actually going to help the team.
So which NFC West team has had the best offseason?
Let's answer that question now.
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Below, you'll find an offseason review for each team in the division -- including key additions, key losses, key rookies, and a general overview of what happened between January and May. After that, we'll give each team a grade for their offseason, starting with the Cardinals.
Key losses: Coach Bruce Arians, QB Carson Palmer, QB Drew Stanton, QB Blaine Gabbert, QB Matt Barkley, RB Adrian Peterson, WR John Brown, WR Jaron Brown, OL Jared Veldheer, S Tyrann Mathieu, CB Justin Bethel, CB Tramon Williams, DT Josh Mauro, DT Kareem Martin
The Cardinals offseason has basically been one giant game of quarterback musical chairs. Not only did Carson Palmer retire, but Arizona also lost Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley, which meant the Cardinals had exactly zero quarterbacks on their roster when free agency began on March 14. To fix that problem, Arizona added both Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.
The problem with signing Bradford to be your starting quarterback is that there's no guarantee he'll be able to stay healthy for an entire season, especially playing behind the Cardinals offensive line. Putting one of the most injury-prone quarterbacks behind an offensive line that gave up more sacks (52) than any other NFC team last season seems like a disaster waiting to happen.
Although the Cardinals attempted to beef up their struggling offensive line by adding Justin Pugh and Andre Smith, both of those guys have had almost as many injury issues as Bradford. Pugh has missed a total of 13 games over the past two seasons and hasn't made it through an entire 16-game schedule since his rookie year in 2013. As for Smith, he's missed a total of 15 games over the past two seasons and also hasn't made it through an entire 16-game schedule since 2013.
Two oft-injured offensive linemen trying to protect an oft-injured quarterback doesn't necessarily seem like a recipe for success. Of course, the flip side of that is that if both linemen stay healthy, then the Cardinals will have completely revamped their offensive line for the better. The signing of all three players -- Bradford, Pugh and Smith -- will go down as a gamble, and as with all gambles, the Cardinals could hit the jackpot or things could blow up in their face.
One big thing the Cardinals did do this offseason is find their potential quarterback of the future in Josh Rosen. After watching Rosen fall in the draft, Arizona UCLA quarterback with the 10th overall pick. Based on Bradford's injury history, it won't be surprising at all if Rosen ends up starting for the Cardinals in 2018.to grab the former
Defensively, the biggest loss for the Cardinals was definitely Tyrann Mathieu, but he wasn't the only player who left the team this year. Overall, the Cardinals will be losing five players who started multiple games for them in 2017, which is a steep number to lose for any team. The only upside to losing that kind of personnel is that new coach Steve Wilks, who served as Carolina's defensive coordinator last season, will get to bring in his own guys, which should help him quickly mold the defense into something he likes.
The Cardinals have been looking to beef up their defense all offseason and that continued in mid-May, when Browns corner could very well end up being a starter for Arizona in 2018.Jamar Taylor. The former
Offseason grade: C
Los Angeles Rams
No team in the NFL made more offseason headlines than the Los Angeles Rams. If they made one thing clear over the past three months, it's that they're going to do whatever it takes to win the Super Bowl in 2018. If you need a quick rehash of the Rams' offseason, here's what they've done since Feb. 23:
The crazy thing is that those three moves were all on the defensive side of the ball. To be honest, it's almost as if the Rams entire plan this offseason was to become the 2018 version of the 1985 Bears. The addition of Suh alone is going to be a nightmare for the other three teams in the NFC West and that's because the veteran defensive tackle is going to be paired with the NFL's reigning defensive player of the year, Aaron Donald, which seems like a pretty unstoppable combination.
If Suh and Donald have any issues getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks, that might not matter because the Rams also added two of the best cover corners in the game in Talib and Peters. By adding those two, there's a good chance that no one in Los Angeles is going to remember (or care) that the Rams got rid of two of their starting cornerbacks from 2017 (Kayvon Webster and Trumaine Johnson).
The fact that the Rams spent so much time acquiring defensive talent this offseason means they're probably going to take a step back on offense, right? Wrong.
Although the Rams won't have Sammy Watkins and Tavon Austin this year, they arguably Patriots. Basically, the NFL's top scoring offense from 2018 might have actually gotten better this offseason.when they added Brandin Cooks from the
As a matter of fact, if the Rams last few practices are any indication, coach Sean McVay is already fantasizing about what he'll be able to do with Cooks on offense this year.
Although the Rams didn't do much in the draft this year, we're not going to penalize them for that. The team didn't get to make their first pick until the third round, but that's only because they traded away their first round pick to land Cooks from the Patriots.
Offseason grade: A
San Francisco 49ers
After signing Jimmy Garoppolo toin NFL history this year, the 49ers went into the offseason with one pretty clear goal: Make sure Jimmy has some protection.
Protection was one thing that the quarterbacks in San Francisco definitely didn't really have in 2017. Last season, the 49ers surrendered a total of 43 sacks, which was the fourth-highest number of any team in the NFC. To fix that problem, the 49ers used both free agency AND the NFL Draft to beef up their offensive line.
The first thing the 49ers did came in March when they signed Weston Richburg, who was arguably the most talented center available during free agency this year. Richburg signed a five-year deal with the 49ers, so you'll likely be seeing him snap the ball to Garoppolo for years to come. The 49ers also added Jonathan Cooper, who started 13 games for the Cowboys last year. The former first-round pick will likely be competing for a starting guard spot in San Francisco.
The 49ers offensive line overhaul continued in the draft when they selected Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchey with the ninth overall pick. As a bonus, the 49ers are getting another first-round pick back this year in the form of Joshua Garnett, who spent the 2017 season on injured reserve. If Garnett and Cooper win their starting jobs, that means that 49ers could have four starting linemen in 2018 who didn't play a single snap with the team last season.
Defensively, the 49ers got a steal with Richard Sherman. Although the cornerback is coming off an Achilles injury, the 49ers landed him with a three-year deal that only includes $7 million in guaranteed money, which basically makes the deal a no-lose situation for the 49ers. If Sherman returns to his All-Pro form, then the 49ers secondary is going to get a much-needed boost. If Sherman has lost a step, the team will get a low-cost veteran who could help younger players develop.
The one player to keep an eye on in San Francisco is Jerick McKinnon. The 49ers handed him a monstrous four-year, $30 million deal this offseason, which is a lot of money for a back who's never carried the ball more than 160 times in any of his four NFL seasons. That's only a big deal, because, for the past three seasons, Kyle Shanahan's offenses have all had at least one back that was given 225 or more carries. On the other hand, if McKinnon can handle the workload, then he could be a star in San Francisco. Not only will he be getting a ton of carries, but due to the nature of Shanahan's offense, look for him to catch a lot of passes from Jimmy G in 2018.
Offseason grade: B+
Key additions: WR Brandon Marshall, LB Barkevious Mingo, TE Ed Dickson, WR Jaron Brown, Rams S Maurice Alexander, CB Dontae Johnson, OL D.J. Fluker, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, K Sebastian Janikowski
The Seahawks didn't completely blow things up and start over this offseason, but they sure came close. If you've lost track of everything that's happened in Seattle over the past few months, which is completely possible, here's a brief recap: The Legion of Boom is no more, three-fourths of the team's starting defensive line is gone, two of their top four receivers won't be returning and even the punter is probably going to lose his job.
You know what, just make sure to read that "Key losses" section, it will give you a good idea of everyone who's not coming back this year.
By the way, there's one person not listed in that "Key losses" section who could end up there at some point in the future: Kam Chancellor. Although Chancellor is still on the team, he's already said that he could .
Yes, that's a lot of people to replace, but the upside is that it gave general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll a chance to start laying the foundation for the future.
Could the Seahawks have tried to keep Jimmy Graham, Sheldon Richardson or Richard Sherman? Sure, but that would have crushed their salary cap. Instead, the team went out and got cheaper replacements by bringing in guys like Tom Johnson and Shamar Stephen on the defensive line. They also selected a defensive end (Rasheem Green) with their second pick in the draft.
As for the tight end spot, although Graham and Luke Willson are gone, the Seahawks did add one tight end in free agency (Ed Dickson) and another one in the draft (Will Dissly). Seattle also added Brandon Marshall, which should give Russell Wilson a tall target to throw to in the red zone now that Graham's gone.
Sherman is the only player the Seahawks will have a tough time replacing and if they also lose Chancellor, their secondary could be a mess. Not helping things for the secondary is the fact that Seattle's pass rush probably won't be as good in 2018 as it was in 2017. To help with the pass-rush, the Seahawks will be hoping that the fourth time is the charm for Barkeviious Mingo, the former first-round pick who is playing for his fourth team in four years.
One position where the Seahawks definitely got better is at running back. Although the team raised some eyebrows when they selected Rashaad Penny in the first round -- and ignored all their other needs -- the truth is that the Seahawks offense works much better when they have an effective running game, which is something they didn't have last season. In 2017, the Seahawks ground game basically consisted of Russell Wilson running for his life, which is only a slight exaggeration. Wilson led the the team in rushing last season with 586 yards. No other player had more than 250 yards.
A rebuilt running game could potentially take some pressure off the team's offensive line, which in turn, could take some pressure off of Wilson. You know what? Maybe Schneider and Carroll do know what they're doing.
The Seahawks had so many holes to fill this offseason that it was going to be impossible to fill them all, but they definitely tried. However, one thing the Seahawks didn't do this offseason was upgrade their offensive line, which is a risky strategy for a team that had one of the worst lines in the NFL last season.
Offseason grade: C+
If you want to find out the offseason grades for the NFL's 28 other teams, just click on any division below.
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