Offseason GM: NFC West

Time to wrap up this mini-series. The initial thrill of free agency seems to have died down, with close to half the market being signed at this point, at least when considering the major free agents. Once the majority of the starting level players have been signed, I’ll do a piece on this years free agency, evaluating decisions league-wide.

Rams: (7-9)

Free agent starters: CB Cortland Finnegan

Free agent signings: OT Roger Saffold (resigned)

Current needs: WR, CB, S

Cap Situation: Most of us here at Zone Reads take one look at Sam Bradford’s contract and agree that he should be cut. He is counting $17M against the cap, with $10M non-guaranteed. I’m sure there are people out there who believe that Bradford can be a franchise QB, but we are not among them. Most of his stats were accumulated in garbage time this year, he’s coming off a serious injury, and is getting paid far too much money when you consider the level he has performed at so far in his career. The most important thing about Bradfords contract is that it could very well cause the Rams to pass on one of the QB’s at the top of this years draft. Considering how high most of us are on Teddy Bridgewater, passing on him just because of money owed to Bradford would be a monumental mistake. The Rams play in the league’s toughest division, and are not one year away from competing in it. While they should move on from Bradford, it seems unlikely that they will. With a $118M payroll and no carry over space, they have only $15M to make this roster compete now.

Free Agency: The Rams quickly resigned Roger Saffold after he failed his physical (a curious situation) but have otherwise been quiet in free agency. It’s tough to say what positions they plan on addressing, but with only $15M to work with and most of the top free agents gone, it seems safe to expect mostly low key depth signings. The Rams seem likely to do most of their gambling via the draft, where they have all their picks and an extra 1st rounder in the form of the #2 pick.

Outlook: Getting the #2 pick in the draft when it isn’t even yours is really nice, especially in a draft as talented as this one. Even if the Rams pass on a QB, they will get a very good player. However they are looking up at three much more talented teams above them in the NFC West, and they seem unlikely to compete for a playoff spot till at least 2015.

Seahawks: (13-3)

Free agent starters: WR Golden Tate, OT Breno Giacomini, CB Brandon Browner, CB Walter Thurmond, K Steven Hauschka, 

Free agent signings: WR Taylor Price, DE Michael Bennett (resigned), DT Tony McDaniels (resigned)

Current needs: WR, CB, OT

Cap Situation: When your MVP level QB is making less than $1M per year, you’re in an amazing financial situation. Scratch that; you’re in the greatest financial situation of all time. Russell Wilson is making just $817k, while the rest of the league scrambles around to pay $16M+ to QB’s who aren’t even as good. So Seattle basically had a free $16M (at least) this past season, and will again this year. Their payroll stands at $113M, with an unconfirmed amount of dead money (at most $8M) and carry over space of 2M. That leaves them with about 14-20M to work with for the remainder of free agency. While they do have space that could be freed up from non-guaranteed money, it’s all owed to good starters and they shouldn’t need the extra space anyway.

Free Agency: Bennett was the biggest priority free agent and has been resigned. Despite WR being an area of need to begin with, Seattle chose not to resign Golden Tate. There is money left to try and make a low key signing, but they’ve taken a very quiet approach to free agency. Don’t be surprised if they don’t make any moves at all, choosing to make all their additions through draft while carrying over some space into 2015.

Outlook: Just won the Super Bowl, returning almost the same roster, an amazing QB making pennies; I’d say the future looks pretty amazing for the Seahawks. They do have some needs to address, but they are so strong at the most important positions that there doesn’t seem to be much to worry about even if all their draft picks don’t pan out. The Seahawks are a definite threat to repeat in 2014.

49’ers: (12-4)

Free agent starters: C Jonathan Goodwin, S Donte Whitner, CB Tarell Brown

Free agent signings: None

Current needs: CB, S, C, WR

Cap Situation: A $130M payroll can make any offseason a quiet one. With just $2M in carry over space, there is virtually no room to work with. It’s debatable as to whether they even have enough cash to sign all their draft picks, as they will have at least 11 total picks. This includes extra 2nd and 3rd rounders. In the event that the 49’ers decide they need a little more breathing room, don’t be surprised to see them cut or restructure Frank Gore. As solid a player as he’s been, he currently counts for a fully non-guaranteed $6M. This is very much on the high end for RB’s, and he doesn’t even play many passing downs anymore.

Free Agency: Don’t expect anything beyond a depth signing, there just isn’t any room to work with. Even then, a depth signing might require a restructure or two, so don’t be surprised if the 49’ers continue to sit on their hands till the draft.

Outlook: Losing two starters in the secondary hurts, but this is still an incredibly young team with talent in the best places. A huge slate of picks in a deep draft like this is scary for division rivals. Right now I’d say the Seahawks are still slightly better, but look out for the 49’ers to dethrone them for top bill in the NFC West next season.

Cardinals: (10-6)

Free agent starters: OT Eric Winston, LB Karlos Dansby, S Yeremiah Bell

Free agent signings: OT Jared Veldheer, WR Ted Ginn

Current needs: TE, CB, S

Cap Situation: Only $118M in top 51 salaries, but over $10M in dead money makes things more difficult. It’s not a surprise that Jared Veldheer’s 5 year $35M contract has been backloaded and costs just $2.5M against the cap this year. They do have 5.75M in carry over space to give them around 9-10M to work with, so one more signing is possible, but they may be offering mostly backloaded contracts, similar to Veldheer’s.

Free Agency: TE is a definite need, but there isn’t much available in free agency. Jerraud Powers is a decent player, but the Cardinals seem to be looking to upgrade there (they recently had a visit from Antonio Cromartie) and they could choose to cut Powers for a gain of 2.75M if they want to move on from him. S is a need with all of Yeremiah Bell’s 1000+ snaps currently gone, but it is possible that the Cardinals bring him back at a small salary if they don’t make any other splashes. 9-10M of space might be able to convince one or two players to sign, but it won’t be easy.

Outlook: Great defense, solid offense. All things considered, this is an old team that is unlucky to be in the NFC West. In any other division, they’d have a very decent chance of competing for 1st place. As it stands, the window of excellence for most of their key players is shrinking rapidly, so they are forced to try and compete right now. As a result, they should aggressively compete to sign some of the remaining free agents. While they have extremely tough competition from the Seahawks, 49’ers, and the rest of the NFC, they have more than enough talent to challenge for an NFC wildcard this year.

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