NFL Free Agency Updates: NFC West


Courtesy of Overtime Heroics

Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

Before the NFL season starts on Sept. 10, Lanthorn Sports will be recapping keys moves of the off-season while breaking down where teams now sit after the initial free agency period. Today, we will be recapping the NFC West.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: Even though it was another rough season for the Arizona Cardinals last year, there were many bright spots on the young and rising team. The first overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft, quarterback Kyler Murray, won the NFL offensive rookie of the year award after throwing for 3,722 yards and 20 touchdowns. Murray was also a factor on the ground, rushing for over 500 yards and 4 touchdowns. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury utilized Murray’s talents well and showed he can adjust to NFL defenses last season. With several moves improving the team this offseason, the Cardinals could be a factor in the NFC West this season. 

Future hall of fame wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald, re-signed with Arizona on a one year $11 million deal. Running back Kenyan Drake signed the franchise tag, after he broke out in Arizona last season after rushing for 643 yards and eight touchdowns in only eight games. Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum signed a one-year contract with the Cardinals and will replace starting tackle Marcus Gilbert after he opted out of the 2020 season. 

Arguably the best move any team made this offseason belongs to the Arizona Cardinals, after they traded a 2020 second round pick, 2021 fourth round pick, and RB David Johnson for star WR DeAndre Hopkins. Last season with the Houston Texans, Hopkins caught 104 passes for 1,165 yards and 7 touchdowns. It’s criminal that the Cardinals acquired Hopkins, one of the best receivers in the league, for only a second round pick and an expensive, often injured running back. Johnson is owed over $10 million dollars and doesn’t fit in Kingsbury’s system. The Cardinals will hardly miss him. Hopkins may have a down year in Arizona this season while he develops chemistry with Murray, but he should be a threat for any opposing secondarys regardless. 

On defense, the Cardinals made a few moves to round out their starting lineup. Linebacker De’Vondre Campbell signed a one year, $8.5 million deal after racking up 129 tackles and two interceptions in Atlanta last season. The Cardinals also signed LB Devon Kennard to a three year $20 million dollar deal after he recorded 58 tackles and seven sacks in Detroit last season. Arizona signed cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick to a one year deal and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips to a three year deal. 

In the NFL draft, Arizona selected versatile linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons from Clemson with the eighth selection. Simmons should start at multiple positions on defense and it will be interesting to see how he’s utilized with the Cardinals. In the third round Arizona selected lineman Josh Jones from Houston. Jones will be a project in Arizona, but hopefully he can develop into a full time starter in the future. 

The Arizona Cardinals may not be winning the division this season, but they will be a tough matchup for any team playing them this season.  They are one of the most improved teams of this offseason, with the arrival of another star receiver and a defensive rookie of the year candidate with Simmons. They can potentially make the playoffs, but in an extremely tough division, they may not squeak in. STOCK UP. 


LOS ANGELES RAMS: The Los Angeles Rams are stuck between a rock and a hard place. With huge trades for players with big salaries and little draft picks, it’s been a hard offseason for the Rams to improve the team. With little money to move around, Los Angeles was forced to part with former stars and limit any signings they could make. 

Former MVP candidate, RB Todd Gurley, was released by the team after he struggled with a knee injury last season. The Rams still owe him millions, but the move was a plan of action to free up cash. WR Brandin Cooks was traded to the Houston Texans for a second round pick. Cooks has suffered with concussions his entire career and while his play has slipped, getting a second round pick is a good return for the aging and expensive receiver. With little money to give out to players, defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. left for Atlanta.  LB Corey Littleton signed with the Las Vegas Raiders. OLB Clay Matthews was not re-signed. Safety Eric Weddle retired. Kicker Greg Zuerlein signed with the Cowboys. Starting cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman is now an Eagle. That’s a whole lot of players the Rams were forced to replace. 

Fortunately, right guard Austin Blythe re-signed on a one year $3.9 million deal. Starting LT Andrew Whitworth also re-signed with the team on a three year $30 million contract. After a deal with the Baltimore Ravens fell through, the Rams re-signed DT Michael Brockers to a three year $31.5 million contract. Another DT, A’Shawn Robison, signed a two year $17 million contract. Former first round pick, OLB Leonard Floyd, signed a one year $10 million dollar contract with the Rams after the Chicago Bears released him. Floyd has been a disappointment for the majority of his career, but perhaps he can turn things around in L.A. 

In the second round of the NFL draft, the Los Angeles Rams used their first pick on RB Cam Akers from Florida State. Akers will compete for the starting job and has the potential to have a great rookie season if the offensive line holds up. With their other pick in the second round, the Rams picked WR Van Jefferson from Florida. Jefferson will have to compete with WR Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp for targets, but he should fit well in head coach Sean McVay’s system. 

This is going to be a tough year for the Los Angeles Rams. With an abundance of holes on offense and defense, the Rams may be exposed this season. McVay is a great coach and may be able to get his offense back to the top of the league like in 2018. The defense however, is going to give up a lot of points. The Rams will struggle with so many key players from the last few seasons now out of town. STOCK DOWN.  


SAN FRANCISCO 49ers: The San Francisco 49ers shocked the league last year after they went 13-3 and went all the way to the Super Bowl. They came into this offseason with a strong roster and spent most of their moves plugging holes created by players leaving. 

WR Emmanuel Sanders departed from San Francisco and took away QB Jimmy Garoppolo’s favorite outside target. With the wide receiver situation for the 49ers being shaky for the past few seasons, San Francisco drafted WR Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State with their second pick in the first round of the draft. Aiyuk is a crafty and speedy receiver who head coach Kyle Shanahan will spread all around the field. 

DT DeForest Buckner was traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a first round pick this offseason. Buckner has been a great player and was a valuable member of the first ranked defensive unit last season in San Francisco. The 49ers will have multiple extensions to give to young players as the years go on and were hesitant to give Buckner the money he was looking for. Instead, they drafted his replacement with the Colts draft pick and selected DT Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina. Kinlaw was a monster last season in college and should have a great opportunity to learn and produce being with the league’s most feared defensive line. 

With the money saved from Buckner, the 49ers went ahead and extended star tight end George Kittle. Kittle agreed to a five-year $75 million extension to make him the highest paid tight end in the league. Starting free safety Jimmie Ward re-signed with the team on a three year $28.5 million deal.  

The last hole on the team to fill was left tackle and six time Pro Bowler Joe Staley, who retired after 13 seasons with the team. Staley has been a leader in the locker room and staple on the offensive line during his tenure with the team. Replacing him would be no easy task, but the 49ers made a fantastic move to take his spot. San Francisco traded a fifth round pick and a future third for seven time Pro Bowler Trent Williams. Williams spent 2019 holding out for a new contract with the Washington Football Team, but he should be a force with the 49ers this season. 

The 49ers have made very few moves this offseason and have had to replace solid contributors from last year. Aiyuk is young and will be a huge part of this offense. Williams should be even better on the line this season than Staley was in 2019. Kinlaw may not be as polished as a rookie as Buckner was last year, but with such a good defense any mistakes he makes should be minimal. The 49ers have a solid chance to be atop of the NFC West again this season. STOCK NEUTRAL. 


SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Last season the Seattle Seahawks made the playoffs with a somewhat depleted roster. Offensive line, defensive line, and linebacker were concerns all throughout the year. The same is the case in 2020, with holes all over the roster. Head coach Pete Carroll and star QB Russell Wilson will again have to be on top of their game to make the playoffs once again. 

Most of the Seahawks issues will come on the defensive side of the ball. On offense Seattle signed aging tight end Greg Olsen to a one year $7 million deal. Olsen caught only two touchdowns with 597 yards in a down season in Carolina with a backup quarterback throwing him passes. He did play in 14 games however, and could be a viable pass catching option for Wilson if he can stay healthy this season. TE Jacob Hollister was also retained by the Seahawks on a one year deal. 

Offensive line has been an issue for the Seahawks since their Super Bowl days and the Legion of Boom. OT George Fant, center Justin Britt, and OG Germain Ifedi all left the team. Seattle signed a few offensive lineman as replacements but they shouldn’t be an improvement whatsoever. B.J. Finney was signed to a two year $8 million deal, guard Mike Iupati signed a one year deal, and tackle Cedric Ogbuehi was also brought in. The offensive line should struggle again in 2020. 

Defense is where the majority of the offseason moves took place. DE Ezekiel Ansah and DT Al Woods did not come back to the team. DT Jarran Reed did re-sign with the team on a two year $23 million contract. EDGE Jadeveon Clowney was also not retained by the team after he only recorded three sacks last season. His asking price has been too much of the Seahawks, but if it lowers he may have a chance of returning. To replace his production, Seattle signed LB Bruce Irvin. Irvin will now be in his second stint with the team after he had a bounce back season in 2019. He recorded 8.5 sacks with the Panthers last season and hopefully can replicate his production in Seattle.   

In the secondary, the Seahawks did make a couple of moves that really improved the team. CB Quinton Dunbar was acquired from the Washington Redskins for a fifth round pick. Even though Dunbar has gone through some severe off the field issues this offseason with a burglary charge, he was one of the best cornerbacks in man coverage last season as he had four interceptions. If Dunbar can see the field this year, he should be a huge addition to the secondary. 

An even bigger addition to the secondary is star safety Jamal Adams. Seattle paid a hefty price of two first round picks, a third, and safety Bradley McDougald for Adams. Adams will have to be paid a huge contract extension too, but the price paid should be worth the production Adams has on the field. He’s one of the best safeties in the league and in 2019. He posted stats of 75 tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception for a touchdown, and 6.5 sacks. Adams should change the way this defense performs and is a perfect fit in Seattle. 

In the first round of the draft Seattle selected LB Jordyn Brooks from Texas Tech. Brooks was thought of as a reach around most of the league and will most likely struggle as a rookie. He may help a weak linebacker core, but there are many other spots on this roster that are questionable. The offensive line and defensive line are spotty too, and the Seahawks will be in a fight to make the postseason once again. STOCK DOWN.