Free Agency 2011 – Two Views on the NFC West

| July 21, 2011

We complete our free agency tour around the NFL with a visit to the NFC West.
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With the underwhelming play from this division last season it’s easy to forget that they had a team that won a playoff game, and played in the divisional round of the playoffs (Seattle).
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The Cardinals aren’t too far removed from their own Super Bowl appearance, and between a young QB and a new star Head Coach the Rams and 49ers have reasons for optimism too.
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What does free agency hold for them? Our Sam Monson and Khaled Elsayed take a look.

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Arizona Cardinals
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Which player do they need to resign?

Sam: There’s a couple of players I would make the case for, but I wouldn’t allow a weapon like Steve Breaston to leave if I could avoid it.

Khaled: They have one decent offensive linemen in Lyle Sendlein. If they lose him then … well, I ask you. How much worse can their offensive line get? Breaston is a decent player, but replaceable.  Sendlein isn’t.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: It’s becoming quite the theme in these articles, but the Cardinals need to get better on the O-line. For the first time though, I think we have a team with no answer at QB.

Khaled: They definitely need some help on the offensive line and at quarterback. But I’d be more inclined to find them a premier pass rusher. That offense should have a ‘Work In Progress’ sign over the top of it. That defense has talent in all positions, except at outside linebacker.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: They can’t. At least not in free agency. I liked Marc Bulger before the Rams gave him David Carr Syndrome with years of poor protection, but I wouldn’t want to expose him to more of the same in the desert. I think the Cardinals have to look to make a move for Kyle Orton, who I see as a much better fit and player than Kevin Kolb (also likely much cheaper to obtain).

Khaled: I like the Matt Roth fit here. He can play the run and he’ll bring more pressure than anything they’ve had at the OLB spot. He wouldn’t break the bank, and he’d make the team less reliant on Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell to do all the quarterback harassing.
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San Francisco 49ers
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Which player do they need to resign?

Khaled: It’s surprising they’re prepared to let Aubrayo Franklin hit free agency. I’ve seen nothing to suggest Isaac Sopoaga can handle life at NT (he struggled at DE), and Franklin may have been as stout as anyone in that regard. That brings an impressive defense down a notch or two.

Sam: I don’t think they can let Takeo Spikes go. Spikes remains one of the most effective 3-4 ILBs in the league, and is as reliable as they come next to Patrick Willis.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: I like their defense, and have big issues with their offense, so I have to look at how they improve on that side. Chiefly, they need to upgrade their receiver unit. Maybe Michael Crabtree becomes the player he was drafted to be, but they need a safety valve type guy their quarterback can rely on. Especially on those short to intermediate routes.

Sam: Another team with no real answer at QB, but I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt on Kaepernick. I think they could really stand to upgrade at safety, especially given how often they hang Goldston out to dry in a deep position he’s just not made for.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: They don’t need to look at the top end of guys like Rice and Holmes. Instead, they could add another dimension to their offense by showing some interest in Lance Moore. Moore just knows how to get open, has great hands and is the kind of receiver quarterback loves.

Sam: Michael Huff makes some sense for that role, but Danieal Manning might be the perfect fit there. He has the range to excel in the role Goldston has struggled to make his own so far.
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Seattle Seahawks
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Which player do they need to resign?

Sam: Given what he showed for them in his first year away from Indy, I think they’d be nuts not to try and retain Raheem Brock, who was visibly more effective and dangerous carrying less weight.

Khaled: I do like Brock, but they have a stud defensive tackle in Brandon Mebane that they’re going to let get away. He should have been franchised given his abilities, and it surprises me the Seahawks are prepared to part with him. They won’t re-sign him, but they should.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Sam: I’m growing bored of talking about the O-line, so how about an upgrade at safety for the Seahawks, as Earl Thomas could do with a partner in the secondary.

Khaled: I don’t know what happened to Marcus Trufant, but he got paid, got injured, and got worse.  There’s not a player in the secondary playing cornerback that I’d feel safe with right now.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Sam: Teaming someone like Eric Weddle up with Earl Thomas could transform a previous weakness into a real strength of the team immediately. Weddle won’t come cheap, but he might be worth it on a young defense that’s coming into its own.

Khaled: Amazing to think they let Josh Wilson go. So it’s unlikely they’ll be interested in him, and so I’m turning to Johnathan Joseph. He’ll be a lot cheaper than getting into a bidding war for Asomugha and has a lot of upside. The question is with Joseph’s injury history and how Seattle has been relatively unrewarded for paying Trufant, will they spend big on cornerback again?
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St Louis Rams
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Which player do they need to resign?

Khaled: The Rams aren’t in line to lose anyone that seems that big a part of their plans. Gary Gibson is decent enough depth at defensive tackle, but they could upgrade the spot by getting busy in free agency.

Sam: They could do a lot worse than retaining John Greco who showed well in limited snaps in 2010.  I also wouldn’t be so quick to cast Clifton Ryan to the scrapheap, despite his injury-ravaged season.
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What area is the team’s biggest need to upgrade?

Khaled: The Rams have thrown a lot of bodies at the WR spot over the last year and while some have had good games, none as displayed consistency. Throw in how many of their guys are legitimate injury concerns, and they need to find Sam Bradford a big time receiver to help him grow.

Sam: I’m a longstanding believer in this Rams WR corps, and though it’s crowded, I think they have players there. I’d prefer to see them look to the safety spot, or even at a reliable backup to Jackson at running back.
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How do they upgrade that area?

Khaled: The market isn’t short on wide receiver options. They have the money so they really need to be looking at the top two targets in free agent (Sidney Rice and Santonio Holmes). Rice would seem the easier get, and his ability to go deep would maybe stop Bradford dumping it off to Danny Amendola so much.

Sam: The Packers’ Brandon Jackson has shown very well as a 3rd-down back over the past few years and is a capable stand in when needed. Similarly, Mewelde Moore has been a success in that role for the Steelers. The last guy I’d look at for that spot would be Jason Snelling, who is extremely versatile.  Any of those three guys would allow them to dial back on the snaps they give Jackson and stand in for him if needed.
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Follow Khaled on Twitter: @PFF_Khaled, and for Sam, it’s: @SamMonson … and be sure to follow our main Twitter feed as well: @ProFootbalFocus
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