Roster turnover for every NFC West team
Returning for the 2016 season, PFF’s snaps lost series takes a detailed look at the playing time void created by players who have left each team this offseason, whether they were traded, cut, left via free agency, or retired.
Because each unit plays a different number of snaps over the course of the year, we will be looking at what percentage of each teams’ total snaps are in need of replacement, rather than raw snap-count totals. Each team will have a ranking following their percentage of snaps lost, with the first-ranked team in each category (offense, defense, and total) representing the team with the smallest portion of their playing time in need of replacement.
A few caveats before getting into the good stuff:
- Suspensions and injuries that may limit 2016 snap counts are not considered.
- “Biggest losses” are purely in terms of snap count, not necessarily in terms of impact.
- All snap counts are regular-season only.
With those qualifiers in mind, let’s first dive into the NFC West.
Overall snaps lost: 24.50 percent, 21st-smallest loss in the NFL (2015: 30.59 percent, 27th)
Offensive snaps lost: 27.37 percent, 26th (2015: 28.88 percent, 23rd)
Biggest losses: C Lyle Sendlein (1,009), RT Bobby Massie (998), G Ted Larsen (690), G Jonathan Cooper (648)
While Arizona’s skill position players have remained in place, there was a mass exodus on the offensive line. Sendlein has produced back-to-back seasons well in the red after several years of above-average play, and is still without a team since his contract expired in March. At right tackle, Massie signed on with the Bears despite his recent struggles in pass protection. With a heavily negative grade on the season, the Cardinals will be better off having someone other than Larsen play right guard, while the oft-injured Cooper was shipped to the Patriots as part of a deal to acquire DE Chandler Jones.
Replacement plan: He might be getting up there in years, but Evan Mathis (Broncos) should still provide a tremendous upgrade at guard over both Larsen and Cooper. A.Q. Shipley is a viable option at center, and he’ll likely compete with fourth-round rookie Evan Boehm (Missouri). It gets a bit sketchy at right tackle, though, where last year’s first-round pick, D.J. Humphries, seems to have the inside track to the starting spot, despite not having played a down in the NFL.
Defensive snaps lost: 21.63 percent, eighth (2015: 32.29 percent, 23rd)
Biggest losses: S Rashad Johnson (864), CB Jerraud Powers (800), OLB LaMarr Woodley (287), OLB Dwight Freeney (264)
A two-year starter for Arizona, Johnson signed with Tennessee this offseason on a modest one-year deal. Likewise, Powers struck a one-year deal with the Ravens, where he should find his way into the starting lineup. Even at 36, Freeney isn’t yet looking to hang up the cleats on a stellar career, recently inking a deal with Atlanta. Woodley, who tallied just 10 sacks over the past four seasons, has been a shadow of the player that earned a massive deal in Pittsburgh, and hasn’t generated any interest on the free-agent market.
Replacement plan: Arizona’s front office made a splash this offseason by trading for Chandler Jones, who should have no trouble filling in for both Woodley and Freeney on the outside. Tony Jefferson could see a modest bump in his 2016 snap count, but the Cardinals will be relying on less proven players to account for most of those snaps. D.J. Swearinger and Justin Bethel should both play bigger roles in the defense, and free-agent acquisition Tyvon Branch (Chiefs) will compete for time in the defensive backfield, as well. Third-round pick Brandon Williams (Texas A&M) could also figure into the rotation, especially if Tyrann Mathieu isn’t 100 percent after his late-season ACL tear.
Los Angeles Rams
Overall snaps lost: 24.03 percent, 20th (2015: 21.48 percent, 12th)
Offensive snaps lost: 14.05 percent, 14th (2015: 37.54 percent, 29th)
Biggest losses: TE Jared Cook (690), QB Nick Foles (669)
After dropping 20.41 percent of the catchable passes thrown his way last season (highest drop among NFL TEs), Cook was cut by the Rams and subsequently signed a one-year deal with the Packers. Foles was released last week after a subpar 2015 season that saw him benched for Case Keenum.
Replacement plan: The Rams traded a haul of picks to move up and select their quarterback of the future, Jared Goff, though the former Cal QB is currently behind Keenum on the depth chart. Longtime Ram Lance Kendricks could bump up his snap count and take over the No. 1 tight end position, but they’ll be thin behind Kendricks, where fourth-round pick Tyler Higbee (Western Kentucky) will compete with Justice Cunningham for the No. 2 role.
Defensive snaps lost: 34.00 percent, 28th (2015: 5.42 percent, first)
Biggest losses: LB James Laurinaitis (1,183), S Rodney McLeod (1,180), CB Janoris Jenkins (1,064), DE Chris Long (491), DT Nick Fairley (427)
Laurinaitis and Long were cap casualties, as neither had the play to back up their paychecks. Long caught on with the Patriots, while Laurinaitis will be manning the middle of the Saints’ defense. McLeod signed with the Eagles in free agency on a strong five-year deal as an expected starter. The NFC East also snatched up Jenkins, who will be starting for the Giants in 2016. With a strongly-positive grade, Fairley ranked 11th out of 70 qualifying defensive tackles last season, and yet couldn’t muster a long-term deal in free agency once again, and will be joining Laurinaitis in New Orleans.
Replacement plan: Former first-round pick Alec Ogletree will be moving into Laurinaitis’ former spot at middle linebacker, and he should easily be able to at least triple the 266 snaps he logged last year before being sidelined by a broken fibula. Robert Quinn should similarly be able to bump up his snap count, provided that he’s made a full recovery by the time the season starts. Continuing with the theme, E.J. Gaines will start in place of Jenkins after missing all of last season with a Lisfranc injury. Former Patriot Dominique Easley should help fill out the rotation on the defensive interior, and third-year player Ethan Westbrooks could see a bigger role in the defense, too. McLeod’s job is headed to an unproven talent, whether it’s Christian Bryant, Cody Davis, or another young player on the roster.
San Francisco 49ers
Overall snaps lost: 10.96 percent, second (2015: 36.78 percent, 31st)
Offensive snaps lost: 21.92 percent, 22nd (2015: 34.99 percent, 27th)
Biggest losses: LG Alex Boone (785), WR Anquan Boldin (776), RG Jordan Devey (397)
After six years in the Bay Area, Boone signed a four-year contract with Minnesota, where he’s slated to start. Even at 35 years of age, Boldin played well in his final season with the 49ers, and recently signed with the Lions. Devey has graded poorly in each of the last two seasons, despite playing fewer than 400 snaps in each, and as such, was claimed off waivers by the Chiefs, but isn’t exactly a lock to make the team.
Replacement plan: After an underwhelming stint in Jacksonville, Zane Beadles was cut free, signed with the 49ers, and should start at guard this season. First-rounder Josh Garnett (Stanford) should start at the other position after the 49ers traded up with Kansas City to draft him. Wide receiver may be shaky again in 2016, though, as unproven players like Bruce Ellington and Quinton Patton figure to take snaps behind Torrey Smith.
Defensive snaps lost: 0.00 percent, first (2015: 38.58 percent, 32nd)
Biggest losses: None
After losing more defensive snaps last year than any other team, it’s a minor miracle that the 49ers will head into 2016 with every single defensive player who saw the field still on the roster. The only caveat here is that Aaron Lynch is facing a four-game suspension and won’t be able to replicate his 816 snaps.
Replacement plan: Lynch’s absence will leave a couple hundred snaps up for grabs, with Eli Harold and Corey Lemonier the likely beneficiaries. First-round pick DeForest Buckner (Oregon) will certainly take someone’s playing time on the defensive line, but with no defensive turnover, there won’t be any rush to get any of their other defensive draft picks onto the field in year one.
Overall snaps lost: 25.99 percent, 23rd (2015: 17.38 percent, seventh)
Offensive snaps lost: 33.00 percent, 28th (2015: 17.53 percent, 11th)
Biggest losses: RG J.R. Sweezy (1,030), LT Russell Okung (869), C Drew Nowak (472), RB Marshawn Lynch (312)
One of a number of offensive linemen for Seattle who graded deeply in the red last season, Sweezy will spend 2016 in Tampa Bay. Seattle’s only positively-graded lineman, Russell Okung, took a deal with Denver to be the Broncos’ starting left tackle. Nowak was benched midseason and replaced by Patrick Lewis at center, while Marshawn Lynch decided to hang up the cleats on a productive and entertaining career.
Replacement plan: First-round pick Germain Ifedi (Texas A&M) should become a full-time starter, most likely at guard. The aforementioned Lewis will probably fall behind Justin Britt on the depth chart at center, leaving only Okung’s left tackle position vacant. Seattle signed J’Marcus Webb after one year in Oakland, and he should slot in at right tackle, bumping Garry Gilliam over to the blindside. RB Thomas Rawls impressed as a rookie, but suffered a broken ankle late in the season. If he’s close to 100 percent, expect him to take most—if not all—of the playing time that Lynch had last season.
Defensive snaps lost: 18.97 percent, seventh (2015: 17.24 percent, eighth)
Biggest losses: LB Bruce Irvin (732), CB Cary Williams (637), DT Brandon Mebane (503)
Irvin never quite lived up to his status of a mid-first-round pick, but he was still a solid player and converted his body of work into a four-year deal with the Raiders. Williams was a one-year rental, and struggled in coverage after coming over from Philadelphia, but was waived in December and signed with the Redskins a month after. Mebane’s nine-year tenure in the Pacific Northwest came to an end when the Chargers outbid the Seahawks for the defensive tackle’s services.
Replacement plan: Michael Morgan has logged only 336 snaps in his five years in the league, but he’s slated to take over for Irvin as the strong-side backer. After a disastrous stint in New Orleans in which he was comfortably the lowest-graded cornerback in the league, Brandon Browner signed back on with Seattle, where he spent 2011 through 2013, earning positive grades in each of those three years. Second-round pick Jarran Reed (Alabama) and former Patriot Sealver Siliga will help fill out the defensive-line rotation in Mebane’s absence.