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Roster Reset: 'Hawks, Cards still rule NFC West

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When Around the NFL ranked all eight divisions from top to bottom, the NFC West was booted out of the top spot it held for years by the rugged AFC North. With the 49ers spiraling to earth last season, the West shapes up as a front-loaded operation with a pair of Super Bowl threats in the Cardinals and Seahawks.

Arizona came within a game of Super Bowl 50, while Seattle looked like the conference's best squad for stretches of 2015. There's no reason to believe either franchise will take a step back this year, with Arizona's Bruce Arians and Seattle's Pete Carroll serving as two of the NFL's best coaches.

The Rams, meanwhile, are a tease. Despite knocking off the Cardinals last season and beating the Seahawks in each of the past two years, Jeff Fisher has yet to post more than seven wins in any of his four campaigns with the team. A talented defense can't offset the lack of a franchise quarterback -- no matter what pretty words the Rams spin about Case Keenum. In San Francisco, the Niners might house the NFL's second-worst roster outside of Cleveland, but the presence of Chip Kelly at least makes them intriguing.

Our Roster Reset series examines the state of each NFL team leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft.

Arizona Cardinals


What's changed?

Coming within a game of Super Bowl 50, the Cardinals aren't about to shake up one of the NFL's top rosters. Still, they addressed their biggest need -- a game-changing pass rusher -- by trading for New England's Chandler Jones.

That swap sent guard Jonathan Cooper back to the Patriots, highlighting an offensive line that also waved farewell to guard Ted Larsen and tackles Bradley Sowell and Bobby Massie. With only bookend Jared Veldheer and left guard Mike Iupati returning, the Cardinals will ponder help up front in the draft.

We expect versatile defensive back Tyrann Mathieu to bounce back from knee surgery, but the Cardinals could use more depth at cornerback and safety. It's also time for Arians to think about drafting Carson Palmer's replacement.

Key re-signings: DE Red Bryant, TE Darren Fells, TE Jermaine Gresham, RB Chris Johnson, QB Drew Stanton

Key arrivals: S Tyvon Branch, DE Chandler Jones (via trade), G Evan Mathis

Key departures: G Jonathan Cooper (trade), S Rashad Johnson, G Ted Larsen, OT Bradley Sowell, LB Sean Weatherspoon

What's next?

» Pay Honey Badger: Coach Bruce Arians has called Tyrann Mathieu his "happiest draft choice," while the versatile defensive back said of the Cardinals: "I think this is the perfect place for me. I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my life here." It's fair to wonder if he'll be the same after two knee operations, but the fast-healing Mathieu has evolved into a face of the franchise. The Cardinals won't let him get away.

» Find Palmer's heir apparent: The Cardinals believe Palmer can play for a couple more seasons at a high level, but it makes sense for Arizona to find another passer to groom after the Logan Thomas experiment bottomed out.

» Add big uglies: The Cooper trade solved the need at pass rusher, but the Cardinals must deepen their front five to keep Palmer upright. It's possible Arizona selects multiple linemen in the draft.

Seattle Seahawks


What's changed? The Seahawks used free agency to re-sign a rash of their own players and add bodies along both lines.

The O-line, specifically, still needs attention. Bradley Sowell and J'Marcus Webb were added at tackle, but Sowell, the former Cardinal, hasn't started a game in three seasons. Center, guard and tackle all need help after Russell Okung, Alvin Bailey and J.R. Sweezy signed elsewhere.

It won't be the same in Seattle without Pro Bowl runner Marshawn Lynch, who announced his retirement during the Super Bowl. The Seahawks might not skip a beat, though, if hard-charging Thomas Rawls returns to form after last year's broken ankle. Anything they get from Christine Michael is a bonus.

Key re-signings: WR Jermaine Kearse, CB Jeremy Lane, RB Christine Michael, DT Ahtyba Rubin, P Jon Ryan

Key arrivals: DE Chris Clemons, DT Sealver Siliga, OT Bradley Sowell, OT J'Marcus Webb

Key departures: OG Alvin Bailey, LB Bruce Irvin, RB Marshawn Lynch, DT Brandon Mebane, LT Russell Okung, OG J.R. Sweezy

What's next?

» Sort out the O-line: As mentioned, the Seahawks have issues up front -- especially at left tackle. We expect the line to be a draft priority, even after Carroll pointed to third-year tackle Garry Gilliam, saying: "I think we're in good shape." Try telling that to NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah, who pegged Ohio State's Taylor Decker to Seattle in his latest mock draft.

» Contract time: After wideout Jermaine Kearse signed a three-year, $13.5 million deal with the 'Hawks, could fellow receiver Doug Baldwin be next? While contract-hungry veterans Kam Chancellor and Michael Bennett are under lock and key for two more seasons, Baldwin becomes a free agent in 2017.

» More cornerbacks: Richard Sherman remains one of the league's premier cover men, but the Seahawks could use additional depth beyond Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. No team does a better job of developing their secondary.

Los Angeles Rams


What's changed? Minutes after publishing this post, the Rams engineered a massive trade for Tennessee's No. 1 overall pick in the draft. The deal changes everything we thought about this franchise.

Months of fluffy praise for quarterback Case Keenum amounted to nothing but noise. The Rams -- now entrenched in Los Angeles -- will take either North Dakota State's Carson Wentz or Cal's Jared Goff. Whichever passer they pick will join a team laced with a star running back in Todd Gurley and a rough-and-tumble defense. Los Angeles also created salary-cap room by releasing a fleet of well-known veterans in Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Nick Fairley.

Losing pass-catching tight end Jared Cook, though, makes finding playmakers a priority on offense. On defense, the departure of cornerback Janoris Jenkins doesn't help a secondary that also needs a safety after losing Rodney McLeod.

Key re-signings: C Tim Barnes, C Brian Folkerts, FB Cory Harkey, WR Brian Quick, DE Eugene Sims

Key arrivals: LB Quinton Coples, CB Coty Sensabaugh

Key departures: TE Jared Cook, DT Nick Fairley, CB Janoris Jenkins, LB James Laurinaitis, DE Chris Long

What's next?

» Add playmakers on offense: Tavon Austin came on strong last season, but the Rams still need more wideouts and a pass-catching tight end. Gurley can't save the world by himself.

» Restock at safety: With Mark Barron shifting to linebacker, the Rams need to find a safety to play across from T.J. McDonald.

San Francisco 49ers


What's changed?

For starters, coach Jim Tomsula was dumped in favor of Chip Kelly, who was dumped by an Eagles franchise now working overtime to erase any memory of the man.

Kelly landed in San Francisco amid reports he was fascinated with Colin Kaepernick, but the quarterback quickly asked for a trade out of town. With nobody biting, there's a chance Kaepernick will remain by the Bay to battle it out with Blaine Gabbert -- and perhaps a rookie.

The Niners have been quiet otherwise, re-signing kicker Phil Dawson and adding guard Zane Beadles in free agency to make up for the loss of Alex Boone. General manager Trent Baalke wants to rebuild this team through the draft.

Key re-signings: K Phil Dawson, DE Tony Jerod-Eddie

Key arrivals: G Zane Beadles, QB Thaddeus Lewis

Key departures: G Alex Boone, TE Brian Leonhardt

What's next?

» Finding a new franchise QB: The presence of Kaepernick shouldn't stop the Niners from thinking about drafting a passer if one of the top quarterbacks falls to No. 7. Why not? Expecting too much from the Kaepernick-Gabbert duo is a mistake.

» Chip's second chance: Kelly flamed out hard in Philly, but the Niners represent a new shot for the coach to prove that his high-speed offense can shine at the NFL level. It's also an opportunity for Kelly to show that he can bring a positive culture to the team after being viewed as poison in Philly.

» Add receivers: Torrey Smith returns to the fold, but San Francisco must land a wideout in the draft if it doesn't re-sign Anquan Boldin.

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