Skip to main content

Free agency grades: NFC West

After more than a week of free-agency action, it's time to take stock of what teams have accomplished thus far. We'll assign highly scientific and inarguable grades for each NFL team's free-agent haul thus far, noting their additions and subtractions. The NFC West is below. **

After pressuring Cam Newton on a season-low 20.7 percent of dropbacks in the NFC Championship Game, the Cardinals watched the Broncos' pass rush dominate the league's MVP en route to the Super Bowl 50 title. Coach Bruce Arians came away convinced that the most pressing offseason priority on an otherwise stacked roster was a disruptive edge rusher. Noting that "pass rushers don't grow on trees," general manager Steve Keim shipped draft bust Jonathan Cooper and a second-round pick to New England for 2015 Pro Bowler Chandler Jones. Colts coach Chuck Pagano quipped last month that "Von Millers ain't falling out of the sky." Arizona just added an athletic pass rusher with 30 sacks over the past three years, the same number Miller has posted over that span.

Not finished upgrading on defense, the Cardinals bolstered the secondary by importing Tyvon Branch, one of the league's stingiest cover safeties in 2015. On the other side of the ball, Keim tweaked the offensive line, replacing Cooper with savvy run-blocking guard Evan Mathis while allowing last year's first-round pick, D.J. Humphries, to replace Bobby Massie at right tackle. Beyond the new faces, the Cardinals also re-signed Chris Johnson, Jermaine Gresham and Drew Stanton. The NFC West's strongest team just got stronger. Grade: A

The 49ers did well to re-sign Ian Williams, a lynchpin on their defense and one of the league's most underrated nose tackles. On the other hand, they entered free agency with over $60 million in cap space and have managed to sign only guard Zane Beadles and third-string quarterback Thad Lewis. This remains one of the league's most talent-starved rosters. Until the Colin Kaepernick situation is settled, however, it's not worth assigning a grade to San Francisco's free-agent "haul." Grade: Incomplete

Do the Seahawks rely too heavily on Tom Cable to work wonders with rejects and castoffs on the offensive line? General manager John Schneider replaced his two most experienced blockers -- left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy -- with Bradley Sowell and J'Marcus Webb, two journeyman offensive line who have been passed around the league. The dysfunction up front remains the roster's Achilles' heel.

On the bright side, Seattle still boasts a roster infrastructure that stacks up with any in the league. To that nucleus of Russell Wilson and a half-dozen defensive stars, the Seahawks re-signed role players Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Lane, Ahtyba Rubin and Jon Ryan. Last year's impressive second-round pick Frank Clark has dropped 15 pounds, a sign that he will get first shot at replacing departed linebacker Bruce Irvin.

The Rams are serious about undersized career backup Case Keenum as their starting quarterback. They assigned a first-round tender to the restricted free agent after general manager Les Snead regaled reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine with research that shows they don't need a high-end quarterback to win in the NFL. It's an interesting philosophy -- and one that generates six or seven wins every year.

If we can't expect improvement out of the offense, will the defense at least pick up the slack? Color us skeptical. Chris Long and James Laurinaitis weren't significant losses, especially with playmaking Mark Barron re-signing to join Alec Ogletree as a dynamic linebacker duo. The secondary is in danger of taking a step back, however, after losing cornerback Janoris Jenkins and underrated safety Rodney McLeod.

Grade: D+

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content