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NFC West Offseason Overhaul: 'Hawks sitting pretty

Come back to us, NFC West.

We're mere seasons removed from this four-pack of teams operating as the league's most talented division, with the 49ers, Seahawks and Cardinals all reaching Super Bowls or conference title games within a four-year span.

Today, though, the Niners sport a bottom-of-the-barrel roster, while Arizona's Super Bowl window has arguably slammed shut. The Rams, meanwhile, are starting over again with a brand new coaching staff.

All this transition leaves Seattle as the class of the West -- again. While the Cardinals are no easy out, it's hard to imagine the Seahawks stumbling too often within their own division in 2017.

Seattle has issues to address -- starting with its leaky offensive line -- but the 'Hawks house the division's top quarterback in Russell Wilson, a still-smothering defense and the West's most-decorated coaching staff and front office.

You can judge a division by its signal-callers, and Seattle's three challengers are riddled with questions under center. Can Carson Palmer return to peak levels at age 37? Will Brian Hoyer be counted on as anything but a perfectly mediocre patch in San Francisco? Can new Rams coach Sean McVay flip the switch on Jared Goff?

Until Seattle's rivals can get out of their own way, this division remains property of the consistently productive Seahawks.


BIGGEST ADDITION:Eddie Lacy, running back.
Old team:Green Bay Packers. New team:Seattle Seahawks.

I nearly went with Pierre Garçon, the ex-Redskins wideout who knows San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan's attack well and should operate as an immediate No. 1 for the 49ers. Instead, I'm picking Lacy. While the former Packers back will see stiff competition from Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise, Lacy was signed with a legitimate chance to start for a team that still loves to pound opponents with the run. If Lacy can stay in shape, this is a strong fit for the 26-year-old thumper.

BIGGEST LOSS: The defensive exodus in Arizona.

The editors want me to pick one player, but the rash of departed bodies in Arizona will have an immediate -- and negative -- impact on one of last year's more loaded defensive units. It starts with the defection of big-bodied lineman Calais Campbell, who exited stage left for the Jaguars. The Cardinals also waved farewell to reliable veteran safety Tony Jefferson(Ravens), a move bound to haunt a team that already needed secondary help. Losing linebackers Alex Okafor(Saints) and Kevin Minter(Bengals), safety D.J. Swearinger(Redskins) and cornerback Marcus Cooper(Bears) doesn't help. The team added pass rusher Jarvis Jones and cover man Antoine Bethea, but talented general manager Steve Keim is under pressure to find new blood in this month's draft.

SLEEPER ADDITION:Andrew Whitworth, offensive tackle.
Old team:Cincinnati Bengals. New team:Los Angeles Rams.

It's anyone's guess as to what the Rams will look like on offense under McVay. Optimism is tempered until proof is provided that Goff, entering his second NFL campaign, can make a significant step forward. Last year's No. 1 overall draft pick was a mega-disaster as a rookie, sporting an 0-7 record and generating loads of concerning game tape. Adding Whitworth at left tackle was a cunning move by Los Angeles, giving the team an All-Pro-caliber bookend to keep Goff upright. Whitworth's age is a concern -- he's 35 -- but he still arrives as a massive upgrade over former No. 2 overall pick Greg Robinson.


Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinalsmust comprehensively nail the draft after losing so much help. Arizona's most obvious need begins at cornerback, a position they might address with the 13th overall selection. The draft also could see the Cards take a swing at finding Palmer's replacement under center. And it wouldn't hurt to add another receiver following last year's departure of Michael Floyd. Have we mentioned the offensive line?

Los Angeles Rams: While McVay didn't draft Goff, their careers are now deeply intertwined. After watching Jeff Fisher's coaching staff do a ghastly job developing signal-callers, receivers and running backs, Rams fans should feel encouraged about the staff McVay has put together. If Goff can emerge as a tangible starter -- and if the Rams can get running back Todd Gurley back on track -- it's possible Los Angeles will relinquish its quest to churn out the league's most boring offense on an annual basis.

San Francisco 49ers: After raiding the open market for free-agent help, Shanahan and newbie GM John Lynch will continue to rebuild a roster that offered less hope last season than even the Browns' did. From the start, Shanahan has preached long-term patience at quarterback. Waiting on Kirk Cousins to leave Washington next offseason is not guaranteed to pay off. While we don't expect the Niners to add a passer with the No. 2 overall pick in this year's draft, they're all but certain to take a chance soon after. Lynch has spent time with everyone from Mitchell Trubisky and Deshaun Watson to DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes. Don't be surprised if Hoyer -- again -- operates as a placeholder.

Seattle Seahawks: How much longer can this team ignore its issues along the offensive line? Adding Luke Joeckel in free agency doesn't solve the problem. It's not a great year for tackles, but a blocker must be found at No. 26 unless the team is simply blown away by another option. If the 'Hawks ever chose to trade away cornerback Richard Sherman -- a buzzy concept this offseason -- Seattle also could follow Daniel Jeremiah's advice and nab a player such as cover man Kevin King out of Washington in the first round.

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