NFL free agency is one of the busiest times of the year, and with so many players changing teams, an average fan might need a scorecard.
That’s where we come in.
To keep you abreast of everything happening in our own backyard with the Arizona Cardinals and in the NFC West in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, here is our NFC West Offseason Roster Tracker. We’ll look at signings, trades, draft strategies and rumors as we inch closer to the 2017 season.
Signed from other teams: S Antoine Bethea (SF), LB Karlos Dansby (CIN), K Phil Dawson (SF), LB Jarvis Jones (PIT)
Own free agents signed: TE Jermaine Gresham, RB Andre Ellington, C A.Q. Shipley, WR Jeremy Ross, DL Josh Mauro, LB Chandler Jones, DT Frostee Rucker
Free agents lost: DE Calais Campbell (JAX), S Tony Jefferson (BAL), K Chandler Catanzaro (NYJ), CB Marcus Cooper (CHI), S D.J. Swearinger (WAS), G Earl Watford (JAX), TE Darren Fells (DET), LB Alex Okafor (NO), LB Kevin Minter (CIN)
Retired: G Evan Mathis
Analysis: The Cardinals were hit hard in the early stages of free agency, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Campbell, Jefferson, Swearinger and Cooper combined to start 55 games for Arizona, who had the league’s second-ranked defense behind Houston last season.
GM Steve Keim rebounded by signing Antoine Bethea, a 32-year-old (he’ll be 33 when the season starts) safety and three-time Pro Bowler, away from San Francisco. But so far, the Cardinals’ response to losing four key players has been less-than-overwhelming in free agency’s first full week.
Re-signing Gresham, who had a productive season with 37 catches for 391 yards and two touchdowns in 2016, is a positive. Gresham, in addition to being a valued target in the passing game, emerged as an emotional leader as well.
Many eyebrows were raised when the Cardinals opted to re-sign running back Andre Ellington for another season. Ellington had a miserable ’16 campaign, during which he averaged just 2.8 yards per carry, which ranked 85th out of 88 running backs with 30 or more carries. He wasn’t much better in the passing game, where he caught 12 balls for 85 yards. Both marks were career lows.
Signing Dawson makes sense. He replaces Chandler Catanzaro, whose overall numbers look good, but crushed the Cardinals with big misses at inopportune times. The 42-year-old has connected on 87.7 percent of his field goal attempts over the last five years, including a stellar 21-of-27 connection rate on attempts of 50 yards or longer.
Okafor is a blow to Arizona’s defensive depth. The Cardinals wanted to bring back the outside linebacker to back up Chandler Jones and Markus Golden, but Okafor wanted a chance for more playing time, so he went to the Saints, who have been at or near the bottom of the league’s defensive rankings for the last few years. As a result, the Cardinals signed linebacker Jarvis Jones, a disappointment in four years in Pittsburgh, to a one-year contract.
Minter becomes the fourth primary 2016 defensive starter to leave in free agency, as the former LSU star took a one-year deal with the Cincinnati Bengals. The four-year veteran joins a group of linebackers that includes former ASU standout Vontaze Burfict and Rey Maualuga and is expected to take the spot of Karlos Dansby, who returned to the Cardinals. Minter totaled 223 tackles, five sacks and four pass breakups during his time in Arizona.
Bringing Frostee Rucker back is a win for the Cardinals. The 33-year-old was a rotation player in ’16, but his veteran leadership is even more important after Campbell’s big-money free agent exit. Rucker will be tasked with guiding young players Robert Nkemdiche, Josh Mauro and Rodney Gunter.
Los Angeles Rams
Signed from other teams: QB Aaron Murray (PHI), T Andrew Whitworth (CIN), WR Robert Woods (BUF), CB Kayvon Webster (DEN), RB Lance Dunbar (RB), DE Connor Barwin
Own free agents signed: CB Trumaine Johnson (franchise tag), K Greg Zuerlein
Free agents lost: WR Kenny Britt (CLE), TE Lance Kendricks (GB)
Traded: DE William Hayes (to Miami for office items, in his words)
Analysis: The Rams absolutely blew Cincinnati’s best offer for Whitworth out of the water. The Bengals, who had employed the two-time Pro Bowler for the last 11 years, were only willing to shell out $10 million for one year. Los Angeles gave Whitworth a three-year deal worth $36 million, with $15 million guaranteed. Whether or not that comes back to bite the Rams remains to be seen, but Whitworth, 35, is the oldest left tackle in the league.
Los Angeles also spent big money on receiver Robert Woods, who played his college ball at the L.A. Coliseum during his USC days. Woods got a five-year deal from the Rams, one worth $39 million with $15 million guaranteed. The 24-year-old put up decent numbers in Buffalo, but never had more than 699 yards and five touchdowns in a single season. Considering the man he’s replacing, Kenny Britt, was more productive and got less than Woods in his new deal from Cleveland, this may prove to be a head-scratcher as well.
Johnson, a stalwart in the Rams’ secondary, signed his franchise tag but is apparently available via trade. If he plays under the tag in 2017, he’d make $16.7 million — more than any corner in the league, but Johnson has already been tagged once and can’t be happy with the team’s reluctance to reward him with a longterm deal.
Los Angeles is keeping their “leg.” Kicker Greg Zuerlein, who had a nice bounce-back season in 2016, got a new three-year contract. Zuerlein made 16-of-19 field goal attempts and all of his extra points, but posted a career-low 80 points on the season.
The Rams also added another pass rusher to the mix with the signing of Barwin, who had spent the last four seasons in Philadelphia. Barwin had five sacks in 2016. Two years before, he brought down the quarterback 14.5 times — a career-high that ranked fourth in the league. His deal is for one year and could be worth $6.5 million when all is said and done.
San Francisco 49ers
Signed from other teams: QB Matt Barkley (CHI), OLB Brock Coyle (SEA), WR Pierre Garcon (WAS), WR Marquise Goodwin (BUF), K Robbie Gould (NYG), QB Brian Hoyer (CHI), FB Kyle Juszczyk (BAL), TE Logan Paulsen (CHI), WR Aldrick Robinson (ATL), LB Malcolm Smith (OAK), DL Earl Mitchell (MIA), S Don Jones (HOU), LB Dekoda Watson (DEN)
Own free agents signed: WR Jeremy Kerley, LB Ray-Ray Armstrong, DT Chris Jones
Free agents lost: S Antoine Bethea (ARZ), K Phil Dawson (ARZ), C Marcus Martin (CLE), WR Torrey Smith (PHI)
Analysis: John Lynch, doing work. The former NFL safety-turned broadcaster-turned GM has been busy in his quest to reshape San Francisco’s awful roster that produced two wins last season.
Most notably, Lynch has brought in two quarterbacks from Chicago who had marginal success last season in Matt Barkley and Brian Hoyer. Hoyer, in particular, played well before suffering a broken arm against Green Bay in Week 7. The veteran, who has thrown passes for five different teams in the last six years, posted a QB rating of 98.0 over 200 attempts and had six touchdown passes and no picks. He could be the stopgap starter in San Francisco, although it’s noteworthy that the Niners have the second overall pick in the draft and could have their pick of quarterbacks in the draft after Cleveland takes Myles Garrett with the first selection.
Lynch has also focused on the wide receiver position, re-signing Kerley — who led the team with 64 catches last year — as well as inking Garcon, Goodwin and Robinson to deals. Garcon got a five-year deal worth $47.5 million and a whopping $20 million guaranteed. He was good for 79 catches and three touchdowns for the Redskins while producing his second career 1,000-yard season. Goodwin is a world class sprinter who averaged 15 yards per catch for the Bills, and Robinson is coming off his best season — 20 catches for 323 yards and two scores while helping the Falcons to their second Super Bowl appearance. He’ll be reunited with former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who takes over as the Niners’ fourth head coach in as many seasons.
The 49ers opted to re-sign Jones to a one-year contract. The former sixth-round pick of the Texans started the last six games in the middle of San Francisco’s D-line last season, and registered 17 total tackles.
Signed from other teams: K Blair Walsh (MIN), G Luke Joeckel (JAX), RB Eddie Lacy (GB), G Oday Aboushi (HOU), LB Arthur Brown (NYJ)
Own free agents signed: CB Neiko Thorpe, CB Deshawn Shead, TE Luke Willson
Free agents lost: OLB Brock Coyle (SF), K Steven Hauschka (BUF), DE Damontre Moore (DAL), DL John Jenkins
Analysis: The Seahawks, who reclaimed the NFC West crown last year, didn’t have a lot of key free agents heading into the offseason. In fact, their most important free agents — CB Deshawn Shead, S Steven Terrell and T Garry Gilliam — are all restricted.
Losing the maddeningly inconsistent Hauschka isn’t that big of a loss, but replacing him with Walsh, who missed a chip shot in the NFC Wild Card round two years ago that allowed Seattle to advance, doesn’t make much sense either.
In a reversal of recent philsophy, Seahawks’ GM John Schneider actually invested money on the offensive line when he shelled out $7 million guaranteed to Luke Joeckel, formerly the second-overall pick by the Jaguars in 2013. Joeckel has been plagued by knee injuries during his career and has missed 25 games since entering the league. He played in only four games in 2016 and has been termed a “reclamation project” by Bill Barnwell of ESPN.
Seattle is desperate for offensive line help, but Joeckel is a reclamation project at best. He was arguably the worst left tackle in football during his two years on the left side in Jacksonville, which led the Jags to give up on Joeckel by signing Kelvin Beachum and declining the former second overall pick’s fifth-year option. Joeckel bounced inside to left guard last year for three games (with a fourth back at left tackle) and wasn’t much better there before suffering a serious knee injury, tearing his ACL, MCL, and meniscus. Joeckel’s also missed time with a broken ankle and a concussion, having missed 25 of 64 games during his four years in the league.
The Seahawks also flirted with big names among free agent running backs, hosting both Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles for visits. But, they decided on another big name (I’ll avoid a fat joke, though) in signing former Packers running back Eddie Lacy to a prove-it, one-year contract. Lacy had back-to-back 1,100-yard seasons in Green Bay in 2013 and 2014, but hasn’t been able to stay on the field the last two years. He saw action in just five games last season due to an ankle injury.
Lacy’s deal is loaded with incentives that “aren’t likely to be earned”, according to CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora. Included in the incentives is a $385,000 weight bonus, but considering reports circulated that Lacy weighed in at a robust 267 pounds during his visit, he’s presumably got a lot of work to do to earn that cash.
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