The NFC West is generally viewed as the NFL’s premier division.
It features the Seattle Seahawks, who have represented the NFC in the last two Super Bowls (winning one), the San Francisco 49ers, who were in the Super Bowl just two years ago, the St. Louis Rams, who have well-respected coach Jeff Fisher leading the way, and the Cardinals, who won 11 games last season while dealing with a plethora of injuries.
The Cardinals, we know, have been fairly active in free agency.
But what about their division rivals? Here’s a look at what they’ve done.
Key losses: CB Byron Maxwell (to Philadelphia), OL Max Unger (to New Orleans), OL James Carpenter (to New York Jets), LB Malcolm Smith (to Oakland)
Key additions: TE Jimmy Graham (from New Orleans), CB Cary Williams (from Philadelphia)
Seattle made arguably the biggest splash this offseason by acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham in a trade with New Orleans in exchange for center Max Unger. In Graham, the Seahawks receive a major upgrade in offensive weapons at quarterback Russell Wilson’s disposal, as the former Saints tight end is one of the league’s biggest matchup nightmares. The loss of Byron Maxwell stings a bit, but Seattle did well replacing him with a big, physical corner in Cary Williams.
San Francisco 49ers:
Key losses: LB Patrick Willis (retirement), DL Justin Smith (retirement), OL Mike Iupati (to Arizona), RB Frank Gore (to Indianapolis), CB Chris Culliver (to Washington), WR Michael Crabtree (currently unsigned), HC Jim Harbaugh (to University of Michigan)
Key additions: WR Torrey Smith (from Baltimore), DL Darnell Dockett (from Arizona)
There may not be a bigger offseason loser than the 49ers. Not only did they lose former All-Pros Patrick Willis and Justin Smith to surprise retirements, but they will also move forward without the services of key contributors such as Mike Iupati and Frank Gore. The addition of Torrey Smith from Baltimore is an upgrade over Crabtree, and the signing of Dockett helps offset the loss of Justin Smith, but there’s no question the Niners have slipped a bit when it comes to assessing the NFC West pecking order.
St. Louis Rams:
Key losses: QB Sam Bradford (to Philadelphia), OL Jake Long (released)
Key additions: QB Nick Foles (from Philadelphia), DL Nick Fairley (from Detroit)
Next to the trade that sent Jimmy Graham to Seattle, the deal between St. Louis and Philadelphia that saw them swap quarterbacks was one of the more intriguing deals so far this offseason. Out is Sam Bradford, who flashed tremendous potential at times, but was all too often injured. In is Nick Foles, who enjoyed a spectacular 2013 campaign before plummeting back to earth in 2014, eventually suffering a season-ending injury of his own. Fairley provides the Rams with added strength up the middle, giving them — on paper — arguably the most formidable defensive line in the league.