Free Agency Diary

NFC West Free Agency Preview

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It was a productive season for the teams in the NFC West, as they placed two teams in the playoffs and the Arizona Cardinals advanced all the way to the NFC Championship Game.

Still, to get over the proverbial hump, each team has plenty of work to do and with a very interesting class of free agents, we’re going to preview some of the directions that each team may go.

San Francisco 49ers

Team needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, offensive line, all three levels of defense

If it seems like the 49ers list of team needs is a bit ambiguous, it’s because they need just about everything.  It’s a roster that’s been depleted by poor management and multiple retirements and they’re going to have to rebuild through both free agency and the draft.

Although the 49ers have plenty of money to spend, don’t expect them to be overly aggressive in free agency as they have to find many of their solutions in the draft.

Top target that would make sense:  Derrick Johnson, LB, Kansas City

The great 49ers defense of a few years ago was built on tremendous linebacker play and there was a major void left when Patrick Willis retired.  Derrick Johnson would fit in very well next to Navarro Bowman and the Chiefs have so many top-tiered free agents that they can’t afford to get into a bidding war with another team for an inside linebacker.

A few other targets: Mike DeVito, DT, Kansas City; Dwayne Allen, TE, Indianapolis; Janoris Jenkins, CB, Los Angeles; Kelechi Osemele, OG, Baltimore. 

The 49ers need almost everything and it’s likely that they’ll go after more secondary targets in the free agency market.  DeVito fits that bill as he’s a solid player who can start right away.  Whoever ends up being Chip Kelly’s quarterback can benefit from having a player like Allen to throw to, while Jenkins will add some talent to the secondary.  Osemele should be a fit in most places.

Los Angeles Rams

Team needs: Quarterback, wide receiver, offensive tackle, safety

The Rams appear to be more open to finding their quarterback solution in free agency, at least for a band-aid while they groom a potential franchise signal caller.  If L.A. can get solid quarterback play, their defense is good enough to win with, even in the loaded NFC West.

It’s likely that they will put much of their free agency focus on the offensive side of the ball.

Top target that would make sense:  Alshon Jeffery, WR, Chicago

There’s no question that the Rams can use a deep threat who has size, and Jeffery fits that bill, assuming he makes it to free agency.  Jeffery’s ball skills are second to none and he will make even the most average quarterback look significantly better (i.e. Jay Cutler).  Although Case Keenum doesn’t have the arm strength to be a pure deep ball passer, Jeffery will help all over the field with jump balls.

A few other targets: Brock Osweiler, QB, Denver; Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo; Anquan B0ldin, WR, San Francisco; William Beatty, OT, New York Giants.

The Rams could make a play for Osweiler and if they do they should be better at the position.  Incognito would help any offensive line and Boldin would add professionalism to a young receiving corps.  Beatty should be able to step in and start Day 1.

Seattle Seahawks

Team needs: Offensive line, defensive line, running back, wide receiver

The Seahawks have been a playoff team for four straight years and their roster is one of the healthiest in the NFL.  They likely won’t be overly active in free agency, but there are some holes to plug, especially on the offensive line.

Seattle just rid itself from the albatross salary of running back Marshawn Lynch with his retirement and this gives them a chance to better allocate their free agency funds elsewhere.

Top target that would make sense:  Richie Incognito, OG, Buffalo.

After missing a full season following the Dolphins bullying scandal, Incognito returned to action last year and was one of the very best interior linemen in football.  Since he was a “good soldier” last year, his image has been rehabilitated and he’s a hot commodity entering the market.  The Seahawks at their core are a run-first offense, and having Incognito on that line would help tremendously.

A few other targets: Greg Hardy, DE, Dallas; B.J. Raji, DT, Green Bay; Jahri Evans, OG, New Orleans; Kelechi Osemele, OG, Baltimore.

The Seattle locker room can handle a Greg Hardy type of signing and he would be devastating on the opposite side of Michael Bennett.  The Seahawks will likely find a replacement for Brandon Mebane in the middle and either Evans or Osemele would be considered major upgrades on the offensive line.

Arizona Cardinals

Team needs: Defensive line, linebacker, offensive line, cornerback.

The Cardinals made it a long way last season and might have made it even further if injuries didn’t strike at the wrong times.  Although they have great talent at the skill positions, the roster can still use plenty of depth and they should be a legitimate player in free agency as their window might be closing pretty soon with Carson Palmer’s age.

Top target that would make sense:  Tamba Hali, DE, Kansas City.

The Cardinals were not able to sustain a consistent pass rush last season and often had to outscore their opponents to win games.  Although they did that successfully, a great pass rusher like Hali would be more devastating for teams that have to play from behind against the Cards.

A few other targets: Olivier Vernon, OLB, Miami; Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, New York Giants; Prince Amukamara, CB, New York Giants; Sean Smith, CB, Kansas City.

As mentioned above, pass rush is a key for the Cards and Vernon and Pierre-Paul would be solid fits.  If you can’t improve your pass rush, then get better in the secondary and Amukamara and Smith would be great complements to Patrick Peterson.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.