The biggest move in the NFC West this week — if not the entire NFL — was an echo of the deal that happened in January: the Los Angeles Rams traded Jared Goff and three draft picks for Matthew Stafford. I’m not trying to gloss over the draft picks to distract you away from their perceived value, but I do want to emphasize what’s important:
The Rams traded for Matthew Stafford.
Through one week of free agency, the NFC West was two hands short of an “arms race” and the only thing close to an earth-shattering move was the Stafford acquisition. (“The Stafford Acquisition” is also my favorite Robert Redford movie.) Yes, the Cardinals plucked players from a 2016 Pro Bowl roster to fill some of their needs. The Seahawks and 49ers added interior offensive linemen who maybe 20 percent of NFL fans have heard of, which I think is a lot.
But the Rams traded out Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford and if you don’t care about draft picks then that’s all you really need to see: The Rams went from Goff to Stafford at quarterback.
Even if LA has to replace three defensive starters and one or two offensive regulars, those losses don’t collectively come near the value of Stafford at quarterback. I know that not 100-percent of NFL or Rams fans agree with me on that, but all I can say is that we’ll have to wait to get an answer until the games are played.
It’s been a mass exodus all over the NFC West and I still believe that the LA Rams have the best team in the division as of this post.
Los Angeles Rams
Added: QB Matthew Stafford
Lost: S John Johnson, DL Michael Brockers, LB Samson Ebukam, LS Jake McQuaide, DL Derek Rivers, QB Jared Goff, TE Gerald Everett, CB Troy Hill, RB Malcolm Brown, DE Morgan Fox
The Rams have not added any outside free agents, but have seen three defensive starters land in new locations and must also replace their longtime longsnapper and number two tight end. The replacements for Johnson, Brockers, and Ebukam could all come in-house. In regards to Hill, a corner might need to be signed.
Obviously, the Rams did trade for a new starting quarterback and even if that happened at the end of January, it shouldn’t be left out of the equation that solves what the team has done so far this year. The LA Rams added Matthew Stafford this year.
Josh Reynolds, Austin Blythe remain unsigned.
Added: CB Ahkello Witherspoon, G Gabe Jackson
Lost: CB Shaquill Griffin, LG Mike Iupati, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Phillip Dorsett, WR David Moore
The Seahawks basically didn’t want to pay Dunlap $14 million next year, so they cut him but he remains a free agent and could return. They also didn’t want to pay Griffin $14 million and he went to the Jaguars. Witherspoon never did well enough for the 49ers to become a full-time cornerback and yet he could be the best corner on Seattle’s roster right now. As things stand, it looks like Witherspoon and D.J. Reed are the top two corners on the Seahawks. Quinton Dunbar remains unsigned but didn’t play well in 2020.
One definite departure on offense looks to be running back Chris Carson, and Seattle has been in pursuit of Leonard Fournette to replace him. It’s difficult for me to project how Jackson will play for the Seahawks and if he will be a huge upgrade over Mike Iupati. That seems probable, but to what degree and how valuable is that?
The Seahawks did make a change at offensive coordinator by poaching Shane Waldron (and run game coordinator Andy Dickerson) from Sean McVay, but it’s hard to say if that will be of any help or not.
Along with Dunbar and Carson, K.J. Wright, Josh Gordon, Benson Mayowa, and Bruce Irvin are still free agents.
San Francisco 49ers
Added: LB Samson Ebukam, C Alex Mack
Lost: WR Kendrick Bourne, DE Solomon Thomas, CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Even if the 49ers have spent the most money to retain one of their own (LT Trent Williams), there’s been very little action otherwise and not much looks to change. Their biggest remaining free agent is cornerback Richard Sherman, but San Francisco retained Jason Verrett and Emmanuel Moseley and they don’t seem to be in a rush to fill that need.
The 49ers showed unexpected confidence in Ebukam and it could be that they plan to use him a lot.
San Francisco could hold onto their first round pick, attempt to draft a quarterback of the future or an obvious defensive need at corner or safety, but they might also be holding out for a trade. We can’t really judge the 49ers offseason until their intention at quarterback is publicly settled and I am starting to doubt John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan’s willingness to trust Jimmy Garoppolo when the rest of the roster seems ready to make another Super Bowl run.
Added: DE J.J. Watt, WR A.J. Green, C Rodney Hudson, K Matt Prater
Lost: LB Haason Reddick, CB Patrick Peterson, RB Kenyan Drake, DE Angelo Blackson
No, typical of the state, Arizona did not get any younger, but the Cardinals are banking on some stars of yesteryear to bolster them from 8-8 to Super Bowl contenders. Will it work? They have a long list of needs yet to fill.
Among their remaining free agents are: WR Larry Fitzgerald, NT Corey Peters, CB Dre Kirkpatrick, LB De’Vondre Campbell, TE Dan Arnold, and LG J.R. Sweezy. Those names may not scream “star” to you these days but that’s not only a lot of snaps they have to replace, it’s also the fact that the Cardinals need to be significantly better at those positions than they were a year ago.
The Cardinals still lack any great players in the secondary outside of Budda Baker. They are banking on experience over youth in their front-seven, which could wear on them as the season rolls on. They don’t have a starting running back yet, or a truly reliable number two receiver, or even an average tight end, and they’re still turning to Chris Streveler if anything happens to Kyler Murray. But at least they have the fourth-best head coach in the division.