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NFC West Lookaround: Updates on Cardinals, 49ers and Seahawks

How are things looking around the NFC West?

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers OTA Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Remaining LA Rams players made their way to UC Irvine on Tuesday morning to mark the official start of training camp and the Rams will hold their anticipated first practice on Wednesday afternoon. Hype (and maybe a little of Sean McVay’s hair gel residue) are expected to fill the air as players take the field. LA fans are praying that another Super Bowl trip will soon be on the horizon.

Offseason acquisition Matthew Stafford is the player Los Angeles is hoping will return the Lombardi Trophy back to the city. At his arrival presser, Stafford embraced joining a new team after spending 12 LONG years with the Lions:

“It’s a bunch of new experiences for me,” Stafford said. “Where we’re playing, where I’m living, my teammates, coaching staff, all that is new for me, so it’s definitely invigorating and a challenge for me. Something I’m looking forward to.”

There’s a lot that can happen between camp and the start of the regular season. Let’s go ahead and venture across the NFC West to check on our frenemies within the division.

Cardinals enter camp surrounded by uncertainty

Coach Kliff Kingsbury enters training camp hoping to erase the pain of a 3-6 finish to 2020, ending one game short of the playoffs, and already at camp he’s facing concerning questions with two of his top-rated stars.

NFL: Washington Football Team at Arizona Cardinals Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, DeAndre Hopkins reportedly pondered retirement regarding a strict new NFL memo. If you aren’t familiar with this news, the league announced consequences for teams that have COVID breakouts caused by or among unvaccinated players. Meaning, if an outbreak occurs, teams will be forced to forfeit if the game has to be cancelled and players on both teams won’t get paid. This all comes as the NFL will no longer bend over backwards to reschedule Ravens games.

Hopkins clearly wasn’t happy with the new policies, tweeting, “Never thought I would say this, but being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL”.

The tweet was quickly deleted but definitely raised many eyebrows around the sports world.

Then, word leaked that All-Pro pass rusher Chandler Jones had requested a trade this offseason. Jones missed all but five games last season with a biceps injury, but when healthy, he’s among the top sack leaders in the sport. Chandler has reported to camp, in large part because new rules that require $50,000 per day fines — that can no longer be forgiven by the team — make holding out a lot less palatable than it used to be.

Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey would like to see Jones on the Ravens:

Finally, for the first time in 18 seasons, Larry Fitzgerald was absent from Cardinals camp. At the moment, Fitzgerald is a free agent and is undecided about whether to play this upcoming campaign. Kingsbury has said “the ball’s in his court” as Fitzgerald thinks everything over. Does Arizona need him? They currently have Hopkins, A.J. Green, second round pick Rondale Moore, and former second round picks Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella. Fitzgerald, who turns 38 in a month, caught 54 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown last season.

49ers say there is no QB competition this year

Before Tuesday practice, only two players remained unsigned from the first round of this year’s draft: Jets quarterback Zack Wilson and 49ers quarterback Trey Lance, the second and third picks, respectively. Well, now it’s only down to Wilson, as Lance signed his deal on Tuesday morning, as expected. He gets $34.1 million guaranteed as a reward for 17 career starts at the FCS level.

All eyes will be on current signal caller Jimmy Garoppolo as this is expected to be a critical camp for him. Every move of his will be scrutinized as the rookie from North Dakota State breathes down his neck, but Kyle Shanahan insists there’s no open competition between the two.

Shanahan is high on what Garoppolo has been able to do this offseason:

“I think Jimmy had his best spring since we’ve had him,” Shanahan said, via David Bonilla of “We had the spring the first year (after 2017) with him, the second year (after 2018), he had the ACL, so we didn’t get that. And then last year, it was COVID, so this is really his second one not being on an ACL.

Lance may have a long way to go until he’s ready, as he only played in one game in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, and the game that could have done the most to help scouts — North Dakota State was going to face Oregon last fall — was canceled. Only six FCS players were drafted in 2020, the year after Lance’s 28 touchdown, 0 interception campaign.

But this is the guy who could unseat Garoppolo before too long.

Seahawks have their own contracts, headaches to deal with

The Seahawks have found themselves in the midst of contract negotiations with All-Pro safety Jamal Adams, who the team sacrificed two first round picks for last offseason in a deal with New York. Adams was a surprise camp attendee as he continues to sort out an extension with the organization, but again, players can’t really hold out anymore. The league took care of that.

Despite being far apart in talks, the Seahawks are reportedly willing to make him the highest-paid safety in the NFL after he posted 9.5 sacks in only 12 games in 2020. However, there are legitimate questions about his coverage ability and the ceiling of his value on the field as a safety.

The going rate for the NFL’s highest-paid safety: Denver’s Justin Simmons signed a four-year, $61 million contract with the Broncos. Adams likely wants to make at least $16 million per season.

In other Hawks news, defensive end Aldon Smith will join Adams on the practice field Wednesday. Seattle signed him to a one-year contract back in April to help bolster a weak pass rushing unit that again, was embarrassed by being outdone by a safety. The troubled Smith had come off a four-year hiatus to produce 48 tackles and five sacks with the Dallas Cowboys last season.

No one knows how much Smith will participate in camp as Pete Carroll last month deemed him physically unready for practice. It’s also unclear whether he will be able to play for the team once the games start; Two days after the Seahawks signed him, a warrant was put out for his arrest in Louisiana stemming from second degree battery charges. Smith’s arraignment was postponed into next month as Seattle will be playing a waiting game for either his legal issues to resolve quickly or for the NFL to take action in punishing him. Again.