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NFC West lookaround: What is the biggest offseason challenge for each team?

Can anyone challenge the 49ers for the NFC West crown in 2024?

Los Angeles Rams v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

The offseason is in full swing for three fourths of the NFC West division. The Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks found themselves on the outside looking in on the playoffs. The Los Angeles Rams were a surprise entrant but faced an early exit to the Detroit Lions.

The San Francisco 49ers will take on the Kansas City Chiefs at the Super Bowl in Las Vegas where they hope to win their first world championship under Kyle Shanahan.

What is the biggest challenge facing each team in the NFC West division, and what can the Rams, Seahawks, and Cardinals do to challenge the 49ers’ title in 2024?

Los Angeles Rams

Adding star power to an already solid defense

The Rams have Aaron Donald, one of the biggest names in professional football, in the middle of their defense. They drafted promising players who had strong rookie seasons in Kobie Turner and Byron Young, but they need more star power if they want to slow down Shanahan’s 49ers and stay ahead of the Cardinals and Seahawks.

Will Los Angeles make a splash in free agency by signing one of the top edge rushers or outside corners? Would someone line Brian Burns or L’Jarius Sneed be in the cards for LA?

NFL: JAN 13 AFC Wild Card - Dolphins at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals

Building an offense that suits Kyler Murray

Kyler Murray had some stellar individual seasons under former head coach Kliff Kingsbury, including 2021 until the point where Arizona was blown out in the wildcard round by the Rams. We saw a version of Murray in 2023 that looks like he was still shaking off the rust following an ACL tear the previous season.

Will the Cardinals target a top receiver in the draft in a year where there seems to be plenty of elite talent? Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison, Jr. will be one of the biggest names available, as well as LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze. Could a dangerous pass catcher help Murray reach new heights and prove he’s the Cardinals’ long-term answer at QB?

Texas A&M v LSU Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Seattle Seahawks

Defining a long-term vision under Mike Macdonald

Seattle has been impressive for a team with Geno Smith at quarterback the last two seasons, but they’ll be stuck in NFL mediocrity until they find a signal caller with more upside. As long as Mike Macdonald has the Seahawks in the playoff hunt in his first year he’ll be considered a success, but he’ll risk flaming out if he can’t identify his quarterback of the future.

The Seahawks have plenty of talent, but it could be all for nothing if they don’t find the most important puzzle piece.

Cincinnati Bengals v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Todd Olszewski/Getty Images

San Francisco 49ers

Keeping a championship-caliber roster intact

When the margins grew tighter in the playoffs we saw Brock Purdy’s blemishes way more often than we have so far in the regular season. The 49ers should never want to see Purdy leading an offense that doesn’t have an elite supporting cast, but keeping that talent in place presents a significant challenge.

Brandon Aiyuk will play on his fifth-year option in 2024 but it’s possible the team rewards him with a new contract this offseason. San Francisco is already paying high dollar for Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, Trent Williams, and Christian McCaffrey.

That doesn’t even mention the star players they have on defense. The 49ers are a couple of years away from committing big dollars to Purdy (we can debate another time whether that is wise), so perhaps they can keep everything together until that bill becomes due.

NFC Championship - Detroit Lions v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images