Kurt Warner (Getty)
With free agency winding down and the NFL Draft right around the corner, there have been several changes in the NFC West division. Although the division was much maligned a year ago, it produced a Super Bowl participant and looks to be on the rise as a whole. Brad Wilbricht breaks down the recent happenings within the NFC West, outlining several offseason moves.
After the best campaign in franchise history, the Arizona Cardinals have been relatively quiet this offseason. However, the Cardinals managed to bring in former Pittsburgh Steelers CB Bryant McFadden, further solidifying a secondary that already includes rising star Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
The most important move by the Arizona front office was re-signing QB Kurt Warner. In addition to Warner, the Cardinals found a way to keep DE Bertrand Berry around. Both Warner and Berry provide tremendous leadership in the locker room and are still capable players on the field.
LB Karlos Dansby was slapped with the franchise tag for the second consecutive year, ensuring he’ll be in Arizona for at least one more season. GM Rod Graves has stated the Cardinals want Dansby for the long haul and are hopeful the two parties can agree on a long-term deal.
While the status of WR Anquan Boldin and RB Edgerrin James is still uncertain, a handful of players have already departed the desert. DE Antonio Smith cashed in with a lucrative contract from the Houston Texans while CB Eric Green opted to sign with the Miami Dolphins. Two former Cardinals now reside in the AFC West division as LB Monty Beisel is now with the Kansas City Chiefs and J.J. Arrington left for the Denver Broncos.
The Seattle Seahawks supplied new head coach Jim Mora Jr. a fresh weapon on offense with the acquisition of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Houshmandzadeh spent the last eight seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals and instantly upgrades the Seahawks’ wide receiving corps. DL Colin Cole, formerly of the Green Bay Packers, also signed with Seattle. The addition of Cole fortifies the Seahawks’ depth in the trenches on defense.
Seattle did suffer some defections but mostly players that were in a backup role last season. WR Bobby Engram is now in Kansas City while RB Maurice Morris was signed by the Detroit Lions. The Seahawks’ two most significant losses are DT Rocky Bernard, who signed with the New York Giants, and FB Leonard Weaver who is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the Bay Area, the San Francisco 49ers have many new faces on the coaching staff and in the front office but their roster has remained fairly consistent. The losses haven’t been significant with WR Bryant Johnson now in Detroit while J.T. O’Sullivan left soon after Mike Martz was fired, catching on in Cincinnati.
The 49ers decided to hang onto LB Takeo Spikes and also brought in a few notable outsiders. DE Demetric Evans came over from the Washington Redskins and WR Brandon Jones left the Tennessee Titans in favor of San Francisco. Furthermore, the team agreed to terms with veteran QB Damon Huard.
With the Seahawks and 49ers both installing new full-time head coaches, the St. Louis Rams also joined in the fun with the hiring of Steve Spagnuolo. Spagnuolo was on the short list of several NFL teams since the New York Giants prevailed in Super Bowl XLII but decided to leave New York in favor of the Gateway City.
The Rams have declined to re-sign or released numerous players, including many veterans. WR Torry Holt and OT Orlando Pace were influential faces of the franchise for years but are now unemployed. Parting ways with both Holt and Pace makes sense for a franchise in rebuilding mode.
St. Louis made former Baltimore Ravens center Jason Brown its top priority and came to terms with him early in free agency. Brown helps stabilize a Rams offensive line that will have to cope with the loss of Pace, who’s a future Hall of Fame candidate. The only other outside addition St. Louis made was FS James Butler. Butler spent the last four seasons with the Giants and equips the Rams with a playmaker in the secondary.
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