New 49ers WR Mario Manningham

NFC West: Free Agency Grades

It’s been nine crazy days since free agency kicked off March 13th.  There are still some significant potential moves yet to be made (Mike Wallace?) but most of the big names have found their homes, and things are settling down.

 

Here’s a look at the NFC West, and where I think the teams have graded out in free agency so far.

 

ARIZONA CARDINALS:

Key Players Lost: 

Richard Marshall, CB, Signed with Miami

Key Players Re-Signed:

Calais Campbell, DE, Franchise Tag

Levi Brown, T

Early Doucet, WR

Players Acquired:

Adam Snyder, G/C,  UFA (San Francisco)

Summary:  They wanted to bring back Marshall after a solid season opposite Patrick Peterson, but may have lost him while focusing so much energy on the unsuccessful recruitment of Peyton Manning.   They were able to free up some cap space by re-working the deals of QB Kevin Kolb and LT Levi Brown (after first releasing him.)  Tagging Campbell was a no-brainer, and the team hopes to sign him to a long-term deal.  Snyder is a solid veteran, and a clear upgrade over Deuce Lutui, who was released.  It appears as if the Cardinals are making little effort to bring back Joey Porter, who is visiting other clubs.

My Take:  There wasn’t much the Cardinals could do, given their salary cap situation, but took a shot at Manning anyway, and failing to get a deal done with Campbell  left them with a franchise tag number of $10.6 million.  After Manning told them he wasn’t interested, they had no choice but to bring back Kolb, but I’m not convinced he’s much of an upgrade over backup John Skelton.  Bringing in the veteran Snyder was a solid move, as he can play guard or center.  Losing Marshall hurts, and moves CB to the top of their list of priorities heading into the draft.  Without significant cap room the Cardinals couldn’t dive into the robust free agent WR market.

My grade:  C

SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS:

Key Players Lost:

Josh Morgan, WR, Signed with Washington

Adam Snyder, OG/C, Signed with Arizona 

Key Players Re-Signed:

Dashon Goldson, S, Franchise Tag

Alex Smith, QB,

Carlos Rogers, CB

Players Acquired:

Randy Moss, WR, UFA

Mario Manningham, WR, UFA (NY Giants)

Rock Cartwright, RB/KR, (Oakland) 

Summary: 

The 49ers made a late run at Manning themselves, but were able to patch things up with Smith and sign him to a new deal when Peyton chose Denver.  With Colin Kaepernick still likely a year away from being ready (if he ever will be, not a fan) that was key.  So was bringing back Rogers, who finally found a home after a disappointing run in Washington, and Goldson.  The 49ers now return all 11 starters from the #2 defense in the league.  Who knows how much Moss has left in the tank, but it’s a low-risk gamble that could pay off, and Manningham was a solid get.  If Michael Crabtree can take another step forward under Jim Harbaugh’s watch, Smith could have his best group of weapons yet.

 My Take:  Stability was crucial after a bounce-back 13-3 season last year, and it’s hard to argue with the results this offseason, despite swinging and missing on Manning.  If Smith can get over that, the 49ers should be the preseason favorite in the division again.

My Grade:  A-

 SEATTLE SEAHAWKS:

 Key Players Lost:

Atari Bigby, S, Signed with San Diego

John Carlson, TE, Signed with Minnesota

Charlie Whitehurst, QB, Signed with San Diego

Key Players Re-Signed:

Marshawn Lynch, RB

Red Bryant, DE

Michael Robinson, FB

Players Acquired:

Matt Flynn, QB, UFA (Green Bay)

Jason Jones, DT, UFA (Tennessee)

Summary:

Add the Seahawks to the list of NFL West teams who tried, and failed, to attract Manning. Their first focus was on retaining their core players, and they did that with Lynch and Bryant.  Jones, who visited the Rams as well,  felt he was mis-cast as a DE with the Titans, and signed a 1-year deal hoping to re-establish his value as a penetrating DT.  Flynn grabbed the biggest headlines, simply because the Seahawks have been trying to find a long-term answer at QB since Pete Carroll took the reigns in Seattle.

My Take: 

Keeping Lynch and Bryant in the fold was huge, as Carroll and G.M. John Schneider have stated their mission to focus on the retention of cornerstone players under their watch.  Flynn may or not be that elusive franchise QB, but he should be a clear upgrade over Tavaris Jackson and the contract he signed was much more team-friendly than the Kevin Kolb’s deal with Arizona a year ago.  Jones could turn out to be a steal if he provides the kind of interior pass rush he’s shown flashes of from the tackle position. The Seahawks really wanted to upgrade the LG spot, and thought they had a deal in place to bring back Steve Hutchinson, who ultimately signed with the Titans.  The biggest question still unanswered is at the LB position, where only one returning starter (K.J. Wright) is under contract.  The team would like to bring back free agents Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne, but are waiting out what’s been a soft ILB market to date.  It’s a deep LB draft, but the Seahawks can’t really expect to start two rookies next to second-year player Wright…… can they?

My Grade:  B+

 ST. LOUIS RAMS:

 Key Players Lost:

Ron Bartell, CB, Signed with Oakland

Brandon Lloyd, WR, Signed with New England

Key Players Re-Signed:

None

Players Acquired:

Cortland Finnegan, CB, UFA (Tennessee)

Kendall Langford, DE, UFA (Miami)

Scott Wells, C, UFA (Green Bay)

Summary:

All you have to do to see just how little desirable talent the Rams had on their roster is look at the list of players signed by other teams, or brought back by new coach Jeff Fisher.  Serious upgrades are needed all over the depth chart, so the Rams progress will need to be measured in increments as they assemble the building blocks necessary to turn things around.  Fortunately, they have young franchise QB Sam Bradford in place, making them the only team in the division to stay away from the Peyton Manning Derby.  The mission now is to protect him, find him some weapons, and build a defense that can get off the field and give the ball back to the offense.  Langford and Finnegan will help, and the steady Wells was a good addition to an OL that has been mostly terrible for a long time.

My Take:  With ample cap space and glaring needs at WR, the Rams took a big swing at Mario Manningham and missed.  That hurt.  However, Given what they had to work with and how far they have to go, this is a good start for them.

My Grade:  B

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