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NFL free-agency grades for the NFC West after the first weekend

The Seahawks haven’t made any landscaping decisions this offseason, but the rest of the NFC West looks considerably different than a season ago.

Russell Wilson #3 of the Seattle Seahawks looks on before the game against the Los Angeles Rams in an NFC Wild Card game at Lumen Field on January 09, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

With the 2021 NFL offseason now in full swing, the majority of big-name free agents have found homes for the upcoming season. While more signings, trades, draft picks, and potential holdouts appear in the offing, teams have provided the first solid indications of what they expect to look like in 2021.

To gauge where each team is so far this offseason, we’ll take you through each division to see how each team has done in its quest for a championship.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks

Free agents added/retained

RB Chris Carson
OL Gabe Jackson (trade)
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
TE Gerald Everett

Free agents lost

CB Shaquill Griffin
TE Jacob Hollister
WR David Moore

The Seattle Seahawks’ flying circus reached new levels of ridiculousness this offseason when it appeared Russell Wilson might force his way out of town. While that could still happen in the future, a serious overture from the Chicago Bears — a team for which Wilson appears willing to waive his no-trade clause — didn’t move the needle enough for the Seahawks to take the plunge.

With a franchise-altering move off the table, the Seahawks did what they could to maintain the status quo. Lead running back Chris Carson returns after finding a cold response on the free-agent market. However, Shaquill Griffin signed a lucrative deal with the cap-flush Jacksonville Jaguars, stripping Seattle of its best corner. The team brought in former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to offset some of the damage, but the moves represent a net negative for the Seahawks defense.

Grade: C

Los Angeles Rams

Free agents added/retained

QB Matthew Stafford (trade)
CB Darious Williams (RFA tender applied)
LB Leonard Floyd

Free agents lost

CB Troy Hill
RB Malcolm Brown
S John Johnson
QB Jared Goff
DT Michael Brockers (trade)

After finally giving up the ghost on former No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff, the Los Angeles Rams made a blockbuster trade to acquire veteran signal-caller Matthew Stafford. The move provides the Rams with a significant upgrade under center and should have a multiplying effect for the entire offense.

But while the Stafford acquisition has understandably garnered most of the attention this offseason, the Rams also managed to retain pass rusher Leonard Floyd after a solid first season in Los Angeles. Floyd doesn’t win consistently on his own, but the presence of defensive tackle Aaron Donald provides the edge rusher with plenty of one-on-one opportunities.

Still, the Rams have to address concerns at the back of their defense. In back-to-back offseasons, they watched a key coverage linebacker (Cory Littleton) and starting safety (John Johnson) depart in free agency. Last year, defensive coordinator Brandon Staley covered up the unit’s weak spots through scheme. That will become harder with a new coordinator and fewer proven players.

Grade: B+

San Francisco 49ers

Free agents added/retained

OT Trent Williams
CB Jason Verrett
C Alex Mack
CB Emmanuel Mosely
FB Kyle Juszcyk
DE Samson Ebukam

Free agents lost

WR Kendrick Bourne
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
CB Richard Sherman (currently unsigned)

The San Francisco 49ers entered the offseason with a rather large list of players to re-sign, some of which appeared positioned to land huge deals. Impressively, the 49ers kept most of their big free agents from leaving. Trent Williams became the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league while cornerback Jason Verrett returned on arguably the most-valuable contract signed this offseason by anyone. The addition of Alex Mack also reinforces an offensive line that went through multiple shifts the past two years due to injury.

Of course, the list of player movement doesn’t account for those recovering from injury. Nick Bosa will provide as big of a boost as any non-quarterback acquisition the 49ers make, and Dee Ford will likewise return after his own lost season.

Grade: B

Arizona Cardinals

Free agents added/retained

WR A.J. Green
DE J.J. Watt
C Rodney Hudson

Free agents lost

CB Patrick Peterson
LB Hasaan Reddick
RB Kenyan Drake

Regardless of what the outside world believes, the Arizona Cardinals see themselves as contenders in 2021. That identity informs virtually all their decisions this offseason. Defensive end J.J. Watt provides a huge boost to a defensive line badly in need of juice while Rodney Hudson immediately becomes the premier piece on an improving offensive line. Wideout A.J. Green’s impact has lessened in recent seasons, but he can operate successfully with DeAndre Hopkins garnering most of the attention.

The Cardinals’ departures, while not insignificant, don’t cancel out their gains. The biggest on the list, former All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson, has fallen off the past few years and could benefit from a fresh start. Haason Reddick delivered double-digit sacks last season, but Arizona felt understandably wary about giving a one-year wonder significant money.

Grade: B