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Grading the NFC West in Free Agency

Braylon Bay Area Ballin’

Arizona Cardinals

Unsigned players: FB Nehemiah Broughton (UFA), DT Keilen Dykes (UFA), OG Alan Faneca (UFA-retired), DE Kenny Iwebema (UFA), NT Bryan Robinson (UFA), RB Jason Wright (UFA-retired).

Key arrivals: Ex-Ravens UFA TE Todd Heap, July 31; Ex-Panthers UFA CB Richard Marshall, July 30; Ex-Browns UFA WR Chansi Stuckey, July 30; Ex-Browns UFA OG-OT Floyd Womack, July 30; Ex-Eagles UFA LB Stewart Bradley, July 29; Ex-Packers UFA OG Daryn Colledge, July 29; Ex-Panthers UFA TE Jeff King, July 29; Traded for ex-Eagles QB Kevin Kolb, July 28 (Eagles get CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and second-round pick; Kolb agrees to new five-year contract worth $63 million with more than $20 million guaranteed).

Key departures: RFA CB Trumaine McBride, Aug. 4 (to Saints); UFA DT Gabe Watson, Aug. 2 (to Giants); Traded RFA RB Tim Hightower to Redskins, July 31 (Cardinals get DE Vonnie Holliday and an undisclosed draft pick); UFA DE Alan Branch, July 29 (to Seahawks); Traded CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to Eagles, July 28 (Cardinals get QB Kevin Kolb); UFA WR Steve Breaston, July 29 (to Chiefs); Cut QB Derek Anderson, LB Gerald Hayes, July 28.

Key re-signings: UFA S Matt Ware, Aug. 6; UFA OG Deuce Lutui, July 31 (one year); UFA FB Reagan Maui’a, July 29; UFA TE Stephen Spach, July 29; UFA C Lyle Sendlein, July 29; UFA P Ben Graham, July 29; UFA S Hamza Abdullah, July 29; UFA CB Michael Adams, July 29; UFA OT D’Anthony Batiste, July 29; UFA C Ben Claxton, July 29; RFA WR Early Doucet, July 29; RFA OT Brandon Keith, July 29.

Grade: A+

Comment: Whenever you upgrade from Derek Anderson/Max Hall to Kevin Kolb it’s a major win.  Larry Fitzgerald receives a more accurate quarterback to throw him the ball; but it doesn’t stop there for Fitzgerald, Cardinals.  Todd Heap gives the team their first legit tight end since Freddie Jones.  Daryn Colledge is an above-average guard who’s used to pass blocking for a pass-first team.  Stewart Bradley, if he can stay healthy, is a more than capable inside linebacker, a position the team has been looking to fill since the departure of Karlos Dansby.  Although they lost injury-prone Steve Breaston, second-year pro Andre Roberts is ready to take over his role.  Richard Marshall makes up for the loss of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who at times, showed style, yet, left substance to be desired.  Who needs DRC when you draft Patrick Peterson?  Overall, this free agency period has turned the Cards from NFC West cellar-dwellers to potential division champs.

St. Louis Rams

Unsigned players: CB Quincy Butler (UFA), WR Mark Clayton (UFA), RB Kenneth Darby (UFA), CB Kevin Dockery (UFA), DT Chris Hovan (UFA), TE Darcy Johnson (UFA), S Michael Lewis (UFA), DT Clifton Ryan (UFA), TE Derek Schouman (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Vikings OLB Ben Leber, Aug. 9 (one year); Ex-Patriots UFA OT Quinn Ojinnaka, Aug. 6; Ex-Buccaneers UFA RB Cadillac Williams, Aug. 3; Ex-Packers LB Brady Poppinga, Aug. 2; Ex-Falcons RB Jerious Norwood, Aug. 2 (one year); Ex-Broncos DT Justin Bannan, July 30 (three years); Ex-Jaguars UFA WR Mike Sims-Walker, July 29; CB Al Harris, July 29 (one year); Ex-Falcons UFA OG Harvey Dahl, July 29; Ex-Eagles UFA S Quintin Mikell, July 29 (four years); Ex-Texans UFA OLB Zac Diles, July 29; Ex-Colts UFA DT Daniel Muir, July 29 (one year, $1.85 million).

Key departures: UFA WR Laurent Robinson, Aug. 3 (to Chargers); UFA TE Daniel Fells, July 31 (to Broncos); Released OG Jacob Bell, July 29; RFA OG John Greco (traded to Browns), July 29.

Key re-signings: UFA OG Adam Goldberg, Aug. 6; UFA DT Gary Gibson, Aug. 4; RFA OLB David Vobora, July 29; RFA OT Renardo Foster, July 29; RFA LB Chris Chamberlain, July 29.

Grade: A

Comment: Sam Bradford is a happy camper.  The Rams provided him with a big-play threat at receiver (Sims-Walker), a fighter on the interior line (Dahl) and two third-down backs (Cadillac, Norwood) who will save Steven Jackson wear and tear.  The defense picked up serviceable depth everywhere and a rock-solid consistent safety in Quintin Mikell.  Nothing too dramatic, but certainly a very efficient free agent showing for St. Louis.

Seattle Seahawks

Unsigned players: QB J.P. Losman (UFA), WR Ruvell Martin (UFA), S Lawyer Milloy (UFA), OT Chester Pitts (UFA), OT-OG Tyler Polumbus (RFA), DE Jay Richardson (UFA), WR Brandon Stokley (UFA), DT Craig Terrill (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-49ers PK Jeff Reed, Aug. 3; Ex-Raiders TE Zach Miller, Aug. 2 (five years, $34 million, $17 million guaranteed); Ex-Saints UFA DE Jimmy Wilkerson, Aug. 2; Ex-Vikings UFA WR Sidney Rice, July 29 (five years, $41 million, $18.5 million guaranteed); Ex-Raiders UFA OG Robert Gallery, July 29 (three years); Ex-Vikings UFA QB Tarvaris Jackson, July 29 (two years, $8 million); Ex-Cardinals UFA DL Alan Branch, July 29.

Key departures: UFA DL Amon Gordon, Aug. 6 (to Chiefs); UFA OT Ray Willis, Aug. 6 (to Dolphins); UFA OT Sean Locklear, Aug. 5 (to Redskins); UFA S Jordan Babineaux, Aug. 5 (to Titans); UFA C Chris Spencer, July 31 (to Bears); UFA QB Matt Hasselbeck, July 29 (to Titans); UFA LB Will Herring, July 29 (to Saints); UFA PK Olindo Mare, July 29 (to Panthers).

Key re-signings: UfA DE Raheem Brock, Aug. 6; UFA CB Kelly Jennings, Aug. 1 (one year); UFA DT Brandon Mebane, July 29; UFA LB Leroy Hill, July 29; UFA DT Junior Siavii, July 29; UFA RB Michael Robinson, July 29; UFA LB Matt McCoy, July 29 (one year).

Grade: B-

Comment: Tarvaris Jackson was the best you could get at QB?  Going from Hasselbeck to Jackson was a major downgrade.  Questionable priorities for the Seahawks, who you wonder why didn’t go after a more sure thing under center.  If they had shown as much ambition going for a replacement for Hasselbeck like they did addressing other positions, they would have received a higher grade.  What does the Pro-Bowl caliber combo of Sidney Rice and Zach Miller do for you when T-Jax is your main man?  Regardless, Rice and Miller were key coups that will give new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell a nice cast of weapons to work with.  As the ex-Vikings OC, does Bevell see things in Jackson that we may overlook?  Either way, the potential is there, yet, it’s hard to see the reasoning giving Tarvaris the keys to the offense other than his ties to the coordinator.  Nonetheless, I walk away from Seattle’s free agency impressed with their aggressiveness – despite wishing they kept Lofa Tatupu and made more of an effort to improve a secondary; which ranked sixth-worst and allowed the second-most touchdowns last season.

San Francisco 49ers

Unsigned players: DE Demetric Evans (UFA), CB Will James (UFA), OT Chris Patrick (UFA), OT Barry Sims (UFA), QB Troy Smith (UFA), RB Brian Westbrook (UFA).

Key arrivals: Ex-Jets UFA WR Braylon Edwards, Aug. 4 (one year, $3.5 million); Ex-Bills UFA SS Donte Whitner, Aug. 4; Ex-Browns LB Blake Costanzo, Aug. 4 (one year); Ex-Saints UFA C Jonathan Goodwin, Aug. 3 (three years); Ex-Redskins CB Carlos Rogers, Aug. 2 (one year); Ex-Vikings S Madieu Williams, Aug. 1; Ex-Chargers OLB Antwan Applewhite, July 31; Ex-Eagles UFA David Akers, July 29.

Key departures: UFA PK Jeff Reed, Aug. 3 (to Seahawks); UFA NT Aubrayo Franklin, Aug. 2 (to Saints); UFA OLB Manny Lawson, Aug. 2 (to Bengals); UFA DE Travis LaBoy, July 29 (to Chargers); Cut PK Joe Nedney, July 29; Cut C Eric Heitman, July 29; Cut CB Nate Clements, July 28 (to Bengals); UFA ILB Takeo Spikes, July 29 (to Chargers); UFA C David Baas, July 29 (to Giants).

Key re-signings: UFA OG Tony Wragge, July 29 (one year); UFA DE Ray McDonald, July 29 (five years, up to $20 million, $7 million guaranteed); UFA QB Alex Smith, July 29 (one year, $5 million); UFA FS Dashon Goldson (one year).

Grade: C

Comment: Two words describe the 49ers free agency: Aubrayo Franklin.  Such a huge (no pun intended) loss, for a team that’s relied on a strong run defense.  Ray McDonald over Franklin?  I’m perplexed concerning this bad decision by the San Fran front office.  Aside from the Franklin debacle, the team avoided a disaster by re-signing Alex Smith.  Imagine Colin Kaepernick starting as a rookie; thankfully, we don’t have to witness this.  In the secondary, the team made a huge turnaround; adding Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner and Madieu Williams.  Underachieving Nate Clements could be considered addition by subtraction.  Dashon Goldson came back, which is surprisingly when you look at the team’s depth at safety, but still a good move to retain Goldson’s services.  As for the departures of Spikes and Lawson, the former was getting up there in age, while the latter did not live up to his expectation level.  Lastly, the one-year snag of Braylon Edwards was a brilliant haul because he’s going to prove his worth in attempt to vie for a long-term deal.  In the end, all what was accomplished could go back to the club’s strange move to keep the less effective defensive lineman.  Who knows, we also could look back and remember it for the steal of Braylon.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Mo P

    August 10, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I think the gradings are fare. As a niner fan the 49ers had arguably the worst free agency in the division, this assessment just confirms that.

    Actually the 49ers were very successful, if andrew luck is still the prize of the 2011 season.

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