The 2023 NFL offseason is set to ramp up with free agency just days away. The legal break, when teams can begin discussing pending free agents, begins on March 13. Trades can become official two days later. All four teams in the NFC West division have made the playoffs the last two seasons, meaning any of the four could be just a few moves away from making some real noise in 2023.
The Cardinals have a top-three pick and plenty of cap space to revamp their roster under their new regime of coach Jonathan Gannon, the former defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, and general manager Monti Ossenfort, the former director of player personnel for Tennessee . Titans. The Rams, while lacking in draft and cap space, could return to form with better injury luck for their stars. The Seahawks could make the biggest leap forward of any team, reaching the playoffs a year ago and now having two first-round picks as well as plenty of cap space. The 49ers should once again be one of the best teams in the division with some cap space and one of the best rosters in football.
As we approach free agency frenzy, here are all four NFC West teams and what they could do to improve their rosters ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Note: Projected cap space is per Over the Cap.
The team needs: OG, C, EDGE, CB, LB, RB, OT
Cap Space: $28.6 million (7th)
Top draft picks: No. 3, No. 34, No. 66
Making a regime change in the NFL, bringing in a new general manager and coach, usually means a team is in rebuilding mode. Not the Arizona Cardinals. Their approach seems aimed at winning now, as some of Gannon’s first words to select quarterback Kyler Murray were “Let’s go, let’s go win!” If the intention was to lean more towards a youth movement, Gannon probably would have stuck to low-key pleasantries with something like “I can’t wait to work with you” etc.
With that win-now approach in mind, the Cardinals pursuing a top CB1 in addition to the ideal retention of Byron Murphy to bolster what was the 24th ranked pass defense makes sense. Especially since Eagles cornerback James Bradberry, whose 44.5 passer rating in coverage was the best in the NFL in 2022 among 49 players with 75 or more passes thrown his way, is set to go open market. The defense could also continue to improve rapidly under Gannon with the selection of one of the top rushers in the draft, Will Anderson Jr. from Alabama or Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson. Retaining their 25-year-old defensive end Zach Allen, who is coming off a career year, shouldn’t be too much of a financial burden.
Offensively, the only key needs are on the line and at the backup quarterback spot. Cardinals quarterbacks had an average throw time of 2.58 seconds, the third fastest in the NFL. This statistic can be indicative of a few things, positive and negative. It can be a positive, as in the case of the Cincinnati Bengals, whose team’s 2.55 ERA shows Joe Burrow’s supreme confidence in his arm and his team’s scheme. The other two in 2022’s top three, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2.44) and Cardinals (2.58), portray a quarterback who is afraid to hit and get the ball out of his hands as quickly as he can at age 45 (Tom Brady ) and mostly several backup quarterbacks who lock down their first read trying to avoid a sack (Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley and David Blough).
Arizona’s quarterbacks are still sacked 46 times, tied for the ninth most sacks allowed by any team. Strengthening his frontcourt and finding a veteran who can hold things together until Murray returns from his torn ACL during the season will be priorities.
Potential veteran targets: Arizona Cardinals DE Zach Allen, Philadelphia Eagles CB James Bradberry, Miami Dolphins QB Teddy Bridgewater, Philadelphia Eagles G Isaac Seumalo, New York Jets T George Fant, New York Jets Connor McGovern, Washington Commanders G Wes Schweitzer, Miami Dolphins LB Elandon Roberts
Los Angeles Rams
The team needs: OG, TE, EDGE, CB, DT, QB
Cap Space:-$16.0 million (28th)
Top draft picks: No. 36, No. 69
The good news for yesterday’s Super Bowl champions is that they still have it coach Sean McVay back in the fold after there were questions about retirement. If General Matthew Stafford is he is not traded and remains a Los Angeles Ram, this could be a team back in the NFC playoff mix. The Rams also can’t have worse injury luck than they had in 2022 with Stafford missing eight games (neck), 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Cooper Kupp missing eight games (ankle), defensive tackle All- Pro Aaron Donald to miss six games (ankle) and the majority of their offensive line missing significant time. An average number of lucky injuries could result in the 2023 Rams looking more like the teams McVay is used to, teams that routinely win at least 10 games and reach the postseason.
Restructuring some contracts could give Los Angeles enough cap space to sign some veterans to one-year deals, as it turns out, on the line and in the secondary. The draft will be tough as the Rams don’t have their own first-round pick until 2024. A mid-to-late-round quarterback could be the key for McVay to begin drafting a new, long-term successor to injury-plagued Stafford.
Potential veteran targets: Tennessee Titans WR Robert Woods, Arizona Cardinals G Justin Pugh, New York Giants G Jon Feliciano, San Francisco 49ers G Daniel Brunskill, Green Bay Packers TE Robert Tonyan, Cincinnati Bengals TE Hayden Hurst, Baltimore Ravens CB Rock Vegas LaB Ya-Sin
The team needs: C, S, LB, DT, WR, OG
Cap Space: $23.1 million (8th)
Top draft picks: No. 5, No. 20, No. 37, No. 52
The 2022 Seattle Seahawks were like finding a crumpled $20 in your jeans pocket after taking them out of the washing machine — a pleasant surprise. After trading longtime franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for three players (QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant and DL Shelby Harris) along with five draft picks (two firsts, two second). and one-fifth), it looked like the team was hitting the 2022 season. However, with Wilson’s former backup, Geno Smith, outpacing Seattle’s only champ in the 1st year of the divorce, Seattle snuck in into the seventh and final NFC playoff spot at 9-8, becoming one of only two teams this season to reach the playoffs with multiple first-round picks, joining the NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles.
Having the fifth overall pick and the 20th overall pick allows the Seahawks to commit to being able to land two immediate impact players on the cheap the success of the 2022 NFL Draft class. Their treasure trove of picks and the extra cap space that comes with it will likely go to one or two other starting-caliber veterans, possibly at wide receiver or defensive line. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Snyder have managed the salary cap so well that they still have just over $23 million in cap space to play with even after re-signing Smith to a new three-year contract. However, that may not preclude them from selecting a top prospect with the fifth overall pick with Carroll saying the Seahawks are “fully connected to quarterbacks coming out” in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Adding to their locker are 26-year-old wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, the Patriots’ receiving leader in each of the last two seasons, and 30-year-old defensive tackle Javon Hargrave, who is coming off a career-high 11.0 sacks. room will address two areas of need. These signings would allow Seattle to select the best player available early in the 2023 NFL Draft instead of having to draft for need.
Potential veteran targets: Philadelphia Eagles DT Javon Hargrave, Cleveland Browns LB Deion Jones, Pittsburgh Steelers LB Devin Bush, New England Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers, Tennessee Titans WR Robert Woods, Detroit Lions WR DJ Chark
San Francisco 49ers
The team needs: C, OG, S, DT, WR
Cap Space: $6.4 million (19th)
Top draft picks: No. 99, No. 101, No. 102
The San Francisco 49ers nearly reaching the Super Bowl with the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — quarterback Brock Purdy — leading after injuries to 2021 third overall draft pick Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo is a testament to the great form of The 49ers roster and coach Kyle Shanahan’s magic as a play-caller. If San Francisco is going to get any contributions from the 2023 draft class, it will start with players selected in the late third round at the earliest. That’s because the Niners traded their first-round pick to select Lance in 2021, and their second-, third- and fourth-round picks were part of the cost to acquire Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers .
Fortunately for the 49ers, they don’t have too many holes to deal with. Most of their offseason moves will likely be internal: deciding who will be their franchise quarterback by moving between Lance and Purdy, extending 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa and figuring out whether or not to extend 24-year-old wide receiver Brandon Ayuk. Owning the top defense in the NFL in 2022 and replacing defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans, now the head coach of the Houston Texans, with former Panthers interim coach and defensive play-caller Steve Wilks was a smart move by Shanahan to keep the good moments in defense. If the 49ers can shore up the right side of their offensive line and keep their quarterbacks upright, there’s no reason they can’t make it all the way to the NFC Championship Game again for the fourth time in five seasons.
Potential veteran targets: Arizona Cardinals G Justin Pugh, New York Giants G Jon Feliciano, San Francisco 49ers G Daniel Brunskill, Pittsburgh Steelers CB Cameron Sutton, San Francisco 49ers safety Jimmie Ward, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Terrell Edmunds, Green Bay Packers safety Adrian Amos