November 25, 2012; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Tennessee Titans tight end Jared Cook (89) runs with the ball during the second half of the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field. The Jaguars defeated the Titans 24-19. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Power Ranking The NFC West’s Free Agency Hauls


 

Just like mock drafting, it is never too early to start power ranking teams in the NFL. While it is hard to determine what the final roster on each team will look like heading into OTAs, we at least have a moderately good view of how each team will look heading into the NFL draft. Power rankings are naturally filled with a bit of subjectivity, but we at Ramblin’ Fan will take our best shot at ranking the free agency period as fairly as possible. As a disclaimer, not that this is not a power ranking of the actual teams within the conference; strictly a ranking of their performance in free agency:

 

1. Seattle Seahawks

While it is tempting to downgrade their free agent haul on the technicality that Percy Harvin was acquired in a trade before the official start of the free agency period on March 12th, the ‘Hawks have made enough moves to make up it. Even without the inclusion of Harvin, pickups like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett should sure up the one area of weakness on their defense. Jason Jones was a big loss, but the draft is filled with defensive lineman, so watch out for who migt be available at the end of the second round. It also may signal a diminished role for Bruce Irvin in the rotation, but after watching the St. Louis Rams masterfully amass 52 sacks last season, primarily with depth at defensive end, it is not surprising to see them stockpiling playmakers at that position. Even with the loss of Jones, the Seahawks have done their due dilegence in filling both of their “holes” from the 2012 roster  and, more importantly, retaining their key players on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.

 

2. St. Louis Rams

The St. Louis Rams have been fairly quiet in free agency, at least in terms of signing the “big name” players. They lost the battle for Louis Delmas, who re-signed with the Detroit Lions after being offered a minicle contract by the St. Louis front office. They also failed to get a deal done with Jake Long, who left St. Louis without a contract after spending 3 days in the city.They also lost Danny Amendola to New England and Steven Jackson to Atlanta, although both losses had been assumed for some time now. Still, the St. Louis Rams were able to snag the top pass-catching tight end in free agency, one that Fisher had drafted back when he was still coaching in Tennessee. They were also able to re-sign William Hayes, who was ranked as the 15th best 4-3 defensive end in the league last season, according to Pro Football Focus, and tallied 7 sacks and 26 “stops” in only 375 defensive snaps, as part of the best defensive line rotation in the NFL. The St. Louis Rams ability to consistantly get pressure on the quarterback by only rushing four defenders is one of the primary reasons for their successs in the NFC West last season, and the primary reason why the Rams were competitive in 2012 without the presence of a competent strongside outside lineback on the roster.  The Rams have young players like Isaiah Pead and Daryl Richardson waiting in the helm to take the reins from Jackson, and have more than their fair share of talent at receiver, with Chris Givens, Brian Quick, and Lance Kendricks. Adding a playmaker on offense and re-signing an intregal part of the defensive line rotation is enough to keep St. Louis in second place.

 

3. San Francisco 49ers

Much like the Harvin trade, the San Francisco 49ers did their most impressive work prior to the start of free agency, with the Alex Smith trade and the straight-up stealing of Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens. If this were an “offseason” power ranking, the 49ers would be battling for the top with the Seattle Seahawks, but it isn’t; it is a free agent power ranking. Since March 12th, San Francisco’s best acquisition has been Glenn Dorsey, the 5th overall pick in the 2008 draft that has played well below expectations. He is a decent insurance plan in the case of Justin Smith being injured, but will likely see limited snaps in the rotation. The next largest pickup of free agency has been Craig Dahl… yes, that Craig Dahl. Losing Dashon Goldson is huge for a team that stuggled mightily in containing Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith in the Super Bowl, and they continue to strike out with players, even with (seemingly) every “big name” free agent visiting with the team. Dahl is a downgrade at safety for nearly any team in the NFL, especially if you are looking for a player that can play competently in a complex defensive scheme, take good angle and make sure tackles, or play even moderately well in a deep, zone coverage. They also lost Delanie Walker, who is likely the best utility tight-end in the NFL. Pro Football Focus has Walker graded as the 2nd-best run blocking and 7th-best pass blocking tight end in the NFL last season, likely ranking him below only Dwayne Allen in terms of overall superiority in all three aspects of the tight end game: run block, pass block, receiving. At this point in free agency, the San Francisco 49ers are definitely in the red, but have plenty of cap space to drastically improve their roster in the next couple of weeks.

 

4. Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals have been utterly baffling at this point in free agency, making several moves that are complete head scratchers. They release Beanie Wells, who has had trouble with turnovers and staying healthy, and pick up Rashard Mendenhall, who… has had troubles with turnovers and staying healthy. While looking for depth on the defensive line, potentially as insurance for Calais Campbell, they pick up Matt Shaughnessy, who has… you guessed it, lost significant time with injury. They released Kerry Rhodes and Adrian Wilson, only to replace them with Yehemiah Bell (an alumni from my high school, George Rogers Clark). They also tacked on Jerruad Powers, who comes from a secondary in Indianapolis so weak that they claimed the St. Louis Rams’ 5th best corner, Justin King, off waivers prior to last season and immediately implanted him into their starting line up (he was released soon after). The Cardinals also lost Quentin Groves to the Cleveland Browns, but did make the blockbuster move of signing Drew Stanton, the understudy of Andrew Luck, from Indianpolis! Arizona has had such good luck with backup quarterbacks in the past… sorry, Larry Fitgerald. The Cardinals are clearly in full “re-building” mode, and have done nothing of substance in free agency to expedite that process.

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  • loverpoint

    Anquan Bolding ??? The 49ers did nothing miraculous in the Alex Smith trade, they took the reasonable offer , 2 second round draft picks. With Boldin the 49ers probably had some inside help from Baltimore, knowing that someone else had offered a 7th round pick, all they had to do was cough up a 6th round pick or who knows maybe two 7th round picks. It was no stroke of managerial genius, he fell into their laps.

    As GM of the 49ers Baalkes only major accomplishment has been signing Jim Harbaugh. Some people would say, what about Aldon Smith, I would say why not J.J. Watt?
    He has done nothing remarkable in free agency, and unless something develops out of the 2012 draft by the second preseason game then I would say the 2012 draft might be considered a bust. Like I have said repeatedly, if Baalke can’t work some magic in the 2013 draft, then maybe Jed York should think about replacing Trent Baalke.

    • Beer O’Clock

      I have to disagree.

      The 49ers did very well with Alex Smith. They DID get lucky in that, unlike most years, there are no “can’t miss” QBs in this year’s draft. Since a KC second-rounder pretty much equals a 49er first-rounder, I’d say they did fine on that alone. Getting another KC second-rounder (or a third rounder) is a steal.

      Re: Boldin–what playoffs did you watch last year? Boldin looked as good as any receiver in the playoffs with 22 receptions and 4TDs. He will be an instant upgrade and starter for the 49ers. He style of receiving is a perfect match for Kaepernick’s style of passing. Since it cost the 49ers a sixth-round draft pick (one of 16), easily it’s a steal. The $6M they’ll pay Boldin this year is no issue (about the same amount the Pats are paying Amendola); the 49ers have plenty of cap space and even more if Randy Moss is released–which is likely.

      Boldin is a short term answer for 2013 (maybe 2014, if the 49′ers are lucky). But, the 2013 draft is very deep in talented receivers. Look for the 49′ers to use the KC 2nd pick (#34 overall) to take one of these receivers: DeAndre Hopkins, Terrence Williams, Justin Hunter, Da’Rick Rogers or Tavon Austin/Keenan Allen should either of the last two fall down the board). That will be the long term solution, with the 49′ers having time to groom them.

      Unlike many teams, the 49′ers didn’t have a lot of needs in FA–especially with 15 draft picks. The two glaring holes in the 49′ers roster is at safety and depth at DT. When Justin Smith was injured, the 49ers defensive was not nearly as effective. The 49′ers filled this hole by getting Dorsey as the rotational DT and backup. Like Boldin, he is a short-term solution. Look for the 49ers to find a talented project DT in the 2013 draft to groom as a long term solution–most likely with their 2nd pick.

      This leaves safety, where the 49er’s have not been very successful in FA. Craig Dahl is clearly on board as a backup, though I have to say Dahl looked damn good when playing against the 49ers (not so good against the Patriots, Dolphins, Vikings, Lions and Jets). Look for the 49ers to use their first round draft pick on a safety–either Matt Elam or Jonathan Cyprien–or trade up in the first round for Vaccaro. Vaccaro is the perfect fit for the 49′er defense.

      Looking at the above, I’d say Baalke has done a damn good job. And, yes, his hiring of Harbaugh was his best move.

  • loverpoint

    St. Louis may be in second place, and the 49ers in 3rd place. But both of those teams could have the benefit of the draft. The Rams have 3 picks in the top 50, and the 49ers and Cardinals have 2 picks in the top 50, Seattle has 0. Before the compensatory picks are granted, Arizona has 7 draft picks, Seattle and Arizona have 8 picks, and San Francisco has 11.