Which team in the division improved itself the most through free agency?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: The San Francisco 49ers improved the most in the NFC West, but mostly by default. They’ve signed 12 players, all but instantly bolstering their roster in the process. The Niners signed quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley, although it remains to be seen whether either will be the starter. San Francisco also added two of the quickest wide receivers in the NFL in Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin. If the Niners can find someone to get them the ball, then the offense could develop rather quickly.
Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams: This is a division that generally didn’t really wow in free agency, so in that case, you have to go with the 49ers. They were busy, at least. They had to be. The Niners began with a lot of vacancies on their roster and a lot of salary-cap space in their payroll, so they went about adding players who would fit the scheme and culture Kyle Shanahan wants to implement as a first-year head coach. And they did it without necessarily sacrificing financial flexibility. The 49ers added a premier receiver (Garcon), signed a stopgap quarterback (Hoyer), splurged on a versatile fullback (Kyle Juszczyk), landed a speedy No. 2 receiver (Goodwin), then filled in a blocking tight end (Logan Paulsen), another linebacker (Malcolm Smith) and a replacement for Phil Dawson (Robbie Gould). Yes, the Niners still have a long, long way to go. But going from two wins to five qualifies as significant improvement, doesn’t it?
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers: I'm not sure any of the four teams did anything that will make a substantial difference in their record in 2017, but the 49ers made the most changes and upgraded at more spots than the other teams. If nothing else, the Niners almost can't be any worse than they were a year ago -- and with players that Shanahan knows and trusts to run his system, it's fair to expect at least some uptick in performance from last season. Perhaps best of all, San Francisco's free-agent crop will help without breaking the bank, allowing it to keep some powder dry for next year when it could be in better position to land a franchise quarterback.
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks: The San Francisco 49ers. To be honest, it’s smart to go with the 2-14 option with questions like this. There’s nowhere to go but up. The 49ers handed out some big-money contracts, but the goal in Year 1 under Shanahan should be to start to get the personnel in place who can execute his system. Even though the signings were costly, San Francisco at least began to do that with the additions of guys such as Garcon and Juszczyk. And the 49ers were wise to hold off on making a drastic move at quarterback. They are not built to win now, so why panic and pour valuable resources into the position? Instead, Hoyer can serve as a bridge option until Shanahan finds more of a long-term solution. The 49ers were outscored by 171 points a year ago, the widest margin in the conference. They have a long way to go to be competitive, but the roster looks far more professional than it did going into 2016.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Trevone Boykin was arrested early Monday in Dallas on misdemeanor charges of marijuana possession and public intoxication after a car in which he was a passenger struck pedestrians and then a night club, injuring eight people -- and sending seven to local hospitals.
According to police, at 2:10 a.m. local time, Shabrika Bailey, 25, backed up at a high rate of speed, striking pedestrians on a sidewalk and then a wall of Sidebar in Dallas. The impact of the car with the building caused bottles of alcohol and an ice cooler to fall inside Sidebar, hitting and injuring the bartender.
None of the injuries were considered life-threatening, according to police.
Bailey was charged with two counts of intoxication assault with a vehicle -- serious bodily Injury, a felony 3 charge.
Boykin, 23, was being held on $500 bond at the Dallas County Jail. He is currently on probation stemming from an incident in 2015, when he was TCU's starting quarterback.
He was suspended for the Alamo Bowl after a Dec. 31, 2015, incident at a bar.
He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest in June and paid a $1,500 fine, plus $237 in court costs, and was placed on one year probation. He was also ordered to take alcohol awareness and anger management courses and serve 80 hours of community service.
Boykin went undrafted last year and signed with the Seahawks as a free agent.
"We are aware of the situation involving Trevone Boykin. We are still gathering information and are disappointed," the Seahawks said in a statement.
ESPN's Sheil Kapadia contributed to this report.
Here's a roundup of Seattle Seahawks mock draft projections, along with my thoughts on each prospect's potential fit.
"King is the perfect fit in the Seahawks' scheme. His stock continues to soar following an outstanding combine performance."
My take: King would make a lot of sense for Seattle. At 6-foot-3 with 32-inch arms, he has the length the Seahawks look for in their corners, and he is an elite athlete. Seattle coach Pete Carroll knows Washington coach Chris Petersen well, so the Seahawks should have a good grasp of King's intangibles. He may not be a finished product, but Seattle has shown it can coach corners, and King has tremendous upside.
ESPN's Todd McShay has them going with Michigan State defensive tackle Malik McDowell.
My take: McDowell is definitely a player who could intrigue the Seahawks. They have used a top-100 pick on a defensive lineman in three of the past four drafts. McDowell (6-foot-6, 295 pounds) is one of the better athletes at his position in this year's draft. He can play multiple spots on the defensive line and has high upside, but he struggled through an ankle injury last year. McDowell is a possibility at No. 26.
Bucky Brooks of NFL.com suggests another cornerback, UCLA's Fabian Moreau:
"Moreau is a fast-rising corner with a blue-collar game."
My take: Moreau (6 feet, 31 3/8-inch arms) doesn't have the same length as King but is also a tremendous athlete. This draft is loaded with cornerbacks, and Moreau is among the guys the Seahawks could consider in the first two rounds. It's worth noting that he had surgery recently after tearing his pectoral muscle at his pro day.
Emily Kaplan of The MMQB has the Seahawks drafting Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk:
"The Seahawks need tackles. Some scouts believe Ramczyk is the best one in this draft, even a Day 1 starter on the left side. As long as his medicals hold up, Seattle could be getting a steal here."
My take: This draft class is weak at offensive tackle, but Ramczyk could intrigue the Seahawks. He presents a difficult evaluation though, having undergone hip surgery this offseason. Ramczyk did not participate in athletic testing at the combine or during Wisconsin's pro day. He played just one season of Division I football. There's a good chance that Ramczyk won't be on the board when Seattle picks, but if he slides, he'd be a possibility.
Dane Brugler of CBSSports.com mocks Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles to the Seahawks:
"A polarizing prospect in league circles, Bolles has a checkered past and is an older prospect who still needs plenty of strength and technique work. However, he is a fantastic athlete with the mean streak that will endear him to NFL coaches."
My take: This one would surprise me for a couple of reasons. The biggest is Bolles' age. He turns 25 in May, meaning he'd be pushing 30 when up for his fifth-year option. I'm philosophically opposed to using first-round picks on players who are this old, but perhaps John Schneider feels differently. Bolles played only one year at Utah and doesn't have ideal measurables to play tackle. He has the tools to be a good player, but there are a lot of question marks.
Rob Rang of CBSSports.com has Seattle landing Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson:
"It is no secret that the Seahawks' top priority over the offseason would be addressing a leaky offensive line. Robinson, the reigning Outland Award winner as the nation's top blocker, has the size and strength Seattle prioritizes with a skill set that projects well to guard or tackle, wherever offensive line coach Tom Cable needs him most."
Peter Schrager of FoxSports.com has them going with Robinson as well:
"Much has been made of Seattle's offensive line woes last season. The Seahawks got a whole lot out of a group that wasn't necessarily a bunch of high-priced players. They've added some pieces in free agency, but I believe they'll hit this spot in the draft, too. Robinson can play, move, and protect."
My take: Robinson was a three-year starter at Alabama and has the look (6-foot-6, 327 pounds) of an NFL tackle, although some see him better-suited to play guard. He has a below-average athletic profile, but given the Seahawks' need at this position, Robinson is an option. It's worth noting that Carroll was in attendance at Alabama's pro day this offseason.
Chris Burke of SI.com has Seattle going with Western Kentucky offensive lineman Forrest Lamp:
"Don't be surprised if Lamp is the offensive lineman who sneaks into the top half of Round 1. The Seahawks would be doubling down after drafting G Germain Ifedi last season, but Lamp's worth it."
My take: The concern here would be more with the idea of using a first-round pick on a guard than Lamp's ability. The Seahawks used last year's first-round pick on Ifedi and moved him to guard. They also used a third-round pick on guard Rees Odhiambo. And in 2015, the Seahawks used a fourth-round selection on Mark Glowinski. Free-agent addition Luke Joeckel can play guard, and the Seahawks signed Oday Aboushi as well. In my opinion, it'd be a poor use of resources to use a first-round pick on a guard like Lamp.
Which free-agent signing will have the biggest impact in the division?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: Forget his age. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth will have the biggest impact in the NFC West next season simply because of the running back he’ll be blocking for, Todd Gurley. In the case of the Rams, who made a strong run at most improved through free agency this year, adding Whitworth will cause a domino effect throughout the offense. He’ll give Jared Goff more time to throw, which, in theory, should help the passing game. Because defenses are looking for the pass, the running game should develop. It’s a cycle that will be sparked by Whitworth, who’s still one of the best left tackles in the NFL at age 35.
Alden Gonzalez, Los Angeles Rams: I’m going to go with the addition of Andrew Whitworth, for one very simple reason: The Rams went from one of the very worst to one of the very best at one of the game’s most important positions. By signing Whitworth to a three-year, $33.75 million contract, the Rams added one of the NFL’s premier pass-blockers at left tackle and bought themselves the freedom to potentially move the struggling Greg Robinson to right guard, where he can more freely use his 6-foot-5, 332-pound frame to maul interior linemen. Will it make the Rams a playoff team? Probably not. Will it make their offense respectable? Even that is a stretch. But adding Whitworth creates a ripple effect that could make a world of difference for Jared Goff, Todd Gurley, Tavon Austin and Robinson -- the team’s top picks from each of the past four drafts.
Nick Wagoner, San Francisco 49ers: There were some intriguing additions made around the NFC West, but none figure to have the significant long-term impact of the Arizona Cardinals re-signing pass-rusher Chandler Jones. Jones instantly upgraded Arizona's pass rush to a league-leading 48 sacks after coming over in a trade with New England last year. Jones finished with 11 sacks, four forced fumbles and 44 hurries. After losing Calais Campbell to Jacksonville in free agency, Jones will have to shoulder more of the load to keep the Cardinals' pass rush humming in 2017 and beyond.
Sheil Kapadia, Seattle Seahawks: NFC West teams spent a lot of money in free agency on mediocre players and guys with question marks. But Chandler Jones was an exception. In the past four years, his 41 sacks are fifth most in the NFL, and Jones will be just 27 at the start of next season. When the Cardinals acquired him from the Patriots, they obviously had a plan for keeping Jones in Arizona for a long time. Elite pass-rushers are expensive (five years, $83 million in this case), but Jones gives the Cardinals another defensive building block for years to come. Arizona might have trouble repeating its defensive performance from 2016, but Jones gives the Cardinals a dangerous pass-rusher in his prime whom opponents have to account for on a weekly basis.
Wilson has been working out in Los Angeles, and wide receiver Doug Baldwin said recently during a 710 ESPN Seattle interview that he's heard great things about the work the quarterback has been putting in.
"I keep tabs on him during the offseason to check in with the guys that are around him to see how he’s doing, and what I’ve heard just recently was that he’s being an animal right now," Baldwin said. "He’s grinding his butt off."
Wilson started every game last year, but battled through three different injuries -- a high ankle sprain, a sprained MCL in his knee and a pectoral strain.
Baldwin pointed out how much the Seahawks have riding on a healthy and productive Wilson.
"I couldn’t be more excited about it because when Russell Wilson goes, our whole team goes," Baldwin said. "And so for him to be where he’s at now after all the injuries that he’s endured during the past season, I’m really excited about our chances for this season."
Wilhoite's deal is worth up to $1.55 million with $500,000 guaranteed, per a league source.
Wilhoite could get a chance to compete for the starting strongside linebacker spot, which was occupied by Mike Morgan last season. Morgan is an unrestricted free agent and has not been signed.
Head coach Pete Carroll said after the season that the Seahawks need to add more linebacker depth behind starters Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. In addition to Wilhoite, the team signed Arthur Brown last week. And according to a league source, the Seahawks also have agreed to terms with veteran Terence Garvin.
Wilhoite, who turned 30 in December, ended up playing much more than originally projected last season for the San Francisco 49ers because of injuries at linebacker.
"I just laugh it off, man," Sherman said. "It’s funny to me. But sometimes people need to see you gone to realize what you had. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. But I don’t let things like that bother me. The chips will fall how they’re supposed to."
The question stemmed from a comment made by former league executive Mike Lombardi on a podcast on The Ringer in which he said he'd heard that Sherman could be acquired for the right price.
Meanwhile, Sherman downplayed comments made by teammate Doug Baldwin in which the wide receiver said Sherman sometimes lets his pride get in the way and that the cornerback thinks he's smarter than he actually is.
"He’s a good friend of mine," Sherman said. "He sometimes gets besides himself, but he means well."
Sherman said that he and Baldwin are family, and that he just had seen the wide receiver on Thursday.
As for his former teammate Marshawn Lynch, Sherman said he'd have no issue with the running back returning to the NFL and playing for the Oakland Raiders.
"Well, [Marshawn’s] been talking about Oakland. He’s from the town, so that’s like going home for him," Sherman said. "It’d be like a basketball player growing up in L.A. and saying, ‘I’m going to play for the Lakers one day.’ It’s probably something he’s always wanted to do since he was a kid, so we’ve got no problem with that."
And finally, Sherman talked about the difference between the NBA and the NFL in the way each tries to grow.
"They try to force the growth of our game by putting games in London, putting games in Mexico and saying, ‘Oh man, they’re going to love our sport out there,'" Sherman said. "That’s not how you grow the game. How you grow the game is the way the NBA does. The NBA will send LeBron James to China. They’ll play games and then let the players interact with everybody in China.
"You play a game in London, the NFL and players don’t have a great relationship. So the NFL will be like, ‘Hey, we need you guys to be at this event.’ And the players will be like, ‘Why would we go to that event? We don’t want to deal with you.’ But I think we could have a more amicable relationship if they tried. But they don’t want to try because they want us to be nameless, faceless employees. And the NBA celebrates the uniqueness of their players."
Now, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback believes Kaepernick is being treated unfairly.
Appearing on ESPN First Take Friday, Sherman was asked if Kaepernick is being blackballed by NFL teams.
"I'm sure he is," Sherman said. "It's difficult to see because he's played at such a high level, and you see guys, quarterbacks, who have never played at a high level being signed by teams. So it's difficult to understand. Obviously he's going to be in a backup role at this point. But you see quarterbacks, there was a year Matt Schaub had a pretty rough year and got signed the next year. So it has nothing to do with football. You can see that. They signed guys who have had off years before."
While Sherman initially said Kaepernick would have to settle for a backup role, he later changed his mind when considering some of the other quarterbacks who have gotten starting jobs.
"You don't have 32 starting-level quarterbacks in this league," Sherman said. "You have about eight elites, and then you have the rest of the league. You have about eight, nine elite quarterbacks. You have two or three who have the potential to be elite. And then you have the rest of the teams. So he could play and start on a ton of teams in this league. He would be a starter on probably 20 of the teams in this league. But you're telling me that you're going to let other guys, you're going to pick up some of these other guys and tell me that they're starters?"
Time for a Seattle Seahawks mailbag. Let's get right to the questions.
@SheilKapadia if the offense struggles this year does Carroll make a change and move on from Bevell?
— Chris Amico (@amicochris) March 23, 2017
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has become a target for criticism once again this offseason, and the truth is most of the claims are completely unfair.
The Seahawks' offense was not good last year, finishing 17th in efficiency, its lowest ranking since Russell Wilson became the quarterback. But Bevell is far down the list when it comes to reasons why.
Wilson was playing injured for most of the year. The offensive line was a mess. And the backfield was constantly in flux, with 18 different players finishing the season with at least one carry.
Pete Carroll doesn't just hand the offense over to Bevell and say, "Do whatever you want." He has specific guidelines. He wants balance. Turnovers drive him nuts. Third down has to be a strength. Meanwhile, Tom Cable handles the offensive line and the run game.
Essentially, Carroll has asked Bevell to design an offense that limits risk while still being explosive. Bevell has done that.
The Seahawks finished in the top seven in efficiency (offensive DVOA) in Wilson's first four seasons. They were first in 2015. Bevell has led the way in developing a young quarterback and scheming the offense to Wilson's strengths. And he has shown the ability to deal with challenging situations -- whether it's Marshawn Lynch's mom calling for his firing, Richard Sherman yelling at him on the sideline, or the disappointment of Super Bowl XLIX.
Is he perfect? Of course not. The Seahawks need to do a better job of getting Jimmy Graham the ball in the red zone. And last year's third-down performance was a problem.
But the bottom line is that Bevell has been a really good coordinator for Carroll, especially considering that Seattle ranked 28th or lower in cap space committed to the offense from 2014 to 2016.
Some people will never be able to get over Super Bowl XLIX. And that's perfectly reasonable. But last year's offensive struggles had very little to do with Bevell. And if Wilson is healthy, there's a pretty good chance this group bounces back in 2017.
@SheilKapadia Do you get the feeling that the SAM position has become obsolete for SEA? Lane played 70% snaps last year.
— Nick Cassella (@Nick_Cassella) March 23, 2017
Good question. And in many ways, the answer is yes for the reason you stated. Jeremy Lane, the team's nickel, played 71.4 percent of the Seahawks' defensive snaps last year.
SAM linebacker is the least important position on the defense. Prior to 2016, Bruce Irvin played SAM and then moved to right defensive end when the team went to nickel. Mike Morgan did not do that last season. He played SAM and came off the field in nickel.
With Morgan currently an unrestricted free agent, the Seahawks don't have a lot of options (Ronald Powell, Kevin Pierre-Louis). There is an athletic group of edge rushers in this year's draft class. It'd be no surprise to see the Seahawks spend one of their five picks in the first three rounds on a player in the Irvin mold -- someone who can play SAM LB in base and rush the passer in sub packages.
One way or another, the guess here is that the starting SAM LB will be someone who's not currently on the roster.
@SheilKapadia Do they view Joeckel as OT or OG? Rees as OT or OG? Do they want to add another vet OL? How about via draft? Thanks!
— Scott Peterson (@scott_peterson4) March 23, 2017
You didn't think we were going to do a full mailbag without an offensive line question, did you?
They see Luke Joeckel as a left tackle or a left guard. I don't think they are being coy when they say it could be either. That's how the Seahawks have operated with offensive linemen. They try guys at different spots in the summer, in hopes of finding the best five-person combination.
Having said that, given that Joeckel got $7 million guaranteed and that the Seahawks are thin at tackle, it's fair to assume they'd like him to win the left tackle job. That's where he played his first four seasons before sliding inside to guard in 2016 (four starts).
As for Rees Odhiambo, they view him as a guard. If they thought he could play tackle, he would have likely been given a shot there last season. There are a wide range of possibilities for Odhiambo, who was a third-round pick in 2016. If he impresses, he could compete for a starting job.
If he doesn't, he could be battling for a roster spot. The Seahawks have Germain Ifedi, Mark Glowinski and Oday Aboushi as options at guard. Joey Hunt is their backup center. And they could add an interior lineman or two in the draft.
By all accounts, the team is still high on Odhiambo, but he needs to prove himself next summer.
The Seattle Seahawks have not drafted a cornerback before the fourth round since Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider took over back in 2010.
But there are plenty of reasons why this year could be an exception.
Drafting King would make sense on a number of levels, starting with need. Schneider has admitted that need is often a factor, especially given where the Seahawks are as a franchise. Seattle obviously has Richard Sherman at one cornerback spot, but the other one is wide open. DeShawn Shead is coming off of an ACL and meniscus tear from the divisional round of the playoffs and might not be ready for the start of the season.
Carroll has always felt comfortable playing rookies and letting them take their lumps. There's a decent chance that whoever is going to start at right cornerback in Week 1 is not currently on the roster.
As for King (6-foot-3, 200 pounds, 32-inch arms), he has a rare combination of talent, length and athleticism. A three-year starter, he began his career with the Huskies at safety before moving over to corner.
At the combine, King tested in the 99.3 percentile of athleticism in Zach Whitman's SPARQ rankings when compared to all NFL corners. The raw tools are phenomenal, and with guys like Sherman, Shead and Byron Maxwell, Carroll has shown he can coach the cornerback position like few others in the league.
The Seahawks have a good relationship with Washington coach Chris Petersen and will likely have an excellent grasp of King's intangibles going into the draft.
There were 14 corners at the combine who measured in at least 6 foot with 32-inch arms. In other words, the Seahawks will have plenty of options to address their secondary.
But King's athleticism gives him special upside, and he could very well be an option at the end of the first round.