The Immediate Future of The NFC West
The 2022 NFC West was surprising to say the least. One quarterback was reborn in Seattle, three were injured in San Francisco. Los Angeles’ short term approach to winning a Super Bowl at the cost of the future came home to roost. And Arizona’s house of cards finally collapsed around their ears. With so much volatility in one season anything could happen in the next 12 months, here’s what you should expect.
Your NFC West Champions – The L.A Rams
With the recent revelation they’re shopping Jalen Ramsey to anyone who will take his salary off their books combined with the Sean McVay might leave chatter picking them to win the division is a gamble. But McVay is staying and he’s still one of the best coaches in the league. Nobody else has done what he did with Baker Mayfield after all.
There are some areas that need addressing and if Ramsey is leaving then they won’t be relying on their defense to win games. They desperately need a running back and an Odell Beckham replacement. With Stafford, Kupp and Donald returning healthy after some enforced rest there’s still plenty of star power in L.A.
Pete Carroll has set up Seattle to challenge in the NFC for the next four seasons (at least). The 2022 draft provided them with a young defense and a stud running back. There may be a risk of “sophomore syndrome” in 2023 but by and large they’re in good shape.
They need to re-sign Geno Smith or find an equal replacement and in total 23 Seahawks are set to hit free agency. There are some interesting decisions to be made with three safeties and three cornerbacks out of contract. They have nine picks in the draft. Four of those coming in the first 52 picks so they’re in good shape to improve their roster without spending too much. If they can bolster the offence in the draft and effectively replace Marquise Goodwin, then DK Metcalf and Kenneth Walker will benefit.
San Francisco could end up with the same record as Seattle and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in a Wildcard game. But if Trey Lance is the future at quarterback, they’ll have a rocky start to the 2023 season. Any offence with Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Samuel and George Kittle has always got a chance to win a game.
No DeMeco Ryans is going to be more of a problem, although we all thought that when Robert Saleh left. They might need to rebuild the defense though. Seven defensive linemen are due to hit free agency and three free safeties, while two cornerbacks are also out of contract.
NFC whipping boys – The Arizona Cardinals
The words “dumpster fire” are often bandied about willy and indeed nilly but in this case they’ve never been more appropriate. The new Cardinals GM comes from a scouting background and spent the last two years at the Titans. As the Director of player personnel in Tennessee he oversaw the drafting of cornerback Roger McCreary and quarterback Malik Willis. As a second-round pick McCreary allowed five touchdowns, Willis threw three interceptions and no touchdowns in his three starts.
Only one defensively minded coach made it past the wildcard round and they’ve just employed a defensively minded coach. Ossenfort first contacted Jonathan Gannon in 2021 and despite his inability to adjust to Kansas City’s offence in the Super Bowl Ossenfort still hired him 18 months later.
On the field it doesn’t look much better. Kyler Murray will either be out or playing injured until about October. JJ Watt has retired. DeAndre Hopkins wants to leave, even if Ossenfort claims to have had good conversations with him. They’ve got 30 players hitting free agency next month and 10 of them are over 30. Including 40-year-old punter Andy Lee and 38-year-old kicker Matt Prater. Arizona have only got $4.9 million in cap space, and they only have five draft picks. Their new defensive coordinator is WWE wrestler Madcap Moss’s brother which seems ironic as the 2023 Cardinals will need an undertaker. They’ll be propping up the NFC West for a while.