The NFC West might have been the best division in the NFL last season. Looking ahead to 2021, all four teams have Super Bowl hopes. Seattle and San Francisco were on opposite ends of the standings, but both have heard rumors of movement at QB this offseason and the 49ers in particular seem in position to act on that. The Rams, of course, made a huge trade investment for veteran Matthew Stafford despite their tight cap situation, leaving Arizona and Kyler Murray as the only pairing to survive the offseason without questions. Teams are more than just their quarterbacks, however, so let’s look at how much of an effort they’ve each made to retain their rosters.
Offensive Snaps Retained: 82.85% (12th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 71.68% (18th in NFL)
Seattle had two vastly different eight-game outputs last year, going 6-2 in the first half with 27-plus points each game, then a back half that only passed that mark twice and was followed by a disappointing wild card loss. The defense will have to be vastly improved to capitalize on Russell Wilson’s prime, a task made more difficult by the losses of DT Jarran Reed (73.61% of snaps), CB Shaquill Griffin (70.57%) and CB Quinton Dunbar (34.46%). A defensive leader remains unsigned in K.J. Wright (86.02%), and there’s been some front-seven depth to escape as well in DE Damontre Moore (15.97%), LB Bruce Irvin (10.59%), DT Jonathan Bullard (10.16%) and LB Shaquem Griffin (9.81%). On offense, the Seahawks have managed to bring back most of their starters past retired OG Mike Iupati (46.76%), but the skill positions have taken a hit without WR David Moore (45.26%), TEs Greg Olsen (40.28%) and Jacob Hollister (35.12%) and RB Carlos Hyde (24.41%). All told, most of the offensive line is back and the team stands poised to contend once again.
Los Angeles Rams
Offensive Snaps Retained: 66.89% (27th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 69.68% (20th in NFL)
Outside of their franchise-altering swap of QB Jared Goff (93.48% of snaps) and DE Michael Brockers (60.94%) to Detroit, the heavily cap-struck Rams have had a clear path this offseason. Returning players were restructured to reduce their cap hit, and nearly all free agents were allowed to sign elsewhere. This strategy particularly took its toll on the offense, with veterans in C Austin Blythe (100%), WR Josh Reynolds (71.67%), TE Gerald Everett (56.84%) and RB Malcolm Brown (42.18%) all moving on despite the return of nearly every rotational or depth piece. The defense tells a similar story, losing star safety John Johnson (100%) and nickel CB Troy Hill (94.92%), while rotational players like DE Morgan Fox (39.36%) and LB Samson Ebukam (35.45%) also found their payday elsewhere. With their lack of draft capital, the Rams will need to continue to develop younger players into starting roles in order to improve their team.
Offensive Snaps Retained: 71.78% (21st in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 59.45% (29th in NFL)
Overshadowed by some big free-agent signings, the Cardinals have quietly seen a lot of turnover on the roster that collapsed down the stretch with a 3-6 finish. The defense is vastly different at every level, with long-time Pro Bowl CB Patrick Peterson (98.83% of snaps) and CB Dre Kirkpatrick (67.63%) leaving their posts in the secondary while a pair of important front-seven defenders in LB De’Vondre Campbell (79.35%) and OLB Haason Reddick (78.81%) also look for greener pastures. After the first few big defensive losses, Arizona will have to add a lot of depth on the interior defensive line, with DTs Angelo Blackson (49.68%), Corey Peters (34.17%), Trevon Coley (17.31%) and Domata Peko (15.96%) all moving on. The offense didn’t lose any players that were on the field for nearly every snap, but trading away C Mason Cole (80.74%) could cause some cohesiveness issues, even with Rodney Hudson replacing him. Evergreen WR Larry Fitzgerald (65.81%) still could return but is unsigned and mulling retirement, while OG J.R. Sweezy (56.89%) finds himself in a similar position. After getting past what appears to be a stacked WR room even without Fitzgerald, the skill positions will be a prime spot to target in the later rounds of the draft due to the losses of RB Kenyan Drake (54.33%) and TE Dan Arnold (41.43%). With only two seasons of Kyler Murray’s rookie deal remaining (and a moderately-priced option year), the Cardinals are nearing a make-or-break point before they have to give him an expensive deal or move on altogether.
San Francisco 49ers
Offensive Snaps Retained: 76.32% (17th in NFL)
Defensive Snaps Retained: 79.19% (11th in NFL)
Despite their six-win 2020 campaign that saw a last-place finish in the NFC West, it’s no surprise that San Francisco isn’t blowing up their roster. The 49ers started off 4-3 before an historic number of injuries torpedoed the season, and five losses were by one score or less. Although they seem certain to select a quarterback with their recent jump up the draft order, it could very well be a “learn for a year” situation as 2020 backup QBs Nick Mullens (55.02%) and C.J. Beathard (16.97%) haven’t returned to the roster. WR Kendrick Bourne (62.77%) got a big deal in free agency, but depth on the offensive line could be the focal point without C Ben Garland (30.38%), C Hroniss Grasu (19.62%) or OT Tom Compton (13.50%). The stable of running backs also is leaking without Jerick McKinnon (33.94%) or Tevin Coleman (5.75%), but Kyle Shanahan has proven time and time again that he can get production from anybody at that position. As such, the team has put much more focus into retaining defenders, re-signing DT D.J. Jones, CB Jason Verrett and S Jaquiski Tartt. But the defense is bleeding a lot more than the above ranking would indicate. The most notable absentee is CB Richard Sherman (32.05%), taking some time before he decides his future, but DEs Kerry Hyder (69.59%), Dion Jordan (36.00%), Solomon Thomas (4.73%) and Ezekiel Ansah (3.28%) continue to take chunks out of what was a highly-regarded line. The secondary has also lost quite a few big-name pieces, albeit none who played a majority of snaps last season, but the aforementioned Sherman as well as CBs Ahkello Witherspoon (32.14%) and Jamar Taylor (19.40%). The significance of last year’s injuries pushed a heavy “next man up” mentality on the 49ers, but this also understates just how much production the team is going to have to replace on both sides of the ball.