The NFC West flexed its muscle as the best division in football -- again. Three teams from the division made the playoffs and two remained on conference championship weekend (Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers), with the winner claiming the Super Bowl title (Rams).
Los Angeles has the Vince Lombardi Trophy, but San Francisco has made the conference championship game in two of the last three years. The Rams and 49ers have two of the most talented rosters in football and are expected to compete for a championship again next season. How will the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks respond?
Arizona made the postseason for the first time in six years, yet faded down the stretch after a 7-0 start. The Cardinals ended the regular season 4-6 before suffering a wild card playoff loss to the Rams. Seattle had its first losing season under Russell Wilson, who missed three games due to a finger injury -- resulting in a career-low in passing yards and a 6-8 record in games he started.
Playing in the most competitive division in football, all four NFC West teams will be trying to one-up each other this offseason in order to make a playoff run like the Rams did last season. All of the NFC West teams are good enough to make the postseason, so let's break down what each team in the division needs to do to improve their rosters in 2022.
Note: Salary cap figures courtesy of Over The Cap.
Los Angeles Rams
Needs: G, LB, WR
How does a team that won the Super Bowl defend its title? That's what the Rams will try to accomplish in 2022 as they seek to become the first team since the 2003-2004 New England Patriots to repeat as champions. Los Angeles already received a major boost with Sean McVay returning in 2022 after the head coach turned down TV money, but the next step is to retain key players.
Odell Beckham Jr. was a major boost for the Rams, as his seven receiving touchdowns (including playoffs) were tied for fifth-most in the NFL since Week 10. Beckham had 21 catches for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the postseason, one of just seven receivers in NFL history to have 50-plus receiving yards in four playoff games. The Rams are unsure when Beckham will return from his ACL injury, but it's paramount he returns to a wide receiver group that already has Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods next season.
The Rams could also be losing center Brian Allen and guard Austin Corbett to free agency and may not have the cap space to retain both. Adding depth in the later rounds in the draft will be vital, especially since Los Angeles doesn't have a pick until the third round. Then there's the impending decision on Andrew Whitworth's future (he'll be 41 in December), so the Rams will have to address the tackle position.
Von Miller will be a priority free agent for the Rams to retain, but he'll be one of the top pass-rushing linebackers on the market. Los Angeles will have to pay a premium to keep him around.
CBS draft projections: No first-round pick. Los Angeles traded its first-round pick to the Detroit Lions in the Matthew Stafford trade. Ryan Wilson, Josh Edwards, and Chris Trapasso don't have the Rams trading up and making a first-round pick.
Projected cap space: $-21,623,914
Needs: WR, CB, IDL
The Cardinals are at a crossroads this offseason. They have improved their win total each season under head coach Kliff Kingsbury but have had second-half collapses that have stunted progress. Kyler Murray struggled in his final eight starts, going 2-6 while completing 64% of his passes with seven touchdowns to seven interceptions (81.2 rating). Losing DeAndre Hopkins to a knee injury didn't help, and Arizona will need depth at wide receiver with Christian Kirk and A.J. Green set to hit free agency.
Arizona could run it back with both players, but Rondale Moore deserves an increased role in the offense and the Cardinals could spend some money retaining tight end Zach Ertz. Kirk is expected to have a lot of suitors in free agency, while Green will be a risk bringing back for his age 34 season. The draft may be the best option for Arizona to revamp at receiver.
The Cardinals don't have enough cap space to give top dollar to a free agent cornerback, so the draft may be their best bet to attack that position. Arizona played Robert Alford, Antonio Hamilton, and Byron Murphy at outside corner this year, a position that needs a total overhaul in a division loaded with great quarterbacks.
Corey Peters and Chandler Jones are also free agents -- and the Cardinals would like to bring Jones back into the fold. Peters, a longtime nose tackle in Arizona, will be 34 in June. The Cardinals need to get younger on the defensive line, but still should bring Jones back to keep the pass rush intact. They need more pressure from the interior of the line.
CBS draft projections: Ryan Wilson has the Cardinals drafting Michigan center Bernhard Raimann while Chris Trapasso has Arizona taking Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave. Josh Edwards has them taking Michigan edge rusher David Ojabo.
Projected cap space: $-813,256
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San Francisco 49ers
Needs: CB, S, G
The 49ers offseason hinges on what this franchise decides what to do with Jimmy Garoppolo, who has one year left on his deal with a cap number of $26.95 million. Without a first-round pick, San Francisco could get one back in a Garoppolo trade (the ideal move) and save $25.55 million in salary cap space. The 49ers could roll with Trey Lance at quarterback and have enough money to make improvements to an already talented roster.
San Francisco needs to revamp a secondary that had just nine interceptions last season, sixth-fewest in the NFL. Cornerbacks Josh Norman and K'Waun Williams are free agents, along with safety Jaquiski Tartt. D.J. Reed would be an ideal fit in San Francisco, as he can play both cornerback positions and safety. A veteran cornerback to pair with Emmanuel Moseley and Ambry Thomas would work, too, as another strong fit in DeMeco Ryans' defense would be Casey Hayward.
Shedding Garoppolo's salary will create enough flexibility for the 49ers to make another Super Bowl run. The biggest question mark will be if Lance is ready to lead this team.
CBS draft projections: No first-round pick. The 49ers don't have a first-round pick in 2022 as a result of the Trey Lance deal. San Francisco traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 in order to select Lance in last year's draft. Ryan Wilson, Josh Edwards, and Chris Trapasso don't have the 49ers trading up and making a first-round pick.
Projected cap space: $-4,478,456
Needs: EDGE, CB, T
The Seahawks don't seem to have any offseason chatter hovering over trading Russell Wilson (at least on their end), a welcome sign for a team with plenty of salary cap space to improve this roster in free agency. Signing Rashaad Penny is a top priority after he ended his season with 92 carries for 671 yards and six touchdowns — an incredible 7.3 yards per carry -- over the final five games.
Seattle needs some pass rushing help on the outside, and has the cap space to give a premium amount to one of the top edge rushers available. Keeping Von Miller or Chandler Jones in the NFC West while taking them away from their division rivals would be nice, but Seattle can also make a play for Haason Reddick or Harold Landry. Either player would immediately bolster the Seahawks pass rush.
Duane Brown will also be a free agent. Seattle could bring him back -- or the Seahawks can go after one of the top free agent tackles in Terron Armstead or Trent Brown. If the Seahawks pursue Brown, they could have enough money to re-sign Duane Brown and give Wilson protection at both tackle positions. The tackle market will be worth monitoring for the Seahawks.
Seattle also needs help at slot cornerback after giving up the second-most yards in the NFL from the slot. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is a very good slot corner and won't cost much, allowing Seattle to retain D.J. Reed and Sidney Jones if the Seahawks choose to bring both outside corners back. The Seahawks have enough cap space to find value at cornerback.
CBS draft projections: No first-round pick. Seattle traded its first-round pick to the New York Jets in the Jamal Adams trade. Ryan Wilson, Josh Edwards, and Chris Trapasso don't have the Seahawks trading up and making a first-round pick.
Projected cap space: $34,843,530