NFC West Free Agency Grades
Updated: Aug 24, 2020
Cardinals - B
- WR DeAndre Hopkins, via trade
- WR Larry Fitzgerald, 1-year, $11 million
- OT D.J. Humphries, 3-years, $45 million, $29 million guaranteed
- RB Kenyan Drake, transition tag
- EDGE Devon Kennard, 3-years, $20 million, $12.25 million guaranteed
- DT Jordan Phillips, 3-years, $30 million, $18 million guaranteed
- LB De’Vondre Campbell, 1-year, $6 million fully guaranteed
- RB David Johnson, traded
Prior to potentially one of the worst trades of all-time the Cardinals were having an average free agency. The Cardinals have a young star quarterback in Kyler Murray who is on his rookie deal and was the joint most sacked quarterback in 2019, hence, to not go out and sure up his offensive line in free agency is in my view criminal.
However, that one trade really saved the Cardinals. DeAndre Hopkins is my number 2 wide receiver in the NFL behind only Julio Jones, he has the best hands in the league and over the past 3 seasons he has averaged 105 catches, 1,371 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on course to being named to the 1st team All-Pro and Pro Bowl in each season. Whilst the addition of a likely future Hall of Fame wide receiver in his prime is nearly always a great one regardless of the assets given up, the Cardinals only gave away a 2nd round pick along with running back David Johnson in return for Hopkins and a 4th round pick. Arizona struck gold in ways I still cannot fathom, essentially they gave up a 2nd round picks for an elite number one receiver and received a 4th round pick for a washed up running back on an awful contract that you would usually have to give up compensation for to move off of. This trade alone makes the Cardinals free agency a win, regardless of other let downs.
Re-signing D.J. Humphries may not have been the greatest move long-term, but it was necessary in the short run. Given the Cardinals had the joint worst offensive line last season in terms of sacks re-signing one of the few bright points of that offensive line was wise. Humphries had his best season of his career in 2019, giving up only 2 sacks and 30 quarterback pressures as a pass blocker, which places him middle of the pack in terms of pass blockers. Yet in the run game he was inconsistent all season long as well as totalling 13 penalties. Although 2019 was a good year for Humphries he has only played in 43% of games since being drafted 24th overall in 2015, all of which has been due to injury apart from his rookie year in which he remained inactive all season. Humphries injuries have led him to finish the season on injury reserve 3 out of his 4 active years in Arizona which in my opinion would be a cause for concern moving forward. However, the Cardinals structured his contract very well, even though Humphries is the 5th highest annual earning left tackle and his deal includes $29 million guaranteed, Arizona are able to move off of Humphries contract in 2022 for a dead cap hit of $800,000 if he doesn’t meet expectations.
The signing of Jordan Phillips was in my opinion one of the most underrated signings of free agency. Phillips had a breakout year in 2019 within the Bills top defense, totalling 9.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. Although his stats could be inflated due to playing in a good defense, Phillips was a rotational player, starting in 9 of 16 games for the Bills and playing only 52% of the snaps. So, to perform statistically as well as Phillips did in his rotational role would suggest that he is certainly worth the 3-years $30 million deal he signed in Arizona.
Rams – C-
- C Austin Blythe, 1-year, $3.9 million
- OT Andrew Whitworth, 3-years, $30 million, $12.5 million guaranteed
- DT A’Shawn Robinson, 2-years, $17 million
- EDGE Leonard Floyd, 1-year, $10 million guaranteed
- LB Cory Littleton, signed by the Raiders
- CB Nickell Robey-Coleman, signed by the Eagles
- EDGE Dante Fowler Jr, signed by the Falcons
- DT Michael Brockers, signed by the Ravens
- S Eric Weddle, retired
- RB Todd Gurley, released
In 2019 the Rams offensive line play fell off from their excellent play in 2018 which was a large part of their Super Bowl run. So re-signing Andrew Whitworth and Austin Blythe could go either way, back to 2018 heights or remain at 2019 lows. While re-signing Blythe is a no brainer for 1-year $3.9 million given his versatility playing either guards spots as well as centre, signing Andrew Whitworth to a 3-year $30 million deal is very questionable. Although Whitworth has only missed 9 games in his 14-year career along with making 3 consecutive Pro Bowls between 2015-17 as well as two 1st teams All-Pro he is 38 and regression is beginning to show. Whilst only $12.5 million of Whitworth’s deal is guaranteed it’s unlikely the Rams would move off Whitworth for the next two seasons given the structure of the contract and the dead money, making the deal in my view a risky one.
Los Angeles lost Michael Brockers to the Ravens in free agency but moved fast to secure a replacement. Not only is A’Shawn Robinson 4 years younger than Brockers but they also have had comparable play over recent years. However, given the Rams are more than a run stopper away on defense $8.5 million annually is a relatively steep price to pay for a two down interior defender.
Bringing in Leonard Floyd instead of re-signing Dante Fowler Jr was a great move by the Rams in my opinion. Although Floyd never lived up to his 1st round grade in Chicago I believe he can replace Dante Fowlers production as most of Fowlers sacks and pressures in 2019 came from being unblocked at the line of scrimmage, and if not, given the deal is only 1-year they can move on.
Losing Cory Littleton leaves the Rams with a big hole at middle linebacker as well as no depth. Littleton made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and over his two seasons as a starter totalled 259 tackles, 7.5 sacks and 5 interceptions. If it wasn’t for their cap restrictions, I believe the Rams would’ve certainly ensured Littleton remained with them long-term. Yet, instead by losing Littleton they are left with Troy Reeder, Micah Kiser and Kenny Young as their starting linebackers in 2020, which is potentially the worst linebacker core in the NFL.
Seahawks – D+
- TE Greg Olsen, 1-year, $7 million
- DT Jarran Reed, 2-years, $23 million, $14 million guaranteed
- EDGE Bruce Irvin, 1-year, $5.5 million
- TE Jacob Hollister, second-round tender
- OT Brandon Shell, 2-years, $9 million
- CB Quinton Dunbar, via trade
- EDGE Jadeveon Clowney
- OT Germain Ifedi, signed by the Bears
- OT George Fant, signed by the Jets
As per usual the Seahawks had a very quiet free agency. They had one notable addition and notable loss. Seattle signed former 3-time Pro Bowler Greg Olsen to a 1-year $7 million deal. I’m not a huge fan of this move given Olsen is 35 and has clearly regressed from 2014-16 when he averaged 1061 yards per season. Olsen has also battled injuries since 2017 causing him to miss 18 games over the 3-year span and when on the field he has still only averaged 34 yards a game during the last three seasons. Whilst once elite I believe Olsen’s best day are behind him and either through injury or poor play, I don’t see him playing a large role for Seattle in 2020. Losing Jadeveon Clowney isn’t great but isn’t bad either, despite being a 3-time Pro Bowler and athletic freak of nature Clowney has never reached his pre-draft ceiling which led him to go number 1 overall. Whilst his 3 sacks in 2019 do not show the effect he had on Seattle’s defence he is not worth the reported $17 million annual salary he is demanding.
49ers - A
- EDGE Arik Armstead, 5-years, $85 million, $48.5 million guaranteed
- S Jimmie Ward, 3-years, $28.5 million, $13 million guaranteed
- 13th overall pick, via trade with the Colts
- DT DeForest Buckner, via trade
- WR Emmanuel Sanders, signed with the Saints
Coming off a Super Bowl loss the 49ers did a very good job of putting themselves in position to have another run at it. Although losing Sanders to free agency and trading away DeForest Buckner left holes in the roster, San Francisco did a great job of filling those. With the 13th overall pick acquired in the Buckner trade the 49ers traded back one space and selected defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, they also traded up from 31 to 25 to select wide receiver Bradon Aiyuk filling both holes caused by free agency. While Buckner and Sanders were elite, the 49ers run a run happy offense meaning Sanders is replaceable in San Francisco and Buckner was up for a new contract and now makes $21 million annually in Indianapolis, money the 49ers could not afford as well as paying Arik Armstead and Jimmie Ward. Also given their elite defensive line its likely Kinlaw can replace Buckner to an extent.
Signing Arik Armstead to a 5-year contract extension worth $85 million was a good move by the 49ers. Armstead is able to line-up anywhere along the defensive line. He had a breakout year in 2019 with 10 sacks, 11 tackles for loss and 18 quarterback hits and given he was the next man up I believe $17 million annually is a good deal for the 49ers as Armstead is only 26 and at the beginning of his prime.
Jimmie Ward is a great safety when healthy so re-signing him was a wise move by San Francisco. When on the field Ward can do it all for a safety, he covers, tackles and limits big plays, retaining Ward was vital given the 49ers’ secondary was the only weak part of their defense in 2019. However, since entering the league in 2014, Ward has played all 16 games once, missing 32 games over his 6-year career in San Francisco. Yet, it’s likely that injury risk played into contract talks, removing that risk factor from the deal, as Ward places 13th annually amongst safeties in salary but when on the field can play like a top 10 safety in the NFL.