NFL offseason team Draft needs: NFC West Division



Arizona Cardinals


The Cardinals would like re-sign inside linebacker Karlos Dansby and quarterback Kurt Warner before free agency begins at the end of the month.

That will be a challenge, however. The talks with Dansby’s agent are still in the preliminary stages, and the club recently used its franchise tag on him to buy additional time.

Warner hasn’t yet committed to playing in 2009, although many people in the organization believe strongly that he will return.

How the contract talks proceed will be a factor in Warner’s decision.

The club has plenty of money under the cap, nearly $42 million, and will add another $5 million when it releases running back Edgerrin James, as expected.

The Cardinals will take another shot at extending the contract of receiver Anquan Boldin, although Boldin has been emphatic that he will never sign another deal with the team.


1. Running back: The Cardinals struggled to run for most of the season. Edgerrin James will be released this spring and J.J. Arrington is an unrestricted free agent. That leaves Tim Hightower as the only back on the roster.

2. Outside linebacker: The Cardinals are old and beat up at those two positions and need some youth, especially if the youngster can rush the passer.

3. Center: Starter Lyle Sendlein improved as the year progressed, but the Cardinals could use more strength inside.

  • Cardinals team page

    St. Louis Rams

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYAs free agency is set to start, the Rams have made it a priority to re-sign S Oshiomogho Atogwe and CB Ron Bartell.

    There are also several key decisions to be made in regards to veterans with large cap numbers. Those include LT Orlando Pace ($9 million) and WR Torry Holt ($10.2 million). The Rams could gain $14 million in cap room by releasing or trading them, but that would also create additional holes in the roster.

    An attempt could also be made to restructure their contracts. Other veterans in potential jeopardy include DE Leonard Little and WR Drew Bennett.


    1. Tackle: With LT Orlando Pace nearing the end of his career and RT Alex Barron entering the final year of his contract, a revamping of the position is possible. Whether it’s in free agency or the draft, or both, the Rams are expected to begin retooling the position.

    2. Center: Unless the decision is made to move Richie Incognito back to center from guard, an upgrade is needed here.

    3. Middle linebacker: There is a desire to move Will Witherspoon to the outside, but it can’t be done unless a credible middle man can be found.

  • Rams team page

    San Francisco 49ers

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYThe 49ers will not pay quarterback Alex Smith, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft, his $9.625 million salary. The club wants him back, but they have to be able to work out a reduced contract. The 49ers want to get a deal done before the start of free agency.

    The 49ers have just two starters from 2008 who are free agents. It is not imperative they re-sign receiver Bryant Johnson, who would not head into next season as the starter. But the club would like to strike a deal with inside linebacker Takeo Spikes.

    Also, the 49ers can start to use some of their cap surplus to sign some of their players to contract extensions before their contracts expire. Outside linebacker Parys Haralson is at the top of that list.


    1. Pass-rusher: The 49ers recorded just 30 sacks this season and did not get much production from any of their outside pass-rushers on the right side. They need an outside linebacker to be able to consistently get to the quarterback.

    2. Offensive tackle: While Joe Staley continued to show progress on the left side, the 49ers had a multitude of problems at right tackle. That is a huge key for the team, as it tries to create an identity as a physical, running team.

    3. Safety: Starting free safety Mark Roman has not recorded an interception in more than two seasons. The 49ers are looking for a player with more range who can create takeaways in the defensive backfield.

  • 49ers team page

    Seattle Seahawks

    OFFSEASON STRATEGYSeattle will have to decide if keeping linebacker Leroy Hill is important to revamping the team’s defense. Seattle could use the franchise tag on Hill, but it will cost them more than $8 million for one season, and the Seahawks might want to use that money in free agency to shore up other areas of the team.

    The Seahawks also will have to make a decision on Rocky Bernard, who becomes a free agent at the end of February. Although it appears likely Seattle will let Bernard go and look for other players either in the draft of free agency to fill the void.


    1. Offensive line: All five projected starting linemen at the beginning of the season finished the year on the injured reserve. The most talented of that group is perennial All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones, who had season-ending microfracture knee surgery on his right knee. Jones, 35, is expected to be ready for training camp. But Seattle does not know how Jones will respond to surgery, and might want to draft Jones’ heir apparent and start grooming that player for the future.

    2. Defensive tackle: Seattle still has trouble stopping the run, and could use a run stuffer up front to pair with emerging talent Brandon Mebane. Rookie Red Bryant showed flashes of brilliance last season but couldn’t stay healthy. Veteran Rocky Bernard did not have his best season in a contract year, and could be on the way out. Craig Terrell and Howard Green are good fill-in guys, but aren’t every-down players.

    3. Wide receiver: If Nate Burleson comes back healthy from ACL knee surgery and Deion Branch continues to play like he did at the end of last season, then the Seahawks could be OK here. But that’s a big if. And the Seahawks still need to decide if they want to bring veteran Bobby Engram back. Engram brings value to the offense along with leadership, but Ruskell may have soured on him after he threatened to hold out for more money last season.

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