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NFC West updates: Holdouts for Aaron Donald, Kyler Murray, Deebo Samuel?
Seaside Joe 1174: What are your current divisional expectations?
I have long said that there is no such thing as a “rebuild” in the NFL, and while I’ve had to amend that statement given the state of the Seattle Seahawks right now, I still think that is mostly true.
Because the way that many seem to perceive the term “rebuild” is the same as how they would use it in the MLB: Chop things down, stock the farm system, accept defeat for a while, and come back stronger than ever in two to three years.
Such a nice idea if you’re the Houston Astros. Not so perfectly wrapped up in a nice little package if you’re the Seattle Mariners.
(Lately I’ve been wondering what it would be like to run an experiment where we compare the behaviors of Seahawks fans who are Mariners fans against Seahawks fans who are not Mariners fans,. To what degree, if any, is your outlook and pessimism/optimism meter impacted by the fact that you could be rooting for the worst franchise in all of professional American sports? This isn’t me “shitting on the Mariners” any more than it is me pointing out a 21-year playoff drought.)
But the problem with saying that the NFL rebuilds just like the MLB rebuilds is that there are no farm systems, careers are too short in football, and the window of opportunity will never be open for very long; how can any head coach or general manager hope to “rebuild” for their own vision when they’ve seen that all head coaches tend to get fired with two consecutive terrible seasons?
Even look at the Seahawks right now: In his worst position since 2011, Pete Carroll is fortifying the roster with additions like Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, Uchenna Nwosu, Justin Coleman, Artie Burns, and re-signing Al Woods because he believes that maybe it will give him just enough of an edge to win one more game next season.
You don’t try and go 8-9 when you’re rebuilding. A true rebuild would be the 2021 Houston Texans, a team that was obviously hoping for 0-17 and they still won four games (and failed to get the number one pick) because you can’t keep your players and coaches from continuously fighting for their jobs and there’s always going to be three or four teams on every schedule that even the worst team can compete to beat.
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Then look at it from the other side: The Bengals were supposed to be in the latter stages of a “rebuild” in 2021, only to find out that their window was open last season—and it could could close as soon as right now. Oh sure, the future looks bright with Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase… just as the future looked bright for the 2005 Seahawks, 2006 Bears, 2008 Cardinals, 2012 49ers, 2015 Panthers, 2016 Falcons, and 2019 49ers.
Those are varying levels of examples that fit somewhere in the spectrum that is my point, which is: You don’t know your window until it is closed. You won’t realize when it opened until it already has.
There are no predictions in the NFL worth making, so given the extreme amount of turnover that happens every year—such as Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, and Matt Ryan changing teams in the same offseason—the best that any team can do is their best.
At the beginning of 2022, the Seahawks had Russell Wilson, the 49ers were starting Jimmy Garoppolo, and Kyler Murray led the Cardinals to the playoffs.
As of now, the Seahawks have Drew Lock, the 49ers continue to search for a way out of Garoppolo’s contract, and Murray won’t play for the Cards until he gets a new deal. Because San Francisco and Arizona can never seem to remain consistent with their “good years”, that means that Seattle is closer to a second-place finish in the NFC West than they might have seemed a month ago.
That doesn’t mean that the Seahawks will be good. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that they will be good enough to only finish behind the LA Rams. Or bad enough to finish with the number one pick in the draft.
Where things stand in the NFC West as of late May.
I invite you all to please TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NFC WEST in the comments. What do you think of these players, these teams, and where the Seahawks stand in 2022 as of late May? Unsure of what you think, go read the comments at Seaside Joe to see what others are saying! Let’s light it up!
Los Angeles Rams
Greatest vulnerability: Distractions, over-confidence
There is a chance that the Rams could be overtaken by the 49ers or Cardinals if Trey Lance and/or Kyler Murray have Pro Bowl+ type seasons in 2022. As usual, the difference between a first place team and a third place team in this division could be slight and we shouldn’t overrate the fact that the Rams won the Super Bowl last year.
This is this year.
The bigger issue facing LA right now is the commitment of Aaron Donald to play another down before getting a new contract. The best defensive player of his generation and still capable of dominating anyone who stands against him, Donald has reportedly been considering retirement since January and recent rumors suggest he’s not fully on board for a return without a new deal.
Look around: It’s not hard to fathom that certain athletes could even be leaving money on the table by choosing to keep playing over an early retirement and more time to spend on post-career projects. Now that Donald is a Super Bowl champion, a first ballot Hall of Famer, and rich beyond his wildest dreams, what more could he be playing for other than the love of football? How long will that adoration outweigh his love for things outside of the football field and the desire to not have health issues later in life?
I expect Aaron Donald to play more football though, so this point could be moot. I also expect Cooper Kupp to return, but he should also be asking for more money: Kupp is essentially paid the same as new teammate Allen Robinson, and that shouldn’t be the case given their career arcs.
The Rams also added Bobby Wagner after losing out on a bidding war for Von Miller, who chose the Bills over returns to LA or Denver.
With Sean McVay coaching a roster consisting of Matthew Stafford, Kupp, Robinson, Donald, Wagner, Jalen Ramsey, Leonard Floyd, an above average offensive line, and lowkey talent filling the gaps, it’s hard to see anything other than devastating injuries keeping the Rams out of the NFC playoff picture.
But 2023 could be a different story.
San Francisco 49ers
Greatest vulnerability: Quarterback, defensive inconsistency
How great of an asset has Mike McDaniel been to the 49ers’ success? McDaniel left the 49ers for the Dolphins after five seasons as a coordinator—four as run game coordinator, 2021 as the official offensive coordinator—and his departure coincides with the likely transition from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance.
San Francisco reportedly still plans to trade Garoppolo before the season, but he won’t be able to prove healthy until “early July” at the earliest.
Though everything on offense will continue to be funneled through Kyle Shanahan’s wishes, I wouldn’t underestimate the impact the assistants have, both among the coaching ranks and in the front office. The 49ers turn to Bobby Slowik (passing game coordinator) and Chris Foerster (run game) to replace McDaniel, and they’ll be tasked with developing Lance into a dual threat weapon on par with Josh Allen. Those are high expectations… and this is the NFL.
What other kind of expectations are there?
Throw in a Deebo Samuel holdout and nobody can say with any certainty how potent San Francisco’s 2022 offense will be, or what to expect schematically after making a change over at quarterback. That is unless the team decides that Lance still isn’t ready and retains Garoppolo, which only further confirms that the 49ers could be mediocre-or-worse next season.
The defense enters year two under defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans. The 49ers still have Nick Bosa and Fred Warner but plenty hinges on the development and success of players like Javon Kinlaw, Azeez Al-Shaair, Emmanuel Moseley, Dre Greenlaw, Samson Ebukam, and rookie DE Drake Jackson; the health of Dee Ford, Jason Verrett; the value of signings Charvarius Ward, Kerry Hyder, George Odum, and Kemoko Turay.
All these years later, I’m still not sure how important players like Jimmie Ward, Armstead, or Ford really are to San Francisco’s success. Defense always has more volatility than offense because there is no true “quarterback” on that side of the ball—quarterbacks create consistency, negatively or positively—and that’s a lot of pressure on Lance to live up to the hype.
The 49ers have been second, sixth, and seventh in DVOA for defense over the past three seasons, so there is consistency on the record, but does that make Shanahan “due” for an underwhelming year or a great one?
One thing Shanahan has not been over his career: Consistent.
Greatest vulnerability: Kyler Murray, being the Cardinals
It’s the Cardinals. So I’m not surprised that since their 10-2 start in 2021, Arizona lost four of their last five games in the regular season; got blown out in the wild card round; saw DeAndre Hopkins get suspended for six games; got a notice from Murray that he’s holding out for more money even though he has two years left on his rookie deal and is strictly treating this like a business.
This is the Cardinals.
Arizona did swap out Christian Kirk for Marquise Brown, which I think is an upgrade. The offensive line has the potential to be great and I believe there’s a lot to like with rookie tight end Trey McBride and second-year receiver Rondale Moore.
Murray understands that none of that will matter if Colt McCoy is starting in Week 1 and so the Cardinals have little choice but to pay him and accept the consequences. Unless it is a bluff… are we so sure that the Cardinals are brave enough to call it? A franchise with only seven winning seasons since 1985.
What other direction is Arizona meant to go in? Because with Kliff Kingsbury installed as the head coach and offensive playcaller, there are few other options to run this offense—want to call Baker Mayfield instead? Probably not, given the comments made by Mayfield and his dad after he transferred out of Texas Tech and away from Kingsbury years ago.
But Kingsbury is doing a better job than he gets credit for, as Arizona was 32nd in offense the year before he arrived and they’ve been top-10 in points scored over the last two seasons. The defense was 32nd in yards allowed during Kingsbury’s first season and last year, they were 11th in points and yards allowed.
However, it is the Arizona Cardinals and on the surface, it seems like 2022 has already been a bad year. That being said, the Cards were the consensus number four team in the division going into last season and they finished in second.
Which Cardinals team do you expect next season?
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