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NFL free agency: How 49ers, NFC West rivals look after a week of moves

NFL free agency: How 49ers, NFC West rivals look after a week of moves

There’s no doubt that the Arizona Cardinals made the splashiest trade in the last week, landing wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins from the Houston Texans. But how did each NFC West team really do in overhauling their rosters for the 2020 NFL season?

Here’s a look at what's happened after a little more than a week of free-agent movement and other deals.

49ers 

San Francisco's biggest losses obviously are Pro Bowl defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who was traded to the Colts, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders, who signed with the Saints. Both made huge contributions on the field, and what they brought to the locker room might have been even more impactful.

While Buckner’s absence will be a substantial adjustment for the defensive line, the remainder of the defense remains intact heading into 2020. The 49ers re-signed safety Jimmie Ward and defensive lineman Arik Armstead to multi-year contracts while also giving a one-year extension to Ronald Blair, who is recovering from ACL surgery.

Outside of Sanders' departure, the offense remains predominantly the same as well. The 49ers recently added veteran Travis Benjamin to the receivers room. Benjamin spent time with coach Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and thus likely will fit in seamlessly.

As long as the 49ers avoid the proverbial Super Bowl hangover, they should be ready to roll in 2020.

Cardinals

Arizona clearly made out with the better half of the deal from the Texans, netting Hopkins and a 2020 fourth-round draft pick while sending running back David Johnson to Houston along with a 2020 second-round choice and a 2021 fourth-round selection.

No one really is sure what Texans coach Bill O’Brien was thinking in that trade, but what everyone does know is the Cardinals now might be the best team in the NFC West on paper.

The Cardinals also placed the transition tag on running back Kenyan Drake, who hit the ground full speed in his first game with the team in Week 9. Drake gashed the stout 49ers defense on 15 carries for 110 yards and four receptions for 52 yards.

Arizona also shored up its defense, adding former Giants and Lions outside linebacker Devon Kennard and Falcons linebacker De’Vondre Campbell. The most underrated addition might be Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who netted a career-best 9.5 sacks last season.

The Cardinals likely will be the toughest matchup in the division this coming season. 

Rams 

While the Cardinals had the most notable gain, the Rams might have had the most prominent loss, as they released former All-Pro running back Todd Gurley. They attempted to shop the 25-year-old back but didn’t get any takers.

Gurley, the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year and 2017 Offensive Player of the Year, did not live up to expectations in 2019, but the Falcons were willing to take the risk, and did so swiftly.

The Rams still have Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks in their offense, but their line's ability to open up the running game and to keep Goff clean might be their biggest concern. LA's average yards per carry dropped more than a yard, from 4.9 in 2018 to 3.7 in 2019.

On the other side of the ball, the Rams will have to move forward without linebacker Dante Fowler, who finished the season with 11.5 sacks, just one shy of the 12.5 recorded by All-Pro Aaron Donald, and went to the Falcons in free agency. LA signed former Bears outside linebacker Leonard Floyd to a one-year deal, but Fowler’s shoes will be very difficult to fill.

The Rams still have valuable talent on their roster, but they will need to find production from players they draft next month.

Seahawks 

Russell Wilson, Seattle’s 31-year-old quarterback, is very capable of avoiding defenders when the pocket collapses, but he won't be able to do it forever. The Seahawks tried to give him some support by signing offensive tackles Cedric Ogbuehi from the Jaguars and Brandon Shell from the Jets.

Seattle will try to find the winning offensive line combination with two new guards as well -- B.J. Finney, who comes over from the Steelers, and Chance Warmack, who has not played since 2018 as a member of the Eagles.

[RELATED: Grading 49ers' free-agent signings]

On defense, the Seahawks are reuniting with veteran outside linebacker Bruce Irvin, who spent his first four seasons with the team. They will look for him and defensive tackle Jarran Reed to bolster a pass rush that could lose Jadeveon Clowney in 2020.

The Seahawks added a few key pieces, but they still might not measure up to what they have lost.

NFL rumors: Rams trade Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round pick

NFL rumors: Rams trade Brandin Cooks to Texans for second-round pick

The Los Angeles Rams' rebuild continues.

After releasing former All-Pros Todd Gurley and Clay Matthews during free agency, the Rams continued their roster overhaul by reportedly agreeing to send wideout Brandin Cooks to the Houston Texans in exchange for several draft picks, NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday citing a source.

LA has been dealing with salary cap issues, trying to find money to pay franchise quarterback Jared Goff, all-world defensive lineman Aaron Donald, defensive back Jalen Ramsey and the other 49 players needed to fill out an NFL roster.

The team still ends up taking a dead cap hit on Cooks in 2020, but at least removes the remaining four years of his deal from the books.

With the departure of offensive weapons Gurley and Cooks along with Matthews’ defensive presence, it will be a very different LA attack the next time the team takes on the 49ers.

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After four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, Cooks struggled through injuries and inconsistency on his way to just 583 receiving yards in 14 games during the 2019 season.

ProFootballTalk reported Thursday that the team already took a financial hit by holding onto Cooks this far into his contract.

With the 49ers aiming to defend their title as NFC champions, the Seattle Seahawks remaining strong and the Arizona Cardinals fleecing Bill O’Brien and those head-scratching Texans for DeAndre Hopkins earlier this spring, there’s a clear new team at the bottom of the NFC West.

If we end up getting an NFL season in 2020, expect the division’s doormat to be in Tinseltown.

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

NFL Draft 2020: Why 49ers could trade up to No. 5 for Jeffrey Okudah

The NFL draft demonstrates to fans just how bold their team’s general managers can be.

Those willing to take a risk and try to move up in the first round sacrifice significant draft capital in exchange for a chance at a home run.

The 49ers happen to be one of those select few teams possessing multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft, giving GM John Lynch an opportunity to make a big splash.

One potential way Lynch could extend San Francisco’s championship window is by fortifying the secondary with Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, writes Bleacher Report’s Marcus Mosher.

In this trade, the 49ers make the bold jump up to secure the former Ohio State Buckeye. But with the 49ers lacking in trade capital this year, they could send picks No. 13, No. 31 and another 2021 third-round selection. 

The 49ers have a win-now roster and could use a stud cover man to pair with Richard Sherman. Okudah is one of the best players in the draft and would give the team another versatile corner who could be used in both man and zone coverage. 

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Okudah is the consensus top defensive back in this year’s draft, combining length to disrupt the passing game with top-line speed, putting up a 4.48 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.

The Niners came up just short of hoisting the Lombardi trophy in February, despite holding dynamic gunslinger Patrick Mahomes to just 286 yards passing and the lowest postseason quarterback rating of his career.

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Okudah could provide an immediate impact in the secondary on the other side of Richard Sherman, but should the team sacrifice both of its first-round draft picks to fortify a position that is lower on the list of needs for Lynch’s roster?

Many fans likely rather would see the team grab one of this year's seemingly endless crop of talented wide receivers at No. 13 and then waiting and nabbing a cornerback later like TCU product Jeff Gladney at No. 31 overall.

We’ll find out just how bold this 49ers' front office wants to be in exactly two week’s time.