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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.