The regular season is here, as of Thursday, though our San Francisco 49ers don't play until Monday when they take on the Minnesota Vikings under the bright lights of Monday Night Football. Throughout the offseason, we've covered the dumpster fire of misery that is the 49ers, but we've also followed their NFC West rivals -- the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. The division has been one of the strongest in the NFL in recent years and it could be again this coming season ... but will the 49ers be a part of that? Who knows! Before Sunday's NFL games, I'm going to quickly take you through all three of the 49ers' rivals and what happened in their offseasons.
2014 Record: 12-4 (Lost Super Bowl)
Draft Picks: DE Frank Clark, WR Tyler Lockett, OL Terry Poole, OL Mark Glowinski, CB Tye Smith, CB Marcus Burley, DE Obum Gwatcham, OG Kristjan Sololi, S Ryan Murphy
Additions: TE Jimmy Graham (trade), CB Cary Williams, CB Will Blackmon
Departures: C Max Unger (trade), CB Byron Maxwell, G James Carpenter, LB Malcolm Smith, TE Zach Miller, DT Tony McDaniel
The Seattle Seahawks have built their franchise an awful lot like the San Francisco 49ers were building their's until Jed York burnt it all to the ground this offseason (edit: apparently it wasn't clear, the preceding statement was a joke). Seattle pays its players what they're worth, they're smart in free agency and they're not at all afraid to reach in the NFL Draft when they think they have their man.
That applies to the first round all the way down to the seventh, and it doesn't matter if it's what the experts expected or the consensus best player available. Seattle goes out, gets its man and it's usually a pretty good choice. Doing this they've had some misses, taking obscure guys that were on nobody's radar who wound up having obscure careers. But the success is obvious.
They've been to the Super Bowl the past two seasons, winning once and losing the other, the most recent one on the back of a Russell Wilson interception that will live on in infamy forever. There was a point for awhile there where I had that final interception as my background on my phone, it's such delicious schadenfreude.
Whatever the case, the Seahawks are obviously in a great position and they only needed to make minor adjustments this offseason. Unfortunately for them, "minor adjustments" also included massive contract extensions for Bobby Wagner and Wilson, and also apparently Kam Chancellor though that one hasn't materialized as of yet.
Still, the Seahawks have managed to keep the band together all while awarding Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Wilson and Wagner competitive contracts on par with market value. There's no longer a whole lot of room to spare, but you have to credit their front office for extending multiple big-name players when many franchises struggle getting one done.
Another big deal the team managed to get done: acquiring tight end Jimmy Graham. I don't know if the New Orleans Saints felt like Graham's time as a top-flight player was coming to an end of if they really felt that Drew Brees can succeed with literally anyone catching the football, but the Seahawks acquired Graham and now Wilson finally has a very dangerous weapon outside of Marshawn Lynch.
Oh yes, Lynch is coming back. There was some talk about a potential retirement but the Seahawks are keeping him around and that's good for them.
As far as additions go, there's not much else to talk about. I didn't like what the Seahawks did in the NFL Draft -- not much at all, actually, though as I said above the Seahawks have a very specific way of drafting that naturally makes analysts scratch their heads. I don't know how I feel about Frank Clark or any of the offensive linemen Seattle took. A lot of the guys they drafted were taken way earlier than expected but hey ... this is how they do things.
One pick that looked good: Tyler Lockette. He blew up in the preseason and could be a factor going forward. As far as departures go, it hurts to lose Max Unger in that trade but they felt like they needed Graham's firepower. Byron Maxwell is also a relatively big name to lose but the Seattle secondary will probably be fine.
The Seahawks didn't lose much, added Graham, got some contracts done and Chancellor is the big elephant in the room. At this point, there's nothing that leads me to believe they're set to lose the NFC West crown or that they'll struggle in the postseason. They look primed for another run.