Keeping pace in the ever-improving NFC West

Posted Apr 25, 2013

The Seahawks don’t have a selection in Thursday night’s first-round of the NFL Draft, but their moves in an already busy offseason have them poised to add depth in later rounds and not lose ground to their divisional opponents.

On the same day the Seahawks announced they had acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin in a trade, the San Francisco 49ers also announced on March 12 they had traded for wide receiver Anquan Boldin.

The next day, the 49ers signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey in free agency. The day after that, the Seahawks announced the signing of hybrid defensive end/linebacker Cliff Avril – which was followed by the free-agent additions of defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel.

The 49ers signed a safety, Craig Dahl, last month after losing Pro Bowl free safety Dashon Goldson in free agency. The Seahawks added a nickel back, Antoine Winfield, last week to fill the spot longtime starter and unrestricted free agent Marcus Trufant played last season.

Heck, each team also has replaced its backup quarterback – the Seahawks trading Matt Flynn to the Oakland Raiders and signing Brady Quinn in free agency; the 49ers trading Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs and acquiring Colt McCoy in a trade.

Despite how it has appeared, however, the Seahawks’ series of impressive moves this offseason have not been a case of keeping up the defending NFC West and NFC champion 49ers.

“No,” general manager John Schneider said when asked if the Seahawks’ transactions have been intended to trace those the 49ers are making. “I can’t get into analyzing why they’re doing what. For us, it’s we need to have this guy compete with this guy, we need to fill this hole, we need to improve the depth at this position.

“I never stop doing that. And we won’t stop doing that as long as we’re here. We’re going to keep pushing it at every position, whether it’s in the draft or free agency.”

But make no mistake, the Seahawks and 49ers are joined at the hype as the two most improved teams in the NFL’s most improved division. Winning the division – and securing the home playoff game that comes with it – has been the goal of coach Pete Carroll since he first walked into Virginia Mason Athletic Center in January of 2010.

When it comes to this week’s NFL Draft, the other three teams in the division have something the Seahawks do not: A selection in the first round on Thursday night. While the Seahawks traded their selection in the first round to the Minnesota Vikings as part of the three-pick deal to acquire Harvin, the Arizona Cardinals hold the No. 7 pick in the first round, the St. Louis Rams have two picks in the first round (No. 16 and No. 22) and the 49ers are at No. 31 – the first of their 13 picks in the seven-round draft that concludes Saturday.

Here’s a look at each teams’ picks and needs as they prepare for Thursday night’s first round – with Rounds 2 and 3 to be conducted Friday and the final four rounds set for Saturday:

Arizona Cardinals
Draft picks (7): No. 7 overall in the first round; No. 38 in the second round; No. 69 in the third round; No. 103 in the fourth round; No. 140 in the fifth round; No. 174 in the sixth round; No. 219 in the seventh round.
Needs: Offensive linemen, especially a tackle but also a guard; safety; outside linebacker, running back
Situation: New coach Bruce Arians and first-year GM Steve Keim addressed the Cardinals’ top priority by making a trade with the Raiders to acquire veteran quarterback Carson Palmer, who they have to hope will provide a repeat of what Kurt Warner did for the Cardinals and not become the next Kevin Kolb. The Cardinals also need to address losing their starting safeties, including former Pro Bowler Adrian Wilson.
The word: “Now I have an opportunity to put my stamp on the process, to sit in the big boy seat. It’s my job, it’s my decision. At the end of the day, that’s what you ask for in this business. As a competitor, you wouldn’t want it any other way.” – Keim

St. Louis Rams
Draft picks (8): No. 16 and 22 in the first round; No. 46 in the second round; No. 78 in the third round; No. 113 in the fourth round; No. 149 in the fifth round; No. 184 in the sixth round; No. 222 in the seventh round.
Needs: Wide receiver, safety, running back, outside linebacker, offensive line
Situation: The Rams lost stating wide-outs Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson in free agency, and all-time leading rusher Steven Jackson has run off to the Atlanta Falcons. At least seven wide receivers have made pre-draft visits to the Rams. Four players who could scratch the itch of second-year coach Jeff Fisher at safety are Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprein, Florida’s Matt Elam and Syracuse’s Shamarko Thomas.
The word: “There’s more positions of need than one would expect, so we have a number of players that we think can help us there (at No. 16).” – Fisher

San Francisco 49ers
Draft picks (13): No. 31 in the first round; Nos. 34 and 61 in the second round; Nos. 74 and 93 in the third round; Nos. 128 and 131 in the fourth round; No. 157 in the fifth round; Nos. 175 and 180 in the sixth round; Nos. 227, 246 and 252 in the seventh round.
Needs: Safety, defensive end, wide receiver, running back, cornerback, tight end
Situation: The two-time defending division champs got minimal contributions from last year’s draft class, but in his third season coach Jim Harbaugh does have areas and issues to address in this draft – and has the picks to do it. Finding a replacement for Goldson is one, and Elam also has been linked to the 49ers for that very reason. But they also need depth and eventual starters at defensive end and wide receiver.
The word: “The teams that have been successful are drafting for need a year or two head of time.” – 49ers GM Trent Baalke

Seattle Seahawks
Draft picks (10): No first-round pick; No. 56 in the second round; No. 87 in the third round; No. 123 in the fourth round; Nos. 138 and 158 in the fifth round; No. 194 in the sixth round; Nos. 220, 231, 241 and 242 in the seventh round.
Needs/situation: Unlike their first three drafts together, Schneider and Carroll don’t have the glaring needs that dictated the team’s first-round selections in 2010 (Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung), 2011 (offensive lineman James Carpenter) and last year (pass-rushing defensive end Bruce Irvin). An already busy offseason that began with the trade to acquire Harvin, continued with the signings of Avril, Bennett and McDonald and most recently included the addition of Winfield have set the Seahawks up to add depth at linebacker and on the offensive line, as well as take a look at a another young quarterback and even some defensive backs.
The word: “I’d be lying to you if I said (what we’ve done in free agency) doesn’t (impact the draft). Because we build our (draft) board off of our team, we don’t build it for the league. So it has impacted it based on the depth at each position and then how we think people can compete at certain positions with the guys that are currently on our roster.” -- Schneider