INDIANAPOLIS – These are interesting times not just for the Seattle Seahawks, but also for their NFC West rivals. The Rams are moving from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the San Francisco 49ers just hired Chip Kelly as their new head coach, and the Arizona Cardinals are the defending NFC West champs who are trying to make the offseason moves necessary to stay on top.
Here's a look at some of the topics covered by NFC West coaches and general managers this week at the NFL scouting combine.
1. The move to Los Angeles is a logistical challenge for the Rams.
While it's pretty much business as usual for most NFL teams, the Rams are going through this offseason not just worrying about free agency and the draft, but about where they will hold training camp, where their team headquarters will be located, and in turn, where in a huge metropolitan area should players, coaches and staff be looking to live.
"You're moving a franchise," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. "You're leaving one city and going to another, which is difficult from a fan standpoint, from a fan-base standpoint, but you have to take care of the detail things. As you go through that step-by-step process, from my standpoint, my job is to keep in mind the player needs. Thirty-one other teams in the league right now are staying put, and they're going through an offseason program and there is stability there. It's how quickly can we bring stability, from a player perspective, into this offseason program? Because we're going to kick the season off like everyone else, and we potentially will have made a couple moves during the offseason."
General manager Les Snead added: "I don't know if we've successfully done it, but we've tried—because of the normal calendar, whether it's re-signing your own in free agency, the draft, OTAs, those things are set in stone— we've tried to make it where that nothing really impacts that. The logistics of moving a franchise from one city to another is a lot, but there's a team in place, a very competent team, that is handling a lot of that, so it has allowed us, in personnel and the coaches, to continue doing the same things you normally do. So that's where we're at. Obviously any time you do this, there will be a few glitches, but it's been smooth to date."
Relocation isn't all bad, however. Once the Rams settle into their new city, playing in Southern California could pay off when it comes to recruiting free agents, though Snead concedes a desirable location only goes so far in free-agent negotiations.
"I think young kids, a lot of them spend time in the offseason out there," Snead said. "If you're from L.A., you know the weather is really good and it's a good place to be if you're young. But that depends on the human being. Some may want to live in certain parts of the country, but at the end of the day with free agents, because our world is – a lot of them are going to be transient guys and so they're going to play in a city and go somewhere (else) in the offseason. No. 1, it will come down to money. Are you in the ballpark? No. 2 is going to come down to your head coach and your coaching staff, and they're going to vet who they're going to be working with every day. And after that, I think the city comes into it. But yes, I think L.A. is a positive thing for young professional athletes.
2. Quarterback is a popular topic among NFC West teams
San Francisco general manager Trent Baalke said he "absolutely" expect to have Colin Kaepernick back next season, but the 49ers, like a lot of teams, will also be looking to potentially add help at that position.
"We feel pretty good with the guys we have but we're always looking," Baalke said. "We're certainly going to scour this draft and the free-agent market that's out there. Not a lot of quarterbacks make it to free agency. But we're going to look at every avenue."
The Rams, meanwhile, also have uncertainty at quarterback, though Snead feels good about what they currently have on the roster: "It's interesting. We'll just use Sean Mannion (as an example). I usually call rookies freshman, so if you're a sophomore, last year was your rookie year now you're a sophomore and you didn't play as much in your freshman year, especially with QB's, you're kind of a forgotten entity. All the new guys that we're covering at the combine are the sexy new objects and they get talked about. But a guy like Sean Mannion is right now somewhere on this planet trying to get better. And he's got a goal in mind to start in this league, and that's what he's doing while these guys are just getting started. You go back to what New England did with Tom Brady. There was a guy they drafted in the sixth round, and that's an awesome pick obviously, but if you look at the history of what they did with him and the courage it took to play him when they played him, especially in the first Super Bowl they won. I think the No. 1 thing is you kind of have to look and say, we like this human being and we're going to have the courage to stick him in there and see what occurs after that."
The Cardinals have Carson Palmer, so they're in good shape in their immediate future, but they also know they have to start thinking about their long-term future given Palmer's age (36).
"We already have (talked about life after Palmer)," Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. "We've talked about it a bunch. Whether or not we act on it, we'll see."
Said general manager Steve Keim: "As a GM, you're always looking at the future. You look at the final four quarterbacks this year, and with Carson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you look at their ages. Supply and demand is an issue at that position. Finding that position is the hardest job for a general manager to have. There is no secret, we're always trying to look for the next guy. To be in a situation like Green Bay years ago when they took Aaron when Brett Favre was their starter, that's obviously the ideal situation, but how many times are you sitting in the 20s where you can take a guy that you see as the future. When you evaluate that position, it's one of those things where if you see a quarterback you fall in love with, a guy who is a franchise player, you know in your heart and your gut this is the guy."
3. The early days of the Chip Kelly era in San Francisco era have "been awesome."
Even though things didn't work out in Philadelphia for Chip Kelly despite a winning record, he is fitting in just fine with the 49ers so far, Baalke said.
"I always say there's perception and there's reality," Baalke said. "Reality is what we deal with every day in the office. Perception is what everyone else speculates on. But it's been awesome. He's been very easy to work with. We haven't spent a ton of time together, because he's been putting the staff together and I've been involved in draft meetings for the last 17 days. So there hasn't been a lot of overlap, but we've had a lot of good discussions and I look forward to continuing those.
"He's got an easy personality, for us to deal with internally. Whether that's with the media or not, that's for you guys and gals to decide. It's been an easy transition. We see eye to eye on a lot of things. There's going to be things in any relationship where you've got to work through. As of right now, as we're trying to put this thing together in free agency and the draft, we feel pretty good about how we're communicating and what we're looking for."
Seahawks coaches, scouts and front office staff are out in Indianapolis to watch draft-class talent preform at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.