Each Wednesday, NFP will take a look at how one of the NFL’s eight divisions did in the offseason. Today, the NFC West.
Most improved team: 49ers.
This conference loaded up in the offseason, and the influx of talent in the NFC West is impressive. The teams that added the most were the Seahawks and 49ers. The Seahawks bolstered their roster with high end talent in Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The 49ers acquired some potential difference makers and scored better in terms of volume. They traded for a high profile receiver as the Seahawks did, with Jim Harbaugh getting Anquan Boldin from big bro John Harbaugh for a song. Nnamdi Asomugha was the most coveted free agent on the market in 2011, and the 49ers got him on the cheap. They replaced Alex Smith with Colt McCoy and found a kicker they can rely on in Phil Dawson. And San Fran really came up big in the draft with 11 picks. Among their choices were safety Eric Reid, pass rusher Tank Carradine, tight end Vance McDonald and running back Marcus Lattimore.
Biggest veteran move: Percy Harvin, Seahawks.
They paid a dear price for Harvin, giving up first, third and seventh round picks. But despite the fact that Harvin can be high strung and unreliable, the trade should make Pete Carroll very happy. Harvin is an unusual talent as a kicker returner and offensive weapon. I call him an offensive weapon instead of a wide receiver because he is capable of so much more than running a route and catching a ball. Harvin can line up in a lot of places and do a lot of damage to a defense. He changes game plans. What’s more, he has an extraordinary will to win. If the chemistry is right, he can take the Seahawks offense to a higher level.
Best draft addition: Jonathan Cooper, Cardinals.
He might be the best player in the draft at any position. There is no safer pick, and no pick with more potential. The only reason he was available to the Cardinals with the seventh overall pick is he plays guard. He is precisely what the Cardinals offense needs.
Best under the radar move: Glenn Dorsey, 49ers.
After losing Ricky Jean-Francois and Isaac Sopoaga in free agency, the 49ers signed Glenn Dorsey, who might end up more effective than either. The former fifth pick in the draft no longer was an ideal scheme fit in Kansas City, which is why his star faded. The 49ers have been effective at carving out roles for players like Dorsey and getting something out of them.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com.